Gold Cross


By The Rev., Modestus Wirtner, O. S. B.




Saint Benedict

Eupropius and his wife Abundantia, wealthy and noble Romans, lived at Norcia, known to the Romans as Nursia, in the heart of the Umbrian Appenimes. They also possessed a handsome palace at Rome. Abundantia, gave birth to twin children, a boy and a girl, who were duly baptized by the names of Benedict and Scholastica. In due time he was sent to Rome to complete his studies. His parents, it would seem, wished him to excel in his studies, to shine in that Roman society to which they belonged. The world with all its attractions was at his feet, he was free to enjoy it. But who could keep himself pure amidst the corruption of the city, was the question he asked himself daily, and what would it profit him to have all the world could give if the price of it was to be the loss of his own soul?

Benedict secretely left Rome and went to Subiaco where he met a certain monk named Romanus, a holy man and well versed in the things of God. Entering into conversation with the young stranger, he soon learnt from him the story of his hasty flight from Rome, and the circumstances which had led up to it - a story which convinced him that he had to do with a chosen soul, for whom God had a secret mission. Acceding to the prayers of Benedict he clad him in the rough tunic of a monk, and led him to a hollow cave in the rocks, the existence of which was known to him alone.

Here Benedict remained three years, lost in the contemplation of God, he was learning many things that are taught in that devine school of prayer alone, a knowledge that was to fit him for the work which God had set him apart. One day a band of shepherds found their way to the cave. The sound of their footsteps disturbed the Saint, who turned towards them such a heavenly face that they stood as if spellbound, gazing at him with the greatest veneration. The words which Benedict addressed to them, simple teaching suited to their simple minds, were as sweet as his face, so that it was not surprising that people began to flock to the cave from all the country round.

But the Evil One was watching jealously God's preparation of the Saint for his great mission, and made a desperate attempt to mar the work. He conjured up before Benedict's eyes the image of a beautiful girl whom he had known at Rome, and who had perhaps been destined by his parents for his future bride. With the lovely vision came the thought of the life of ease and pleasure that he might be living, the joys of that world that he had abandoned, the weary hardships of the life he had chosen. So strong was the temptation that he had almost yielded - almost left the solitude of Subiaco and set his face towards the life and love that awaited him at Rome, when, throwing himself into a thicket of thorns and briars, he cured by the wounds of the body the wounds of the soul, and the temptation departed forever.

The fame of the young Saint had spread meantime throughout the whole valley, and a community of monks who had a monastery at Varia, now Vicovaro, twenty miles from Subiaco, and who had lost their Abbot, went in a body to ask Benedict to rule over them. "Your ways and mine will never agree," he answered, refusing their re-


quest. But the monks would not accept this refusal; they desired reform, they said; hoping to lead them to better things Benedict reluctantly consented. Their desire of reform soon died out. The very holiness of Benedict, a daily reproach to their own lives, served only to embitter their hatred, and their discontent at last reached its climax in a plot to poison the man whom they had induced, against his will, to put himself at their head.

This wicked plot, however, was doomed to failure. When the poisoned cup was presented to Benedict in the refectory, he blessed it with the sign of the cross, whereupon it fell assunder in the hands of the bearer and the wine was spilt upon the ground. "May God forgive you, my brethern," he calmly said, "why have yon plotted this wicked thing against me? Did I not say to you that your ways and mine would not agree? Seek now for another Abbot after your own heart, for you can keep me here no longer." With these words he went out from amongst them, and returned to his beloved solitude.

There were other monks in the valley besides those of Varia, men of a different type, seeking God in the simplicity of their hearts, but living under no particular rule, and with no definite aim in their religious life. For such men as these, when they came to put themselves under his guidance, Benedict had no refusal. There were others, too, rough barbarians and simple dwellers in the valley, who desiring to give themselves to God, were seeking for one to lead them in His way.

House after house was built, as the need for further accommodation, until there were twelve small monasteries under the Saint's direction. At the head of each of them was a Prior or Abbot of his own choosing, who could have recourse to him in every difficulty. Over this large family he ruled well and wisely, a living example to his monks of what their lives should be, and gaining the experience of men and matters that was to find expression later in the Rule of his Order.

Many Romans went to Subiaco to see Benedict and ask his advice. Among them came a nobleman named Tertullus, a patrician. A warm friendship soon sprang up between these kindred souls, and before Tertullus left Subiaco he obtained a promise from Benedict to accept and bring up in the ways of God his eldest son Placid, then seven years old.

