St. Benedict: The Father of Western Monasticism 

St_Benedict-Fra_Angelico-205.jpgNot much is known about the details of the life of St. Benedict. However, his impact on Western Civilization, on the Church, and on individuals seeking God continues nearly 1,500 years after his death. The only source of written information we have on the life of St. Benedict comes from the Dialogues by Pope St. Gregory the Great. The Rule of St. Benedict, said to be written by Benedict himself, reveals nothing about his personal history, but much about his character, wisdom, and holiness.

According to St. Gregory, Benedict was born in a little town 70 miles northeast of Rome called Norcia. He lived there with his parents and his sister Scholastica (who is also a canonized saint). When he came of age, his parents sent him to Rome to be educated. Benedict, however, did not stay long in Rome. From a young age, Benedict showed an eagerness for seeking God. Once in Rome Benedict found many distractions that could lead him away from God. Thus, Benedict decided to quit his studies and to enter the religious life.

Benedict first went to Affile (35 miles east of Rome), where he lived with his nurse. Benedict soon became honored in Affile for his holiness, and, not desiring human praise, he fled to the wilderness of Subiaco. At Subiaco,
St_Benedict-cave-267.jpg Benedict lived as a hermit in a cave. He spent three years at Subiaco, praying, fasting and working in solitude.

After three years, the local people began to hear of Benedict and his way of life, and started to visit him in great numbers to receive spiritual advice. Soon he was invited by a community of nearby monks to be their new abbot. Benedict reluctantly agreed to accept the position, warning them that his way of life was much stricter than theirs.

His warning proved true. In time, the monks became bitter at Benedict's strictness, and tried to get rid of him. When the monks attempted to poison Benedict, he left the monastery to live as a hermit again. He did not remain hidden, though. His way of life had already influenced many people and they gathered around Benedict with a desire to serve God with him. Benedict henceforth established 12 monasteries.

St_Benedict-statue-225.jpgOnce again, Benedict encountered opponents, but this time it was not the monks under him. A local priest began attacking Benedict out of jealousy. The priest first tried to kill Benedict (again!) with a loaf of poisoned bread. When this didn't work, he turned to Benedict's monks and tried to lure them into sins of the flesh. At this, Benedict decided he could no longer stay in the area. He and his disciples went to Monte Cassino where Benedict founded a monastery. He stayed in Monte Cassino, living a life of ora et labora (prayer and work) and teaching his monks to seek God through this way of life. It was in Monte Cassino that Benedict wrote the famous Rule for monks. Benedict is known as the "Father of Western Monasticism" because this rule has so greatly impacted religious life in Europe and throughout the world. Benedict's Rule is also a key to learning about his great wisdom, his gentle, fatherly character, and his compassion for all.

There are several accounts of miracles worked by Benedict during his lifetime. He was noted for having the gift of prophecy, he had visions of heavenly beings, and he even brought a dead boy back to life through his prayer. These supernatural graces Benedict possessed are not what make him a saint. Rather, they are outward signs of what he possesssed interiorly—deep prayer and love for God and His people. Because of his union with God, he was given special gifts to help show others His goodness.

Benedict died in the year 547 AD. His death, according to tradition, is celebrated on March 21. He took his last breath as he stood, supported by two of his brethren, with arms raised to heaven in prayer.


Pope St. Gregory the Great. (Transl. Odo Zimmerman & Benedict Avery). Life and Miracles of St. Benedict: Book Two of the Dialogues. The Liturgical Press. Collegville, Minnesota.

De Vogue, Adalbert. (Transl. Hilary Costello & Eoin de Bhaldrraithe). The Life of St. Benedict. St. Bede's Publications. Petersham, Massachusetts. 1993.

St. Walburga: Our Patronness

St_Walburga-1-250.jpgSt. Walburga (d. 779) was born in England of a family of the local aristocracy. At an early age, she was entrusted to the care of the Benedictine nuns in Wimbourne (present-day Dorset) where she eventually made her monastic profession. When her relative St. Boniface, a missionary monk and bishop who worked for the evangelization of Germany, asked for help from other Anglo-Saxon monasteries, St. Walburga became part of a group of nuns from Wimbourne who answered the missionary call. Eventually she became abbess of the monastery at Heidenheim, a double monastery of men and women founded by her brother St. Wunibald, who served as its first abbot. The tenth-cetury legend of her life tells stories of her gentleness, humility and charity, as well as her power to heal the sick through prayer.

Many years after her death, her bones were taken from Heidenheim, then in
Walburga_Statue-glow-300.jpgruins, to the town of Eichstätt, Bavaria, which had been founded by her brother St. Willibald, who served as its bishop. Her relics were entrusted to the care of a community of Benedictine nuns founded for the purpose of maintaining her shrine. To everyone's surprise, her bones began to produce a clear liquid, called "oil" for want of a more accurate word, which people began to use as a tool for prayer for the sick. Countless numbers experienced healing of body or spirit through her intercession. St. Walburga's oil continues to flow every year from about October 12 to February 25, two of her feast days. It seeps from her relics through a thick slab of stone where it is collected and distributed by the nuns of the Abtei St. Walburg.

Monastic life has continued without interruption at the Abtei St. Walburg since 1035 AD. In 1935, nuns from that monastery were sent to Colorado to found the community which has become the Abbey of St. Walburga in Virginia Dale.

Novena to St. Walburga

O God, come to my assistance.
O Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father...

Psalm 23 or other psalm of trust (62, 91) may be recited

Holy Walburga, you dwell in the glory of heaven, gazing upon the face of the Triune God in the company of all the saints. I turn to you, full of trust in the words of Jesus Christ, "Amen, amen I say to you, the one who has faith in me will do the works I do, and greater far than these" (Jn 14:12). God has granted you the gift of healing; help me in my need, which I bring before you (mention petition). Beg God to grant healing, consolation and strength to me and to all those for whom I pray. Implore Him to let me recognize His love and know His presence, whatever He may have in store for me.  Ask this for me through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns in the unity of the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen

Prayer for Using the Holy Oil:

All-powerful God, creator of the heavens and the earth, I believe that you hold the world in your hands. Helpless I stand before the mystery of evil, suffering, and illness. I entrust myself to your wisdom.

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for our sake your Sond took upon himself all the suffering of the world. In obedience to you he suffered death to set us free. I open my heart to the grace of his redemptive death.

Kind Father, your Son promised us the Paraclete, the Comforter. The Holy Spirit teaches me the right way to call upon you and to love you. I entrust myself to your love.

Merciful God, you give us saints as witnesses of your presence in this world. In a miraculous way, St. Walburga was enabled to become, through the sign of the holy oil, a wellspring of healing for the distressed, the needy, and the sick. I entrust myself to her intercession.

Glory be the the Father...

After Using the Holy Oil Pray in your own words or in the following form:

Father of mercy and God of all consolation, I praise you:
Our Father...
Triune God, who pour yourself forth in love, I praise you:
Glory be to the Father...
Mary, Mother of God, powerful intercessor and refuge of all who suffer, pray for me:
Hail Mary...

St. Walburga, by your blessed life of love, God blessed you with the power to heal, to make whole the soul as well as the body.  Beg for us what we cannot obtain for ourselves, and heal our world of sickness and sorrow. May God hear you, who lived so graciously for His glory, and send us the healing grace we need, through your powerful intercession. Amen

 At the close of the Novena:

Lord give me light, that I may see your way.
Lord, give me strength, that I may follow your way.
Lord, give me love, that I may do your will.

The Abtei St. Walburg, in Eichstätt, Germany, where St. Walburga's relics are held.