July 11th is the day we normally celebrate the feast of St Benedict. Even if the day this year is taken by the Sunday, we might still gain much benefit from asking who was St Benedict? And why is he a very important figure within the history of Western Christianity?
As the history of consecrated life tells us, St Benedict is the Father of Western Monasticism. He brought about a revolution both within the Church as well as society as such. In his post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the consecrated life and its mission in the Church and in the World Pope St John Paul II tells us:
In its present form, inspired above all by Saint Benedict, Western monasticism is the heir of the great number of men and women who, leaving behind life in the world, sought God and dedicated themselves to him, “preferring nothing to the love of Christ”. The monks of today likewise strive to create a harmonious balance between the interior life and work in the evangelical commitment to conversion of life, obedience and stability, and in persevering dedication to meditation on God’s word (lectio divina), the celebration of the Liturgy and prayer. In the heart of the Church and the world, monasteries have been and continue to be eloquent signs of communion, welcoming abodes for those seeking God and the things of the spirit, schools of faith and true places of study, dialogue and culture for the building up of the life of the Church and of the earthly city itself, in expectation of the heavenly city (no.6).