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Saint Benedict

By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

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Livedc 480 - c 547
Rank and group: Abbot, Benedictines' Founder
Feast day: 11 July, 21 March
Patron saint: Europe, schoolchildren
Attributes: Broken cup with serpent and raven at his feet, rule book, monasteries
Status: Roman Martyrology

Known as the Father of Western Europe, the Patriarch of Labor and the Father of Peace, Benedict not only defined western monasticism, but also was crucial in bringing peace and stability to western Europe. He was a natural lawgiver, giving his rule to his Benedictine monks and his twin sister Scholastica's Benedictine nuns. This rule provided for the population at large a model of peaceful, orderly and contented living centered upon agriculture and spiritual awakening. Saint Benedict's large spiritual family perseveres an intense apostolate of prayer and work in the service of Christ and Church. Little is known of Benedict's personality, but his impact reflects his piety and magnetism.

Benedict and his twin sister Saint Scholastica were born in Norcia in Norcia district, Umbria province, central italy. Benedict was sent to Rome for his studies. However, in c 500 he fled moral dangers there to join a sort of ecclesiastical student community at Affile. Shortly thereafter he retired to a cave near Subiaco -- now Sacro Speco -- to live as a hermit. Disciples began to flock to his increasingly-renowned sanctity, and for them he built a laura composed of twelve small monasteries under his command. In c 530 he left Subiaco for Montecassino, where en route to Naples he founded the great arch-abbey and he lived there until his death. Here he promulgated his monastic rules, which became the norm for all western monks and was simply known as the Holy Rule (or Papal Rule, or Roman Rule) of monks. He died standing erect in prayer before the altar.

Since many medieval ecclesiastic manuscripts were written and illuminated in Benedictine monasteries, there are many illustrations of Benedict himself.