July 11th is the feast of Saint Benedict of Nursia, the founder of the Order of Saint Benedict (the Benedictines), the founder of Western Monasticism, and co-patron of Europe along with Saints Cyril And Methodius. He is honored by Roman Catholics, the Anglican Communion, Eastern Orthodoxy and the Lutheran Church. He was canonized in 1220.
Benedict was born of a noble family of Nursia in Umbria around 480, and had a twin sister, Scholastica, who founded a community of Women Religious. Tradition says that he left home around the year 500 to live a solitary life in the country, and became a monk and hermit. He sought to live a simple life, but was eventually drawn into small monastic settings, eventually writing his "Rule" and establishing 12 communities in and around Subiaco, Italy. He then founded the great monastery of Monte Casino between Rome and Naples. He died at the age of 64 at Monte Casino shortly after the death of his sister, Scholastica on March 21 in either 543 or 547.
The Rule of Saint Benedict is made up of seventy three short chapters that share wisdom of two kinds: spiritual (how to live a Christ centered life) and administrative (how to run a monastery). Ora et Labora (Prayer and Work) is a motto of the Order of Saint Benedict, a confederation of communities that follow the Rule. Their work is pastoral, spiritual and educational. They were great preservers of history and knowledge and worship over the centuries, and many great monasteries were noted for their libraries and educational opportunities.
As I have said here often, we are blessed with the first Benedictine monastery founded in the United States located in Latrobe, Saint Vincent Archabbey, founded in 1846 by Boniface Wimmer. To the monks and the Sisters of Saint Benedict, happy feast day!