We are used to the countries of these islands having their patron saints – Andrew, David, George, and Patrick but the entire continent of Europe too has its patron whose feast we celebrate on Wednesday: Benedict. Born in Umbria around 480 Benedict died at the famous and still functioning monastery of Monte Casino in 547.
While still a young man Benedict had decided to flee what he considered the corrupt world in order to spend more time seeking God. His first attempt at setting up a community was not entirely successful because, like many young men, he was too intolerant of human frailty. But Benedict learnt from these mistakes and established a community and an order that flourish to this day.
The Rule of St Benedict is a masterpiece of common sense in which he shows himself a keen student of human psychology. Benedict’s rule is firm but gentle, shrewd but sensitive, and seeks to develop the individual as well as the community.
So great has been Benedict’s influence, especially over education, that he is counted as patron of Europe because he contributed so much of what is good in our common culture on this continent. May his prayers help us as we strive to build afresh a Christian culture that cherishes the individual and seeks their growth in a community of love. P.D.