Thanking St Benedict, Patron of Europe

Today we celebrate the second feast of St Benedict, the Translatio or Translation of the Relics, and pay special attention to his role as patron of Europe. It is easy to see why. The so-called Benedictine centuries saw the formation of Europe as we know it, with the preservation of much Classical culture being the work of monks and nuns. But if celebrating St Benedict were simply an exercise in celebrating the past, I think we would be guilty of something he himself would have censured. For St Benedict, as for every Benedictine, an intensely personal quest for Christ was joined to a profound sense of the importance of community, of the value of the present moment and the necessity of choosing between good and evil. It was never a celebration of the past as such, but a building on the past as a way into the future. We do not always see the choices before us in the stark terms the Rule suggests, but Benedict is insistent on the life or death consequences of the choices we make. He warns, he advises, but above all he encourages us to advance in virtue so that we may love God and the brethren with a pure and undivided heart.

Today we can look at the world around us, especially Europe, and be dismayed by the divisions we see. We can lament the disintegration of much that is familiar, deplore the weakening of the values that went into the construction of Europe over many centuries and indulge in a little unprofitable nostalgia But if we are to be true to St Benedict, we must be prepared to start again. Every day we begin anew the buiilding of the city of God. The shape, the form, the material elements will vary; but the task remains the same. St Benedict’s great gift to the world was that of looking forwards, not backwards, of holding nothing dearer to him than Christ. One can say he had such a lively sense of the Church’s Tradition that he knew it would carry him where he had never been before, and he was not afraid.

Today, we thank God for St Benedict and for the wisdom and inspiration that has come down to us from him and his followers in every age and place. We ask for a share in his courage and vision and, above all, his determination to prefer nothing to the love of Christ. May that guide us in the way we are meant to go.


5 thoughts on “Thanking St Benedict, Patron of Europe”

  1. Please may I ask: Is there a difference between ” to prefer nothing to the love of Christ” and to prefer nothing to Christ; and is that the same as “holding nothing dearer to him than Christ”? Thank you.

    • Those phrases are from from different sections of the Rule. In the Tools of Good Works we find, Nihil amori Christi praeponere (RB 4.21), ‘To prefer nothing to the love of Christ’. In the chapter on obedience we find qui nihil sibi a Christo carius aliquid existimat ‘who hold nothing dearer to them than Christ'(RB 5.1). Most commentators would argue that the first refers to Christ’s love for us. It echoes St Cyprian’s ‘Prefer nothing to Christ, for he preferred nothing to us.’ The second refers to our love for Christ. Of course, the two cannot be separated, but Christ’s love for us comes first. Does that help at all?

  2. Your next to the last paragraph is prophetic. We must move on. Love of Christ is our guide and the love of humanity our mission. Whatever cultural relativism we encounter should be met with questions of relevance to Christ’s mission. Thank you for your presence in this space.

  3. Thank you, Sister Catherine. This led me to google St Cyprian with St Benedict, which took me to prayer and St Cyprian by… nun, hence treatise on the Lord’s Prayer, Chap 15. I can look more at this and the context via you references, however perhaps you have said what needs to be said, thank you. Happy feast day

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