Another young desciple was offered to the Saint by Aequitius, a Roman senator, in the person of his son Maurus, a youth of riper years, remarkable already for his wisdom and purity of heart, and destined to be Benedict's greatest helper in the work which lay before him. The first thing that he taught to this dearest of his sons was the value of prayer, and the efforts of the Evil One to hinder it.

Three of the twelve monasteries were built far up the mountains and the monks were obliged to go to the lake below for their supply of water. One day these begged "Build us monasteries further down," but Benedict comforting them with the gentle sympathy that made him so beloved returned them no answer. That night with Placidus he prayed on the mountain. The next day the monks complained again. "Go to the top of the mountain," replied Benedict, "and in the place where you shall find three stones laid together,


pierce the rock. Cannot God Almighty by his power give you water upon the mountain and relieve you of your weary toil?" No sooner had the rock been pierced than an abundant stream of water gushed out, sufficient for all the needs of the brethern.

Not only those of noble birth but men of all conditions were received in the monasteries of Subiaco. One day a poor Goth came and begged to be clothed in the habit of a monk. He was given an axe and sent to clear away the thorns and briers from a piece of land beside the lake.

The muscular Goth put his heart into the work, and hacked away with such good will that the head of the axe flew off and was lost in the water.

Horrified at what he had done, the poor man ran up to the monastery, falling at the feet of Maurus, the first person that he met, confessed his fault with many tears. His distress was reported to Benedict, who spoke to him kindly and went down with him to the lake. Taking the handle of the axe from the poor novice, he held it out over the water; when, to the awe and astonishment of the Guth, the head rose from the bottom of the lake and fastened itself in its place. "Go now, my son," said Benedict, "and work, and be sad no longer, for when monks work hard, tools are often spoiled or broken."

This as well as several other miraculous events are referred to as the reason why pious people invoke St. Benedict's assistance to help them to find things lost.

God had already begun to reveal to St. Benedict, as He was so often to do in later years, the danger that threatened those whom he loved. One day the little Placidus having gone down to the lake to draw water, overbalanced himself and fell in. "Brother Maurus", cried Benedict, "run quickly to the lake and help the child, who is in danger of being drowned." Kneeling for his Father's blessing, Maurus ran down the mountains and over the waters and seized the child by the hair, not perceiving until both were on dry land that he had been walking on the water.

Amongst the monks of Subiaco there was holiness and peace; but God had decreed that His followers must suffer persecution. Near the monastery of St. Clement there lived a priest called Florentius, who was devoured with bitterness and jealousy at the sight of its prosperity. He was a bad man, and covetous of the presents which were offered to Benedict, as well of his reputation for holiness. Florentius himself had tried to pose as a saint, hoping for the same results, but nothing came of it. If the real Saint could be got rid of, he thought to himself, he might have a better chance; so, poisoning a small loaf, he sent it to Benedict as a friendly token of peace and charity.

The Abbot received the present courteously, but as had happened once before, he was made aware of the danger. Calling a crow, who came to feed every day from his hand, he bade it take the loaf in its beak and hide it where no one could find it.

Soon after this, assembling the brethern together, he made known to them that Christ had commanded him to go to Monte Cassino, to destroy the worship of idols. Then having set all things in order, and


taking with him a few monks, among whom were his dear disciples Maurus and Placid, he set out for Monte Cassino. At the coming of St. Benedict in A. D. 529, the city was deserted and partly in ruins. It had been Christian since Apostolic times, St. Peter, according to tradition, having sent it its first Bishop; but during the terrible years of the barbarian conquests (481) it had fallen back into paganism.

The mission of St. Benedict was to bring these strayed sheep back into the fold of Christ. It was the holy season of Lent, a fit time for prayer and penance. St. Benedict prepared himself after his Master's example, for the ministry which lay before him. On Easter Sunday, Benedict and his band of disciples, followed by those of the townspeople who had been won to Christ by his preaching, cut down the trees of sacred grove on the mount, casting down the statue of Apollo, planted the cross in its place, overthrew the pagan altar of sacrifice and built an Oratory which was to be dedicated to St. John the Baptist. The temple itself, having been purified and blessed by Benedict, became a Christian Church under the protection of St. Martin of Tours. The mountain thus cleansed of its pagan associations, Benedict set to work to preach Christianity in the surrounding country.

