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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  March 2000

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION March 2000

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Subject:

Interim Saints - St. Benedict of Nursia

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Bill East <[log in to unmask]>

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Tue, 21 Mar 2000 10:18:49 +0000 (GMT)

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St. Benedict of Nursia
Founder of western monasticism, born at Nursia, c. 480; died at Monte
Cassino, 543. The only authentic life of Benedict of Nursia is that
contained in the second book of St. Gregory's "Dialogues". It is rather
a character sketch than a biography and consists, for the most part, of
a number of miraculous incidents, which, although they illustrate the
life of the saint, give little help towards a chronological account of
his career. St. Gregory's authorities for all that he relates were the
saint's own disciples, viz. Constantinus, who succeeded him as Abbot of
Monte Cassino; and Honoratus, who was Abbot of Subiaco when St. Gregory
wrote his "Dialogues". 
Benedict was the son of a Roman noble of Nursia, a small town near
Spoleto, and a tradition, which St. Bede accepts, makes him a twin with
his sister Scholastica. His boyhood was spent in Rome, where he lived
with his parents and attended the schools until he had reached his
higher studies. Then "giving over his books, and forsaking his father's
house and wealth, with a mind only to serve God, he sought for some
place where he might attain to the desire of his holy purpose; and in
this sort he departed [from Rome], instructed with learned ignorance
and furnished with unlearned wisdom" (Dial. St. Greg., II, Introd. in
Migne, P.L. LXVI). There is much difference of opinion as to Benedict's
age at the time. It has been very generally stated as fourteen, but a
careful examination of St. Gregory's narrative makes it impossible to
suppose him younger than nineteen or twenty. He was old enough to be in
the midst of his literary studies, to understand the real meaning and
worth of the dissolute and licentious lives of his companions, and to
have been deeply affected himself by the love of a woman (Ibid. II, 2).
He was capable of weighing all these things in comparison with the life
taught in the Gospels, and chose the latter, He was at the beginning of
life, and he had at his disposal the means to a career as a Roman
noble; clearly he was not a child, As St. Gregory expresses it, "he was
in the world and was free to enjoy the advantages which the world
offers, but drew back his foot which he had, as it were, already set
forth in the world" (ibid., Introd.). If we accept the date 480 for his
birth, we may fix the date of his abandoning the schools and quitting
home at about A.D. 500. 
Benedict does not seem to have left Rome for the purpose of becoming a
hermit, but only to find some place away from the life of the great
city; moreover, he took his old nurse with him as a servant and they
settled down to live in Enfide, near a church dedicated to St. Peter,
in some kind of association with "a company of virtuous men" who were
in sympathy with his feelings and his views of life. Enfide, which the
tradition of Subiaco identifies with the modern Affile, is in the
Simbrucini mountains, about forty miles from Rome and two from Subiaco.
It stands on the crest of a ridge which rises rapidly from the valley
to the higher range of mountains, and seen from the lower ground the
village has the appearance of a fortress. As St. Gregory's account
indicates, and as is confirmed by the remains of the old town and by
the inscriptions found in the neighbourhood, Enfide was a place of
greater importance than is the present town. At Enfide Benedict worked
his first miracle by restoring to perfect condition an earthenware
wheat-sifter (capisterium) which his old servant had accidentally
broken. The notoriety which this miracle brought upon Benedict drove
him to escape still farther from social life, and "he fled secretly
from his nurse and sought the more retired district of Subiaco". His
purpose of life had also been modified. He had fled Rome to escape the
evils of a great city; he now determined to be poor and to live by his
own work. "For God's sake he deliberately chose the hardships of life
and the weariness of labour" (ibid., 1). 
A short distance from Enfide is the entrance to a narrow, gloomy
valley, penetrating the mountains and leading directly to Subiaco.
Crossing the Anio and turning to the right, the path rises along the
left face oft the ravine and soon reaches the site of Nero's villa and
of the huge mole which formed the lower end of the middle lake; across
the valley were ruins of the Roman baths, of which a few great arches
and detached masses of wall still stand. Rising from the mole upon
twenty five low arches, the foundations of which can even yet be
traced, was the bridge from the villa to the baths, under which the
waters of the middle lake poured in a wide fall into the lake below.
