National Catholic Forester

Summer 2015

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7 ST. BENEDICT OF NURSIA 480 to 547 Patron of School Children Little is known of this humble man who became the Patriarch of Western Monasticism. Born in Nursia around 480AD, St. Benedict was educated in Rome. The decadence of Roman society of that time led Saint Benedict to withdraw to a quiet, mountainous area South of Rome called Subiaco where he lived in a cave, as a hermit. [While St. Benedict lived as a hermit] a community of hermits grew up around him and coalesced into twelve monasteries of twelve monks each, with abbots appointed by St. Benedict. Local jealousy led to an attempt on Saint Benedict's life. And so, around 525 AD, St. Benedict moved with a small band of monks to Monte Cassino, between Rome and Naples, where Benedict remained till his death around 550AD. He was buried at Monte Cassino in the same grave as his sister, St. Scholastica. A generation or two after his death, a Benedictine monk ascended the throne of St. Peter and took the name Pope Gregory I, otherwise known as St. Gregory the Great. Pope St. Gregory wrote the only biography of St. Benedict from this period, and it forms part of St. Gregory's Dialogues. It was at Monte Cassino that St. Benedict wrote his Rule or way of life, which brought order, stability, and moderation to the practice of monastic life. Because his Rule was so eminently reasonable and practical, it became the standard for nearly all monastic life in the Western Church until the time of Sts. Francis and Dominic. Monks following the rule of Benedict founded monasteries all over Europe from England to Germany and from Italy to Spain. The Crusaders even brought Benedictine life to the Holy Land. It was largely Benedictine monasteries that served as the exclusive centers of evangelization and Christian education throughout Europe for at least five centuries. And today it is not just Benedictine Monasteries that follow St. Benedict's rule, but Cistercian and Trappist monasteries as well. Because of the role of his rule in Christianizing the entire West, he was named co-Patron of Europe by Pope Paul VI in 1964. The irony in this, of course, was that Saint Benedict apparently had no idea of this future impact. He was a simple man, leading other men to a simple life of prayer and work (Ora et Labora) which was their chosen path to holiness. Nursia__Abbot.html Celebrating Back-to-School I really resonate with the imagery of the vine and the branches in the Gospel because it stresses the importance of remaining connected to Christ who is the source of our life. Cut off from Christ our lives will end up fruitless. The importance of connection is also clear in the Book of Acts, in which we hear of Paul (or Saul) seeking out the disciples in Jerusalem. As powerful as Paul's experience of the risen Jesus was, he knew that if his ministry was to be effective he needed to be connected with other disciples of Christ. In fact, in all his missionary travels, Paul never traveled alone but with groups of men and women. The image of the vine and branches stresses our need to stay connected with Jesus, whereas, numerous sections of the Book of Acts stress the need to stay connected with a community of support. Our relationship with God is not purely "vertical" in which we relate to God as individuals. It is also a "horizontal" one, in which our relationship to God is bound up with our relationship to our fellow believers. Christ is feeding all of us but we decipher the power of Christ's life in us as we share it with those who have also been gifted with power. Some people fail to understand the need of a community within which they can interact. However, the community can support our desire to grow in the likeness of Jesus, it can challenge us, and it can draw out our gifts and talents, many of which we might miss if left to ourselves. The celebration of the sacraments is always a communal event. For instance, we will never know or appreciate the full impact of the closeness of receiving Jesus in Holy Communion without others who can help us grow in our own ability to respond to God's offer of love in the Eucharist. We all need the example of the discipleship of other faithful Catholics. The Vine and the Branches FATHER CURT'S REFLECTION

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