Godzdogz

Godzdogz

The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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St Benedict

Thursday, July 10, 2008
One could explain in many ways, I suppose, why St Benedict is one of the patron saints of Europe. We could see it clearly when we think about the influence of his Rule on monastic life in the West, or when we think how much good has come from the lives of generations of various orders of monks and nuns inspired by his Rule: apart from saints, preachers, bishops and writers, so many copyists, teachers and ingenious artists, inventors of various agricultural tools, cheese, chocolate and wine makers ... the list is long.

But there is one special thing that comes to my mind on this feastday, that explains far better why Benedict is patron saint of Europe: Benedict was there when, in a sense, Europe was being born. The Roman Emperor had just moved to Constantinopole, Rome was at the mercy of newcomers, the tribes that found their way to the city and were accepted as 'friends'. This was in practice the end of the Empire in the West.

But in what why does Benedict get involve in this apocalyptic scenario? He decides to lead a life totally dedicated to prayer and solitude and later on is joined by various other eremites who want him to become their spiritual father, their abbot.

Obviously we are tempted to ask why did he withdraw from the society that badly needed people like him. Why did he not get involved? This question however is not a good one. It is based on the false premise that a life dedicated to prayer and contemplation is a selfish life, lead somewhere on the margins of the community. And it is quite the opposite. When we pray in solitude we never pray alone, or on our own account but always as members of One Body. In this way the prayer of those who physically seclude themselves from others or live in secluded communities puts them at the heart of the Church. Prayer is never private, that is, done outside the community, even if we pray alone. This is a basis also for our belief in the intercession of saints, who being members of the same Body are in communion with us, and their prayer is united with ours when we pray. So St Benedict's prayers were always with the Church in those difficult times for the community of believers when a new Europe was being born. We believe his prayers have been there ever since, in the heart of our community, the Church.

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