Tag Archives: St Benedict

Pope Benedict: follow the witness of Saint Benedict


Every time we celebrate Holy Mass, we hear echo in our heart
the words that Jesus left with his disciples at the Last Supper as a precious
gift: “Peace I leave you, my peace I give you” (John 14:27). How much
the Christian community and the whole of humanity need to taste completely the
riches and the power of Christ’s peace! St. Benedict was a great witness,
because he welcomed it in his existence and fructified it in works of authentic
cultural and spiritual renewal. “Pax” (“Peace”) is posted
as a motto at the entrance to the Abbey of Monte Cassino and every other
Benedictine monastery: the monastic community in fact is called to live
according to this peace, which is the paschal gift par excellence
. As you know,
in my recent trip to the Holy Land, I went as a pilgrim of peace, and today —
in this land marked by the Benedictine charism — I have the opportunity to
emphasize, once again, that peace is in the first place a gift of God, and
therefore its power is in prayer.

It is a gift given, however, to human care. Even the energy
that is needed to actualize it is drawn from prayer. So, it is essential to
cultivate an authentic prayer life to assure the social progress of peace
. Once
again the history of monasticism teaches us that a great growth in civilization
is prepared by daily listening to the Word of God
, which moves believers to a
personal and communal effort in the struggle against egoism and injustice
. Only
in learning, with the grace of Christ, to combat and defeat the evil within
ourselves and in relationships with others, can we become authentic builders of
peace and civil progress. May the Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, help all
Christians, in their different vocations and situations in life, to be
witnesses of that peace that Christ gave us and left us as a demanding mission
to realize everywhere.

Today, March 24, liturgical memorial of the Blessed Virgin
Mary, Help of Christians — who is venerated with great devotion at the shrine
of Sheshan in Shanghai — we celebrate the Day of Prayer for the Church in
China. My thoughts turn to all the people of China. In particular I greet the
Catholics of China with great affection and I exhort them to renew on this day
their communion of faith in Christ and of fidelity to the Successor of Peter.
May our common prayer obtain an effusion of gifts of the Holy Spirit, so that
unity of all Christians, the catholicity and the universality of the Church
always will be deeper and more visible.

Pope Benedict XVI, Regina Caeli Address, Miranda Square, May 24, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI visits Monte Cassino

Montecassino.jpgPope Benedict XVI with great affection for Saint Benedict of Nursia, the Rule of Saint Benedict and Benedictine spirituality made a visit to Monte Cassino, 75 miles southeast of Rome, today. The Abbey of Monte Cassino was founded by Saint Benedict in 529 and it’s the sight of great holiness and humanity.

Among the various pastoral engagements the Holy Father had, he celebrated Mass for the diocese in the heart of the city, prayed Vespers with the monks, offered prayers for the dead, and visited the House of Charity. (This house works for peace and the promotion of life.) He also visited the monks of the monastic community there and addressed visiting abbesses and abbots. The Pope was hosted by Abbot-Nullius Pietro Vittorelli, 46.

Regola di S Benedetto.jpg

Historically Monte Cassino is a center of art, culture, learning, and faith. The monks at Cassino are quick to recall that the abbey’s culture is Neapolitan. Nevertheless, the sole purpose of life in the abbey, indeed in any Benedictine abbey, is the search for God, pressing forward announcing the Paschal Mystery, of which is the incredible fact of Christ’s presence known now, that is today. Thus we comprehend the reason for the holy Rule of Benedict: keeping our gaze fixed on Christ.

In Saint Benedict we have a genius who gave cohesion to Europe and the rest of the world through his Rule for monasteries and Lectio Divina. Some will say it is one of the centers of humanity, of Western civilization because the Benedictine life gave voice to the aspirations of men and women. The notable archive at Monte Cassino attests to the search for God and the conscience of the Christian life. A new humanism is underlined by the Rule because it is attentive to one’s real humanity seen particularly in the vulnerable of society.

A fascinating heritage of Cassino abbey is the historic presence of the Greek monks who lived there for a few hundred years prior to founding the Abbey of Grottaferrata. Without digressing the Abbey was destroyed four times (in 577, 883, 1349 & 1944) and rebuilt four times. The last time the abbey was destroyed it was bombed by the American military during the Second World War because the Allied armies feared the advance of the enemies. The destruction, however, was carried out under wrong intelligence which the cost the lives of many. However, Succisa virescit! It is the 65th anniversary of the rebuilding of the abbey and city, the icon of beauty, strength and peace all people.

