Benedict on Benedict

In honor of today’s memorial of St Benedict, excerpts from Benedict XVI’s catechesis on the founder of Western monasticism and Patron of Europe (and of his pontificate):

The most important source on Benedict’s life is the second book of St Gregory the Great’s Dialogues...Gregory’s aim was to demonstrate that God is not a distant hypothesis placed at the origin of the world but is present in the life of man, of every man…

According to Gregory the Great, Benedict’s exodus from the remote Valley of the Anio to Monte Cassino – a plateau dominating the vast surrounding plain which can be seen from afar – has a symbolic character: a hidden monastic life has its own raison d’être but a monastery also has its public purpose in the life of the Church and of society, and it must give visibility to the faith as a force of life…

In the aftermath of the Roman Empire’s demise in the West, and the rampant instability associated with the barbarian invasions, Benedict and his monastic Rule served as civilization builders. They

were to prove heralds of an authentic spiritual leaven which, in the course of the centuries, far beyond the boundaries of his country and time, changed the face of Europe following the fall of the political unity created by the Roman Empire, inspiring a new spiritual and cultural unity, that of the Christian faith shared by the peoples of the Continent. This is how the reality we call “Europe” came into being…

Devoted as Benedict and his disciples have always been to the liturgy, their prayer does not close them off into their own private world, but rather generates a spirit of service and yields rich harvests to the benefit of all:

Benedict’s spirituality was not an interiority removed from reality. In the anxiety and confusion of his day, he lived under God’s gaze and in this very way never lost sight of the duties of daily life and of man with his practical needs. Seeing God, he understood the reality of man and his mission…

Benedict XVI, by taking this name as pontiff, underscored how much we need the example of St Benedict today:

Having recently emerged from a century that was deeply wounded by two World Wars and the collapse of the great ideologies, now revealed as tragic utopias, Europe today is in search of its own identity. Of course, in order to create new and lasting unity, political, economic and juridical instruments are important, but it is also necessary to awaken an ethical and spiritual renewal which draws on the Christian roots of the Continent, otherwise a new Europe cannot be built.

General Audience of April 9, 2008.

And as a bonus, from one of St Benedict’s most influential spiritual sons, Dom Prosper Gueranger of Solesmes, a lyrical invocation:

An ancient tradition tells us how our Lord revealed to thee that thy Order would last to the end of the world, and that thy children would console the Church of Rome and confirm the faith of many in the last great trials: deign to protect, by thy powerful intercession, the remnants of that family which still calls thee its father…

Support the holy Church, by thy powerful intercession, dear father! Assist the apostolic See, which has been so often occupied by disciples of thy school. Father of so many pastors of thy people! Obtain for us bishops like those sainted ones whom thy rule has formed. Father of so many apostles! Ask for the countries which have no faith preachers of the Gospel…

— Liturgical Year, Vol. 5, pp. 443-44.

Advertisements