Greece has been very much in the news lately. Its current precarious economic situation should not mask the tremendous contribution that Greek thought and practice has made in forming European and indeed worldwide civilisation. Much of our thinking about humanity, culture, and democracy stems from Ancient Greece. Another great influence for us in the Western Church has been that of the saint we celebrate on Saturday.
Benedict was born around 480 and died in Monte Casino in 547. He was a man steeped in the scriptures but also the Graeco-Romano culture of the declining Roman Empire. He gathered a group of likeminded men around him and devised a rule so that they could live together. At the heart of that rule was prayer, and the importance of nourishing that prayer through reading and pondering of the scriptures.
Benedict’s followers founded monasteries and schools and his entire approach had formed much of what we consider valuable in education and as to how it is best imparted. His monks brought an air of ‘civilisation’ across the Western world through their learning and moderation. They improved agriculture and helped foster societies in which the weak were prized rather than despised.
Benedict has been named as Patron Saint of Europe. As we face many questions about the future of that continent let us ask for his prayers that we may put peace firmly on the agenda.