St. Benedict appointed the monks who were to build the Abbey of Monte Cassino. The Abbey rose rapidly under the busy hands of the monks, but the Evil One was also busy. Among his many annoyances may be mentioned that a wall which the brethern were building fell suddenly, without apparent cause, burying in its ruins a young monk named Severus. The builders, lifting the shattered and lifeless body of their companion in their arms, carried it to Benedict and laid it at his feet without any other comment than their tears. But the Saint, who was praying redoubled his prayers; and presently the young workman went forth again to his labor as if nothing had befallen him.

It was well for the people of Campania that they found a father in the Saint, and that Monte Cassino was a refuge for all who were in sorrow or distress. When the Emperor Justinian succeeded to the throne of the Eastern Empire, he sent his general, Belisarius, to reconquer the Western Empire. The Goths made a desperate resistance; plague and famine followed in the footsteps of the war. The country people, reduced to the last extremity, died by hundreds. Grass and acorns were eaten as food and gastly tales were told of famished creatures who fed on human flesh.

The poorer inhabitants of Campania besieged the monastery begging for bread; nor did they beg in vain. "Give, for the love of God," said Benedict, "while there is anything left to give"; until there came a day when there was nothing for the monks' frugal meal. This, thought some of the monks, was carrying charity a little too far. "Are you troubled at the lack of bread?" he asked, "true ,there is not much today, but there will be more tomorrow." The next day two hundred bushels of flour were found at the monastery gate, the gift of an unknown benefactor.

It was not only food for the body but comfort for their sorrowing hearts that the people came to seek at Monte Cassino. A poor man


who had lost his only son brought the body in his arms to Benedict. "Give me back my son, my little son," implored the poor father, falling at Benedicts feet; "he is dead, restore him to life." The man's despair touched the monks, who added their entreaties to his, but Benedict reproved them gravely. "Such deeds are for the holy Apostles," he answered, "and not for a man like me." But the childs father would take no denial. "I will not go away," he said, "till my son is restored to me; he is there at the gate of the monastery."

They went to the spot, and Benedict, kneeling by the motionless little body, laid his hands upon it and raised his eyes to Heaven. "Regard not my sins, 0 Lord," he prayed, "but the faith of this man who implores Thee to give him back his child." Even as he spoke a tremor ran through the little body and the child breathed again. Raising him to his feet, Benedict gave him back to his father, and the two went down the mountain path hand in hand together.

The Father of Western monasticism, as he has been called, had had a long experience of human nature; he knew its strength and its weakness, its aspirations, and its needs. With wisdom that comes of experience and the understanding that comes of sympathy, he set to work to compile his Rule.

The monastery was to be above all a family; there was to be no distinction of rank or distinction. No man of noble birth was to be preferred, on that account, before one who had been a slave; the sole distinction was to be personal merit. At the head of all, as father of the family, was the Abbot. To him all owed respect and obedience.

There were to be no excessive austerities; humility and obedience were to be the service of the Benedictine monk, and by the practice of these virtues he was to offer himself a living sacrifice to his God. The cloister was to be a school of useful workers, whose labors were sanctified by prayer; the bodies of the monks were to be kept healthy, that they might be more fit for both.

Idleness, as St. Benedict well knew, is the enemy of all good, and In the monastery there was work for all. Reading, study, manual labor, succeeded each other at regular intervals; the monks were in turn preachers, writers, historians, husbandman, and workman, as each had capacity.

The great spiritual life was to be the public prayer in common, the recitation of the Devine Office, which was to be the fruitful source of strength, zeal and inspiration. The day was so planned that work and prayer succeeded each other; but if the prayer was to be the "Work of God", the work was also to be a prayer.

The time had come when Maurus and Placid, the most beloved of St. Benedict's desciples, were to carry the rule of their master into other countries. St. Placid was sent to Sicily. At Messina he built the monastery; but little is known of his apostolate in the island. He was martyred, as St. Benedict had forseen, during an invasion of barbarians. With him perished a great number of the monks. St. Maurus was sent to the Franks in Gaul. The first Benedictine monastery was founded at Glanfeuil in Anjou and St. Maurus was its Abbot till the year 581, when he died in the odor of sanctity.

In the valley below the mountain, on which Monte Cassino stands, stood the convent of Piumarola, over which Scholastica, the beloved


twin sister of St. Benedict, ruled as Abbess. The convent was under Benedict's direction and followed his rule, but the intercourse between the Abbess and the Saint took place once a year, and this was on the mountain side in a house belonging to the monastery and within its gates.

