Tag Archives: Saint Benedict

The Life of St. Benedict for Children

osb 1It is often difficult to find good, non-syrupy books about the lives of the saints. Therefore, it is a real joy to read a new book about the life of Saint Benedict that stays true to the biographical details known to us through the writings of Pope St. Gregory the Great.

Entitled The Life of Saint Benedict, the book was written by a son of Saint Benedict, Br. John McKenzie, O.S.B. Brother John is a monk from the Monastero di San Benedetto in Norcia, Italy, the birthplace of Sts. Benedict and his twin sister, Scholastica. A native of Michigan, Brother John entered the Benedictines in Norcia in 2005 and made his solemn profession in 2009. He is currently studying theology in Rome.

The 48-page, hardcover book is charmingly illustrated by Mark Brown, a lay oblate of the monastery, with pictures that are engaging enough to enthrall a small child yet full of rich details to interest adults. What child doesn’t like a story with a dragon in it? Featured in the book is the close relationship between Benedict and Scholastica, the founding of the Benedictine family, the miracles attributed to Benedict, and his virtuous life, totally dedicated to God.

Brother John
Brother John

Brother John explained why he embarked upon this project: “The Life of Saint Benedict is filled with great imagery and authentic monastic wisdom. The Benedictine monastic life expands over 1,500 years of lived tradition and it has a home on all continents of the world! This book was simply put together so that families, most especially kids, can get a chance to understand the greatness and uniqueness of my holy founder, not to mention his twin sister Saint Scholastica, who also plays a central role in this book.”

The Life of St. Benedict can be purchased from Ignatius Press (1-800-651-1531, ignatiuspress.com). In this year dedicated to the Consecrated Life, this book is a great introduction to one of the giants of the Church whose way of life remains as attractive and vital today as it was 1,500 years ago.

Papal Birra

birranursiaThe Benedictine Monks of Nursia, who reside at the birthplace of Sts. Benedict and Scholastica in Italy, are celebrating the one year anniversary of their brewery.

Somewhat surprisingly the beer sales have opened evangelical doors. People come to the monastery to sample this high quality beer which is an entree into the life of the monastery. As the monks have experienced, many people who visit have had negative experiences with the Church, with the clergy or perhaps no experience at all with the Faith. Speaking to the monks leads to a discussion about the monk’s life and it goes positively from there.

St. Benedict told his brethren to “work” and provide for themselves. Birra Nursia gives these sons of Saint Benedict a means to support themselves and a way to reach out, especially to younger people.

birra2The monks themselves drink beer on special occasions, such as Sundays and Feast days.  “The project of the monastic brewery was conceived with the hope of sharing with others the joy arising from the labor of our own hands, so that in all things the Lord and Creator of all may be sanctified.”

They were in the news earlier this year when it became known that they supplied the beer for the papal conclave that elected Pope Francis. As someone in the blogosphere commented: The New Pope Will Be Selected When the Conclave Runs Out of Beer!

This video gives you a wonderful look into this work of their hands. Cheers!

Year of Faith Saint for the Month

For years, I been receiving a monthly newsletter from Abbaye Saint-Joseph de Clairval in France which usually features a saint or blessed of the Church. These newsletters are 4 dense pages of meaty information liberally laced with quotes from the Holy Father commenting on the relevance for the saint for today. These newsletters are free (sign up here) but donations are welcome. Their goal is to spread the Faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ.

In 2012, the Abbey celebrated the 40th anniversary of their founding. They are a community of monks living according to the Rule of Saint Benedict in obedience to the Catholic hierarchy. They were founded in Switzerland in 1972 but came to France in 1976. A Benedictine monastery was in the town from the 7th century until the French Revolution but the monks of today, who number about 50, now reside in the former minor seminary.

The Abbey has beautiful gifts for sale, including a new CD of Gregorian chant in honor of St. Joseph (available in March). The Liturgy of the Hours is sung in Latin with Gregorian chant. They also conduct retreats both at the abbey and in other countries following the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

“I will ask for an intimate knowledge of Our Lord who has become man for me, that I may love Him more and follow Him more closely.”
Spiritual Exercises, no. 104

Our Restless Hearts

I am writing about Saint Benedict at the moment and am intrigued by one of the three vows professed by Benedictines:  stability. Msgr. Charles Pope has an interesting article on the subject contrasting the Benedictine vow of stability with the instability of family and societal life today. As always, the saints are way ahead of us. Especially Saint Benedict who lived 1500 years ago.

The vow of stability means that a Benedictine will live out his or her life in one monastery. There’s no looking over the fence for where the grass is greener. It means that problems have to be worked out, difficult people have to be loved, selfish desires have to give way to the common good.

Look how it is today: no one lives in their hometown, parents move to Florida, no one stays with one company for their entire life, people don’t seem to want to settle down and establish roots. This is especially true in marriage where 50% of marriages end in divorce.

Monsignor says, “Stability, though difficult to find in our times is very important to cultivate wherever possible and to the extent possible. In particular, the gift to seek is the kind of stability that is content with what God has given and is not always restlessly seeking a more ideal setting. For again, as we have noted: Ultimately there is no escape from oneself, and the idea that things would be better someplace else is usually an illusion.”

Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.


St. Romuald Intercedes For Soccer Team?

We are used to sports figures thanking mothers, coaches, wives and sometimes even God after big wins. However, this appears to be somewhat unique in the current annals of sport – an Italian coach who makes a pilgrimage to a Camaldolese Monastery to thank a group of monks after unexpectedly reaching the Euro 2012 (soccer) quarter-finals in Poland.

The Italian team met with the monks whose historical origins are Italian but have a foundation outside Krakow, Poland, before the tournament.  Their coach, Cesare Prandelli, promised to make a pilgrimage to the monastery if the team got out of “Group C.”  After their big win, the coach and his staff, at 3:00 AM in the morning, left their team HQ and walked 13 miles to the monastery which took 3 1/2 hours.

The Camaldolese were founded by  Saint Romuald (11th C.) and trace their heritage to the 6th century monastic traditions of Saint Benedict and the reforms of Saint Romuald.

The Holy Hermitage of Camaldoli commemorated the 1,000th anniversary of its foundation by St. Romuald on June 19, the saint’s feast day. Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, Pope Benedict’s special envoy for the commemoration, was the principal celebrant at the hermitage’s June 19th Mass.

Drawing upon the Desert Fathers, St. Romuald encouraged some monks to live in solitude as hermits. “Saint Romuald, the father of the Camaldolese monks, striving for eremetic life and discipline, wandered through Italy for many years, building monasteries and tirelessly promoting the evangelical life among monks,” Pope Benedict recalled in his letter for the anniversary.