Benedict of Nursia
Benedict of Nursia (ca. 480-547), monastic founder. At the time of Benedict's birth in the small town of Nursia about seventy miles northeast of Rome, the empire was crumbling. As a young man pursuing a liberal education in Rome, Benedict became disgusted by the debauchery and meaningless existence of many of his contemporaries. He abandoned his studies, became a solitary monk in a cave above Lake Subiaco, and soon attracted others on a serious quest for God. Under his guidance monasteries were founded to facilitate companionship and order. When Benedict and a group of his monks moved south to establish a new monastery at Monte Cassino, he composed his rule.
The Rule of Benedict incorporates material from earlier monastic sources and ecclesial documents. A wisdom text with numerous references to scripture, the rule offers practical directions for Christian life. Benedict clearly states that God is present at the heart of life, the "hub" of community, and also at its circumference. Balance is a core value. Each monastic day provides for solitude and community, work and rest, study and recreation, corporate worship and prayer alone. Benedict gives guidance on appropriate food consumption, discipline, service, and care for the sick and especially emphasizes hospitality. Each guest is to be received as Christ. Many living outside the cloister are drawn to Benedictine spirituality because it is practical, biblically based, and capable of being interpreted in a variety of life situations. The three Benedictine vows of stability, conversion, and obedience are relevant for Christian disciples in every age. ... The Benedictine model of biblical reflection known as lectio divina enables us to move from head to heart in our reading of scripture. Benedictine monasticism has continued to flourish since the sixth century and today includes both Roman Catholic and Anglican orders.
[Excerpted with permission from the entry on Benedict of Nursia by Elizabeth J. Canham, from The Upper Room Dictionary of Christian Spiritual Formation, edited by Keith Beasley-Topliffe. Copyright © 2003 by Upper Room Books®. All rights reserved.]
Image is detail from a fresco by Fra Angelico.