Feast of St. Benedict July 11
PATRON OF WESTERN MONASTICISM
By Mary Jane Vigil, OSB
When I first entered the Monastery this feast was known as “THE SOLEMNITY OF ST. BENEDICT.” Normally the celebration for a saint is held on the day of the Saints death. St. Benedict died on the 21st of March on Holy Thursday. This date usually is in Lent and in those days the Lenten fast and practices were very strict and not much celebrating was allowed. That feast is known as “THE PASSING OF OUR HOLY FATHER BENEDICT, ABBOT.” So the Feast of the Solemnity of St. Benedict was held in July which was celebrated with a solemn liturgy of the Hours and Eucharist, a festive meal, and other activities surrounding the life of St. Benedict.
On October 24, 1964, Pope Paul VI proclaimed St. Benedict as patron of all Europe. The feast on July 11 was then changed to that title. In the current American Cassinese Benedictine Ordo the feast is entitled: Benedict, Patriarch of Western Monasticism. No matter the title, for us Benedictines, July 11 is a solemn occasion for remembering the man who lived in a world in ruins, physically and socially. His mission was to restore it to its former beauty and worth by founding monasteries whose sole task was to follow Christ by a simple communal life of prayer, work, and study according to the Rule. Throughout the following ages, it was the monasteries that saved the Christian culture and the Christian way of life. St. Benedict’s followers were people who cared for the land, who were builders, who spent hours copying rare manuscripts and thus preserving great literature. They preserved the Christian culture through education and learning, books and writing, music and liturgy, art and architecture. Eventually poor and humble places became a religious house, a farm, an abbey, a village, a seminary, or a school of learning. This tradition of looking up to St. Benedict for wisdom and guidance continues as his followers of every gender and race unite prayer and work, according to his motto, “ora et Labora.” What St. Odo of Cluny wrote so many centuries ago still rings true today, “Benedict’s praise is sung wherever Holy Church has spread, among all tribes, nations, and tongues.” And so today we pray for strength to deepen our commitment to seek God in the midst of our Benedictine community life and the courage to pursue peace in order to make a difference in the lives of others.