Saint Benedict (480-547) was born in the district of Nursia (present-day Norcia), in central Italy. He is regarded as the “Father of Western Monasticism” and is “Co-Patron of Europe” along with Saints Cyril and Methodius.
As a young man, Benedict was sent to Rome for studies but left after a short stay, desiring to dedicate his life to God. He went to live in an isolated place near Subiaco, not far from the ruins of Emperor Nero’s summer villa, about fifty miles from Rome. Today the cave is the celebrated shrine called “Sacro Speco” (The Holy Cave) and is one of Europe’s most beautiful sanctuaries (see photo). At Subiaco, Benedict lived a life of solitude and prayer for about three years with support from a monk named Romanus. Benedict’s time as a hermit was interrupted for a short period when he became the superior of a group of unruly monks. Ultimately unhappy with his guidance, they tried to poison him. His survival is attributed to the Hand of God. He then withdrew to the cave at Subiaco once again. Eventually, Benedict’s sanctity attracted disciples and in time, twelve small monasteries were established around Subiaco, with Benedict as the spiritual father of them all. Today the Abbey of St. Scholastica cares for the Holy Cave.
Around the year 530, Benedict left Subiaco with some of his disciples headed for Monte Cassino (see photo), halfway between Rome and Naples, where he began a single, close-knit community on a mountain top. There he remained until his death around the year 547. It was at Monte Cassino around 540 that Benedict completed his Rule of Monastic Life for his monks, basing it on earlier monastic literature as well as his own original material. Today, the Rule of Saint Benedict, as it is commonly called, is considered one of the most important factors in the development of Christian Europe. In time, the Rule became the norm for all monks and nuns in the West largely through the efforts of the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne. St. Benedict's monasteries of Subiaco and Monte Cassino continue even today.
Benedict had a sister, Scholastica, who was consecrated to God from her youth and died shortly before her saintly brother. Both of them were buried at Monte Cassino in the oratory dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. Saint Scholastica’s feast day is on February 10th and Saint Benedict’s is on March 21st and July 11th. The March date is generally considered to be the date on which he died.
The life of Saint Benedict is found in The Dialogues written by St. Gregory the Great some forty years after Benedict’s death. It is not a biography as we know the genre today, but would be considered hagiography. Nonetheless, the details supply us with a basic outline of the life and times of Saint Benedict. Deacon Roy Goetz, the Chaplain of Subiaco Academy, has provided a helpful adaptation of those miracles described by St. Gregory the Great. These miracles are listed by their number and title at the top of this page (if on a tablet or smartphone) and to the left (if you are on a desktop).
Today, Benedict’s disciples, both men, and women can be found on every inhabited continent of the world in hundreds of monasteries and abbeys, leading lives dedicated to “Ora et Labora" (Prayer and Work), as Holy Father Benedict taught in his Rule and by his life. Subiaco Abbey (photo below) in Arkansas is a Benedictine Abbey of monks in the Swiss-American congregation that was founded in 1878 and traces its lineage of monks all the way back to those first monasteries of Subiaco and Monte Cassino in the 6th century.