Feast Day: March 21
In the fifth century, the young Benedict was sent to Rome to finish his education with a nurse/housekeeper. The subject that dominated a young man's study then was rhetoric -- the art of persuasive speaking. A successful speaker was not one who had the best argument or conveyed the truth, but one who used rhythm, eloquence and technique to convince. The power of the voice without foundation in the heart was the goal of the student's education. And that philosophy was reflected in the lives of the students as well. They had everything -- education, wealth, youth -- and they spent all of it in the pursuit of pleasure not truth. Benedict watched in horror as vice unraveled the lives and ethics of his companions. Afraid for his soul, Benedict fled Rome, gave up his inheritance, and lived in a small village with his nurse. When God called him beyond this quiet life to even deeper solitude, he went to the mountains of Subiaco. There he lived as a hermit under the direction of another hermit, Romanus. After years of prayer, word of his holiness brought nearby monks to ask for his leadership. He warned them he would be too strict for them, but they insisted -- then tried to poison him when his warning proved true. So Benedict was on his own again -- but not for long. The next set of followers were more sincere and he set up twelve monasteries in Subiaco where monks lived in separate communities of twelve. He left these monasteries abruptly when the envious attacks of another hermit made it impossible to continue the spiritual leadership he had taken. But it was in Monte Cassino he founded the monastery that became the roots of the Church's monastic system. Instead of founding small separate communities he gathered his disciples into one whole community. His own sister, Saint Scholastica , settled nearby to live a religious life. After almost 1500 years of monastic tradition his direction seems obvious to us. But Benedict was an innovator. No one had ever set up communities like his before or directed them with a rule. What is part of history to us now was a bold risky step into the future. Benedict had the holiness and the ability to take this step.
His beliefs and instructions on religious life were collected in what is now known as the Rule of Saint Benedict -- still directing religious life after 15 centuries. In this tiny but powerful Rule, Benedict put what he had learned about the power of speaking and oratorical rhythms at the service of the Gospel. He did not drop out of school because he didn't understand the subject! Scholars have told us that his Rule reflects an understanding of and skill with the rhetorical rules of the time. Despite his experience at school, he understood rhetoric was as much a tool as a hammer was. A hammer could be used to build a house or hit someone over the head. Rhetoric could be used to promote vice ... or promote God. Benedict did not shun rhetoric because it had been used to seduce people to vice; he reformed it. Benedict did not want to lose the power of voice to reach up to God simply because others had use it to sink down to the gutter. He reminded us "Let us consider our place in sight of God and of his angels. Let us rise in chanting that our hearts and voices harmonize." There was always a voice reading aloud in his communities at meals, to receive guests, to educate novices. Hearing words one time was not enough -- "We wish this Rule to be read frequently to the community." Benedict realized the strongest and truest foundation for the power of words was the Word of God itself: "For what page or word of the Bible is not a perfect rule for temporal life?" He had experienced the power of God's word as expressed in Scripture: "For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:10-11). For prayer, Benedict turned to the psalms, the very songs and poems from the Jewish liturgy that Jesus himself had prayed. To join our voices with Jesus in praise of God during the day was so important that Benedict called it the "Work of God." And nothing was to be put before the work of God. "Immediately upon hearing the signal for the Divine Office all work will cease." Benedict believed with Jesus that "One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God' " (Matthew 4:4). This prayer, called the Divine Office, was to be chanted from the breviary at specific times of the day. If a monk could not make it to chapel, he was to immediately fall to his knees in the place where he in the fields, in the stable, wherever he was and perform the Work of God under the vault of the sky. There was nothing special about praying in a chapel -- or praying outdoors -- but there was something very special about the prayer. "We believe that God is everywhere," but "without doubt, we believe this is so especially when assisting in the Divine Office." The Church still believes Benedict's and considers