Thursday, March 22, 2012

St. Benedict - Patron Saint of the Politically Incorrect?

Yesterday, March 21, was the Feast Day of St. Benedict Abbot, born around 480 A.D.  He is not very well known, and his feast day is no longer celebrated in the Novus Ordo calendar.  But we still celebrate him on the Traditional Calendar.  Below is the story of his life taken from the Traditional Breviary.  St. Benedict's story struck me as the story of someone with tremendous courage who was not afraid to stand up for what he knew was right, even when such a stand put his life in danger.  In our days of political correctness, he would be demonized as intolerant and bigoted.  There is only one sin left in our society, and it is that of intolerance.  But intolerance is a sin only when it is directed towards what use to be called sin, such as immorality, lying, stealing, cheating, etc.  Tolerance of "what was formerly known as sin" is now seen in our world as loving and compassionate - after all, we are all merely victims of our circumstances and environment.  And the taboos of the past - such as homosexuality, adultery, promiscuity, etc. - are nothing more than the neuroses of repressed people. 

St. Benedict's story also tells us how he dealt with severe temptation - he rolled around in thorns until the physical pain drove out the temptations of the flesh.  This is in direct contradiction to the philosophy of the modern world which says, "If it feels good, do it."  This "feel good" philosophy is directly from Satan himself, and can and does lead to our destruction, both physical and spiritual. 

So here is the story of St. Benedict from yesterday's Matins:
Benedict was born of a noble family at Norcia, and studied letters at Rome. Desiring to give himself to Christ Jesus, he betook himself to a very deep cave at the place now called Subiaco. In this place he lay hid for three years, unknown to all except the monk Romanus, by means of whom he received the necessaries of life. While he was in the cave at Subiaco, the devil one day assailed him with an extraordinary storm of impure temptation, and to get it under, he rolled himself in brambles till his whole body was lacerated, and the sting of pain drove out the sallies of lust. At last the fame of his holiness spread itself abroad from the desert, and some monks came to him for guidance, but the looseness of their lives was such that they could not bear his exhortations, and they plotted together to poison him in his drink. When they gave him the cup, he made the sign of the Cross over it, whereupon it immediately broke, and Benedict left that monastery, and retired to a desert place alone.

Nevertheless his disciples followed him daily, and for them he built twelve monasteries, and set holy laws to govern them. Afterwards he went to Cassino, and brake the image of Apollo which was still worshipped there, overturned the altar, and burnt the groves. There, he built the Church of St. Martin and the little chapel of St. John ; and instilled Christianity into the townspeople and inhabitants. He grew in the grace of God day by day, so that being endowed with the spirit of prophecy he foretold things to come. When Totila, King of the Goths, heard of it, and would see whether it really were so, he sent his spatharius before him, with the kingly ensigns and attendance, and feigning himself to be Totila. But as soon as Benedict saw him he said : My son, put off that which thou wearest, for it is not thine. To Totila himself he foretold that he would go to Rome, would cross the sea, and would die after nine years.

Some months before he departed this life, Benedict forewarned his disciples on what day he was to die ; and he ordered his grave to be opened six days before he was carried to it. On the sixth day, he would be carried into the Church, where he received the Eucharist, and then, in the arms of his disciples, with his eyes lifted up to heaven, and wrapt in prayer, he gave up the ghost. Two monks saw his soul rising to heaven, clothed in a most precious garment and surrounded with lights, and One of a most glorious and awful aspect standing above, whom they heard saying : This is the way whereby Benedict, the beloved of the Lord, goeth up to heaven.

The Glory of St. Benedict
Whitney Houston
in her last hours on earth
I think of the recent death of Whitney Houston, who lived a hedonistic lifestyle where she did whatever she wanted.  This did not give her the freedom she was looking for, but instead enslaved her until her addictions finally killed her at the age of 48. Would she have done better to roll around in the thorns as St. Benedict did?  Certainly it would have been better for her soul than putting cocaine up her nose and guzzling pills and booze.  Am I advocating such severe mortifications as those engaged in by St. Benedict?  No, of course not.  But we have to learn to say no to our own lusts and do whatever it takes to turn away from sin.  We must, as our Lord commanded, take up our cross and follow him.  If we do, like St. Benedict, we will one day rise in glory to our Creator.

1 comment:

  1. I think his feast day is July 11 in the Novus Ordo calendar.


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