San Benito

Saint Benedict was born in the ancient town of Nursia in 480. He belonged to the noble Anicia family. He had a twin sister, Scholastica, who from her childhood had consecrated herself to God.

He was sent to Rome for his education, accompanied by his nurse, who was probably his housewife. Benito, sickened by the vicious life of the city and fearing that he would become contaminated by his example, decided to leave Rome. He ran away, without anyone knowing, except his nurse, who accompanied him. They went to the town of Enfide, in the mountains, thirty miles from Rome. He soon realized that it was not enough to have withdrawn from the temptations of Rome, the young man could not lead a hidden life, especially after having miraculously restored a sieve that his nurse had borrowed and accidentally broken.

Benito set out once more, alone, to climb the hills until he reached a place known as Subiaco. In this region he met a monk named Romano, explaining his intention to lead the life of a hermit. Romano himself lived in a monastery a short distance from there; with great zeal he served the young man, dressing him in a fur habit and leading him to a cave in a mountain. In the desolate cavern, Benito spent the next three years of his life, ignored by all, except for Romano, who kept his secret and daily brought the young man food.

Near the place, a community of monks lived at that time, whose abbot had died and therefore they decided to ask Saint Benedict to take his place. At first he refused. However, the monks pestered him so much that he eventually relented and returned with them to take over the government. It soon became clear that their strict notions of monastic discipline did not suit them, in order to get rid of it, they went as far as putting poison in their wine. He decided after this event, not to stay with them any longer. The same day he returned to Subiaco, not to lead a life of retirement any longer, but with the purpose of beginning the great work for which God had prepared him during these years of hidden life.

Drawn by his holiness, large numbers of disciples began to gather around him. Parents also came to him, who came to entrust their children to them so that they would be educated and prepared for monastic life. St. Gregory tells us of two Roman nobles, Tertullus, the patrician and Equitius, who brought their sons, Placido and Mauro.

It is not known how long the Saint stayed in Subiaco. His departure was sudden. An unworthy priest named Florencio lived nearby who, seeing the success that Saint Benedict was achieving and the large number of people that gathered around him, felt envy and tried to ruin it.

The abbot, fully realizing that Florencio's evil plans were directed against him personally, resolved to abandon Subiaco. He headed for the territory of MonteCassino. The local population had returned to paganism. They were used to offering sacrifices in a temple dedicated to Apollo, on the slope of the mountain. Saint Benedict proceeded to destroy the temple, its idol, and its sacred grove. On the ruins of the temple, he built a monastery.

Perhaps it was during this period that he began his "Rule", which St. Gregory says implies "all his method of life and discipline, because it is not possible that the holy man could teach anything other than what he practiced." It is addressed to all those who, renouncing their own will, take upon themselves "the strong and shining armor of obedience to fight under the banners of Christ, our true King."

The Saint who had announced so many things to others, was warned before about his coming death. He notified his disciples and, six days before the end, asked them to dig his grave. As soon as it was done he was struck by fever. On March 21, 543, Holy Thursday, he received communion. Later, together with his monks, he murmured a few words of prayer and died standing in the chapel, with his hands raised to heaven. He was buried next to Saint Scholastica, his sister, in the place where the altar of Apollo, which he had destroyed, once stood.

In 1964 Paul VI declared Saint Benedict the principal patron of Europe.