From the Bible
Read 1 Peter 3:8-9
Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing.
Benedict of Nursia (c. 480-547?) was born in North Central Italy (the Umbria province) when the Asian hordes were pulling much of the region back into violence with their war and pillaging. His biographer, St. Gregory the Great, pope from 590 to 604, does not record the dates of his birth and death, though he refers to a Rule written by Benedict. According to Gregory’s Dialogues Benedict’s parents sent him to Rome for classical studies but he found the life of the city too degenerate for his tastes. Consequently he fled to a place southeast of Rome called Subiaco where he lived as a hermit. There he was then discovered by a group of monks who prevailed upon him to become their spiritual leader. His rule soon became too much for the lukewarm monks so they plotted to poison him. Gregory recounts the tale of Benedict’s rescue; when he blessed the pitcher of poisoned wine, it broke into many pieces.
Benedict left the wayward monks and established twelve monasteries with twelve monks each in the area south of Rome. Later, perhaps in 529, he moved to Monte Cassino, about eighty miles southeast of Rome; there he destroyed the pagan temple dedicated to Apollo and built his premier monastery. It was there too that he wrote the Rule for the monastery of Monte Cassino, though he envisioned that it could be used elsewhere. Gregory presents Benedict as the model of a saint who flees temptation to pursue a life of attention to God. Through a balanced pattern of living and praying Benedict reached the point where he glimpsed the glory of God. Gregory recounts a vision that Benedict received toward the end of his life: In the dead of night he suddenly beheld a flood of light shining down from above more brilliant than the sun, and with it every trace of darkness cleared away. According to his own description, the whole world was gathered up before his eyes “in what appeared to be a single ray of light” (ch. 34). St. Benedict, the monk par excellence, led a monastic life that reached the vision of God.
Benedict is considered to be the father of Western Monasticism – a few centuries after Monasticism began in Egypt, Asia Minor, and Palestine. His genius was to put the forms of the East into an accessible format that was warm and flexible. He was mostly the leader of a community, not a scholar. The Rule is the sole known example of Benedict’s writing, but it shows his genius to crystallize the best of the monastic tradition and to pass it on to Europe. The Benedictine vows are basically “obedience, stability, and conversion of life.” He helped formalize a movement of the Spirit into “a school of the Lord’s service, in which we hope to order nothing harsh or rigorous.” These “schools” that soon dotted Europe were centers of light and stability for centuries. Benedict, and the subsequent monks in his tradition, are known for both prayer and labor (ora et labora).
Some of the stories about Benedict told by Gregory can be found here [link].
The first degree of humility is prompt obedience.
Listen and attend with the ear of your heart.
Prayer ought to be short and pure, unless it be prolonged by the inspiration of Divine grace
More on Benedict of Nursia:
Catholic Encyclopedia [link]
Christianity Today [link]
Order of St. Benedict [link]