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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/532

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BENEDICT


468


BENEDICT


from the valley to the higher range of mountains, and seen from the lower ground the village has the appearance of a fortress. As St. Gregory's account indicates, and as is confirmed by remains of the old town and bj' the inscriptions found in the neighbour- hood, Enfide was a place of greater importance than is the present town. At Enfide Benedict worked his first miracle by restoring to perfect condition an earthenware wheat-sifter (capisterium) which his old servant had accidentally broken. The notoriety wliich tills miracle brought upon Benedict drove him to escape still farther from social life, and "he fled secretly from his nurse and sought the more retired district of Subiaco". His purpose of hfe had also been modified. He had left Rome to escape the evils of a great city; he now determined to be poor and to live by his own work. " For God's sake he de- liberately chose the hardships of hfe and the weari- ness of labour" (ibid., i).

A short distance from Enfide is the entrance to a narrow, gloomy valley, penetrating the mountains and leading directly to Subiaco. Crossing the Anio and turning to the right, the path rises along the left face of the ra^^ne and soon reaches the site of Nero's villa and of the huge mole which formed the lower end of the middle lake; across the valley were ruins of the Roman baths, of which a few great arches and detached masses of wall still stand. Rising from the mole upon twenty-five low arclies, the foimdations of which can even yet be traced, was the bridge from the villa to the baths, under which the waters of the middle lake poured in a wide fall into the lake below. The ruins of these vast build- ings and the wide sheet of falling water closed up the entrance of the valley to St. Benedict as he came from Enfide; to-day the narrow valley lies open be- fore us, closed only by the far-off mountains. The path continues to ascend, and the side of the ravine, on which it rmis, becomes steeper, until we reach a cave above which the mountain now rises almost perpendicularly; while on the right hand it strikes in a rapid descent down to where, in St. Benedict's day, five hundred feet below, lay the blue waters of the lake. The cave has a large triangular-shaped opening and is about ten feet deep. On his way from Enfide, Benedict had met a monk, Romanus, whose monastery was on the mountain above the chff overhanging the cave. Romanus had discussed with Benedict the purpose which had brought him to Subiaco, and had given him the monk's habit. By his advice Benedict became a hermit and for three years, tmknown to men, lived in this cave above the lake. St. Gregory tells us little of these years. He now speaks of Benedict no longer as a youth (puer), but as a man {vir) of God. Romanus, he twice tells us, served the saint in every way he could. The monk apparently visited him frequently, and on fi.xed days brought him food.

During these three years of solitude, broken only by occasional communications with the outer world and by the visits of Romanus, he matured both in mind and character, in knowledge of himself and of his fellow-man, and at the same time he became not merely known to, but secured the respect of, those about him; so much so that on the death of the abbot of a monasterj' in the neighbourhood (identi- fied by some with Vicovaro), the commvmity came to liini and begged him to become its abbot. Benedict was acquainted with the hfe and discipline of the monastery, and knew that "their manners were diverse from his and therefore that they would never agree together: yet, at length, overcome with their entreaty, he gave his consent" (ibid., iii). The experiment failed; the monks tried to poison him, and he returned to his cave. From this time his miracles seem to have become frequent, and many people, attracted by his sanctity and character.


came to Subiaco to be under his guidance. For them he built in the valley twelve monasteries, in each of which he placed a superior with twelve monks. In a thirteenth he lived with "a few, such as he thought would more profit and be better instructed by his own presence" (ibid., iii). He remained, however, the father or abbot of all. With the establishment of these monasteries began the schools for children; and amongst the first to be brought were Maurus and Placid.

The remainder of Benedict's life was spent in realizing the ideal of monasticism which he has left us drawn out in his Rule, and before we follow the slight chronological story given by St. Gregory, it v.iTl be better to examine the ideal, which, as St. Gregory says, is Benedict's real biography (ibid., xx.xvi). We deal here with the Rule only so far as it is an element in St. Benedict's life. For the rela- tions which it bore to the monasticism of previous centuries, and for its influence throughout the ^^'est on civil and religious government, and upon the spir- itual life of Christians, the reader is referred to the articles Monasticism and Benedict. S.^int, Rule of.

The Benedictine Rule. — 1. Before studjnng St. Benedict's Rule it is necessary to point out that it is written for lajTnen. not for clerics. The saint's purpose was not to institute an order of clerics with clerical duties and ofiices, but an organization and a set of rules for the domestic hfe of such lajTiien as wished to Uve as fully as possible the type of life presented in the Gospel. "'My words", he says, "are addressed to thee, whoever thou art, that, renouncing tliine own will, dost put on the strong and bright armour of obedience in order to fight for the Lord Christ, our true King." (Prol. to Rule.) Later, 'he Church imposed the clerical state upon Benedictines, and with the state came a preponder- ance of clerical and sacerdotal duties, but the impress of the lay origin of the Benedictines has remained, and is perhaps the source of some of the characteris- tics which mark them off' from later orders.

2. Another characteristic feature of the saint's Rule is its view of work. His so-called order was not estab- lished to carry on any particular work or to meet any special crisis in the Church, as has been the case with other orders. With Benedict 'the work of his monks was only a means to goodness of life. The great disciplinary force for human nature is work; idleness is its ruin. The purpose of his Rule was to bring men "back to God by the labour of obedience, from whom they had departed by the idleness of disobedience". Work was the first condition of all growth in goodness. It was in order that his own life might be "wearied with labours for God's sake" that St. Benedict left Enfide for the cave at Subiaco. It is necessary, comments St. Gregory, that God's elect should at the beginning, when life and tempta- tions are strong in them, " be wearied with labour and pains". In the regeneration of human nature in the order of discipline, even prayer comes after work, for grace meets with no co-operation in the soul and heart of an idler. When the Goth "gave over the world" and went to Subiaco, St. Benedict gave him a bill-hook and set him to clear away briars for the making of a garden. " Eccef labora!" go and work. Work is not, as the civilization of the time taught, the condition peculiar to slaves; it is the universal lot of man, necessary for his well-being as a man, and essential for him as a Christian.

3. The religious life, as conceived by St. Benedict, is essentially social. Life apart from one's fellows, the life of a hermit, if it is to be wholesome and sane, is possible only for the few, and these few must have reached an ailvanced stage of self-disciphne while living with others (Rule, i). The Rule, therefore, is entirely occupied with regulating the life of a com- munity of men who live and work and pray and eat