The ruins of these vast buildings and the wide sheet of falling water
closed up the entrance of the valley to St. Benedict as he came from
Enfide; to-day the narrow valley lies open before us, closed only by
the far off mountains. The path continues to ascend, and the side of
the ravine, on which it runs, becomes steeper, until we reach a cave
above which the mountain now rises almost perpendicularly; while on the
right hand it strikes in a rapid descent down to where, in St.
Benedict's day, five hundred feet below, lay the blue waters of the
lake. The cave has a large triangular-shaped opening and is about ten
feet deep. On his way from Enfide, Benedict met a monk, Romanus, whose
monastery was on the mountain above the cliff overhanging the cave.
Romanus had discussed with Benedict the purpose which had brought him
to Subiaco, and had given him the monk's habit. By his advice Benedict
became a hermit and for three years, unknown to men, lived in this cave
above the lake. St. Gregory tells us little of these years, He now
speaks of Benedict no longer as a youth (puer), but as a man (vir) of
God. Romanus, he twice tells us, served the saint in every way he
could. The monk apparently visited him frequently, and on fixed days
brought him food. 
During these three years of solitude, broken only by occasional
communications with the outer world and by the visits of Romanus, he
matured both in mind and character, in knowledge of himself and of his
fellow-man, and at the same time he became not merely known to, but
secured the respect of, those about him; so much so that on the death
of the abbot of a monastery in the neighbourhood (identified by some
with Vicovaro), the community came to him and begged him to become its
abbot. Benedict was acquainted with the life and discipline of the
monastery, and knew that "their manners were diverse from his and
therefore that they would never agree together: yet, at length,
overcome with their entreaty, he gave his consent" (ibid., 3). The
experiment failed; the monks tried to poison him, and he returned to
his cave. From this time his miracles seen to have become frequent, and
many people, attracted by his sanctity and character, came to Subiaco
to be under his guidance. For them he built in the valley twelve
monasteries, in each of which he placed a superior with twelve monks.
In a thirteenth he lived with "a few, such as he thought would more
profit and be better instructed by his own presence" (ibid., 3). He
remained, however, the father or abbot of all. With the establishment
of these monasteries began the schools for children; and amongst the
first to be brought were Maurus and Placid. 
The remainder of St. Benedict's life was spent in realizing the ideal
of monasticism which he has left us drawn out in his Rule, and before
we follow the slight chronological story given by St. Gregory, it will
be better to examine the ideal, which, as St. Gregory says, is St.
Benedict's real biography (ibid., 36). We will deal here with the Rule
only so far as it is an element in St. Benedict's life. For the
relations which it bore to the monasticism of previous centuries, and
for its influence throughout the West on civil and religious
government, and upon the spiritual life of Christians, the reader is
referred to the articles MONASTICISM and BENEDICT, SAINT, RULE OF. 
THE BENEDICTINE RULE
1. Before studying St. Benedict's Rule it is necessary to point out
that it is written for laymen, not for clerics. The saint's purpose was
not to institute an order of clerics with clerical duties and offices,
but an organization and a set of rules for the domestic life of such
laymen as wished to live as fully as possible the type of life
presented in the Gospel. "My words", he says, "are addressed to thee,
whoever thou art, that, renouncing thine own will, dost put on the
strong and bright armour of obedience in order to fight for the Lord
Christ, our true King." (Prol. to Rule.) Later, the Church imposed the
clerical state upon Benedictines, and with the state came a
preponderance of clerical and sacerdotal duties, but the impress of the
lay origin of the Benedictines has remained, and is perhaps the source
of some of the characteristics which mark them off from later orders. 
2. Another characteristic feature of the saint's Rule is its view of
work. His so-called order was not established to carry on any
particular work or to meet any special special crisis in the Church, as
has been the case with other orders. With Benedict the work of his
monks was only a means to goodness of life. The great disciplinary
force for human nature is work; idleness is its ruin. The purpose of
his Rule was to bring men "back to God by the labour of obedience, from
whom they had departed by the idleness of disobedience". Work was the
first condition of all growth in goodness. It was in order that his own
life might be "wearied with labours for God's sake" that St. Benedict
left Enfide for the cave at Subiaco. It is necessary, comments St.
