CONSULS OF GOD
he inherited a vast fortune, but meanwhile he had reflected upon the meaning of life, the condition of the world contemporary with himself, and the future of Rome. Thereupon the rich ruler of a city became a poor monk. He built six monasteries on his estates near Palermo and erected a seventh (San Andrea) in his paternal mansion on the Monte Cadius, the most patrician quarter of Rome. He gave away literally everything, even his last possession the silver dish in which his mother sent him vegetables every day. He was not the first Roman who had gladly sought his happiness in the new vita socialis. But this man, who fled from life and looked down upon a devastated Rome and its ruined amphitheatre from a seclusion devoted to higher things, as a monk and builder according to the Rule of Benedict, became a pioneer of Western monasticism.
In the monastic life Gregory sought to conform with the spirit of its founder. The object was to obtain a common sanctification of existence in a cloistered life of prayer and work. The daily tasks in a house set apart were to be performed according to the prescribed rhythm and to be based upon contemplation of eternal things assur- ing depth and consecration to such tasks. The values of eternal life wrung from contemplation were to bear fruit in practical work. Ben- edict had not by any means desired to found an order for pious scholars, but what he established was, like all foundations of its kind, to give witness unto the law that those who seek the Kingdom of God shall have all else given them. This law, the tragic nucleus of which is also evident, has revealed itself again and again throughout Christian history. While bustling, active careers often leave not a trace behind, even as water seeps through sand, it is possible that the most secluded existence can win for itself a very great sphere of in- fluence. Quiet, directed toward the inner life, surrender of the world and concentration on seemingly most unreal things, can prove itself the source of the most fruitful public influence, and the lever of a powerful incision into the processes of world history. Then, of course, it may turn upon its first authors like a strange hostile force. The Order of St. Benedict was still far from witnessing any such turn of events, but the scholarly culture of pagan origin which Cassiador, Theodoric's statesman who had become a monk, took on board the ship of the Church soon after Benedict's death in 543, implied a change