From Montecassino to the World

Carisma 5

 

St. Benedict is widely considered a father of Western monastic life, characterized by community oriented living according to The Rule of St. Benedict, his sacred text written at Montecassino in the mid 6th century. Well practiced himself in earlier forms of Eastern monasticism, St. Benedict molded and formed this holy lifestyle into what it is today in the Western world. The Rule of St. Benedict became a fundamentally important guide to his vision of monastic life and pious living. The creation of The Rule, along with so many devoted followers, ensured that St. Benedict's ideas and words would spread geographically and survive the many centuries that have passed since his time.

 

The influence of the Rule expanded freely during the 7th and 8th centuries when the Benedictines lived in Rome. This long period of "exile" in such a prominent location following Montecassino's first destruction ultimately led to positive exposure for the Benedictines. Among the first to embrace and spread The Rule and Benedictine monasticism after the death of St. Benedict was St. Gregory the Great, author of the Dialogues who later became Pope Gregorio I. St. Gregory the Great sent missionary St. Augustine north towards England where he converted numerous Anglo-Saxons and Gauls along the way during the late 6th and early 7th centuries. In the 7th and 8th centuries St. Boniface and St. Willibrord spread Christianity and the Benedictine way of life through Germany and throughout Scandinavia, even reaching Iceland. In the 8th and 9th centuries Charlemagne and later his son Louis the Pious were great proponents of St. Benedict's Rule and monastic vision. By the 10th and 11th centuries Benedictine monasticism was the dominant form of monastic life throughout all of Western Europe. Though some reformations and differences in organization occurred after the early medieval period with a number of monasteries, the fundamental concepts of Benedictine monastic life remain the same.

 

Benedictine monasticism spread out of Europe and elsewhere in the world many centuries later, arriving to North America in the mid 19th century, and to South America, Africa, China and the rest of Asia in the 20th century.