A daily study of the Network’s diverse faiths
San Benedetto da Norcia (St Benedict of Nursia OSB, Saint-Benoît, Benedikt, Benedictus Nursiae) (c480-c543). Lutheran Commemoration and General Roman Calendar, Anglican Communion Feast Day and Church of England Lesser Festival for the noble Roman Christian Nursian founder of the Benedictine Order, an exorcist, mystic, Abbot of Monte Cassino and father of Western Monasticism. As a young man, Benedict donned his monk’s habit and became a hermit hiding from men for three years in a cave ten feet deep above a lake forty miles east of Rome in the foothills of the Abruzzi. However, the neighbourhood monastic community came to him and begged him to become its Abbot, to which failed experiment he gave his consent. The monks tried to poison him and he left them to go back to his cave. From that time, his miracles became frequent and many people, attracted by his sanctity and character, put themselves under his guidance. Benedict left his cave to found twelve monasteries in the area, each with twelve monks. The 516 Rule of Saint Benedict (La Regola di San Benedetto), for monks to follow living communally under the authority of an Abbot, became one of the most influential religious Rules in Western Christendom and included the golden rule: Ora et Labora (Pray and Work). Monks devoted eight hours daily to prayer, eight to sleep and eight to manual work, sacred reading or works of charity. In 530, a few disciples followed Benedict south to found the great Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino on a hilltop between Rome and Naples. Benedict’s twin sister Scholastica went to Monte Cassino as the head of a nunnery, founding the Benedictine nuns. Benedict died of a fever at Monte Cassino not long after his sister and was buried with her. A Basilica was built in the 1400s at the birthplace of Benedict and Scholastica and the ruins of their familial home were excavated and preserved but a 2016 earthquake completely devastated the structure of the Basilica, leaving only the façade and altar standing. The Benedictine family is represented by two branches: the Benedictine Federation and the Cistercians. The Order of Saint Benedict (Benedictines, Ordo Sancti Benedicti, Black Monks) is not an Order as commonly understood but a confederation of autonomous congregations. More than 1,400 years after its writing, the Rule of St Benedict is the most common and influential Rule used by monasteries and monks. Monte Cassino was sadly to be of ill fame during the Second World War. St Benedict is venerated in the Catholic, Old Catholic, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Anglican Communion. The Eastern Orthodox Church commemorates him on 14 March. St Scholastica is venerated in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Anglican Communion with a Feast Day on 10 February, Saint Scholastica’s Day. Benedict is co-patron of Europe and patron of cavers, civil engineers, coppersmiths, dying people, farmers, Heerdt-Düsseldorf, heraldry and officers of arms, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, agricultural workers, Italian architects, monks, Norcia, people in religious orders, San Beda University Manila, schoolchildren and students, servants who have broken their master’s belongings, speleologists, spelunkers, against erysipelas, fever, gallstones, inflammatory diseases, kidney disease, temptations, nettle rash, poison, witchcraft. Image: amazon.co.uk.
St Euphemia the Great Martyr (Ευφημία, well-spoken of, the All-praised in the Orthodox Church) (d303). Eastern and Western Christian Feast Day commemorating the martyrdom and Eastern Orthodox commemoration of the Council of Chalcedon miracle of the daughter of a senator in Chalcedon, across the Bosporus from Byzantium (Istanbul) who from her youth was consecrated to virginity. The governor of Chalcedon decreed that all of inhabitants take part in sacrifices to the deity Ares (Ἄρης), the Greek god of courage and war. Euphemia was discovered with forty-nine other Christians hiding in a house and worshipping God, in defiance of the governor’s orders. Because of their refusal to sacrifice, they were tortured for days and then all but Euphemia, the youngest of them who was tortured on the wheel, were sent to the Emperor for trial. She was placed in the arena, where lions were sent out to kill her but they instead licked her wounds. However, she died in the arena wounded by a wild bear. This was in the first year of the Great Persecution under Roman emperor Diocletian and when it ended the Christians laid St Euphemia’s relics in a golden sarcophagus and placed within a church dedicated to her that attracted crowds of pilgrims for centuries. At the 451 Fourth Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon (Concilium Chalcedonense, Σύνοδος τῆς Χαλκηδόνος) in the church of Saint Euphemia, the Chalcedonian Creed described the full humanity and full divinity of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. No decisive consensus could be reached, so the adversaries wrote down their confessions of faith on separate scrolls, opened the tomb of the Saint and placed their two scrolls upon her bosom for three days. When the tomb was opened, the scroll with the Orthodox confession was held by St Euphemia in her right hand and the scroll of the heretics lay at her feet. St Euphemia, as though alive, raised her hand and gave the Orthodox scroll to the Patriarch. Many heretics accepted the Orthodox confession, those remaining obstinate being consigned to a Council condemnation and excommunication. Around 620, in the wake of the conquest of Chalcedon by the Persians, the relics were translated to a new church in Constantinople (Istanbul). Her reliquary was later thrown into the sea but was recovered and given to the Bishop, who hid it in a secret crypt. The relics were later taken to the Island of Lemnos and in 796 returned to Constantinople, the majority still being in the Patriarchal Church of St George in Istanbul. Stories about her became the Golden Legend, a collection of hagiographies from c1260, including an account of her martyrdom. Venerated in Catholic and Orthodox Churches, Church of England. Martyrdom commemorated 16 September. Image: acrod.org.
Prayer All-praised Euphemia, it was God who worked and you triumphant were crowned at the meeting taking our definition of the Faith, appeasing the opponents and establishing our confession of the Truth as acceptable to Him and with hand and tongue setting your seal to the votes of all in proclamation thereof. Even after death, you pour out healing upon us for our sanctification. We adore your venerable relics to honour your holy falling asleep, so that in faith we too may be delivered from the weaknesses of our nature. Amen
St Turketil of Croyland (Thurcytel) (d975). Roman Catholic Feast Day for the pious Lord Chancellor of England under King Edred (Eadred). After the Benedictine Abbey at Croyland (Croilandia), Lincolnshire had been destroyed by the Danes in 870 and the relics of Sts Egbat, Tatwin, Bettelina and Ethedrith reduced to ashes, Turketil rebuilt the Abbey in 946 and successfully established a school attached to the community. Turketil was the son of Ethelward I of Wessex (Æthelweard) and cousin of the successive Kings Athelstan (Æðelstān, Aðalsteinn), Edmund I (Eadmund) and Edred, and had won for his cousins many battles against the Danes before he wearied of public life, gave sixty of his manors to the King and six to Croyland and paid off all his debts. Taking the habit, he became Abbot of Bedford and then went to Croyland, being made Abbot in 948, restoring the house to the greatest splendour and serving God there until he died there of a fever. St Guthlac of Crowland (Gūðlāc, Guthlacus) (673-714) had been a noble Mercian Lincolnshire Christian particularly venerated in the Fens who became a monk at Repton Monastery and two years later sought the life of a hermit on the island of Croyland (Crowland) where British-speaking demons haunted him as he had spent some time in exile among Celtic Britons. Guthlac had built a small oratory with cells in the side of a plundered barrow on the island and lived there suffering from marsh fever until his death, his pious and holy ascetic life drawing many people seeking spiritual guidance. He had given sanctuary to Ethelbald (Æthelbald) and predicted that he would become King, receiving the promise of an abbey if his prophecy became true. When Æthelbald became King of Wessex two years after Guthlac’s death, he built Crowland Abbey and the cult of Guthlac continued amongst a monastic community there, being commemorated by Turketil. Image: catholic.org.