St Benedict with the Raven.jpg

One of my favorite parts of the Saint Benedict’s hagiography (iconography) is the narrative of the “man of God” (Benedict) and the raven. It is related by Saint Gregory the Great (+603) that in the wilderness Benedict fed a raven with some a portion of his bread.  When a jealous and wicked priest tried to kill Benedict with poisoned bread, Benedict coached the raven to take the deadly bread to place where it couldn’t harm another. The raven complied.

In his Dialogues Gregory writes, “Then the raven, opening its beak wide and spreading its wings, began to run around the bread, cawing, as if to indicate that it wanted to obey but was unable to carry out the order. Again and again the man of God told him to do it, saying, ‘Pick it up, pick it up. Do not be afraid. Just drop it where it cannot be found.’ After hesitating a long time, the raven took the bread in its beak, picked it up and flew away. Three hours later it came back, after having thrown the bread away, and received its usual ration from the hands of the man of God.”