Feast of St Benedict 2017
At Ampleforth, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Passing of St Benedict on March 21st. 11th July traditionally commemorated the Translation of the Saint's relics; it is now kept as the Memoria of St Benedict in most of the Western Church. We celebrate the 11th July as a Feast.
The image below shows the statue of St Benedict which survived the bombardment of Monte Cassino Abbey in 1944.
Homily preached at the Conventual Mass by Fr Christopher Gorst OSB, Sub-Prior of Ampleforth Abbey, on 11th July 2017.
On 11th July 1964, Pope Paul VI declared St Benedict 'Patron of Europe' - and although he is no longer the sole Patron, he remains the Principal Patron. Today, he seems to be needed more than ever - and so too are the monasteries of men and women (far fewer in number and in members) who continue to uphold the values of the Gospel in a very uncertain world. But that is no different to the situation of Benedict's own world.
Buffeted as we have been by all sorts of factors - especially since 1964 when the Pope wrote his Apostolic Letter - have we at first been too complacent, and latterly too preoccupied with our own survival, to invoke St Benedict's patronage and renew our role - not just in Europe - but in the world? I have spoken in a different context of Chapter 66 in the Rule. There Benedict paints a portrait of the humble, mature monk who stands (or sits) at the threshold between world and monastery He has read, pondered and is living the Word of God - especially the passage from Proverbs which we heard today [see below]. And then, with open mind and open heart, he is able to respond - with the warmth of love - to whoever or whatever approaches that threshold.
Our monasteries today could be like the Porter at the gate, in relationship with Europe, humble, mature, wise and compassionate; able to respond and contribute to the dialogue with true seekers, with refugees, even with terrorists - certainly with both those who seek unity and those who do not; to respond to whoever comes to the borders of Europe to discover the spiritual and to find the way of peace and seek God.
My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you cry out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures;
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
Chapter 66 of the Rule of St Benedict: On the Porters of the Monastery
Translated by Abbot Justin McCann
At the gate of the monastery let there be placed a wise old man, who understands how to give and receive an answer, and whose years prevent him from straying. This porter should have a room near the gate, so that those who come may always find him there to answer them. As soon as anyone knocks, or a poor man hails him, let him answer Deo gratias or Benedic. Then let him attend to them promptly, with all the gentleness of the fear of God and with fervent charity. If the porter need help, let him have one of the younger brethren.