miércoles, 21 de marzo de 2018

St. Benedict of Nursia, Abbot and Patriarch of the Monacal Religions of the West (March 21)

Fr. Jean Croisset
St. Benedict of Nursia

Saint Benedict, so famous throughout the Christian world, light of the desert, apostle of Mount Casino, restorer of the monastic life in the West, one of the most illustrious and of the greatest saints of the Church, was born around the year 480 in the vicinity of Nursia, the duchy of Spoleto. His most noble house, one of the most distinguished in Italy, was respected throughout the country, as well for its links as for its great wealth. The father, whose name was Eupropio, is believed to have been from the house of the Anicios, and his mother, called Abundancia, was Countess of Nursia. Saint Gregory, who wrote about the life of our Saint, says that not without mystery they called him Benedict, because of the great blessings with which the Lord warned him from his birth. Nothing had to be done in bowing to piety, because the first lessons that were given to him already found a heart formed for virtue. Of course he discovered in him a good wit, noble inclinations, a natural so docile and such signs of devotion, that at seven years of age he sent his parents to Rome to be raised in that court in view of Pope Felix II , which is also believed to have been from the same family. He made amazing progress in the human sciences for seven years that he devoted himself to them; but what he did in the science of salvation were much more amazing. Since then, his frequent prayer, his penchant for retirement, his circumspection and the penances he did at an age that only takes pleasure in amusements and entertainments, were regarded as a kind of prodigy.
But above all Benedict excelled in the tender devotion he professed to the Mother of God. The image of the Blessed Virgin is still venerated in the oratory of Saint Benedict in Rome, in whose presence he spent many hours in prayer every day; and Blessed Alanus assures that in front of her he received extraordinary favors from Heaven. Having observed the licentious customs of the young men of his age and sphere, and knowing the great dangers to which his salvation was exposed by remaining in the world, he resolved to seek secure asylum for his innocence in the desert retreat and, full of the spirit of God who guided him, left Rome, being only fifteen years old; He arrived near a village called Afilo, where, having done a miracle with the mistress who had raised him and had not wanted to get away from him, he found means to secretly escape from her, and by misguided paths he went to hide in the desert of Sublago , fifteen leagues from Rome. Everything conspires to inspire horror in that solitude: the steep cliffs, whose tips were hidden from view; the frightful precipices, and a dry land, sterile and infertile; but the courageous Benedict found sweet attractions in her. Having met with him a certain monk named Romano, he asked him what he was looking for in those deserts, and Benedict replied that a place to bury himself in life to think only of God; admired Romano, he taught him a certain grotto open on a rock, similar to a grave. In it Benedict was buried, and Romano brought him from his monastery a monk's habit, also taking care to bring him some crusts of bread once a week.

You can not understand the excessive penances made by that hard-working young man, hero of the Christian religion, from the first steps of his painful career. His fasting was continuous, his prayer almost perpetual, and as if it was not enough to mortify that tender and delicate little body to have no more bed than the hard rock, or just another food that insipid and wild roots, he threw on a rough sackcloth, that he did not undress in all his life. The hell shuddered to see so many virtues in the lonely young man, and of course began the common enemy to use all kinds of devices to discourage him. He began the battle by breaking into pieces a bell hanging from a long rope, with which Romano warned Benito to come and pick up the crusts of bread he was picking; but charity, which is ingenious, found the will to continue in its exercise. To this were followed noises, ghosts, and a hundred stratagems which, having experienced them equally useless, resorted ultimately to the most vehement temptation, and also the most dangerous. Benedict mocked, full of confidence in Jesus Christ, of all the vain efforts of the devil, when the memory or the image of a maiden he had seen in Rome was printed so vividly in his imagination, so upset and so vehement , that in order to get rid of her, the young saint was stripped with brave courage and, running to throw himself into a thorny bush, he wallowed in it until the extreme pain he felt completely mitigated the impetus of the delight with which the tempter had tried to overthrow him. The impure spirit was vanquished and shamed forever, and Heaven rewarded the generous fidelity of his servant, granting him the singular privilege of never again experiencing such temptations.
For three years Benedict had lived in the desert, more as an angel than as a man, when the Lord wanted to make the world known. A league and a half from his grotto or cistern lived a saintly clergyman who, on the eve of Easter, had ordered a somewhat more abundant meal for the following day, in honor of so much festivity. That night the Lord appeared to him in dreams, and told him to look for his servant in the desert the next day and take him to eat; Thus did the good priest, and was astonished when he found such a delicate young man and saw the awful penance he was doing; and unable to contain himself, he published what he had seen; this being the occasion for Benedict's fame to spread and make noise in the world. The abbot of the monastery of Vicovarre, between Sublago and Tivoli, died at this time; and having appointed the monks to Benedict by his superior, although he resisted as much as he could, claiming many reasons, he was not heard and they forced him to take over the government of the monastery. But the holy abbot hardly began to want to straighten them by the narrow path of his profession, when they regretted the choice they had made, they refused obedience and they even tried to take his life with poison that they put into his drink; but, at the time of sitting the saint at the table, he threw the blessing as usual, and immediately the glass that contained the poison was smashed to pieces.

