St. Benedict & St. Scholastica

St. Benedict and St. Scholastica, fraternal twins were born in 480.  In the fifth century, the young Benedict was sent to Rome to finish his education with a nurse/housekeeper. The subject that dominated a young man’s study then was rhetoric — the art of persuasive speaking. A successful speaker was not one who had the best argument or conveyed the truth, but one who used rhythm, eloquence and technique to convince. The power of the voice without foundation in the heart was the goal of the student’s education. And that philosophy was reflected in the lives of the students as well. They had everything — education, wealth, and youth — and they spent all of it in the pursuit of pleasure not truth. Benedict watched in horror as vice unraveled the lives and ethics of his companions.

Afraid for his soul, Benedict fled Rome, gave up his inheritance, and lived in a small village with his nurse. When God called him beyond this quiet life to even deeper solitude, he went to the mountains of Subiaco. There he lived as a hermit under the direction of another hermit, Romanus. After years of prayer, word of his holiness brought nearby monks to ask for his leadership. He warned them he would be too strict for them, but    they insisted — then tried to poison him when his warning proved true. So Benedict was on his own again — but not for long. The next set of     followers were more sincere and he set up twelve monasteries in Subiaco where monks lived in separate communities of twelve. He left these monasteries abruptly when the envious attacks of another hermit made it impossible to continue the spiritual leadership he had taken.

But it was in Monte Cassino he founded the monastery that became the roots of the Church’s monastic system. Instead of founding small separate communities he gathered his disciples into one whole community. His own sister, Saint Scholastica, settled nearby to live a religious life.

After almost 1500 years of monastic tradition his direction seems obvious to us. But Benedict was an innovator. No one had ever set up communities like his before or directed them with a rule. What is part of history to us now was a bold risky step into the future.

Benedict had the holiness and the ability to take this step. His beliefs and instructions on religious life were collected in what is now known as the Rule of Saint Benedict — still directing religious life after 15 centuries. Benedictine spirituality touches the lives of all people and many faiths.  Oblate programs throughout the world provide spiritual growth to many laity of all faiths.