the Divine Office the prayer of the Church. But it wasn't enough to just speak the words. Benedict instructed his followers to practice sacred reading -- the study of the very Scriptures they would be praying in the Work of God. In this lectio divina, he and his monks memorized the Scripture, studied it, and contemplated it until it became part of their being. Four to six hours were set aside each day for this sacred reading. If monks had free time it "should be used by the brothers to practice psalms." Lessons from Scripture were to be spoken from memory not read from a book. On Benedict's list of "Instruments of Good Works" is "to enjoy holy readings." This sacred reading, however, was a study in love, not intellect. Not just an exercise of the mind, it was an exercise of contemplation so that "our voices and hearts harmonize." Each word of God would soak into their minds, their hearts, their very souls, so that the prayers would spring up from the depths of their being, not just from their memory. "We realize that we will be heard for our pure and sorrowful hearts, not for the numbers of our spoken words." A heart was pure when it was empty of all but God's Word and our desire to remain in God's Word. First came the lectio, reading the Scripture until a phrase was found that inspired the person to stop. Our natural tendency would be to read the phrase and think about what it means, what it has to do with our lives and then move on. But that was not part of sacred reading. The next step was to memorize the phrase, repeat it over and over and over from memory without reading it, without thinking about it, just repeating it, until it seemed to be coming from the heart not the voice, until the power of the Word of God could take over. When the phrase had lost all meaning except that power, the person would fall silent, still not thinking, but letting the inspiration of the Holy Spirit speak about the meaning in the heart. And finally the person would sink into contemplation, going beyond the voice, beyond the intellectual understanding, to sit in the presence of God in the divine Word.
In one story of Benedict's life, a poor man came to the monastery begging for a little oil. Although Benedict commanded that the oil be given, the cellarer refused -- because there was only a tiny bit of oil left. If the cellarer gave any oil as alms there would be none for the monastery. Angry at this distrust of God's providence, Benedict knelt down to pray. As he prayed a bubbling sound came from inside the oil jar. The monks watched in fascination as oil from God filled the vessel so completely that it overflowed, leaked out beneath the lid and finally pushed the cover off, cascading out on to the floor. In Benedictine prayer, our hearts are the vessel empty of thoughts and intellectual striving. All that remains is the trust in God's providence to fill us. Emptying ourselves this way brings God's abundant goodness bubbling up in our hearts, first with an inspiration or two, and finally overflowing our heart with contemplative love.
Benedict died in 547 while standing in prayer before God.
**Click Here to read the Holy Rule of St Benedict**
**Click Here to read about the Saint Benedict Medal**
Prayers of Saint Benedict
Saint Benedict, sure guide of souls, we come to you to ask your aid. Help us always to seek God and His heavenly Kingdom, putting nothing before the Love of Christ. In our seeking we take you as our proven rule of life. May you obtain for us all that we need to live our days on this troubled earth and to gain the everlasting joys of Heaven. Amen.
The Litany of St. Benedict
For Private Use Only.
Lord, have mercy on us,
Christ, have mercy on us.
God the Father of Heaven,
Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Spirit,
Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God,
Have mercy on us.
Pray for us.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us.
Holy Virgin of virgins, etc.
Holy Father, Saint Benedict,
Father most reverend,
Father most renowned,
Father most compassionate,
Man of great fortitude,
Man of venerable life,
Man of the most holy conversation,
True servant of God,
Light of devotion,
Light of prayer,
Light of contemplation,
Star of the world,
Best master of an austere life,
Leader of the holy warfare,
Leader and chief of monks,
Master of those who die to the world,
Protector of those who cry to thee,
Wonderful worker of miracles,
Revealer of the secrets of the human heart,
Master of spiritual discipline,
Companion of the patriarchs,
Equal of the prophets,
Follower of the Apostles,
Teacher of Martyrs,
Father of many pontiffs,
Gem of abbots,
Glory of Confessors,
Imitator of anchorites,
Associate of virgins,
Colleague of all the Saints,
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.
V. Intercede for us, O holy father Saint Benedict,
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let Us Pray.
