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Saint Benedict (b. 480, Nursia, Kingdom of the Lombards; d. ca. 547) is generally
considered to be the father of Western monasticism. His founding of the monastery
at Monte Cassino and composition of the rules governing the Benedictine monks
initiated a monastic movement that spread throughout Europe.
Before Saint Benedict's reforms, monasticism in Europe was largely of the Eastern
sort, which sought religious growth through isolated, austere living and constant
prayer, exemplified by the hermits who retreated to the deserts of Egypt and
Africa in search of God. Saint Benedict was at first drawn to the eremitic life,
but he soon came to believe that a good Christian needs to be a responsible
actor in the world. It was the genius of Saint Benedict's plan to provide for
both the spiritual and material welfare of his brethren. The Benedictine Rule
was much more than a spiritual plan; it was a complete administrative package
that included a workable daily regime. Moreover, Saint Benedict recognized the
limitations of humanity and provided for differences in age, ability, needs,
disposition, and faith. The flexibility of the Benedictine Rule largely accounts
for the success of the order among different peoples, places, and times. This
flexibility allowed the Benedictine monastery to survive a variety of political,
religious, and economic challenges to become an important center of religious
and secular learning and the model for European monasticism.
Works by the Author
St. Benedict. The Rule of St. Benedict. Translated by Cardinal Gasquet.
London: Chatto & Windus.
St. Benedict. The Holy Rule of our Most Holy Father Benedict. Trappist:
Abbey of Gethsemani, Inc., 1942.
The biographical material about the author originally appeared on The
Goodrich Room: Interactive Tour website.