Gregory, that God's elect should at the beginning, when life and
temptations are strong are strong in them, "be wearied with labour and
pains". In the regeneration of human nature in the order of discipline,
even prayer comes after work, for grace meets with no co-operation in
the soul and heart of an idler. When the Goth "gave over the world" and
went to Subiaco, St. Benedict gave him a bill-hook and set him to clear
away briars for the making of a garden. "Ecce! labora!" go and work.
Work is not, as the civilization of the time taught, the condition
peculiar to slaves; it is the universal lot of man, necessary for his
well-being as a man, and essential for him as a Christian. 
3. The religious life, as conceived by St. Benedict is essentially
social. Life apart from one's fellows, the life of a hermit, if it is
to be wholesome and sane, is possible only for a few, and these few
must have reached an advanced stage of self-discipline while living
with others (Rule, 1). The Rule, therefore, is entirely occupied with
regulating the life of a community of men who live and work and pray
and eat together, and this is not merely for a course of training, but
as a permanent element of life at its best. The Rule conceives the
superiors as always present and in constant touch with every member of
the government, which is best described as patriarchal, or paternal
(ibid., 2, 3, 64). The superior is the head of a family; all are the
permanent members of a household. Hence, too, much of the spiritual
teaching of the Rule is concealed under legislation which seems purely
social and domestic organization (ibid. 22-23, 35-41). So intimately
connected with domestic life is the whole framework and teaching of the
Rule that a Benedictine may be more truly said to enter or join a
particular household than to join an order. The social character of
Benedictine life has found expression in a fixed type for monasteries
and in the kind of works which Benedictines undertake, and it is
secured by an absolute communism in possessions (ibid. 33, 34, 54, 55),
by the rigorous suppression of all differences of worldly rank - "no
one of noble birth may [for that reason] be put before him that was
formerly a slave" (ibid. 2). and by the enforced presence of everyone
at the routine duties of the household. 
4. Although private ownership is most strictly forbidden by the Rule,
it was no part of St. Benedict's conception of monastic life that his
monks, as a body, should strip themselves of all wealth and live upon
the alms of the charitable; rather his purpose was to restrict the
requirements of the individual to what was necessary and simple, and to
secure that the use and administration of the corporate possessions
should be in strict accord with the teaching of the Gospel. The
Benedictine ideal of poverty is quite different from the Franciscan.
The Benedictine takes no explicit vow of poverty; he only vows
obedience according to the Rule. The rule allows all that is necessary
to each individual, together with sufficient and varied clothing,
abundant food (excluding only the flesh of quadrupeds), wine and ample
sleep (ibid., 39, 40, 41, 55). Possessions could be held in common,
they might be large, but they were to be administered for the
furtherance of the work of the community and for the benefit of others.
While the individual monk was poor, the monastery was to be in a
position to give alms, not to be compelled to seek them. It was to
relieve the poor, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick, to bury the
dead, to help the afflicted (ibid., 4), to entertain all strangers
(ibid., 3). The poor came to Benedict to get help to pay their debts
(Dial. St. Greg., 27); they came for food (ibid., 21, 28). 
5. St. Benedict originated a form of government which is deserving of
study. It is contained in chapters 2, 3, 31, 64, 65 of the Rule and in
certain pregnant phrases scattered through other chapters. As with the
Rule itself, so also his scheme of government is intended not for an
order but for a single community. He presupposes that the community
have bound themselves, by their promise of stability, to spend their
lives together under the Rule. The superior is then elected by a free
and universal suffrage. The government may be described as a monarchy,
with the Rule as its constitution. Within the four corners of the Rule
everything is left to the discretion of the abbot, the abuse of whose
authority is checked by religion (Rule, 2), by open debate with the
community on all important matters, and with its representative elders
in smaller concerns (ibid., 3). The reality of these checks upon the
wilfulness of the ruler can be appreciated only when it is remembered
that ruler and community were bound together for life, that all were
inspired by the single purpose of carrying out the conception of life
taught in the Gospel, and that the relation of the members of the
community to one another and to the abbot, and of the abbot to them,
were elevated and spiritualized by a mysticism which set before itself
the acceptance of the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount as real and
work-a-day truths. 