O God, Who hast called us from the vanity of the world, and Who dost incite us to the reward of a heavenly vocation under the guidance of our holy patriarch and founder, Saint Benedict, inspire and purify our hearts and pour forth on us Thy grace, whereby we may persevere in Thee. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. R. Amen.
Prayer to St. Benedict for a Happy Death
"O holy Father, St. Benedict, blessed by God both in grace and in name, who, while standing in prayer, with hands raised to heaven, didst most happily yield thy angelic spirit into the hands of thy Creator, and hast promised zealously to defend against all the snares of the enemy in the last struggle of death, those who shall daily remind thee of thy glorious departure and heavenly joys; protect me, I beseech thee, O glorious Father, this day and every day, by thy holy blessings, that I may never be separated from our dear Lord, from the society of thyself, and of all the blessed. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen."
St. Benedict himself revealed to St. Gertrude - also one of the greatest saints in the history of the Catholic Church, and herself a Benedictine nun - that "whoever reminds me of the extraordinary privilege with which God deigned to glorify my last moments, shall experience my particular assistance in his final combat. I will be a faithful protector against the assaults of the enemy. Fortified by my presence, he will escape the snares of the evil one and safely attain eternal happiness."
Novena to St. Benedict
"O Glorious St. Benedict, sublime model of all virtues, pure vessel of God's grace! Behold me, humbly kneeling at thy feet. I implore thy loving heart to pray for me before the throne of God. To thee I have recourse in all the dangers which daily surround me. Shield me against my enemies, inspire me to imitate thee in all things. May thy blessings be with me always, so that I may shun whatever God forbids and avoid the occasions of sin."
"Graciously obtain for me from God those favors and graces of which I stand so much in need, in the trials, miseries and afflictions of life. Thy heart was always so full of love, compassion, and mercy towards those who were afflicted or troubled in any way. Thou didst never dismiss without consolation and assistance anyone who had recourse to thee. I therefore invoke thy powerful intercession in the confident hope that thou will hear my prayers and obtain for me the special grace and favor I so earnestly implore (mention it), if it be for the greater glory of God and the welfare of my soul."
"Help me, O great St. Benedict, to live and die as a faithful child of God, to be ever submissive to His holy will, and to attain the eternal happiness of heaven. Amen."
Feast Day: February 18th
The incorruptible body of Saint Bernadette
St. Bernadette was born at Lou q rdes, France. Her parents were poor and she spent her life in poor health. On February 11, 1858, while on an outing to gather firewood, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette. The Lady was dressed in blue and white, and appeared above a rose bush in a grotto called Massabielle. She smiled at Bernadette and made the sign of the cross with a rosary of ivory and gold. Falling on her knees, Bernadette took out her own rosary and began to pray.
The Blessed Lady appeared to Bernadette seventeen more times. She told Bernadette that she should pray for sinners, do penance, and have a chapel built on that spot in her honor. Many people did not believe Bernadette when she told them of her vision, and she suffered terribly because of this. On one visitation, Our Lady told Bernadette to dig in the mud. As she did, a spring of water began to flow. The spring continued to grow larger and larger, and Bernadette was told to bathe in it. Many healing miracles happened as people began to use this water, and it has been a site of pilgrimage for the sick ever since.
At an early age she became a Sister of Charity of Nevers, and was besieged by the faithful and religious. She lived in the convent for thirteen years, spending a large portion of this time ill in the infirmary. When a fellow sister accused her of being a 'lazybones', she said that her 'job' was "to be ill". She was always very humble servant of God, not wanting to be praised. Once a nun asked her if she had temptations of pride because she was favored by the Blessed Mother. "How can I?" she answered, "The Blessed Virgin chose me only because I was the most ignorant."
Bernadette died on 16th April 1879. The Blessed Mother had kept the promise she made to Bernadette in 1858, "I do not promise to bring you happiness in this world, but in the next". Her body remains today incorrupt. She lies in St. Gildard Convent in Nevers, France.
Prayer in honor of St. Bernadette
O God, protector and lover of the humble, You bestowed on Your servant, Bernadette, the favor of the vision of Our Lady, the Immaculate Virgin Mary, and of speech with her. Grant that we may deserve to behold You in heaven. Amen.