Benedict knowing the perverse intention of those monks, and asking God to forgive them, he resigned the abbey and retired to his beloved solitude, although he was not alone long; because to the fame of his rare sanctity, so many prodigious people came from all over with a desire to surrender to his direction and government, that only in the desert of Sublago he founded twelve monasteries, giving them the rule that he had just composed, dictated, let's say So, by the Holy Ghost. Growing every day the reputation of his virtue, came to see him and consult the most authorized senators of Rome, among which Tertullus brought with him his firstborn son Placido, age seven, and Equicio a Mauro, who was twelve, begging Benedict who was responsible for educating them. He applied himself to it with such care that, in a short time, of those two dear disciples of his, he made two great saints, Placido having shed his blood for Jesus Christ, and Mauro being the second founder of the Benedictine religion in the kingdom of France. There is no virtue without persecution. The immediate parish of the desert of Sublago governed a poor priest named Florencio, who, not being able to suffer such heroic examples of virtue, as a silent rebuke of the secret disorders of his ravaged life, not content to discredit as much as the new institute could, nor to pursue to the father and to the children, he tried with diabolical artifices to arm infamous ties to the purity of the monks. He judged the Saint who dictated prudence to yield to the storm; and abandoning the desert of Sublago he went to Monte Casino, where Heaven had prevented him from harvesting more abundantly and where, as the founder of a religion so famous among all those who illustrate the Church of the Lord, he had to add that of apostle.
Some miserable relics of paganism had been entrenched among the inaccessible mountains of the Casino, worshiping unpunished and publicly the god Apollo, in whose honor there was a temple and some sacred groves in view of Christian Rome itself. Ignite Benedict of that spirit that animates and forms the heroes of the Gospel, attacks idolatry in its own trenches, demolishes the temple, smashes the idol, burns the forests consecrated to the deceived deities, raises on the same ruins of the temple and the altar two chapels, one in honor of St. John The Baptist and another in St. Martin, and in a few days converted to faith all those peoples. It was armed, says St. Gregory, all hell together to stop the quick conquests of our Saint. Horrible ghosts, frightful howls, earthquakes, threats, fire, hail, stone, the enemy of salvation used everything; but of everything uselessly. On the eminence of that mountain Benedict founded the famous monastery of Monte Casino, always revered as the site and center of that famous religion that shines so much in the Church of God more than 1,200 years ago, having given the altars more than 3,000 saints, the dioceses an almost infinite number of distinguished prelates, to the Sacred College more than 200 cardinals, to the Apostolic Chair 40 supreme pontiffs, where to this day [18th century] they are admired and venerated in the famous congregations of Cluni, de Monte Casino, of San Mauro, of San Vanes, of St. Columbanus (without any yielding that of Spain and England), such great examples of virtue and writers so skilled and so outstanding in all kinds of letters. The new monastery was not yet finished, when it was necessary to raise many others, this being the time when Saint Benedict composed, or at least perfected, that holy rule, whose prudence, wisdom and perfection praises Saint Gregory, having deserved not only the approval, but the respect of the whole Church.
St. Scholastica, sister of Saint Benedict, and of the great examples of virtue as well as of the wonders that the Lord worked through his holy brother, determined to leave the world; and being shut up with other maidens in a distant monastery some leagues from Monte Casino, it was also, with the direction of our Saint, founder of the monastic life in the West, with respect to women.

It is not easy to refer everything that Benedict did the thirteen or fourteen years he lived in Monte Casino, nor all the prodigies that God deigned to work for his ministry. Not only did he possess the gift of miracles, but he communicated it to his monks, as Mauro experienced, who entered a lagoon, without sinking into it, to remove St. Placido by order of his master.