Pope and Abbot listen Cassino.jpg

This visit of Pope Benedict is in continuity with the visits of past popes. This is not a first visit of Benedict XVI since he made several visits before as cardinal (but it is the first visit as the first as pope) to Monte Cassino; significantly in 1992 made a few days of retreat with his brother and personal secretary at the abbey and then he worked with Peter Seewald on his book, Salt of the Earth (1997) there. So, as an honor, the Mayor of Cassino announced today that Miranda Square was renamed today to “Pope Benedict XVI Square.”

The Pope’s homily was incredibly striking and we wait for a proper translation in English.

Blessed is he comes in the Name of the Lord.

Out of Bulgaria, love & Saint Benedict

St Benedict SDimitrova.jpg

Here is a wonderful story of an icon writer from Bulgaria using her God-given talent so that God may be glorified with the bonus of falling in love. Plus, the Benedictine monks in England are commissioning Silvia to paint for them.


Silvia Dimitrova’s webpage can seen here.


May God grant Silvia many years!


March 21 or July 11: will the real Benedictine feast take a stand?

A question of what is the difference between the March and July observances of the feast of Saint Benedict.

san benito.jpgThe July feast was the one celebrated in France, as being the date of the alleged translation of his bones to the Abbey of Fleury. Monte Cassino always disputed this claim made by Fleury, and it does seem doubtful, as the remains of Benedict and Scholastica (datable to the correct period) were found in the tomb at Monte Cassino after the Second World War.

The Church, however, certainly never rejected the July 11 feast, as the celebration of the translation of the bones is really not about Fleury-vs.-Monte Cassino but rather the establishment of a cultus of Saint Benedict beyond Italy, as a saint of universal importance for the whole Church and for all the monks of the West. So this feast (which is more convenient for a solemn celebration since it falls outside of Lent) was made by Pope Paul VI the feast of Saint Benedict as Patron of Europe, later changed to be a “co-patron” of Europe.

March 21 is the feast of Saint Benedict’s death. It more specifically concerns his entry into heaven and his role as Father of Western Monasticism.

Transitus of Saint Benedict: a glorious and festive day

Death of Benedict.jpgLet the whole multitude of the faithful exult in the glory of our beloved Father Benedict; but most of all let that army of monks be glad who on earth are celebrating the feast of him with whom the Saints in heaven are rejoicing. (Magnificat antiphon)

Today was a glorious day. The weather was particularly beautiful and the grounds of the Abbey and College were manicured on Friday plus the flowering trees are bursting forth with color. Our many guests attested to value of the charism of Saint Benedict and the witness of the monastic community here in the Charlotte metro area. We can say that the monks and friends are intertwined in a very real way.

The 4th bishop of the Diocese of Charlotte, the Most Reverend Peter J. Jugis, JCD, presided his choir robes and many priests of the diocese concelebrated the Mass with Father Abbot Placid, celebrating. All of the monks and guests staying at the abbey were present. It was particularly fitting to have some of the priests of the diocese who in some way collaborate with the abbey here because of the strong connection that exists between the abbey and the diocese: the abbey was the seat of the diocese and the monks either founded and staffed some of the parishes or provided weekend assistance. Heartwarming for me was the clear sense of fraternal love and unity with Saint Peter in the Episcopal office with the presence of Bishop Jugis because there are monasteries live in friction with the local bishop and by extension the Holy Father. Hence it was evident to me that there’s been a genuine affection between the bishop and the monks. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the presence of the Religious Sisters of Mercy. They’ve held a close relationship with the monks of this abbey since the 19th century and the monks continue to be their chaplains down to today.

As an historical note, the Holy See erected the Diocese of Charlotte on January 12, 1972. But beginning in 1944 and then again in 1960 the territory of the abbey nullius was gradually restricted before being suppressed on January 1, 1977, at the request of the US bishops.

