Benedict of Nursia (480-550) is widely known as the father of western monasticism. He is also honored as a patron of Europe for his contribution not only to the development of the church but also, and above all, for the way his monasteries shaped Europe in a time of crisis. Benedict lived and worked in Italy in the years after the shocking fall of Rome, when the political chaos and barbarian migration left the entire population of Europe feeling insecure. In the middle of the unrest, Benedict and his monks dared a new start and a renewal - most importantly of all in themselves and in the communities they founded. This had an enormous impact over the centuries, and its effects can still be felt today.
Like other monks before him, it was important to Benedict to separate himself from the world. However, he did not go to the desert as some others did, and except for the first three years of his monastic life, he did not live as a hermit. Instead, he built monasteries in which people learned, lived and worked. In doing this, he developed a context for life-long commitment to God and Christian community based on the Biblical principle of holding possessions in common in a way that was radically different from his society but which nevertheless used the structures on which that society was built.
Benedict was well-versed in the Bible and the Rules and Lives of monks who lived before him and he attempted to integrate these in his Rule and his way of life in such a way that was appropriate for his own setting. He took the meaning of his name, Benedict, "blessed", seriously. The Rule of St. Benedict is full of giving and receiving blessings. Above all, Benedict was a man of discretion. In his Rule it can clearly be seen how important it was for him that his monks bring openness and order, beauty and discipline, solitude and community into harmony.
As Benedictines today, we are inspired, encouraged and challenged by this legacy as we consider the many questions and uncertainties that characterize our own age. And we hold fast to Benedict's words: "But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God's commandments (RB Prologue 49). "May he bring us all together to everlasting life" (RB 72.12).