By Sr. Spero
I learned about St. Benedict from his Rule, imagining him as a fatherly abbot caring for the souls of his monks. Until a recent study trip on St. Benedict with the Mount Tabor Centre in Barga, Italy, I knew very little about his life. I discovered: His spiritual life began with three years alone in a cave when he was a young man. His first monastic experience was with a group of monks who asked him to be their abbot and then tried to poison him. He left undeterred and started 12 other monasteries in the same area. He has many miracles attributed to him, and was known as a mighty spiritual warrior. But his greatest success is in the thousands of monasteries and millions of monks he has inspired to follow his way. St. Francis admired him greatly (the only portrait of St. Francis made in his lifetime is a fresco in the Holy Cave of St. Benedict), although he led his friars in a different way.
The study trip took us to Norcia, where Benedict was born, and Subiaco, the site of Sacro Speco (the Holy Cave), and monasteries covered with medieval frescoes illustrating the life of St. Benedict. Some no longer have monks or nuns living in them, but all have signs of a rich devotion to the saint. This seems to me his greatest legacy. The visible love of his followers—shown in their artwork, and the gift of their lives.