11 July: Saint Benedict

 

Antonello_da_messina,_san_benedetto
Antonello da Messina,  1470-1475

 

 

San Benedetto da Norcia (St Benedict of Nursia ( 480 – 543 or 547 AD) is a Christian saint who was named patron protector of Europe by Pope Paul VI in 1964. His feast day is on July 11.

Benedict founded several communities for monks , and wrote his famous monastic “Rule of Saint Benedict”. Following the golden precept of “Ora et Labora” ( pray and work) , each day the monks devoted eight hours to prayer, eight hours to sleep, and eight hours to manual work, sacred reading, or works of charity. This rule, which prescribed common sense, a life of moderate asceticism, prayer, study, and work,  became one of the most influential religious rules in Western Christendom. For this reason, Benedict is often called the founder of western monasticism.

Saint_Benedict_Medal

Saint Benedict Medal is an old Christian sacramental medal containing symbols and text related to the life of the Saint and is believed to have power against evil. Its reverse side carries the “Vade retro Satana” (“Step back, Satan”) formula which has been used by Christians to ward off evil since the 15th century.

In order to understand the symbolism of the Medal, we must refer to an event in St. Benedict’s life: he’d been living as a hermit in a cave for three years, famous for his holiness, when a religious community, after the death of their abbot, begged him to become their new abbot . But some of the monks didn’t like him and attempted to kill him with poisoned bread and wine.
After making the sign of the Cross over these things, St. Benedict realized they were poisoned, so he dropped the cup and commanded a raven to carry away the bread. Then he left the group and went back to his cave at Subiaco.

 

St Benedict’s Day was in the past celebrated on March 21. When I was a child, in Italy we had the rhyming saying: “San Benedetto, la rondine sotto il tetto” (Saint Benedict a swallow under the roof), because their arrival coincided with the beginning of spring

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