6. (a) When a Christian household, a community, has been organized by
the willing acceptance of its social duties and responsibilities, by
obedience to an authority, and, further, is under the continuous
discipline of work and self-denial, the next step in the regeneration
of its members in their return to God is prayer. The Rule deals
directly and explicitly only with public prayer. For this Benedict
assigns the Psalms and Canticles, with readings from the Scriptures and
Fathers. He devotes eleven chapters out of the seventy-three of his
Rule to regulating this public prayer, and it is characteristic of the
freedom of his Rule and of the "moderation" of the saint, that he
concludes his very careful directions by saying that if any superior
does not like his arrangement he is free to make another; this only he
says he will insist on, that the whole Psalter will be said in the
course of a week. The practice of the holy Fathers, he adds, was
resolutely "to say in a single day what I pray we tepid monks may get
through in a whole week" (ibid., 18). On the other hand, he checks
indiscreet zeal by laying down the general rule "that prayer made in
common must always be short" (ibid., 20). It is very difficult to
reduce St. Benedict's teaching on prayer to a system, for this reason,
that in his conception of the Christian character, prayer is coexistent
with the whole life, and life is not complete at any point unless
penetrated by prayer. . 
(b) The form of prayer which thus covers the whole of our waking hours,
St. Benedict calls the first degree of humility. It consists in
realizing the presence of God (ibid., 7). The first step begins when
the spiritual is joined to the merely human, or, as the saint expresses
it, it is the first step in a ladder, the rungs of which rest at one
end in the body and at the other in the soul. The ability to exercise
this form of prayer is fostered by that care of the "heart" on which
the saint so often insists; and the heart is saved from the dissipation
that would result from social intercourse by the habit of mind which
sees in everyone Christ Himself. "Let the sick be served in very deed
as Christ Himself" (ibid., 36). "Let all guests that come be received
as Christ" (ibid., 53). "Whether we be slaves or freemen, we are all
one in Christ and bear an equal rank in the service of Our Lord"
(ibid., 2). 
(c) Secondly, there is public prayer. This is short and is to be said
at intervals, at night and at seven distinct hours during the day, so
that, when possible, there shall be no great interval without a call to
formal, vocal, prayer (ibid., 16). The position which St. Benedict gave
to public, common prayer can best be described by saying that he
established it as the centre of the common life to which he bound his
monks. It was the consecration, not only of the individual, but of the
whole community to God by the oft-repeated daily public acts of faith.
and of praise and adoration of the Creator; and this public worship of
God, the opus Dei, was to form the chief work of his monks, and to be
the source from which all other works took their inspiration, their
direction, and their strength. 
(d) Lastly, there is private prayer, for which the saint does not
legislate. It follows individual gifts - "If anyone wishes to pray in
private, let him go quietly into the oratory and pray, not with a loud
voice, but with tears and fervour of heart" (ibid., 52). "Our prayer
ought to be short and with purity of heart, except it be perchance
prolonged by the inspiration of divine grace" (ibid., 20). But if St.
Benedict gives no further directions on private prayer, it is because
the whole condition and mode of life secured by the Rule, and the
character formed by its observance, lead naturally to the higher states
of prayer. As the Saint writes: "Whoever, therefore, thou art that
hastenest to thy heavenly country, fulfil by the help of Christ this
little Rule which we have written for beginners; and then at length
thou shalt arrive, under God's protection, at the lofty summits of
doctrine and virtue of which we have spoken above" (ibid., 73). for
guidance in these higher states the Saint refers to the Fathers, Basil
and Cassian. 
>From this short examination of the Rule and its system of prayer, it
will be obvious that to describe the Benedictine as a contemplative
order is misleading, if the word is used in its modern technical sense
as excluding active work; the "contemplative" is a form of life framed
for different circumstances and with a different object from St.
