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St. Benedict

St. Benedict whose feast day is July 11 is very much tied to Arkansas. Benedict makes the world a bit smaller by his influence, connecting Arkansas, Indiana, and Switzerland, his influence doesn’t stop there. This influence is felt by people all over the world, fromCuraçao to Russia, to China and all over the US and back to Arkansas, by the young men that are shaped by his Rule. St. Benedict and his example have had far-reaching effects to make our world a better place by ‘Ora et Labora’- Prayer and Work.

Benedict was born we believe in 480 in the mountains around Rome. Benedict went to school in Rome and after his schooling became a hermit, denouncing the corrupt secular society living in the hill region of Subiaco Rome. His fame grew and Benedict was made the abbot of a group of monks. These monks became so fed up with Benedict’s passion for reform that they tried to poison him. So, Benedict left them to their evil ways and created his small monastic communities. He wrote his Rule while at a monastery he established and we now know as Monte Cassino. The Rule, written by St. Benedict’s hand still exists today.

Benedict envisioned his rule to balance life and prayer by finding God in the ordinary circumstances of daily life. Benedict stated people should not be pre-occupied by work and not make time for prayer, or spend too much time in prayer to neglect their work. Benedict believed in all things in moderation, even praying. St. Benedict also taught that we grow spiritually when we can accept people as they are, not as we would like them to be by constantly seeing Christ in each person.

“Let everyone that comes be received as Christ” is a tenant from the Rule. This speaks to the charism of hospitality that the Benedictines are famous for. But St. Benedict cautioned against ‘lingering with guests’ and noted again the moderation, to preserve the monastery’s peace and silence.

Another important aspect of the Rule is stewardship, “Treat all goods (material) as vessels of the altar”. At its most basic, Benedict’s monks were to consider the implements they used at work- garden tools, saws- as important as the chalices used in the Holy Mass. This leads those following the Rule to connectedness of mind, body, spirit, material things, and the earth and reminds them that God created all things and we should care for them as such. This does not mean that a current Benedictine community would not embrace new technology. It does mean they will use the same plow, fixing it when needed, for 50 years or more.

St. Meinrad was a Benedictine who lived in Einsiedeln Switzerland in 934. He founded a monastery in his home town in 1854 some of his monks were sent to Indiana and established St. Meinrad Monastery which later became a seminary as well. This is where the priests of our diocese receive their training.
In 1878, 3 monks from St. Meinrad came to Arkansas to minister to the German- Catholic community of settlers. They settled and founded St. Benedict Priory. In 1891 the Priory became an abbey and given the name of Subiaco after the place where St. Benedict began his religious life.

There have been several fires as well as a lot of growth and change at the abbey over its long life. There are many opportunities for prayer and work at Subiaco. From the school to the gardens and vineyard, the kitchen where monks create Abby Brittle and Monk Sauce, Coury House Retreat Center, Country Monk Brewery, the sawmill, and carpentry shop, the list goes on and on. The monks still live by Benedict’s Rule of stewardship and moderation.

When the Rule was initially written the Roman society was falling apart even though it was materially prosperous. Rome was known for its excess and extravagance. Benedict and his rule stood counter to that opulence with balance and moderation. These values are as important today as they were in his time, maybe even more important. We are lucky to have Benedictine reminders all around us here in Arkansas from our priests to the hidden gem that is Subiaco Abbey. It is truly a peaceful and beautiful place. You can go check out all the Benedictines have to offer at Subiaco by countrymonks.org You can find more information there about St. Benedict too.