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11.7.08

Feast of St. Benedict

July 11 is the feast of St. Benedict of Nursia (c. 480 to c. 543), whose Rule for the life of monks is the most influential document in the history of monasticism.

If there be skilled workmen in the monastery, let them work at their art in all humility, if the Abbot gives his permission. But if anyone of them should grow proud by reason of his art, in that he seems to confer a benefit on the monastery, let him be removed from that work and not return to it, unless after he has humbled himself, the Abbot again orders him to do so. But if any of the work of the artists is to be sold, let them, through whose hands the transaction must pass, see to it, that they do not presume to practice any fraud on the monastery. Let them always be mindful of Ananias and Saphira, lest, perhaps, the death which these suffered in the body (cf Acts 5:1-11), they and all who practice any fraud in things belonging to the monastery suffer in the soul. On the other hand, as regards the prices of these things, let not the vice of avarice creep in, but let it always be given a little cheaper than it can be given by seculars, That God May Be Glorified in All Things (1 Pt 4:11).

Regula | Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 57 ("Of the Artists of the Monastery")
Although written a half-century after Benedict's death, St. Gregory the Great's Life of Benedict is the best way to get to know something about him. Chapter 8, for example, contains the account of the poisoned loaf, left for Benedict by a jealous priest who wanted to kill him. Benedict perceived that it was poisoned and instructed a crow, which came every day to beg crumbs, to carry the loaf away and dispose of it. The crow or raven is still one of the saint's iconographic symbols.

Image: Ambrogio Lorenzetti, panel of St. Benedict from the Maestà (1330-1340, Siena, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo)

See also this image of St. Benedict, Bohemian miniature on vellum, 1420 (Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest)

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