Benedict of Nursia is best known as the founder of the Benedictine order of monks and the author of the Rule of Benedict. The succinct, accessible rule is deeply rooted in scripture and based on his extensive pastoral experience as an abbot.
While Benedict was born to wealth and privilege, he ventured into the wilderness to pray alone in a cave. However, a series of miracles and visitors seeking his wisdom spread his fame. He soon founded monasteries throughout Italy in order to train those who sought to learn from his contemplative lifestyle that balanced work, prayer, and study.
Benedict has had a profound influence on the monastic history of Christianity, opting to create a space for prayer and community when his world was filled with violence, disparity, and uncertainty. His teachings and story remain timeless, as this article from Christian History shows:
“Wave after wave of pagans invaded while the Roman Empire collapsed. Benedict responded to the anarchy of his time by founding monastic communities built on the ideal of cultivating a family spirit among the monks, on disciplined daily worship, on a balanced and non-competitive approach towards fasting and other ascetic practices, and on the dignity of manual work for rich and poor alike.”
“Benedict’s entire life was a series of risings in the dark. He was up before 2 A.M. singing the divine office—the daily chanting of the Psalms in Latin. This music is still the heart of Benedictine life. Many times in the profound quiet after midnight, while most peasants, politicians, children, fishermen, high-born ladies, servants, teachers, and bakers were sound asleep, lights fired up in Benedict’s monasteries, and the man in a simple tunic began his day with a Psalm: “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.”
Benedict knew that praising God is the best medicine for a flawed, poverty-stricken world. It requires rejecting arrogance, nurturing community, and understanding that even the oldest seeker of God is always a beginner. The epilogue of his Rule reminds us of this truth: “Whoever you may be rushing to your heavenly home, follow—with Christ’s help—this little rule we’ve written for beginners. Only then, as God watches over you, will you ultimately reach the soaring heights of doctrine and integrity.”
Gregory would have seen this as the best lesson taught by Benedict’s life: There is always more to learn. We are all always beginners. Kindness is never complete.”
Consider how you are a beginner today.