Saint Benedict of Nursia
Benedict of Nursia (480 – 547), a Christian saint, is venerated in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Communion and Old Catholic Churches. He is a patron saint of Europe. Benedict founded twelve communities for monks before moving to Monte Cassino in the mountains of southern Italy. The Order of Saint Benedict is of later origin and, moreover, not an "order" as commonly understood but merely a confederation of autonomous congregations. Benedict's main achievement is his "Rule of Saint Benedict."
The first monks who tried to live under Benedict's direction hated his regimen, so much so they plotted to kill their abbot. They put poison in a glass of wine and offered it to Benedict. Before he took it, he blessed it, as was the custom. According to the story told by Pope Gregory I (Benedict's biographer), when Benedict made the sign of the cross over the wine glass, it shattered, and the wine spilled to the floor.
Benedict, Gregory wrote, "perceived that the glass had in it the drink of death," called his monks together, said he forgave them, reminded them that he doubted from the beginning whether he was a suitable abbot for them, and concluded, "Go your ways, and seek some other father suitable to your own conditions, for I intend not now to stay any longer amongst you."
We don't know if Benedict was overly strict or if his first monks were simply obstinate. But years later, when Benedict wrote a rule of life for another group of monks, it turned out to be a model of monastic moderation and one reason monasticism blossomed in the West.The overwhelmingly dominant form of coenobitic monasticism in the West after the 9th century was the Benedictine form. When we talk about Benedict of Nursia’s (480 – 534/7) Rule. He insists on rules and disciplines, actual obedience, humility – all those things we free, democratic, individualistic Americans find so difficult. Benedict structures his monastic rule in a communal way that builds on the relational wisdom of Antony, but feels constricting to us. “For Benedict, as for the whole tradition before him, the key to monastic life was accountability to God and to other people.”
Let us arise, then, at last,
For the Scripture stirs us up, saying,
"Now is the hour for us to rise from sleep."
-Rule of Saint Benedict
“obedience becomes fully mutual as the members of the community act with ‘most fervent love,’ vying to show their respect for one another, to bear one another’s weaknesses of mind and body, to be obedient to one another, to prefer to benefit others rather than oneself.”