Benedict’s name means “blessed.” His most famous monastery, Monte Cassino, has been destroyed and rebuilt three times. His monks follow the motto Ora et labora, which means “Pray and work.”
Benedict was born in Nursia, Italy, about 480. His parents were wealthy, so they sent him to Rome to be educated. When he was about 17, he decided to become a hermit. He was disgusted with the wild life of the students. With the help of an old monk, Benedict found a cave on Mount Subiaco about 50 miles south of Rome. He lived there for three years. Men recognized his holiness and joined him.
Sometime around 529, Benedict led a group of monks farther south, where they built Monte Cassino. He wrote his Rule based on Scripture. The monks’ first duty was liturgical prayer. The Benedictine monasteries that spread over Europe became centers of learning, agriculture, hospitality, and medicine. Benedict’s monks created illuminated manuscripts. They helped repair the damage caused by the barbarian invaders. Benedict probably died in 547. In art, he is usually shown with his Rule. In 1964, Pope Paul VI named him patron of Europe.
Ask the students to discuss why they need rules. Have them list rules they follow each day.
Benedict had the monks memorize the psalms. They met seven times a day to pray psalms. Write a psalm verse on the board each day and encourage the students to memorize it.
Excerpted from Christ Our Life, by Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio
Image credit: Head of St. Benedict by Fra Angelico, 1446. Public Domain via Wikimedia.