Saint Benedict (feast day July 11), patron saint of Western Europe, wrote his monastic Rule around 580. He grew up in a Rome still crumbling from Germanic invasions; and he wrote for a community of men who, before they became Christian monks, might have been from all sectors of society: Goths or slaves or Roman nobles.
In Chapter 22 of his Rule, “The Sleeping Arrangements of the Monks,” Benedict said the brothers should “sleep clothed, and girded with belts or cords; but they should remove their knives, lest they accidentally cut themselves in their sleep.”
When I was in the monastery, Sr. Judy used to tell us there was another reason Benedict wanted them to remove their knives. Imagine being awakened out of a sound sleep and finding yourself in the dormitory surrounded by men who, outside the walls, would be your mortal enemies. You reach for your knife before rational thought has a chance to kick in.
Rewind to the creation of “The Dying Gaul,” and you can see how long these tensions between Romans and “outliers” had been building.
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