I have been blessed in my life by having been taught by and inspired by two great religious traditions: the Benedictines of Saint Vincent Archabbey and the Third Order Regular Franciscans at Saint Francis Seminary. Benedict and Francis (who was helped in the early days by the Benedictines of Assisi) became great icons of how life can be lived in Christ.
Today is the feast of Saint Benedict of Nursia, known as the founder of Western Monasticism and Patron of Europe. He is known for developing the Rule that bears his name, which is used extensively among religious men and women. Benedict was born of a noble Roman family in 480 in the region of Umbria. At an early age he desired to commit his life to God in a monastery as a hermit, but eventually developed a broader vision of monastic life to include not only prayer and seclusion, but prayer and involvement in the Church at large. His motto was "Ora et labora" - "Pray and work". As time went on, the monasteries that he founded around Monte Cassino in Italy formed a confederation, and became the hub of prayer, learning, work and community building. The expansion of his vision and the Rule of Saint Benedict, which guided every aspect of their lives, became a source of strength and stability in Europe through centuries of instability. Benedict died at Monte Cassino in 547. World War II history buffs will remember that it was this Monte Cassino that was destroyed by bombardments by the Allies in order to dislodge the Germans who had occupied the monastery. It was later rebuilt because of it religious and historical significance.
I am grateful to the followers of Francis of Assisi and Benedict of Nursia for their guidance, their ministry and their deep faith.