The time had come round for this yearly conference, and the Saint, accompanied by a few of his desciples, came down to the place of meeting, where Scholastica was already awaiting him. The hours passed quickly as they sat together talking of God and of Eternity, and to Scholastica the day seemed all too short. They were supping together, and, as the time drew near when Benedict was wont to return to his monastery, his sister, who seems to have a strange intuition that they would see each other no more on earth, besought him earnestly not to leave her, but to pass the night with her in conversation.

"Do not leave me, I entreat thee," she begged, "let us remain here until the morning that we may speak together of the heavenly life."

"What dost thou ask of me, my sister " replied Benedict; "it is impossible for me to pass the night outside of my monastery."

Scholastica made no answer, but, folding her hands upon the table, she bowed her head in silent prayer.

The night was clear, and not a cloud was to be seen; but as she prayed the sky grew dark; torrents of rain began to fall; the thunder growled; the lightning flashed; a terrible storm arose. Benedict went to the door and looked out, but it was impossible to leave the house in such a tempest.

Scholastica raised her head and looked at him. "May Almighty God have pity on thee, my sister," he said, "What hast thou done? My brother," was the answer, "I entreated thee and thou wouldst not hear; I had recourse to my Lord, and he had compassion on me and has heard my prayer. Go forth now if thou canst; leave me alone and return to thy monastery." There was nothing to be done but to bow to the will of God. Benedict sat down, therefore, and conversed with Scholastica until her soul was satisfied.

When the morning light broke over the mountain top and the storm had spent itself, the two saints parted, Benedict to return to his monastery on the height, Scholastica to the convent in the valley. Never more were they destined to speak together on the mountain side. A little rotaroy was built later at this place of meeting and dedicated to St. Scholastica, and became a place of pilgrimage.

A few weeks later, as St. Benedict stood at the window of his cell praying, he saw the soul of his sister, under the form of a snowwhite dove, winging its way to heaven. So greatly did he rejoice at her happiness, that, forgetting his own sorrow, he poured out his own heart in thanksgiving to God. Then calling together his brethern, and making known to them that Scholastica was dead, he bade them go to Piumarola and take possession of the holy body, that it might rest in the tomb that he had already prepared for himself in the oratory of St. John the Baptist on the mountain top.

Scarcely forty days later, he announced to his desciples that he was also about to depart out of this world. In spite of his sixty-three


years he was apparently hale and strong, with no sign of sickness; their judgment, no less than their hearts would fain have disbelieved his words, had they not known too well his power of fortelling the future.

In order that all might be in readiness, the Saint ordered the tomb of his sister to be opened. Soon after, being seized with a burning fever, he asked his monks to carry him to the oratory of St. John the Baptist, where he received his last communion. Then standing erect, supported in the arms of his desciples, he gave up his soul to God whom he had served so faithfully, in the peace of a perfect confidence. The body of the Saint was laid, as he had desired, beside that of his sister in the Chapel of St. John the Baptist, in the double tomb which remained the most precious treasure of the monks of Monte Cassino.

The above sketch is taken from Pope St. Gregory's Life of St. Benedict. For a more complete work consult: "Benedictine Monachism by Abbot Butler, Longmans and Green, N. Y., or St. Benedict by Rt. Rev. Ildephonse Herwegen, O. S. B., translated by Peter Nugent, O. S. B., at Herders Bookstore, St. Louis, Mo.

Spread of the Order Over Northern

St. Gregory, the Great, was the first son of St. Benedict to wear the Papal tiara. He called to his side Augustine, the Abbot of St. Andrew's and entrusted him with the conversion of England. On Christmas Day, 597, ten thousand Anglo-Saxons bowed their heads to receive Baptism at the hands of Augustine and his monks.

From this seed sprang the conversion of Germany, also, for it was from an English Benedictine monastery that St. Boniface set forth to be the Apostle of the German nation. For three years he labored together with St. Willibrord, another Anglo-Saxon monk, in Friesland, during which time many thousands were won to the faith. Monasteries and convents were founded to help on this work.

About the same time other sons of St. Benedict took up this work and carried it all over Northern Europe. "There was not a country, however remote", says Cardinal Gasquet (A Sketch, etc.) referring to these regions of the North, "that has not benefitted by their ministry. Monk-missioners from England, that field of apostolate reserved to St. Benedict, were to convert Denmark and Sweden - which had for their first Apostle St. Anschar - and by them Norway, Iceland and Greenland would come to the knowledge of the truth." In Germany, too, where St. Boniface had been preceeded in Thuringia by St. Corbinian, his work was continued by a whole legion of disciples and monks trained by him, such as, to mention only the names of the canonized, Burchard, Sturm, Winnibald, and Willibald, and the nuns introduced there by him St. Lioba, St. Thecla and St. Walburga. In the region afterwards called Belgium is seen yet another constellation of Benedictine Saints: St. Amand, St. Ghislain, St. Remade, St. Ursmar, St. Trond, to recite only the best known, devoted their lives to the same apostolate.


