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Happy Feast Of St. Benedict

Detail of an icon of St. Benedict of Nursia, from the hand of Fabrizio Diomedi (Dreher personal collection)

Today is the Feast of St. Benedict of Nursia in the Roman Catholic Church (we Orthodox observe the feast in March). The poet Malcolm Guite has written a sonnet for our father among the saints, Benedict:

You sought to start a simple school of prayer,
A modest, gentle, moderate attempt,
With nothing made too harsh or hard to bear,
No treating or retreating with contempt,
A little rule, a small obedience
That sets aside, and tills the chosen ground,
Fruitful humility, chosen innocence,
A binding by which freedom might be found

You call us all to live, and see good days,
Centre in Christ and enter in his peace,
To seek his Way amidst our many ways,
Find blessedness in blessing, peace in praise,
To clear and keep for Love a sacred space
That we might be beginners in God’s grace.

Hear the poet read it aloud here. [1]I strongly urge you to do so; his voice is so richly textured.

change_me

In The Benedict Option [2], you can read about believers — some under religious vows, others in the lay state — who are following in St. Benedict’s footsteps over 14 centuries after he lived and prayed and walked on this earth. He has so very much to teach us still.

21 Comments (Open | Close)

21 Comments To "Happy Feast Of St. Benedict"

#1 Comment By pbnelson On July 11, 2018 @ 6:04 pm

Today’s Office of Readings has a nice excerpt from Benedict’s rule. Link, here (the excerpt is near the end):

[3]

#2 Comment By pbnelson On July 11, 2018 @ 6:09 pm

I just realized that link is only good when clicked on July 11th. Here’s the text of second reading from the Office of Readings, for July 11th, courtesy of ibreviary.org (highly recommended!).

From the Rule of Saint Benedict, abbot
(Prologus, 4-22; cap,72, 1-12; CSEL 75, 2-5, 162-163)

Put Christ before everything

Whenever you begin any good work you should first of all make a most pressing appeal to Christ our Lord to bring it to perfection; that he, who has honored us by counting us among his children, may never be grieved by our evil deeds. For we must always serve him with the good things he has given us in such a way that he may never—as an angry father disinherits his sons or even like a master who inspires fear—grow impatient with our sins and consign us to everlasting punishment, like wicked servants who would not follow him to glory.

So we should at long last rouse ourselves, prompted by the words of Scripture: Now is the time for us to rise from sleep. Our eyes should be open to the God-given light, and we should listen in wonderment to the message of the divine voice as it daily cries out: Today, if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts; and again: If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. And what does the Spirit say? Come my sons, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord, Hurry, while you have the light of life, so that death’s darkness may not overtake you.

And the Lord as he seeks the one who will do his work among the throng of people to whom he makes that appeal, says again: Which of you wants to live to the full; who loves long life and the enjoyment of prosperity? And, if when you hear this you say, I do, God says to you: If you desire true and everlasting life, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from deceit, turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. And when you have done these things my eyes will be upon you and before you call upon my name I shall say to you: Behold, I am here. What could be more delightful, dearest brothers, than the voice of our Lord’s invitation to us? In his loving kindness he reveals to us the way of life.

And so, girded with faith and the performance of good works, let us follow in his paths by the guidance of the Gospel; then we shall deserve to see him who has called us into his kingdom. If we wish to attain a dwelling-place in his kingdom we shall not reach it unless we hasten there by our good deeds.

Just as there exists an evil fervor, a bitter spirit, which divides us from God and leads us to hell, so there is a good fervor which sets us apart from evil inclinations and leads us toward God and eternal life. Monks should put this fervor into practice with an overflowing love: that is, they should surpass each other in mutual esteem, accept their weaknesses, either of body or of behavior, with the utmost patience; and vie with each other in acceding to requests. No one should follow what he considers to be good for himself, but rather what seems good for another. They should display brotherly love in a chaste manner; fear God in a spirit of love; revere their abbot with a genuine and submissive affection. Let them put Christ before all else; and may he lead us all to everlasting life.

#3 Comment By Spencer On July 11, 2018 @ 6:25 pm

Just a FYI, Rod, but in the Extraordinary Form using the 1962 Missal, St. Benedict’s feast day is March 21st. I have no idea why it was changed.
But a Saint of his caliber deserves two feast days!
St. Benedict!
Ora pro Nobis!

#4 Comment By Pogonip On July 11, 2018 @ 8:03 pm

Thank you, Rod, and likewise to you, your family, and the rest of your readers.

#5 Comment By Bernie On July 11, 2018 @ 9:23 pm

From “Butler’s Lives of the Saints” concerning St. Benedict’s death: “The great saint who had foretold so many other things was also forewarned of his own approaching death. He notified it to his disciples and six days before the end bade them dig his grave. As soon as this had been done he was stricken with fever, and on the last day he received the Body and Blood of the Lord. Then, while the loving hands of the brethren were supporting his weak limbs, he uttered a few final words of prayer and died – standing on his feet in the chapel, with his hands uplifted towards heaven.” (c. A.D. 547)

#6 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 11, 2018 @ 9:25 pm

Happy Feast.

