00 6/1/2009 4:06 AM

The special bond between
Benedict XVI and St. Benedict

Translated from
the Italian service of

May 20. 2009

The Church of Montecassino awaits the pastoral visit of Benedict XVI on Sunday, May 24. One of the high points of the visit will be the celebration of Vespers in the Benedictine Abbey with all the Benedictine abbots and abbesses from around the world.

It is a time to underscore how much Benedict XVI is linked to the figure of St. Benedict of Norcia.

Alessandro Gisotti reviews some of the reflections Benedict XVI has made on the saint who is the Patron of Europe and the father of Western monasticism:

St. Benedict is not only in the Pope's chosen name. Above all, he is in his heart.

On April, 1, 2005, a few weeks before being elected to the Chair of Peter, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was at the Convent of St. Scholastica in Subiaco near Rome, where he delivered a memorable discourse on the permanent value of the Christian faith in comparison to the limits to the present rationalistic culture.

"We need men like Benedict of Norcia," he said then, "who, at a time of dissipation and decadence" succeeded "to found Montecassino, the city on the hill.. that gathered together the forces from which a new world was formed."

"We need men like St. Benedict," he said, "who have their gaze directed to God, in order to understand true humanity."

Three weeks later, on April 27, at St. Peter's Square, the new Pontiff held his first General Audience and explained his choice of the name Benedict, underscoring how much the Patriarch of Western monasticism is venerated in his homeland, Bavaria:

"St. Benedict constitutes a fundamental point of reference for the unity of Europe and a strong reminder of the irrenunciable Christian roots of her culture and her civilization."

The Pope recalled the recommendation left by Benedict to the monks of his Rule: "Place nothing ahead of Christ" - an exhortation which he made his own at the start of his Petrine ministry:

"At the start of my service as the Successor of Peter, I ask St. Benedict to help us keep firm the centrality of Christ in our existence. May he always have first place in our thoughts and in our every activity."

The Pope spoke about the Benedictine model and its actuality when he addressed the French world of culture at the College des Bernardins in Paris in September 2008. The roots of European culture, he reiterated, took hold in the fertile terrain of Western monasticism. The monks, in their search for God, founded a new civilization. An experience that should be rediscovered:

“Quaerere Deum, chercher Dieu et se laisser trouver par Lui - to search for God and allow oneself to be found by him", the Pope said, "is no less necessary today than it was in the past,"

And he warns against a culture that is 'merely positivistic' which has dismissed the question of God. This represents, he said, 'a setback for humanism'.

"That which founded the culture of Europe - the search for God and the readiness to listen to him - " he reiterated, "remains even today the foundation of every true culture."

And on September 20, 2008, receiving Benedictine abbots from around the world, he exhorted them to announce without compromise the primacy of God, especially in a world that is ever more desacralized:

"In your monasteries, it is you above all who renew and deepen daily your encounter with the person of Christ, whom you always have with you as guest, friend and companion. That is why your convents are places where men and women even in our day seek out in order to find God and to learn to recognize the signs of the presence of Christ, his charity and his mercy."

The Pope dedicated his catechesis of April 9, 2008, to the saint whom St. Gregory the Great called a 'luminous star'. The Pope emphasized the significance of the construction of the abbey at Montecassino:

"In the year 529, Benedict left Subiaco to settle in Montecassino... He came to this decision because he had entered a new phase of his interior maturation and his monastic experience... Monastic life in its hiddenness has a reason for being, but a monastery also has a public end in the life of the Church and of society - it should give visibility to the faith as a force of life".

Thus the Pope calls on a Europe that has lost its way, that in trying to rediscover its own identity, it should look to St. Benedict and his teachings:

"In order to create a new and lasting unity, political, juridical and economic instruments are certainly necessary, but one must also awaken an ethical and spiritual renewal which draws from the Christian roots of the Continent. Otherwise, one cannot rebuild Europe... In seeking true progress, let us listen even today to the Rule of St. Benedict as a light for our path. The great monk remains a true teacher in whose school we can learn the art of living true humanism."

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/1/2009 4:07 AM]