Popes speak about Saint Benedict

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St Benedict.jpgOn the eve of the Solemnity of Saint Benedict, it is good to think with what the various popes have said about this famous and holy monk, Saint Benedict:


After his pious death, when the holy Patriarch went to heaven, the Order of monks he founded was far from failing or collapsing; rather, it seemed not only to be over nourished and strengthened by his living example, but also to be supported and vivified by his heavenly patronage, so that it went on increasing year by year. (Pope Pius XII, 1947)

When darkness seemed to be spreading over Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire, he brought the light of dawn to shine upon this continent. For with the cross, the book and the plow, Christian civilization was carried, principally through him and his disciples, to the peoples who lived in those lands which stretch from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia and from Ireland to Poland. (Pope Paul VI, Naming St. Benedict co-patron of Europe, 1964)

At the heart of St. Benedict's monastic experience is a simple, typically Christian principle, which the monk adopts in all its radicalness: to unify one's life around the primacy of God. This "tenere in unum", the first, fundamental condition for entering monastic life, must be the commitment unifying the life of the individual and the community, and be expressed in the "conversatio morum" which is fidelity to a life-style lived concretely in daily obedience. The search for Gospel simplicity requires continual examination, that is, the effort "to do the truth", by constantly returning to the initial gift of the divine call which is at the root of one's own religious experience. (Pope John Paul II, 1999, 1500th anniversary of the founding of Subiaco)

...with his life and work St. Benedict exercised a fundamental influence on the development of European civilization and culture" and helped Europe to emerge from the dark night of history" that followed the fall of the Roman Empire.  (Pope Benedict XVI, Wednesday, 9 April 2008)


I would point out, respectfully, that March 21 is not kept universally as a solemnity, not even by Benedictines. For monks in the American-Cassinese Congregation March 21 is a solemnity and the "other" feast, July 11 is a feast. For many Benedictines the opposite is true because they do not wish to suspend the discipline of Lent to celebrate another solemnity right after St. Joseph's Day.

Thanks. I am indeed aware of the discrepancies in observing the transitus of HF St Benedict. In a forthcoming post it is noted the American Cassinese Congegation keeps today as a solemnity while others do not. Stay tuned.

Thank you for the blog and was a help to read the comments too. I thought St. Benedict advised his monks to observe Lent year-round but spacing of solemnities might be a good idea. Synchronizing all the calendars would require a miracle, eh. I try to follow Roman, Maronite, Franciscan and Benedictine calendars and it's a great joy to honor St. Benedict whenever possible. Peace!

Would someone explain to me what the term "Solemnity" means? Why does Benedict get 2 feast days?? Thank you.

Thanks for writing. Indeed, St Benedict said that a monk's life should be a continuous Lent, but the idea was not original to him. Indeed, our life ought to be penitential but we also live by the liturgical calendar and our life has a number of times during year for fast and feast.

Getting a coordinated calendar would be a great thing. I think the Pope is working on coordinating the calendars of the Novus Ordo and the 1962 Missal. That would a great grace if it's done.

Let's pray for each other. Blessings!

My recent post speaks of the idea of solemnity briefly. Saint Benedict gets to feast days because he can, would be one answer. Some monastic communities petitioned and received permission to have a solemn observance for St Benedict outside Lent thus keeping Lent as penitential as possible; since there are 2 other solemn days around March 21: St Joseph and Annunciation, having Benedict's in the mix would be a bit much for some. So, some figured that having too many festive days in Lent was problematic if you were to keep a sober Lent.

Since there is legitimate diversity in monasteries, the option to have a more solemn celebration at one part of the year is left up to the particular congregation of monks with the approval of the Holy See.

March 21 is generally considered by scholars and the Church the day Benedict died.

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Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.



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This page contains a single entry by Paul Zalonski published on March 20, 2009 7:30 PM.

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