John Paul II on Saint Benedict

John Paul II on Saint Benedict

To remember Saint Benedict on his feast day I turn to the words of Pope John Paul II 


A representative man and a real giant of history, St Benedict is great not only because of his holiness, but also because of his intelligence and industry, which succeeded in giving a new course to the events of history.

We will recall only the essential elements of his interesting and adventurous life. Born about 480 at Norcia, that is, in the inland mountains of Umbria, Benedict studied rhetoric in Rome for some time, then, frightened or disgusted by the corruption of the environment, he withdrew in solitude to Lake Aniene, at Subiaco, where as many as thirteen monasteries were constructed. Forced to leave the valley of the Aniene, Benedict made his way to this high hill which dominates the village of Cassino. In 529 he founded the famous Monastery here and dedicated himself to the evangelization of those peoples who were still pagan, while his sister Scholastica directed the convent of religious women.

About the end of the fifth century, the world was upset by a tremendous crisis of values and institutions, caused by the end of the Roman Empire, the invasion of other peoples and the decay of morals.

In this black night of history, St Benedict was a luminous star.

Endowed with a deep human sensitivity, in his project for the reform of society St Benedict looked particularly to man, following three main lines:
— the value of the individual, as a person;
— the dignity of work, understood as service of God and brothers;
— the necessity of contemplation, that is of prayer: having understood that God is the Absolute, and we live in the Absolute, the soul of everything must be prayer: , “Ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus” (Rule).

In short, therefore, it can be said that St Benedict’s message is an invitation to interiorness. Man must first of all enter himself, he must know himself deeply, he must discover within himself the aspiration to God and traces of the Absolute. The theocentric and liturgical character of the social reform advocated by St Benedict seems to follow exactly the famous exhortation of St Augustine: “Noli foras ire, in teipsum redi; in interiore homine habitat veritas(Vera rel. 39, 72). St Gregory, in his famous “Dialogues” (Migne, P.L. 125-204), in which he narrates St Benedict’s life, writes that he “lived alone with himself under the eyes of the one who observes us from above: solus superni spectatoris oculis habitavit secum” (Lb. II, C. III).

Let us listen to St Benedict’s voice: from interior solitude, from contemplative silence, from victory over the noise of the external world, from this “living with oneself”, there is born the dialogue with oneself and with God, which leads right to the summits of asceticism and mysticism.

More on St. Benedict, see
Newman, on the mission of St Benedict

Pope Benedict XVI General audience on St Benedict.

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