"Listen with the ear of your heart"
Benedict was the son of a Roman noble born in Nursia in Umbria, Italy in 430AD. From about the age of 20 he pursued a religious life, including three years spent as a hermit before he set about establishing a number of monastic communities, most famously at Monte Cassino on a hilltop between Rome and Naples. Benedict had a twin sister called Scholastica, the abbess at a convent not far from Monte Cassino, who was a mighty woman of God in her own right.
Towards the end of his life, St Benedict condensed his experience into 73 short chapters that comprise the Rule of St Benedict. The Rule was intended as a guide for individual, autonomous religious communities with the aim being for each member of the community to live every day with an intense awareness of God’s presence. The key values and practices for Benedictine spirituality include obedience/listening, lectio/study, humility, perseverance, work, silence, mindfulness, stewardship, balance and moderation, consultation, hospitality, service, stability and patience. There is also a call for conversatio morum, a sort of renewal whereby the believer is consistently committed to – and changed by – a whole-hearted quest for God.
Most Christian religious communities founded throughout the Middle Ages adopted the Rule so that it became highly influential, causing St Benedict to be considered as the founder of Western Christian monasticism. The wisdom of the Rule continues to be relevant some 1500 years later and it underpins the life of the monastic community at Worth Abbey. It is remarkable that the insights of St Benedict can chime so true across the centuries, but it is the experience of the Benedictines that his godliness, reasonableness and insight into human nature transcend the passing years and have value for all who will listen.
St Benedict's feast day is kept by monks on 21 March, the traditional day of his death, and by the Roman Catholic Church in Europe on 11 July.