Today the church remembers Benedict of Nursia, Abbot of Monte Cassino, c. 540.The serious breakdown of society and authority in fifth-century Europe led many to run away from society and hide as hermits, despairing of humanity. Benedict of Nursia instead entered on a brave new venture. At Subiaco, and later at Monte Cassino (both in Italy), he founded the first monastic communities of Western Europe. Benedict drafted a firm but reasonable rule for these communities. He was never ordained and his communities were composed only of laymen at first. Their lives centered around the daily offices. When they were not praying and studying scripture, they were engaged in manual labor and in works of charity. Like the early Christians, they held all property in common. Hospitality to guests was a central tenet of Benedict's Rule. Benedict attracted little attention in his own lifetime, but after his death, as the monasteries grew and spread, so did his fame. The Benedictine monasteries became little islands where a man could learn to love God and his fellow man and truly practice the Christian religion his whole life. These communities operated schools, orphanages, and hospitals and assumed many of the functions of state. Benedictine monks were largely responsible for the conversion and civilization of England. Westminster Abbey was for centuries a Benedictine house. We give you thanks, O God, for the prayerful witness of monastic communities, and we ask your blessings upon them. Amen.
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Almighty and everlasting God, your precepts are the wisdom of a loving Father: Give us grace, following the teaching and example of your servant Benedict, to walk with loving and willing hearts in the school of the Lord's service; let your ears be open to our prayers; and prosper with your blessing the work of our hands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.