St Benedict

Abbot, Patriarch of Western Monks (entered heaven around 547)

Dear Benny,

My young nephew, you are a foolish man.  Go ahead, get mad if you like, get indignant, get outraged even, it doesn’t change the foolishness of your decision to join that “little club” that you tried to downplay in your last note.  I am quite familiar with that fraternal organization, and as fraternal organizations go, it is a bad one. Besides that, the Church has forbidden (except in special cases) her sons to join Masonic lodges and their affiliates (which have traditionally plotted against the Catholic Church), of which your new secret society is one.  I know why you did it; it’s a ticket to success. Politics, banking, entertainment, industry – all doors to wealth and power will be more easily opened to you if you are a member of the right groups. I know you don’t plan on participating in any weird rituals or pagan practices, but what concerns me is your anxiety about “success.”  You seem to have forgotten that Christ alone can give us happiness, and that he enjoined his disciples not to worry so much about their security and stability in this life: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:33) A case in point is today’s saint.

Benedict appeared to be a typical son of sixth-century Italian nobility.  Sent with his nurse to Rome in order to get an education, he was appalled by the moral and religious laxity all around him.  His fellow students caroused in every way and left their faith (those who had any faith to begin with) to wither for neglect or perish for pagan atrocities.  The deplorable behavior of Rome’s youth reflected the general disarray that had spread throughout the western Empire since the first waves of barbarians sacked the Eternal City.  Schisms, war, plague, and heathen comebacks afflicted a civilization that seemed to teeter on the verge of implosion (sound familiar? …). By the grace of God, Benedict was not drawn in.  He left Rome and his aristocratic future behind and made his way to an isolated cave on a mountain called Subiaco. There he lived in austerity and solitude, battling temptation and filling his soul with divine light for three years, coached in the spiritual life and materially aided by a veteran hermit named Romanus.  Once discovered, he began to receive numerous visitors seeking the benefit of his wisdom and his miracles (which were numerous). Then the disciples started trickling in, and he began the project that Providence had assigned him: the creation of a rule of life that would enable monasticism to spread throughout Europe, providing Christianity and western civilization with fertile ground not only to maintain the greatness of its past, but to grow a vast new garden of holiness, culture, and prosperity.

Any history book will outline the progress and development of the Benedictine Order, but no book can adequately describe the influence it has had on the world.  Only in heaven will we see the countless souls who came to Christ directly and indirectly through the mediation of this nobleman turned monk and his many spiritual sons and daughters.  By “seeking first the Kingdom of God” this young man saved both souls and civilizations; I pray that God will grant you the grace to do the same.

Hopefully your Uncle, Eddy

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