Benedict's. The Rule, including its system of prayer and public
psalmody, is meant for every class of mind and every degree of
learning. It is framed not only for the educated and for souls advanced
in perfection, but it organizes and directs a complete life which is
adapted for simple folk and for sinners, for the observance of the
Commandments and for the beginnings of goodness. "We have written this
Rule", writes St. Benedict, "that by observing it in monasteries, we
may shew ourselves to have some degree of goodness in life and a
beginning of holiness. But for him who would hasten to the perfection
of religion, there are the teachings of the holy Fathers, the following
whereof bringeth a man to the height of perfection" (ibid., 73). Before
leaving the subject of prayer it will be well to point out again that
by ordering the public recitation and singing of the Psalter, St.
Benedict was not putting upon his monks a distinctly clerical
obligation. The Psalter was the common form of prayer of all
Christians; we must not read into his Rule characteristics which a
later age and discipline have made inseparable from the public
recitation of the Divine Office. 
We can now take up again the story of Benedict's life. How long he
remained at Subiaco we do not know. Abbot Tosti conjectures it was
until the year 529. Of these years St. Gregory is content to tell no
more than a few stories descriptive of the life of the monks, and of
the character and government of St. Benedict. The latter was making his
first attempt to realize in these twelve monasteries his conception of
the monastic life. We can fill in many of the details from the Rule. By
his own experiment and his knowledge of the history of monasticism the
saint had learnt that the regeneration of the individual, except in
abnormal cases, is not reached by the path of solitude, nor by that of
austerity, but by the beaten path of man's social instinct, with its
necessary conditions of obedience and work; and that neither the body
nor the mind can be safely overstrained in the effort to avoid evil
(ibid., 64). Thus, at Subiaco we find no solitaries, no conventual
hermits, no great austerities, but men living together in organized
communities for the purpose of leading good lives, doing such work as
came to their hand - carrying water up the steep mountain-side, doing
the other household work, raising the twelve cloisters, clearing the
ground, making gardens, teaching children, preaching to the country
people, reading and studying at least four hours a day, receiving
strangers, accepting and training new-comers, attending the regular
hours of prayer, reciting and chanting the Psalter. The life at Subiaco
and the character of St. Benedict attracted many to the new
monasteries, and their increasing numbers and growing influence came
the inevitable jealousy and persecution, which culminated with a vile
attempt of a neighboring priest to scandalize the monks by an
exhibition of naked women, dancing in the courtyard of the saint's
monastery (Dial. St. Greg., 8). To save his followers from further
persecution Benedict left Subiaco and went to Monte Cassino. 
Upon the crest of Monte Cassino "there was an ancient chapel in which
the foolish and simple country people, according to the custom of the
old Gentiles, worshipped the god Apollo. Round about it likewise upon
all sides there were woods for the service of devils, in which, even to
that very time, the mad multitude of infidels did offer most wicked
sacrifice. The man of God, coming hither,, feat in pieces the idol,
overthrew the altar, set fire on the woods and in the temple of Apollo
built the oratory of St. Martin: and where the altar of the same Apollo
was, he made an oratory of St. John: and by his continual preaching he
brought the people dwelling in those parts to embrace the faith of
Christ" (ibid., 8). On this spot the saint built his monastery. His
experience at Subiaco had led him to alter his plans, and now, instead
of building several houses with a small community in each, he kept all
his monks in one monastery and provided for its government by
appointing a prior and deans (Rule, 65, 21). We find no trace in his
Rule, which was most probably written at Monte Cassino, of the view
which guided him when he built the twelve small monasteries at Subiaco.
The life which we have witnessed at Subiaco was renewed at Subiaco was
renewed at Monte Cassino, but the change in the situation and local
conditions brought a corresponding modification in the work undertaken
by the monks. Subiaco was a retired valley away in the mountains and
difficult of access; Cassino was on one of the great highways to the
south of Italy, and at no great distance from Capua. This brought the
monastery into more frequent communication with the outside world. It
soon became a centre of influence in a district in which there was a
large population, with several dioceses and other monasteries. Abbots
came to see and advise with Benedict. Men of all classes were frequent
visitors, and he numbered nobles and bishops among his intimate
friends. There were nuns in the neighbourhood whom the monks went to
preach to and to teach. There was a village nearby in which St.