On all sides troops of people came to venerate him. And wishing Totila, king of the Goths in Italy, to meet a man from whom he published fame so many wonders, came to see him; but at the same time, in order to test whether he was endowed with the gift of prophecy that was celebrated so much, he ordered a stableman to dress himself with the royal adornments and all the insignia of majesty; but after Benedict saw him with that baggage, he said sweetly: Leave, my son, those badges that do not suit you, and do not pretend that you are not. Astonished Totila of wonder, he ran to throw himself at the feet of the Saint, to whom he was prostrate until Benedict raised him; and having respectfully reproved him for the horrible havoc he had done in Italy, he predicted what would happen to him for nine years, exhorting him to convert, and telling him that he would give the tenth account to God of his life. The event verified all the prophecy of the Saint and, proceeding Totila onwards with greater moderation and humanity, did not cease to publish the virtue of the servant of God.

Saint Benedict being the admiration of the whole world, and respecting the supreme pontiffs, the emperors and the kings as the astonishment of his century, he lived in the monastery as if he were the last of the monks. He only used his authority to exercise himself in the humblest offices, and to greatly exceed the austerity of the rule. Even though the Lord seems to have placed all hell under his control, and that death obeyed him, he was, nevertheless, most humble, holding himself to be the least of all the monks, and proving with his conduct that I believed She predicted the day of her death, and set out for her with new fervor and penance exercises. Six days before he ordered the burial to be opened; and, finally, on the Saturday before Sunday of Passion, on March 21 of the year 543, being only 63 years old, but consumed by the work and mortifications; full of merit, and achieving the consolation of seeing his religion extended in Sicily by St. Placido, in France by St. Mauro, and in Spain, Portugal, Germany and even in the same East by other disciples of his, he calmly surrendered the spirit to the hands of his Breeder, in the same church of Monte Casino, where he had been led to receive the Holy Viaticum.

At the same point that expired, two monks who lived in two very distant monasteries saw a very bright path that started at Monte Casino and ended in Heaven, and at the same time they heard a voice saying: This is the path where Benedict, beloved servant of God, ascended to Glory. The body of the Saint was for a few days exposed to the veneration of his children and of all the people, and then he was buried in the grave that he himself had ordered to be opened, where it was kept until the year 580, when the monastery was destroyed. Monte Casino for the Lombards, as the Saint himself had prophesied, and those precious relics were buried among its ruins.

It is said that in the year 660, having passed to visit the Monte St. Algulfo Casino by order of St. Momol, second abbot of the monastery of Fleuri, today called St. Benedict on the Loyva, had the good fortune to dig up that treasure and, bringing it to France , placed him in his monastery, where he has a unique veneration, honoring the Lord the sacred relics with the innumerable miracles he does every day.

1. When the generous mother of the seven Maccabee brothers exhorted the youngest of their children to give their lives courageously by religion, following the example of their brothers, he said these words: I pray, my son, that you set your eyes on Heaven and make yourself worthy of deserving the diadem that already adorns the temples of your brothers. Take this very useful advice for you, extremely helpful in the different dispositions of the body, heart and mind. It is the fertile life in thorns, fertile in mortifications which, apparently, grow with the risk of our crying. Even if we were forgiven for slander, envy and persecution, our same passions would be our tyrants. In the midst of these adversities, when you are more beset with work, represent the Savior himself, who encourages your discouragement with the hope of reward.
2. If you want to be more detached from the Earth, think frequently about Heaven. In the first place the industrious piety of that great prince imitates that in the most ostentatious halls of the palace and in his most delicious magnificent country houses he commanded this inscription: We do not have in this world a mansion that is stable; and thus we aspire to fix our room in Heaven. Speaks and speaks, the second, as that fervent missionary who, consumed by the zeal of his apostolic efforts and the rigor of his rigorous penances, exhorting him to at least, at the advanced age of eighty years, rest or moderate somewhat his painful exercises , he answered: Let us work for Heaven while we are in this world; let us mortify ourselves while we live, what a place we will have to rest in eternity. The third, never celebrate the festivity of some saint or saint without reflecting on the eternal happiness they are enjoying, and consider that they are telling you: We were what you are; in your hand is, with divine grace, to be ready what we are; have the same fidelity and you will enjoy it.

Lea este artículo en español aquí: San Benito de Nursia, Abad y Patriarca de las Religiones Monacales de Occidente (21 de marzo)

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