Today In Fact, 11 July

Today we celebrate the life and work of St. Benedict, the twin brother of Saint Scholastica, both born in 480 into a roman family of noble rank. Benedict did not like Rome. It was too corrupt and too wild for his taste and so he went off and lived as hermit in a cave for some years. Eventually a group of monks asked him to be their abbot. Reluctantly he agreed but they hated his insistence upon an ordered and peaceful life and tried to poison him.

This early at attempt running a monastery failed but Benedict failed forward as it were and soon he started at least a dozen monasteries and nunneries, including the one his sister, St. Scholastica ran. Eventually Benedict founded the Abbey at Monte Cassino, where he died in 543.

The big contribution that Benedict made to our civilization is a 73 chapter book called “the Rule of St. Benedict”. It sets out instructions on how one should run a monastery efficiently. The Rule is a masterpiece in which Benedict walks the line between extreme ascetism and organizational laxity.

The Rule of St. Benedict became the template upon which most monasteries and cloisters of nuns ran their operations. The founder of Western Monasticism also could be said to have laid the groundwork for a democratic society based upon a written constitution, which the Rule was and thereby initiated the idea of constitutional democracy into western thought.

Pope Benedict XVI said that “with his life and work St Benedict exercised a fundamental influence on the development of European civilization and culture” and helped Europe to emerge from the “dark night of history” that followed the fall of the Roman empire.

– Posted by Douglas Racionzer (

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