Saint Benedict: Father Of Western Monasticism

1164 words - 5 pages

When Jesus walked the earth his twelve disciples put aside all of their worldly possessions and worldly pursuits to fully and faithfully follow him. After the fall of Rome, Europe slipped into what has been referred to as the “dark ages.” However, even in these dark ages men and women put aside their secular desires and devoted themselves to a life of celibacy and simplicity. This similar desire between many people drew them together and this pursuit became know as monasticism. No one had a bigger influence on this way of life and on these people who chose this calling than Saint Benedict of Nursia. His teachings and life would have an impact on monasticism all throughout Europe helping to form its spirituality and culture.
We live in a fallen world filled with evil desires, temptations, and idols. Many believed that if one desires to be as holy and as close to God as possible then they must distance themselves from sin. This involves putting aside worldly desires and possessions since anything of this fallen world is sinful. This calling brought many people to live simplistic lives alone. However, around fourth century a man named Pachomius founded a place where people with this similar interest could live together, known as a monastery (Benedictine Abbey of Christ in the Desert). This way of living became very appealing not only for spiritual pursuits but also for the pursuit of knowledge. Outside of monasteries the literacy rate was extremely low. For the most part only monks knew how to read and write. For these reasons monasteries began to be established all over Europe. However, with so many of them styles and rules became very different. There were many different kinds of rule that separated monasteries from each other (Leclercq 305). In around 480 a man was born that would change monasticism forever and would become its greatest organizer. This man’s name was Saint Benedict.
Saint Benedict is believed to have been born in the Town of Nursia, Italy and when he came of age he took on studies in Rome in the waning years of its empire. However, even with the possibility of become a Roman Noble, Benedict decided to leave his studies with the forethought of pursuing his own spirituality and getting away from the life of the great city. He moved to a small town at the bottom of Mount Affile where he lived as a hermit filling his days with nothing but prayer, silence, and studies (Benedictine Abbey of Christ in the Desert). He gained the respect of those around him so much so that he was asked to become the abbot of his local monastery. However, his rule and way of life seemed to be too rigorous and strict for monks under him and they attempted to kill him. Legend has it that the first time they attempted to take his life they poised his drink. Benedict put a blessing over his drink and the cup immediately shattered. The second time they tried to kill him they poisoned his bread. Again, Benedict put a blessing over his...

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