The Order of St. Benedict continued the work of its holy founder, adding to the conversion and civilization of the races the education of the people and the cultivation of art and literature. Wherever they went they taught the nobility of labor, changing barren deserts into fruitful fields, draining marshes, converting the outlaw and the thief, preaching the faith by word and example, and showing to all men the beauty of a life lived for God alone. It was the monks again who, to help their poorer neighbors, built and repaired bridges and roads, doing all that was possible to improve the condition of the people amongst whom they had made their home. Schools were opened, and magnificent libraries were formed by their industry and patience.

At the famous monastery of York the monk Alcuin, one of the most renowned scholars of his time, taught the seven liberal arts (grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, music, geography, and astronomy) with such brilliant results that Charlemagne sent for him to stimulate the revival of letters in his empire; while it was from the Benedictine schools of Paris, Tours, and Lyons that the great French universities sprang into being. The monastery of Bec in Normandy became, under Lanfranc and Anslem, a center of education second only to Cluny in Burgundy, and shared with that monastery the reputation of being the chief stronghold of learning in France. The seed that developed into the university of Cambridge, England, was sown in the Benedictine school founded there by the monks of Croyland Abbey.

Nor was it in learning alone that the sons of St. Benedict were the leaders of civilization. The scriptoria, or writing schools, of the Benedictine Abbeys were the only manufactures that existed before the invention of printing. There are all the rare manuscripts of antiquity as well as the Bible were copied and preserved; the abbeys of Fontanelle, Reims, and Corbie being especially noted for their beautiful work.

It is not only as copyists that the monks have earned the world's gratitude. The greater part of the history of the Middle Ages was written in the cloister; St. Bede, William of Malmesbury, Mathew Paris, and Eadmer of Canterbury were all Benedictine monks. The great abbeys were also the centres of art, science, and of all the humbler crafts that go to make up beauty. The monks of St. Gall and of Monte Cassino were justly famous for their exquisite illuminations and mosaic work, while to the latter monastery is attributed the invention of stained glass. Most of the great monasteries had their studios and workshops, where architecture, painting, and sculpture, as well as the lesser crafts already mentioned, were taught and practised.

Ecclesiastical architecture was introduced into England by St. Bennet Biscop, a monk of Wearmouth, who had mastered its rules in Rome. The ruins of Croyland Abbey, Tintern, and Fountains in England, of Fontevrault and St. Denis in France, not to mention the great cathedrals of Canterbury, Durham, and Glouchester, bear witness to the skill of the monastic architect.

Many of the monks were artists of no mean order, Mannius, Abbot of Evesham, was renowned as a goldsmith, as well as a musician and painter. The walls of the church of the Abbey of St. Gall, built in the


tenth century, were covered with paintings executed by the brethern; while the frescoes of the Abbey church of St. Savin in Poitou are still the admiration of the artists. That the Benedictines made use of their talents in their missions to the heathens, we know through the story of the conversion of the king of the Bulgarians, in the ninth century, effected by means of a picture of the Last Judgement, painted on the walls of his palace by the monk Methodius.

The pictures and the stained glass windows of the churches were often the only books of the unlearned, who, while they prayed, could meditate on the scenes from the Old Testament, or the Life of Our Lord thus presented to their devotion.

The Father of ecclesiastical music was St. Gregory the Great, the first Benedictine Pope, who introduced the chant known by his name, still recognized as the most solemn and prayerful of all the forms of psalmody. The very organ itself, originally introduced from Constantinople, owes its development and its perfection to the labors of the monks.


The Benedictines In The United States


It was a Benedictine, Dom Bernard Boil, of Montserrat, who accompanied Christopher Columbus in 1492 as vicar to the newly discovered islands and lands of Central America. Carter, too, the French discoverer and explorer of Canada, was accompanied on his travels by two Benedictine monks, who were the first to plant the church in a region which still ranks among the most devout and zealous in the Catholic world. A french colony, established near Baltimore at the end of the eighteenth century, had a Maurist father, Dom Desiderius, as its spiritual head with episcopal powers. On April 26, 1790, Dom Peter Didier, O. S. B., was appointed Prefect Apostolic of the Gallipolis Colony in Ohio. In the beginning of the nineteenth century the Trappist monks were in Pennsylvania and in Kentucky. But so far no permanent monastery of the order was set up in North America until the middle of the latter century. The establishment of the Benedictine Order came about this way.

