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The Feast Day of Benedict of Nursia, Abbot of Monte Cassino

July 12, 2010

Yesterday, being Sunday, was of course the Lord’s Day.  In the hierarchy of Episcopal feast days, Sunday (The Lord’s Day) trumps all but the seven Principal Feasts of the Church.  That means that this year, the lesser feast day of Benedict of Nursia, being observed on July 11, doesn’t get a lot of press time.

You have probably heard of Benedict in the context of Benedictine Monasticism.  Benedict is generally considered by scholars to be the father of western monasticism, and his rule still guides and inspires many, many of the faithful.  Benedict was born in Nursia (central Italy) about the year 480 AD, and was educated at Rome.  When he got to Rome he couldn’t believe the decadence of living he found there – Rome currently being overrun by various barbarian tribes – and his disapproval of the mores and morals there led him to abandon the city and devote his life to monastic seclusion.

Over the years, his simple style of monastic living attracted quite a following and sometime between 525 and 530, he founded the monastic community of Monte Cassino, which was located midway between Rome and Naples.  He composed his Rule around the year 540 and lived for only a short time after that.  According to historians, he was likely never ordained and nothing indicates that he ever intended to “found” an intentional monastic community.

The principal tenets of his Rule are to devote a little over four hours per day to liturgical prayer, a little over five hours a day to spiritual reading, roughly six hours a day to work or labor, an hour for meals, and about eight hours for sleep.  During prayer times (the Daily Office), the entire Psalter  would be recited once per week.

If you are interested in learning more about the Benedictine way, Sister Joan Chittister of the Order of St. Benedict, has published a brilliant annotated edition of Benedict’s rule where she applies his tenets to contemporary life in the 21st century.  You can find out more about that by clicking here.

The Collect for St. Benedict of Nursia

Almighty and everlasting God, whose precepts are the wisdom of a loving Father: Give us grace, following the teaching and example of thy servant Benedict, to walk with loving and willing hearts in the school of the Lord’s service; let thine ears be open unto our prayers; and prosper with thy blessing the work of our hands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Fr. Ryan+

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