Saint Benedict of Norcia: the Rule to escape the darkness

The memory of St. Benedict of Norcia comes to us in the portrait made by St. Gregory the Great in the second book of his Dialogues: "Writing about the life of a saint meant telling the stories of his miracles to celebrate his virtues. Such was his greatness to be considered a refuge in the time of the great darkness".

Benedict of Norcia lived in one of the most troubled times in the history of Italy: that of the wars between Goths and Byzantines which, with ups and downs, bled our peninsula between the death of Teodorico (526) and the invasion of the Lombards (568).

Famines, massacres, deportations. And to the fights between the races was added that of the religions, as the Roman Catholicism was not shared by the Barbarians and Arians.

Benedict was born in Norcia around 480, just after the fall of the Western Roman Empire and as a teenager he was sent to Rome to do his studies. The impact with the dissolute life of the capital pushed him to abandon the humanistic studies for fear of being involved in the degradation. His abandonment of studies coincided with the birth of his religious vocation.

At 17, together with his nurse, he retired to the Aniene Valley at Enfide, the current Affile, where he performed his first miracle. Benedict chose the Aniene Valley to retire in his solitude in a cave near Subiaco.

The young hermit, however, did not remain hidden for long, and soon his fame of holiness attracted many disciples. He was requested to become an abbot by a community of monks who was nearby, in Vicovaro. The experience was negative and he chose to return to his cave in Subiaco, around which he organized a monastic colony. The envy of a local priest led him to abandon Subiaco too.

Benedict of Norcia headed for Cassino in 529 and never returned.

The transformation of the place was miraculous. The abbey of Montecassino became the mother of all the abbeys of Europe that were inspired by Benedict of Norcia - a monastery with men in tune with him, who rebuilt those lands abandoned after the fall of the Roman Empire.

From year to year, there were once again fields, orchards, vegetable gardens, and the laboratory. Here they began to renew the world: here they become equal as "Latin" and "Barbarian" brothers, former pagans and former Arians, ancient slaves and ancient masters of slaves. His monasticism does not flee the world. It serves God and the world in prayer and work.

It was a real revolution. With Benedict of Norcia the concept of monasticism-shelter ended and that of monasticism-action began, according to the motto "ora et labora" (pray and work). The Rule (of 540) also established that each monastic community should be led by an abbot, a loving father and a spiritual guide.

Benedict of Norcia died in Montecassino on March 21, 547, forty days or so after the death of his twin sister Scholastica. According to the account of St. Gregory the Great, he breathed his last standing, sustained by his disciples, after receiving communion and with his arms raised in prayer.

The various Benedictine communities recall the anniversary of the death of their founder on 21 March, while the Roman Church officially celebrates the festival on 11 July, Pope Paul VI proclaimed Saint Benedict of Norcia, patron saint of Europe, on 24 October 1964.

Today many pilgrims still travel the path of St. Benedict that leaves from Norcia, in Umbria, and arrives at Montecassino through the villages of Cascia, Monteleone di Spoleto, Leonessa, Poggio Bustone, Rieti, Rocca Sinibalda, Castel di Tora, Orvinio, Mandela, Vicovaro, Subiaco, Trevi nel ​​Lazio, Collepardo, Casamari (Veroli), Arpino and Roccasecca.

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