On this day: St. Benedict

by Gerelyn Hollingsworth

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On this day, we celebrate the feast of the transitus (death) of St. Benedict, c. 560.

Benedict and Scholastica were from Norcia, an Umbrian town named for the Goddess of Good Fortune, a place of abundance and of sorcery. The town is known today for its pork products, domestic and wild, and for its truffles. Truffle hunters still invoke the old goddess for luck in finding the precious "nails". In the late 5th century, when the holy twins were born, the Cumean Sybil was believed to live in a cave in the Monti Sibillini, safe from encroaching Christianity.

The twins' real names may not have been Benedict and Scholastica; those may have been epithets. And their lives may have begun and ended a decade or so later than the dates traditionally assigned to them. Adalbert de Vogüé suggests possible dates in St Benedict: The Man and His Work, St. Bede's Publications, 2006, page 13. He goes on to tell the familiar stories of the life and miracles of St. Benedict from the Dialogues of St. Gregory.

"The last of the twelve miracles of power is not performed by Benedict himself but--against his will--by his sister, the nun Scholastica, who is shown to be more powerful with God than he is, since she has loved God more. This final reproof of the wonder-worker is followed by a first vision, that of his sister's soul as it mounts to heaven."

Benedict's first miracle that we know of was mending a sieve his nurse had borrowed and broken.

(The nuns who taught at my grade school were Benedictines, and we heard a lot about Benedict and Scholastica. They told us about the miracles--Scholastica's prayer that brought the storm and Benedict's mending the sieve. It was years later that I realized a 5th-century sieve was earthenware, not a metal thing with screen wire like my mother's flour sifter. I had always wondered how the nurse managed to break it, and why it would take a miracle to repair it.)

Click here to see a picture of Benedict and his nurse and the sieve, broken and mended.

Click here for The Holy Twins: Benedict and Scholastica, written by Kathleen Norris (an Oblate of St. Benedict) and beautifully illustrated by Tomie dePaola, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2001. Scroll down halfway to see them in their habits, and a little farther down to see them as children holding the dove and the raven that will be their symbols.

For information about the Order of St. Benedict, click here. For information about Oblates of St. Benedict, scroll down to 28. To read the Rule in various languages, scroll down to 29.

Prayer for the Passing of Our Holy Father Benedict on March 21:

O almighty and everlasting God, who delivered the most holy Confessor Benedict out of the prison of the flesh and bore him up to heaven, grant us we beseech You, your servants, who are celebrating this festival, forgiveness for all our sins, so that, united in rejoicing in his glory, we may by his intercession before You partake together also in his merits.

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