In the homily Father Abbot spoke of Saint Benedict personally hearing the voice of Christ calling him to follow. As Benedict listened with the ear of his heart, so we should listen to the call of the Master (Christ). We know that through baptism we are reborn as adopted children of God and our lived experience tells us that we are being formed into saints, or at least the hope is that we’d become saints. Being a saint, however, is not being a plastic sort of character but a person who really lives what his conviction in Christ is. It’s the saint that lets know that God is real and that His love and creative power endures; it’s the saint that knows and shows us that the divine promise is a fact. Two aspects of this the divine promise bear mentioning because they are constituent parts of Benedict’s life: forgiveness (mercy) and providence (life will be set right). In forgiveness our sins are forgiven and we are given the grace to transform our lives from ugliness to beauty. Providence tells us that we don’t hold others hostage for their sinfulness toward us; just as the Lord forgives, so ought we to forgive. Providence is the revelation of hope, that there all of us have a destiny based on faith in Christ.

The abbot also noted for us that Benedict is an example of being “watchful” in the face of grace and sin; he was attentive to sustaining others in the struggle against Satan. One can say, therefore, that Benedict is a living Gospel: he lived the Gospel faithfully and his witness to Christ was substantial. While it seems odd that on a joyous occasion such as this feast to tell people to keep death before our eyes as Benedict admonished his monks, it is nevertheless true that we ought to do so because it is an expression of Christian hope: we desire our destiny, we desire the infinite. As Pope Benedict reminded us in last encyclical, the distinguishing mark of the Christian is that we know we have a future. Just as Saint Benedict was converted, the abbot said, by the Paschal Mystery of the Lord, so by that same Mystery shall we be transformed if we give ourselves over the Lord without reserve.

One may note in the Ordo for liturgical services that March 21 is a liturgical memorial of Saint Benedict, co-patron of Europe and Father of Western monasticism. The ritual form of today’s sacred Liturgy takes on different observances in the various worldwide congregations of Benedictine monasteries. That is to say, some monasteries observe today as a solemnity even though it is Lent; let us not forget that March 21st comes between two other solemnities, Saint Joseph (March 19) and the Annunciation of the Lord (March 25). Monasteries who don’t keep today as a solemnity will keep liturgical memorial as a simple feast and celebrate July 11 as a solemn day.

By the use of the word “solemnity” I mean the use of festive hymns and antiphons for the saint or the Lord are sung, incense and white vestments are used, and the Gloria is sung and the Creed recited at Mass. The above Magnificat antiphon is a good example. Therefore, the special Mass texts written and approved for the liturgical memorial are used in conjunction with the sung Ordinary of the Mass. On days of solemnity the community will have a festive meal with special foods and prepared and often wine is served. The opposite would be true for a day in Lent or an average in Ordinary Time where things are much more sober. I savor today as a solemn break from the joy of Lent!

For the monks of Belmont solemnities never end: the anniversary of the Dedication of the Abbey Church falls on March 28 but that day, even though it is a solemn occasion, will be simplified I can assure you. All these special celebrations can obscure the sober liturgical sense that’s supposed to be followed for Lent and yet there is a particular Catholic sense of the Incarnation that’s manifested when we properly observe feasts on their proper days. Given that Mary, Help of Christians – Belmont Abbey is a monastery of the American-Cassinese Congregation of Benedictine monks it’s keeping to a privilege granted in 1972 by the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship.

St Benedict3.jpg

At the solemn Vespers last eve, the Father Abbot was suitably decorated in mitre with crosier, symbols of his office as a head of the abbey. A special vesperal hymn for the Transitus of Benedict, “Whate’er of Yore,” was sung. According to Father Prior this hymn is of unknown provenance and yet highly revered. It speaks of the prophets and the Law, Abraham and Moses, perfect virtue, especially asceticism, obedience and peace viz. the witness of blessed Benedict amidst the storms of era.

The lyrics bear our attention:

Whate’ver of yore the tuneful prophets teach

Or Law of olden days,

Great monarch of ascetic multitudes,

Thy life displays.

A glorious progeny is Abram’s boast;

Meekness in Moses shone;

Faultless obedience and a beauteous spouse

Were Isaac’s crown.

But our exalted heav’nly Patriarch,

Immeasurably blest,

Concentrates all their glory, virtue, praise,

In his sole breast.

O may his arm of might that caught us up

From the world’s stormy tide,

Here keep us evermore where halcyon calm

And peace abide.

Glory eternal to the Father be,

And sole-begotten Son,

With Thee Great Paraclete: eternal Three

And trinal One.

About the author

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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