Novena to St. Bernadette
Dear Saint Bernadette, Chosen by Almighty God as a channel of His Graces and Blessings, and through your humble obedience to the requests of Our Blessed Mother, Mary, you gained for us the Miraculous waters of Spiritual and physical healing.
We implore you to listen to our pleading prayers that we may be healed of our Spiritual and physical imperfections.
Place our petitions in the Hands of our Holy Mother, Mary, so that She may place them at the feet of Her beloved Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, that He may look on us with mercy and compassion: (Make Petition)
Help, O Dear Saint Bernadette to follow your example, so that irrespective of our own pain and suffering we may always be mindful of the needs of others, especially those whose sufferings are greater than ours.
As we await the Mercy of God, remind us to offer up our pain and suffering for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins and blasphemies of mankind.
Pray for Saint Bernadette, that like you, we may always be obedient to the will of Our Heavenly Father, and that through our prayers and humility we may bring consolation to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary that have been so grievously wounded by our sins.
Holy Saint Bernadette of Lourdes, Pray for us. AMEN.
One Decade of the Rosary.
O Mary conceived without sin,pray for us who have recourse to Thee. (Say (3) Three Times)
Immaculate Mary, your praises we sing
You reign now in splendor.
with Jesus Our King
Ave, ave, ave Maria!
Ave, ave, ave Maria!
In heaven the blessed,
Your glory proclaim,
On earth we your children
implore your fair name.
Ave, ave, ave Maria!
Ave, ave, ave Maria
Quotes of St. Bernadette:
You must receive God well; give Him a loving welcome, for then He has to pay us rent.
Saint Bernadette Soubirous
The more I am crucified, the more I rejoice.
Saint Bernadette Soubirous
I had gone down one day with two other girls to the bank of the river Gave when suddenly I heard a kind of rustling sound. I turned my head toward the field by the side of the river, but the trees seemed quite still and the noise was evidently not from them. Then I looked up and caught sight of the cave where I saw a lady wearing a lovely white dress with a bright belt. On top of each of her feet was a pale yellow rose, the same color as her rosary beads.
At this I rubbed my eyes, thinking I was seeing things, and I put my hands into the fold of my dress where my rosary was. I wanted to make the sign of the cross, but for the life of me I couldn't manage it, and my hand just fell down. Then the lady made the sign of the cross herself, and at the second attempt I managed to do the same, though my hands were trembling. Then I began to say the rosary while the lady let her beads clip through her fingers, without moving her lips. When I stopped saying the Hail Mary, she immediately vanished.
I asked my two companions if they had noticed anything, but they said no. Of course, they wanted to know what I was doing, and I told them that I had seen a lady wearing a nice white dress, though I didn't know who she was. I told them not to say anything about it, and they said I was silly to have anything to do with it. I said they were wrong, and I came back next Sunday, feeling myself drawn to the place....
The third time I went, the lady spoke to me and asked me to come every day for fifteen days. I said I would and then she said that she wanted me to tell the priests to build a chapel there. She also told me to drink from the stream. I went to the Gave, the only stream I could see. Then she made me realize she was not speaking of the Gave, and she indicated a little trickle of water close by. When I got to it I could only find a few drops, mostly mud. I cupped my hands to catch some liquid without success, and then I started to scrape the ground. I managed to find a few drops of water, but only at the fourth attempt was there sufficient for any kind of a drink. The lady then vanished and I went back home.
I went back each day for fifteen days, and each time, except one Monday and one Friday, the lady appeared and told me to look for a stream and wash in it and to see that the priests build a chapel there. I must also pray, she said, for the conversion of sinners. I asked her many times what she meant by that, but she only smiled. Finally, with outstretched arms and eyes looking up to heaven, she told me she was the Immaculate Conception.
During the fifteen days she told me three secrets, but I was not to speak about them to anyone, and so far I have not.
from a letter by Saint Bernadette