FEAST DAY: JULY 11
St. Benedict’s parents can’t have been happy to see him abandon his studies in Rome. Worse still was his decision to become a hermit. They likely had other plans for him, and this did not figure in any of them.
So began a life that has been among the most influential in Western history. As a hermit, Benedict gave spiritual advice, but he also absented himself from regular parish life. Eventually he realized that isolation was not his calling and he abandoned his cave at Subiaco to start a community on top of Monte Cassino.
St. Benedict’s “Rule for Monks” is notable for its moderation, and he meant it for beginners. Because he intended monastic life to be accessible to all, he forbade spiritual competition and any theatrics done, even in the name of God. His monks were to pray and work and live as brothers in a family, but not as competitors.
Benedict never specified any particular work save one — monks were to receive guests as if they were Christ. For that reason, every monastery aspired to have a guesthouse, and through it monks and nuns served their neighbors.
In time, those guesthouses morphed into the schools, parishes, chaplaincies and hospitals that Benedictines have staffed through the centuries. But the thread that runs through all that work has been the conviction that they should treat all people as Christ. Centuries after Benedict’s death circa 540, this remains Benedict’s greatest legacy.
Benedictine Father Eric Hollas provided this commentary on St. Benedict. Father Hollas is a monk of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville. He writes a weekly blog, “A Monk’s Chronicle,” which can be found at monkschronicle.wordpress.com.