Benedict preached and made many converts (Dial. St. Greg., 19). The
monastery became the protector of the poor, their trustee (ibid., 31).
their refuge in sickness, in trial, in accidents, in want. 
Thus during the life of the saint we find what has ever since remained
a characteristic feature of Benedictine houses, i.e. the members take
up any work which is adapted to their peculiar circumstances, any work
which may be dictated by their necessities. Thus we find the
Benedictines teaching in poor schools and in the universities,
practising the arts and following agriculture, undertaking the care of
souls, or devoting themselves wholly to study. No work is foreign to
the Benedictine, provided only it is compatible with living in
community and with the performance of the Divine Office. This freedom
in the choice of work was necessary in a Rule which was to be suited to
all times and places, but it was primarily the natural result of the
which St. Benedict had in view, and which he differs from the founders
of later orders. These later had in view some special work to which
they wished their disciples to devote themselves; St. Benedict's
purpose was only to provide a Rule by which anyone might follow the
Gospel counsels, and live, and work and pray, and save his soul. ST
Gregory's narrative of the establishment of Monte Cassino does little
more for us than to supply disconnected incidents which illustrate the
daily life of the monastery. We gain only a few biographical facts.
>From Monte Cassino St. Benedict founded another monastery near
Terracina, on the coast, about forty miles distant (ibid., 22). To the
wisdom of long experience and to the mature virtues of the saint, was
now added the gift of prophecy, of which St. Gregory gives many
examples. Celebrated among these is the story of the visit of Totila,
King of the Goths, in the year 543, when the saint "rebuked him for his
wicked deeds, and in a few words told him all that should befall him,
saying 'Much wickedness do you daily commit, and many sins have you
done: now at length give over your sinful life. Into the city of Rome
shall you enter, and over the sea shall you pass: nine years shall you
reign, and in the tenth shall you leave this mortal life.' The king,
hearing these things, was wonderfully afraid, and desiring the holy man
to commend him to God in his prayers he departed: and from that time
forward he was nothing so cruel as before he had been. Not long after
he went to Rome, sailed over into Sicily, and in the tenth year of his
reign he lost his kingdom together with his life." (ibid., 15). 
Totila's visit to Monte Cassino in 543 is the only certain date we have
in the saint's life. It must have occurred when Benedict was advanced
in age. Abbot Tosti, following others, puts the saint's death in the
same year. Just before his death we hear for the first time of his
sister Scholastica. "She had been dedicated from her infancy to Our
Lord, and used to come once a year to visit her brother. To whom the
man of God went not far from the gate to a place that did belong to the
abbey, there to give her entertainment" (ibid., 33). They met for the
last time three days before Scholastica's death, on a day "when the sky
was so clear that no cloud was to be seen". The sister begged her
brother to stay the night, "but by no persuasion would he agree unto
that, saying that he might not by any means tarry all night out of his
abbey.... The nun receiving this denial of her brother, joining her
hands together, laid them on the table; and so bowing her head upon
them, she made her prayers to Almighty God, and lifting her head from
the table, there fell suddenly such a tempest of lightening and
thundering, and such abundance of rain, that neither venerable Bennet,
nor the monks that were with him, could put their head out of door"
(ibid., 33). Three days later, "Benedict beheld the soul of his sister,
which was departed from her body, in the likeness of a dove, to ascend
into heaven: who rejoicing much to see her great glory, with hymns and
lauds gave thanks to Almighty God, and did impart news of this her
death to his monks whom also he sent presently to bring her corpse to
his abbey, to have it buried in that grave which he had provided for
himself" (ibid., 34). 