Among the thousands of Germans who begun to find their way to America, there were but few priests to minister to their spiritual needs. No satisfactory solution of the difficulty was found until Father Boniface Wimmer, a monk of Metten in Bavaria, was inspired to undertake the work of establishing a monastery in the United States, which should be at once a place of education for the rising generation and a seminary for the training of priests for the service of the ever-growing German element in America.

The Rev. P. Henry Lemke met Father Wimmer at Metten, and knowing his intention, offered him his farm at Carrolltown as a site for his future monastery. With the Abbot's sanction, and the generous help of King Louis of Bavaria and of the societies established for the assistance of emigrants, Father (later the Rt. Rev.) Boniface Wimmer set forth with a few companions on July 25, 1846; and on the 17th of October was settled at St. Vincent Archabbey, Beatty, about two miles from Latrobe, Pa. After the inevitable difficulties of a new foundation, the worst was over by 1855, when on August 24 a pontifical brief erected the house into an abbey and gave canonical existence to the new American Cassinese Congregation.

Within the last seventy-five years, the humble beginning at St. Vincent's has spread over twenty-five states. St. John Abbey was founded in 1856, its first abbot being the Rt. Rev. Rupert Siedenbusch, subsequently Vicar-Apostolic of Northern Minnesota. St. Benedict Abbey, Atchison, Kansas, 1857, its first Prior being the Rt. Rev. Louis Fink, later the second Bishop of Leavenworth, Kansas. St. Mary's Abbey, Newark, New Jersey, founded in 1842. St. Mary Help, Belmont, Abbey, Belmont, North Carolina, 1875, whose first Abbot was Bishop Leo Haid, Vicar-Apostolic of the district. St. Bernard's Abbey, St. Bernard, Alabama, which dates from 1891. St. Procopius Abbey, Lisle, Illinois, founded in 1885 for the Bohemians. Sacred Heart Abbey, Sacred Heart, Oklahoma, 1874. St. Leo Abbey, St. Leo, Florida, 1889. St. Bede Abbey, Peru, Illinois began in 1889. St. Peter's Abbey, at


Muenster, in Saskatchewan in Canada, had its beginning in 1892 in Illinois, and moved northward into British territory in 1903 - the first monastic house which the children of St. Benedict have made for themselves in Canada. St. Martln Abbey, Lacey, Washington, was founded in 1895. Holy Cross Abbey, Canon City, Colorado, whose beginning dates back to 1886.

Beside these, the mother-houses of the Congregation, there are a great number of dependant priories, a university, colleges, and missions, where the normal work of the present-day Benedictines is in full vigor. The congregation has the care of about two hundred and seventy parishes, numbering roughly 166,000 souls. In its colleges and high schools, twenty-two in number, about four thousand boys receive their education.

Besides the monks, there are large and numerous communities of Benedictine sisters of various congregations in the United States, twenty-four mother-houses, and a number of dependencies. The professed nuns number over three thousand, and novices and postulants seem to abound.


The introduction of the Swiss Benedictines into America dates from 1853. The first Abbey was that of St. Meinrad, Indiana, whose first Prior, the Rt. Rev. Martin Marty, was later on raised to the episcopate as Vicar-Apostolic of Dakota, 1879. In 1889 he was made Bishop of Sioux Falls; and in 1895, Bishop of St. Cloud, Minnesota. Abbey of the Immaculate Conception, Missouri, 1873. St. Benedict Abbey, or New Subiaco Benedictine Abbey, Subiaco, Arkansas, 1878. St. Joseph's Abbey, St. Benedict (Ramsay Station, La.) 1889. St. Mary's Abbey, Richardton, North Dakota, 1899, whose first abbot, the Rt. Rev. Vincent Wehrle, was nominated the first Bishop of Bismark in 1910. St. Benedict Abbey at Mount Angel in Oregon was begun in 1882. St. Michael Priory, Cottonwood, Idaho. The number of monks belonging to the Cassinese and the Swiss Congregations passes by for the 1,500 mark.


