WHO IS ST. BENEDICT?
“There was a man of venerable life,
Benedict, blessed by grace and by name,
who, leaving home and patrimony,
and desiring to please God alone,
sought out the habit of holy living.”
— Entrance Antiphon, feast of St. Benedict
A parish receives a title, such as the name of saint, to inspire the people who worship there. The dedication of this parish to St. Benedict recalls the Benedictine monks who served the community from its founding in 1911 until 1999.
Born into a noble family around 480 A.D. in Nursia (Italy), Benedict went to Rome to pursue a classical education. Disheartened there by the worldly lifestyle around him, he traveled south to Subiaco, where a monk named Romanus guided him in the spiritual life. Benedict lived in solitude for the several years, and during this period his reputation for holiness grew. In time, community of monks asked Benedict to become their abbot. (The word “abbot” is derived from the Aramaic term abba, meaning “father.”) Later, Benedict began organizing his own disciples into communities of monks.
Around 529 A.D., he arrived in Monte Cassino, where he founded a monastery and composed his famous Holy Rule for monks living in community. The Rule, with all of its wisdom, has led the Church to honor Benedict as the Father of Western Monasticism. Benedict died in 543 A.D. in Monte Cassino.
The artistic tradition associates several items with St. Benedict: a crozier or shepherd’s crook, a book, a chalice, a crow, and rose bushes (as seen in the statue in the façade, the sanctuary mural, the stained glass window, and the statue in the courtyard). The crozier signifies an abbot’s role of leading and guiding a local community of monks, as St. Benedict did. The book represents the Holy Rule.
The chipped chalice recalls the incident in which some monks opposed to Benedict’s guidance tried to poison the saint’s wine. After Benedict pronounced the customary blessing, the cup shattered, miraculously saving him from death. The crow recalls another assassination attempt. A crow used to fly to Benedict in order to be fed by him. When a wicked priest tried to kill the saint with a poisoned loaf, Benedict, knowing the danger, convinced the bird to carry off the contaminated portion to where it could do no harm. The crow then returned for its normal feeding. The rose bushes evoke Benedict’s zeal in preserving the virtue of chastity. Once, after having seen a diabolical and lascivious vision, Benedict threw himself onto some briers in order to quell the temptation.
The key source for the life of St. Benedict, including these stories, is the Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great (c. 540–604 A.D.). Gregory was the first monk from the Order of Saint Benedict to be elected pope. Along with Benedict, he is featured in the sanctuary mural.
The parish celebrates the feast of St. Benedict on the Sunday before or after July 11.
who made the Abbot Saint Benedict
an outstanding master in the school of divine service,
grant, we pray,
that, putting nothing before love of you,
we may hasten with a loving heart
in the way of your commands.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
— Collect, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot