Stir up in your Church, O Lord, the spirit that animated our Father Saint Benedict, that filled with this spirit we may learn to love what he loved and practice what he taught.
Today is the commemoration of the passing of Saint Benedict (known also as the Transitus of Saint Benedict). The monks of Montecassino noted the serenity of his death making him a patron, an advocate for the dying. We attribute something similar to Saint Joseph, whom we celebrated on the 19th.
Those who wear the “St Benedict Medal” will notice on the margin encircling the image of Benedict the Latin words: Eius in obitu nostro præsentia muniamur (May we be strengthened by his presence in the hour of our death)!
I might note, the Medal of Saint Benedict is THE most indulgenced medal the church has and the proper blessing of the medal contains an exorcism. Because of the Saint’s love of the Cross and his fighting of Satan, the medal has been known to protect against evil.
Six days before he died, Benedict gave orders for his tomb to be opened. Almost immediately he was seized with a violent fever that rapidly wasted his remaining energy. Each day his condition grew worse until finally, on the sixth day, he had his disciples carry him into the chapel where he received the Body and Blood of our Lord to gain strength for his approaching end.
Then, supporting his weakened body on the arms of his brethren, he stood with his hands raised to heaven and, as he prayed, breathed his last.
Pope Saint Gregory the Great, Dialogues, book 2, c. 37.
The feast celebrate today is not so much a feast about the advocacy of a good death –an important aspect of our Christian life life– as much as it is to hold before our eyes an authentic witness to Jesus Christ and His Gospel. No other saint of the Church as affected the world as Saint Benedict has.
Most holy confessor of the Lord, Saint Benedict, Father of monks and nuns, guide and intercede for the salvation of us all.
One of the themes from Oblate retreat this past weekend was humility. And from within the Gospel and Saint Benedict’s vision of humility Brother John Mark spoke about love and fraternal relations, particularly rubbing elbows in true charity with your brother and sister in community. A stone is only polished when it meets other stones.
The daily grind makes us weary of the task at hand and sometimes we’re also weary of the “nonsense” of other people. There are times in which we are just ugly. Our own fragile and sinful lives can get in the way of things. Sadly, sometimes we get hurt, and we hurt others.
I was re-reading parts of Luigi Giussani’s Religious Sense this morning and then I saw that a friend made note of the Good zeal of monks (noted below) and I wondered… Why is it that we allow “wicked zeal of bitterness” to infiltrate our spirit and our relationships? Saint Benedict perceived a lack of coherence of what human beings say they believe and the lives lead. No doubt this same question/thought ought to concern every reasonable Christian if we are serious about faith in Jesus Christ and ultimate salvation. The tough thing about the Christian way of life is making sure that our faith informs our works and that we don’t replace faith with good works thinking that what we do will absolve our poor behavior. The good zeal Benedict exhorts his monks to have is really applicable to all baptized Christians and not merely the “professional Christians.”
Do we pay enough attention to reality? Am I too alienated from my own desires when I uncritically accept the ideas of others without doing the hard of work of verifying the truth of these ideas? Have I allowed wonder to take a back seat when looking at the reality I’ve been given by God? Have I sufficiently observed and understood what is in front of me? Have I love the Infinite, that is, the Triune God, to the best of my ability and without reservation? Where is my heart right now?
The Rule of Saint Benedict is insightful with regard to human nature: laziness, mediocrity, will not lead to ultimate happiness. That we have to put aside bitterness and that which does not build a deeper communion with God and neighbor. As Holy Father Saint Benedict and Father Luigi Giussani both said but in different ways: do we love?
Here is what the Rule of Saint Benedict says,
Just as there is a wicked zeal of bitterness which separates from God and leads to hell, so there is a good zeal which separates from evil and leads to God and everlasting life. This, then, is the good zeal which monks must foster with fervent love…. (72.1-3)