The Medal of Saint

Medal of St. Benedict

Nihil obstat.
  Joannes P. Doyle, D.D., T.O.R.
Imprimi Potest.
Aurelius Stehle, O. S. B.
Joannes Josephus McCort, D.D.
Episcopus Altunensis


Instruction On the Medal of St. Benedict


St. Benedict, blessed by God both in grace and in name, Patriarch of Western Monasticism, and founder of the Order which bears his name, was born in Nursia, Italy, in 480, and died in 543. As the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ was the chief object of devotion among the first Christians, so it was also with St. Benedict. It was this devotion to the Cross, the sign of our redemption, that gave rise to the Medal of St. Benedict; for devotion to the Medal of St. Benedict is, above all, devotion to the sign of our salvation. The Saint often employed the sign of the Cross to work miracles and to overcome the devil and his temptations. Hence from the earliest centuries after his death he is represented bearing the Cross of Christ and the Holy Rule. The devotion to the medal of St. Benedict was greatly increased during the pontificate of Leo IX. (A. D. 1048), who, when yet a child, was instantaneously cured of a disease through an apparition of the Saint.


In the year 1647 in the monastery of Metten, Bavaria, an old manuscript dating back to the year 1415, was discovered, giving an explanation of the letters on the medal, which had in the course of time been forgotten. This manuscript contained a pen-picture representing St. Benedict with the cross in one hand and a sort of banner or scroll in the other. On the staff of the scroll, were written out in full the meaning of the letters inscribed on the medal. The discovery of the pen-picture and its verses was for the faithful a new incentive to a greater devotion to the holy Cross, as well as to St. Benedict.

Finally, in 1741, Pope Benedict XIV, moved by the many favors which God had shown through the Medal, solemnly approved it and enriched it with numerous indulgences.

The Ordinary Medal, described and approved by Benedict XIV, is found in various shapes. The Jubille or Centenary Medal was struck in 1880, to commemorate the 1400 anniversary of the birth of St. Benedict. In 1877, Pope Pius IX approved the design of this new Medal and also added to it many indulgences over and above those already granted for the use of the old one. That type only of the Jubilee Medal which is struck by the authority of the Archabbey of Monte Cassino has the privilege of extra indulgences of which mention shall be made later. This medal is round only and more artistic than the former.


The Jubilee Medal of St. Benedict represents on the one side the holy Patriarch holding in the one hand the cross, and in the other the Holy Rule. On the other side is shown a cross with certain letters on and around it. They are in reality ejaculatory prayers believed to have been in the mouth of St. Benedict himself. The letters in the angles of the cross, C. S. P. B., stand for the words: Crux Sancti Patris Benedicti. (The Cross of Holy Father Benedict.) On the perpendicular bar of the cross are the letters: C. S. S. M. L. They signify: Crux Sacra Sit Mihi Lux, (May the Holy Cross be my light.)


On the horizontal bar we find: N. D. S. M. D., that is, Non Draco Sit Mihi Dux, (Let not the dragon be my guide.) Around the margin may be seen: V. R. S. N. S. M. V. S. M. Q. L. I. V. B.; These initials stand for the verse: Vade Retro Santana! Nunquam Suade Mihi Vana. Sunt Attila Quae Libas; Ipse Venena Bibas. (Begone, Satan! Suggest not to me vain things. The cup thou profferest me is evil; drink thou thy poison.) These or similar words were used by St. Benedict himself when making use of the sign of the cross against the devil and his temptations.

Above the Cross we find the word Pax (Peace), the motto of the Benedictine Order, to denote a blessing which the Medal brings upon the devout wearer. On the right side of St. Benedict is the poisoned cup, shattered by the sign of the Cross, which the Saint made over it; on his left we have a raven about to carry away a poisoned loaf of bread sent to the holy Patriarch. Above the cup and the raven stands the inscription: Crux S. Patris Benedicti. (The Cross of Holy Father Benedict.) Around the edge of the same side are the words: Ejus in Obitu nostro Praesentia Muniamur. (At our death may we be protected by his presence.) Below we read: Ex S. Monte Cassino, MDCCCLXXX. (Abbey of Monte Cassino, 1880.)


No special way of carrying or applying the medal is prescribed. It may be worn about the neck, attached to the scapular or the rosary, or otherwise carried about one's person. It may be dipped into the water or medicine to be given the sick; or it may be applied to their wounds. Often it is placed on the foundation of houses, hung over the doors or in the walls of dwelling places, stables, barns, or attached to automobiles, to call down God's blessing and the protection of St. Benedict, and the power of the church's blessing. Also no particular prayers are prescribed, as the devout wearing itself is a continual silent prayer. If, however, some extraordinary favor through the use of the Medal is sought, one may make a novena or triduum, making each day the Station of the Cross, or reciting five Our Fathers and Hail Marys in honor of the five wounds of our Lord, and saying some prayers in honor of St. Benedict. In time of temptation it is advisable to hold the Medal in one's hand, kiss it reverently, and make use of the ejaculatory prayers on the Medal.


