St Benedict, Patron of Europe

One of my private heresies is that Benedict was an Englishman. The minor fact of his having been born in Italy at a time when the English did not exist is cheerfully brushed away. How could someone with such reserve, such dry humour, such administrative genius have been anything but English? Of course, even I have to admit that no one nation has a monopoly on these characteristics. I suppose it would be better to say he was a fin-de-siècle Roman, without any fin-de-siècle nastiness.

Europe is very much in Benedict’s debt. His sons and daughters have, over many centuries, prayed and worked and studied their way to holiness; and in the course of doing so, have changed the face of the continent. We think of them today as missionaries and scholars, teachers and people of prayer. Europe is in urgent need of re-evangelisation, and although many wonderful Orders and Congregation have arisen in the Church, there is still a need for Benedictines, perhaps today more than ever. What we bring to the Church is hard to define, but easily recognized when encountered.

After thirty years in monastic life, I think I am just beginning to understand what it is all about: what it means to be a contemplative and a missionary, to be a cloistered nun and someone who reaches out to others with the Word of Life. We have espoused the internet and associated technologies in the same way that our predecessors embraced the quill pen and the printing press, and for much the same reasons; but we know that without the persevering life of prayer, which is largely unseen and unnoticed, everything we do on the net would be pointless. If Europe ever becomes a Christian society, it will be because prayer allowed God full scope to work his miracle of conversion.

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3 thoughts on “St Benedict, Patron of Europe”

  1. A dear friend recently introduced me to St.Benedict.
    I use the Glenstal prayer book which is Benedictine, and am very fond of it :o)

  2. On this feast day I would like to offer a prayer of gratitude for Benedict and the Benedictines that have been a profound blessing in my life. The gift that the Benedictines (uncloistered) have provided me is that although they are examples of hard work as teachers, administrators, spiritual directors, historians, artists, and healers they all also echo that the work is to be balanced with and comes out of the foundation of prayer. They taught me to pray always and in all ways. For this, among many other things, that through the Benedictine communities I have encountered, I wish to say thank you. Let us follow this little rule for beginners together so that in all things God may be glorified.

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