St. Benedict, Abbot, co-patron of Europe

St. Benedict was born in Nursia, Italy, in 480. He was from a rich family. His life was full of adventure and wonderful deeds. As a boy, he went to Rome to study in the public schools. As a young man, he became disgusted with the corrupt lifestyle of pagan Rome. Benedict left the city and went looking for a place where he could be alone with God. He found it in a cave in the mountain of Subiaco. A monk named Romanus taught Benedict about the life of a hermit and gave him a habit. He also brought Benedict some of his own food each day.

Benedict spent three years there alone. The devil often tempted him to go back to his rich home and easy life. However, Benedict overcame these temptations by prayer and penance. One day, the devil kept making him think of a beautiful woman he had once seen in Rome. The devil tried to make him go back to look for her. Benedict almost gave in to the temptation. But instead, he devoted himself even more to prayer and penance. From then on, his life was calm. He did not feel powerful temptations like that again.

After three years, people learned that Benedict was living in the mountain cave and started coming to him. They wanted to learn how to become holy. Some monks, whose abbot had died, asked him to be their new spiritual leader. But when he tried to make them do penance, they grew angry. It is said that they even tried to poison Benedict. He made the Sign of the Cross over the poisoned wine and the glass shattered to pieces.

Benedict left those monks and returned to his cave. From there he started twelve monasteries. Then he went to Monte Cassino where he built his best-known monastery. It was here that Benedict wrote the wonderful Rule for the Benedictine Order. He taught his monks to pray and work hard. He taught them especially to be humble always. Benedict and his monks greatly helped the people of their times. They taught them how to read and write, how to farm, and how to work at different trades. St. Benedict was able to do good because he prayed all the time. He died on March 21, 547. In 1966, Pope Paul VI proclaimed him the patron of Europe.