THE NEXT MONTHLY RETREAT IS JUNE 8th
BEGINNING 10:00 AM
This month’s topic is an overview of
SOME BENEDICTINE NOTABLES
SAINT SCHOLASTICA (480—543)
Scholastica is a more unknown figure than her famous brother, Benedict. It is assumed that she too was born at Nursia in central Italy, probably about 480. At an early age she chose to consecrate herself to God, but only after Benedict moved to Monte Cassino did she settle at Plombariola, some five miles away, joining or maybe founding a religious community for women under his direction. According to the Dialogues of Pope Gregory the Great, which is the only source of information about her life, Scholastica met her brother once a year at a house near his monastery where they would praise God together and discuss spiritual matters. She died in about 543. Benedict had a vision of her soul rising up to heaven and, collecting her body, he had her buried in the tomb prepared for himself in the monastery. Scholastica is the patron saint of all Benedictine nuns.
SAINT GREGORY THE GREAT (540 – 604)
As a young man Gregory pursued a career in government, and in 573 was made Prefect of Rome. Following the death of his father, he resigned his office, sold his inheritance, and became a monk. In 579 he was sent by the Pope to Constantinople to be his representative to the Patriarch. He returned to Rome in 586, and was elected pope in 590. At a time of political turmoil, Gregory proved an astute administrator and diplomat, securing peace with Lombards. He initiated the mission to England, sending Augustine and forty monks to refound the English Church. His sermons and writings were pastorally oriented, as seen for example in his treatise on Christian leadership entitled “Pastoral Care”. His spirituality was animated by a dynamic of love and a desire for God. It is from Gregory that we have the main source of information about Benedict. In the second book of his “Dialogues”, written some forty years after the saint’s death, we get an account of his life and miracles.
SAINT AIDAN ( ? – 651)
According to Bede, Aidan was a monk of Iona, a gentle and moderate man who was sent to Northumbria at the request of King Oswald to re-establish the Church in his kingdom following the collapse of the earlier mission of Paulinus. Oswald became his loyal and interpreter, and the two worked together.
Aidan was consecrated bishop in 635, and chose the island of Lindisfarne, near the royal palace at Bamburgh, as his base. From the island he was able to keep in easy communication with the king, combining a monastic lifestyle with missionary journeys to the mainland. Like all monks of the Celtic tradition, Aidan valued solitude and being close to the natural world. His concern for the poor and enthusiasm for preaching, won him wide popular support.
SAINT JOHN CASSIAN (360-435)
As a young man John Cassian joined a monastery at Bethlehem, but soon left it soon to study monasticism in Egypt. Eventually, he seems to have established himself permanently in the West. He wrote two books on monastic life called the Institutes and the Conferences out of the material he had gathered during stay in Egypt. These proved to be highly influential in disseminating the monastic ideal in the Western Church. In his Rule, Benedict commends these works to be read by his monks.
SAINT BEDE (672-735)
Bede was born in Northumbria, England, around 627.
When he was seven years old, his family sent him to the monastery of Saint Peter and Saint Paul at Wearmouth. From there he moved to Jarrow where he lived as a monk the rest of his life. He became a deacon in his nineteenth year, and a priest in his thirtieth. Although it seems that he never traveled further than York, his monastery under the leadership of first Abbot Benedict Biscop and then Abbot Ceolfrith was a major center for learning, and Bede was at its heart. He was an able and astute scholar, writing numerous commentaries on the scriptures, and composing the most complete history of Christian England to date through which we gain considerable information on the growing influence of monastic culture in England. He died peacefully in 735 and is buried in Durham Cathedral.
SAINT PACHOMIUS (-d.346)
Pachomius is honored as the first Christian monk who not simply tried to bring hermits together in groups, but actually organized them with a written Rule and structures of a
communal life. He is said to have been born in Upper Egypt, of pagan parents, and to have been a conscript in the imperial army. Upon discharge he was converted and baptized. He became a hermit, and then in about 320, founded a monastery at Tabennisi near the Nile. He used his military experience to organize his growing number of followers, and by the time of his death in 346 he was ruling as abbot-general over nine monasteries for men and two for women. He is honored, therefore, as the founder of cenobitic monasticism.