It would seem to have been about this time that St. Benedict had that
wonderful vision in which he came as near to seeing God as is possible
for man in this life. St. Gregory and St. Bonaventure say that Benedict
saw God and in that vision of God saw the whole world. St. Thomas will
not allow that this could have been. Urban VIII, however, does not
hesitate to say that "the saint merited while still in this mortal
life, to see God Himself and in God all that is below him". If he did
not see the Creator, he saw the light which is in the Creator, and in
that light, as St. Gregory says, "saw the whole world gathered together
as it were under on beam of the sun. At the same time he saw the soul
of Germanus, Bishop of Capua, in a fiery globe carried up by the angels
to Heaven" (ibid., 35). Once more the hidden things of God were shown
to him, and he warned his brethren, both "those that lived daily with
him and those that dwelt far off" of his approaching death. "Six days
before he left this world he gave orders to have his sepulchre opened,
and forthwith falling into an ague, he began with burning heat to wax
faint; and when as the sickness daily increased, upon the sixth day he
commanded his monks to carry him into the oratory, where he did arm
himself receiving the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ; and having
his weak body holden up betwixt the hands of his disciples, he stood
with his own hands lifted up to heaven; and as he was in that manner
praying, he gave up the ghost" (ibid., 37). He was buried in the same
grave with his sister "in the oratory of St. John the Baptist, which
[he] himself had built when he overthrew the altar of Apollo" (ibid.).
There is some doubt whether the relics of the saint are still at Monte
Cassino, or whether they were moved in the seventh century to Fleury.
Abbot Tosti in his life of St. Benedict, discusses the question at
length (chap. xi) and decides the controversy in favour of Monte
Cassino. 
Perhaps the most striking characteristics in St. Benedict are his deep
and wide human feeling and his moderation. The former reveals itself in
the many anecdotes recorded by St. Gregory. We see it in his sympathy
and care for the simplest of his monks; his hastening to the help of
the poor Goth who had lot his bill-hook; spending the hours of the
night in prayer on the mountain to save his monks the labour of
carrying water, and to remove from their lives a "just cause of
grumbling"; staying three days in a monastery to help to induce one of
the monks to "remain quietly at his prayers as the other monks did",
instead of going forth from the chapel and wandering about "busying
himself worldly and transitory things". He lets the crow from the
neighboring woods come daily when all are at dinner to be fed by
himself. His mind is always with those who are absent; sitting in his
cell he knows that Placid is fallen into the lake; he foresees the
accident to the builders and sends a warning to them; in spirit and
some kind of real presence he is with the monks "eating and refreshing
themselves" on their journey, with his friend Valentinian on his way to
the monastery, with the monk taking a present from the nuns, with the
new community in Terracina. Throughout St. Gregory's narrative he is
always the same quiet, gentle, dignified, strong, peace-loving man who
by the subtle power of sympathy becomes the centre of the lives and
interests of all about him. We see him with his monks in the church, at
their reading, sometimes in the fields, but more commonly in his cell,
where frequent messengers find him "weeping silently in his prayers",
and in the night hours standing at "the window of his cell in the
tower, offering up his prayers to God"; and often, as Totila found him,
sitting outside the door of his cell, or "before the gate of the
monastery reading a book". He has given his own portrait in his ideal
picture of an abbot (Rule, 64): 
It beseemeth the abbot to be ever doing some good for his brethren
rather than to be presiding over them. He must, therefore, be learned
in the law of God, that he may know whence to bring forth things new
and old; he must be chaste, sober, and merciful, ever preferring mercy
to justice, that he himself may obtain mercy. Let him hate sin and love
the brethren. And even in his corrections, let him act with prudence,
and not go too far, lest while he seeketh too eagerly to scrape off the
rust, the vessel be broken. Let him keep his own frailty ever before
his eyes, and remember that the bruised reed must not be broken. And by
this we do not mean that he should suffer vices to grow up; but that
prudently and with charity he should cut them off, in the way he shall
see best for each, as we have already said; and let him study rather to
be loved than feared. Let him not be violent nor over anxious, not
exacting nor obstinate, not jealous nor prone to suspicion, or else he
will never be at rest. In all his commands, whether spiritual or
temporal, let him be prudent and considerate. In the works which he
imposeth let him be discreet and moderate, bearing in mind the
discretion of holy Jacob, when he said: 'If I cause my flocks to be
overdriven, they will all perish in one day'. Taking, then, such
testimonies as are borne by these and the like words to discretion, the
mother of virtues, let him so temper all things, that the strong may
have something to strive after, and the weak nothing at which to take
alarm.
HUGH EDMUND FORD 
Transcribed by Robert Gordon 

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