Today is for all Benedictine monks and nuns around the world a day of joy and celebration, it being the “transitus” or passing of our holy Father St Benedict to the joys of Heaven. Standing in the oratory, surrounded by his brethren, having received the Sacred Body of His Lord, St Benedict gave back his pure soul to God and was received by the choirs of angels into the reward he had merited by a life of prayer and labour for God.
Among the many gems to be found in St Gregory the Great’s life and miracles of St Benedict, there is the expression placed as the title of this post. St Gregory, explaining that the young Benedict, who was about to embark upon a career of learning in the Roman schools, pulled back, and preferred to go and hide himself in solitude in order to live for God alone. He gave up the education he could so easily have had, and preferred to remain “scienter nescius et sapienter indoctus” – “knowingly ignorant and wisely uninstructed”. The holy pope is referring to the worldly knowledge Benedict willingly left behind in favour of the Divine Wisdom which would be abundantly poured out upon him in solitude.
In reference to this, Pope Benedict XVI, just days before his election as pope, in what is called the “Subiaco Address”, pointed out that Benedict was given the grace to save and transform civilisation by doing what would seem to be totally irrelevant. In the same way, it is precisely men of the same kind the we need today as we stand and look at the fast-dissipating remains of what used to be western culture. The then Cardinal Ratzinger said:
“We need men whose intellects are enlightened by the light of God and whose hearts God opens, so that their intellects can speak to the intellects of others, and so that their hearts are able to open up to the hearts of others. Only through men who have been touched by God, can God come near to men. We need men like Benedict of Norcia, who at a time of dissipation and decadence, plunged into the most profound solitude, succeeding, after all the purifications he had to suffer, to ascend again to the light, to return and to found Montecassino, the city on the mountain that, with so many ruins, gathered together the forces from which a new world was formed. In this way Benedict, like Abraham, became the father of many nations. The recommendations to his monks presented at the end of his Rule are guidelines that show us also the way that leads on high, beyond the crisis and the ruins” (1 April 2005).
On this feast, let us pray that more men and women will come to value the hidden life of prayer and work that forms the mind and the heart and prepares the soul to be open to God’s merciful ways for humanity. Let us pray that our humble beginnings in Tasmania may take root and become a haven of peace for many souls in search of the absolute.
Our Holy Father St Benedict, pray for us!