Like most institutions, the one Benedict started took on a life of its own long after he passed from the scene. Witness the Brother Cadfael mystery stories, featuring two very different but honorable abbotts, a dismal worldly prior and his toady, and various ebbs and flows of politics and faith.

#7 Comment By Jrm On July 11, 2018 @ 10:42 pm

Rod, a question…why thedifference between the western and eastern calendar?

[NFR: The East uses the old Julian calendar, while the West (and the rest of the world) uses the Gregorian calendar. [4] Some Orthodox churches in the West, like the OCA, use a modified Gregorian calendar. We have Western Christmas, but Easter according to the Julian calendar. — RD]

#8 Comment By charles cosimano On July 11, 2018 @ 10:55 pm

Oh Feast OF St. Benedict. My eyes saw Feast On St. Benedict. You had me worried there.

#9 Comment By grin without a cat On July 12, 2018 @ 2:54 am

[We have Western Christmas, but Easter according to the Julian calendar. — RD]

The Russians celebrate Christmas on January 7 (our calendar).

#10 Comment By Liam On July 12, 2018 @ 7:00 am

March 21st is the date of St Benedict’s death, while July 11th is the French feast of alleged translation of his relics to Fleury Abbey in Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire. While a saint’s date of death is the most typical foundation for that saint’s feast day, dates of translation are probably the second most common foundation for such. At Vatican II, there was a push to move more saints memorials outside of typical Lenten dates, so that said feastdays could be celebrated without the burden of Lenten penitence, and thus the adoption of the French date.

#11 Comment By TechComm On July 12, 2018 @ 7:31 am

Spencer: My understanding is that it was changed because the March date, the anniversary of Benedict’s death, falls within Lent. The July date, the anniversary of the translation of his relics, is during Ordinary Time and thus is always available to commemorate Benedict (except, as always, on Sundays).

#12 Comment By JonF On July 12, 2018 @ 9:10 am

A number of our common saints have very different feast days East and West, and this isn’t due to calendar issues, but probably to the fact that these things were once determined locally.

#13 Comment By Major Wootton On July 12, 2018 @ 9:18 am

Btw Malcolm Guite’s book about Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Mariner, is splendid.

Guite is also author of an essay, “Yearning for a Far-Off Country,” in the anthology C. S. Lewis and His Circle. It’s very good.

#14 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 12, 2018 @ 10:07 am

Stop messing with the elder gods Cosimano. You’re going to fall into the sky.

#15 Comment By David J. White On July 12, 2018 @ 10:23 am

Oh Feast OF St. Benedict. My eyes saw Feast On St. Benedict. You had me worried there.

Would that be Eggs Benedict? 😉

#16 Comment By David J. White On July 12, 2018 @ 10:25 am

[We have Western Christmas, but Easter according to the Julian calendar. — RD]

The Russians celebrate Christmas on January 7 (our calendar).

Which is December 25 in the Julian calendar. The two calendars are currently 13 days apart.

#17 Comment By T.R. Smith On July 12, 2018 @ 10:48 am

Thank you for sharing this! It was graceful, simple, and loving. Especially a gift to hear it in the poet’s timbre.

#18 Comment By JonF On July 12, 2018 @ 11:52 am

Re: My understanding is that it was changed because the March date, the anniversary of Benedict’s death, falls within Lent.

TechComm,
Thanks for the explanation. I wonder why Lent would matter though? Benedict is an ascetic saint after all.

Re: The Russians celebrate Christmas on January 7 (our calendar).

True, but most Orthodox churches used the reformed Julian calendar (almost identical to the Gregorian, but slightly more accurate due to the benefits of 20th century astronomy over that of the 16th century). The Russian, Serbian and Georgian churches are the odd ones out on that. We all follow the old reckoning for Easter and the movable feasts tied to it (e.g., Pentecost)– except in Finland where civil law(!) requires Easter be celebrated on the western date by everyone.

#19 Comment By Fr. Seraphim On July 12, 2018 @ 2:25 pm

JonF: “True, but most Orthodox churches used (sic) the reformed Julian calendar . . . The Russian, Serbian and Georgian churches are the odd ones out . . .”

It’s actually the Russian, Serbian, Georgian, Jerusalem, and Polish churches, and as for being the “odd ones out,” they account for 85-90 % of all Orthodox in the world. Just sayin’

#20 Comment By David J. White On July 12, 2018 @ 9:45 pm

Re: My understanding is that it was changed because the March date, the anniversary of Benedict’s death, falls within Lent.

St. Patrick’s Day pretty much always falls within Lent. It’s a perennial tug-of-war with the diocese as to whether the bishop will dispense Lenten fast observances for St. Patrick’s Day. 😉

#21 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 13, 2018 @ 8:36 pm

St. Patrick’s Day pretty much always falls within Lent. It’s a perennial tug-of-war with the diocese as to whether the bishop will dispense Lenten fast observances for St. Patrick’s Day.

I can’t imagine why a bishop would even hesitate.