The salutary effects of the Medal are produced through the passion of our Lord, the merits and intercession of St. Benedict, and the blessing of the Church. In the blessing, God is implored to preserve those who wear the Medal from all the snares and temptations of the devil; to protect them from lightning and tempests, from pestilence and poisons; and to bestow upon them his blessings, both temporal and spiritual. Twice the Church repeats the request that they may escape the snares and deceits of the devil, which seems to be the chief purpose of the Medal. The church also twice mentions in the blessing contained in the Roman Ritual that the letters and the characters in the Medal were designed by God himself. Innumerable facts attest that the pious use of the Medal with the invocation of St. Benedict, has at all times been most powerful in warding off all dangers of body and soul, and in procuring for us spiritual and temporal favors.



It would take to much space to enumerate in detail all the indulgences with which the Church has enriched the Medal. Only the more important ones will be here mentioned. It is not necessary to know all what indulgences we are able to gain, unless there is a question of a plenary indulgence, where, besides wearing the Medal, other conditions, such as confession, communion, and a visit to the church is prescribed. The only condition required for gaining partial indulgences, beside being in the state of grace and wearing the Medal, is to make a general intention to gain all the indulgences possible during the day.


I. Plenary Indulgences.

1. A plenary indulgence may be gained on the following festivals: Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Holy Trinity, Corpus Christy, Immaculate Conception, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, Annunciation, Purification, Assumption, All Saints, and St. Benedict (March 21), by all who are want, to recite at least once a week the whole rosary, or a third part of it, or the Divine Office, or the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, or the Office of the Dead, or the seven Penitential Psalms; also by those who are wont to teach Catechism, or to visit prisoners, or the sick in a hospital, or to help the poor; or finally to assist at Mass, or to celebrate, in case of a priest.

2. A plenary indulgence, in the hour of death by those who shall recommend their soul to God, and to receive the sacraments, or if they are unable to do that, shall make an act of contrition and invoke in their heart, if unable to do so with their lips, the Holy Name of Jesus and Mary.

3. The indulgences attached to the blessing bestowed by the Severn Pontiff upon the people on Holy Thursday and on Easter Sun-day, on the usual conditions.

II. Partial Indulgences.

1. The remission of a third part of the punishment due to their sins, to him who by his good example or advice shall lead a sinner to repentance.

2. An indulgence of twenty years once a week, to him who shall daily pray for the extirpation of heresies.

3. Those who shall pray for the extension of the Benedictine Order shall share in all the good works performed in the Order. Benedict XIV, 12 March, 1742. Pope Pius IX has granted in 1877 the [rest of sentence missing]


1. On the Jubilee Medal may be gained all the indulgences attached to the Ordinary Medal.

2. All those indulgences that are gained by a visit in Monte Cassino to the Cathedral Church, the Crypt and the Tower of St. Benedict at Monte Cassino. These plenary indulgences are:


One on any day of our choice, once a year.

One on the feast of St. Maurus (January 15.)

Two on the feast of St. Scholastica (February 10.)

Three on the feast of St. Benedict (March 21.)

One on the second Sunday of July, the Patronage of St. Benedict.

One on the feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of Monte Cassino (October 1.)

One on the feast of St. Placidus (October 5.)

One on the feast of St. Justina (October 7.)

One on the feast of All Saints of the Order of St. Benedict (November 13.)

One on the feast of St. Gertrude (November 17.)

  Joannes Josephus McCort, D.D.
Episcopus Altunensis

June 8, 1926.

On the last pages of the Prayer Book, MANUEL OF ST. BENEDICT, there are many miraculous cures related that took place through the intercession of and by the pious use of the miraculous Medal of St. Benedict. THE MANUEL OF ST. BENEDICT is published by Fr. Pusted and Co., 52 Barclay St., New York, N. Y., and also at 436 Main St., Cincinnati, Ohio.

Part 0 - Contents
Part 1 - St. Joseph's Church
Part 2a - Life of Rev. Henry Lemke
Part 2b - Life of Rev. Henry Lemke (cont'd.)
Part 3 - St. Benedict, Patriarch of the Monks of the West
Part 4 - Cistercian Monks
Part 5a - St. Benedict's Church
Part 5b - St. Benedict's Church (cont'd.)
Part 5c - St. Benedict's Church (cont'd.)
Part 6 - Carrolltown - Know your town

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