Friday, July 11, 2014

Memorial of Saint Benedict, abbot

(Hosea 14:2-10; Matthew 10:16-23)

When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger took the name Pope Benedict XVI, he had more in mind than eliciting the spiritual support of a favorite saint.  Knowing that St. Benedict was instrumental in forming European civilization, the new pope wanted to signal the current leaders of the continent not to abandon Christianity with which their civilization was founded.

St. Benedict was born in Italy in 480.  He studied in Rome but, repulsed by urban life, fled to the country as a hermit.  He was sought out by different bands of monks and eventually founded monasteries and, more importantly, a monastic rule based on prayer, hospitality, and a vibrant blend of study and work.  The monks, called Benedictines, spread the rule throughout Europe and, indeed, the world.  For preserving and developing the learning of antiquity, Benedictine monasticism has been regarded as playing a crucial role in the story of Western Civilization.

Today academic and social forces are rejecting Christianity and the Judeo-Christian ethic. They believe that their societies will obtain greater satisfaction by allowing each person to pursue individual desires.  It is a scary proposition because there are forces ready to dominate a weakened social fabric.  St. Benedict today serves as a symbol of the cultural heritage that the new Europe imprudently wants to leave behind.