11 July, Saturday — Body and Soul

Jul 11 – Memorial for St. Benedict, abbot, religious founder

Born to Roman nobility, Benedict (c. 480–547) was the twin brother of St. Scholastica. He studied in Rome, Italy, but was dismayed at the lack of discipline and lackadaisical attitude of his fellow students. He fled to the mountains near Subiaco, living as a hermit in a cave for three years. He was reported to have been fed by a raven.

The virtues that St. Benedict (480-547) demonstrated as a hermit prompted an abbey to request that he lead them. His discipline was such that an attempt was made on his life; some monks tried to poison him, but he blessed the cup and rendered it harmless. He destroyed pagan statues and altars, and drove demons from groves sacred to pagans.

At one point, there were over 40,000 monasteries guided by the Benedictine Rule that he wrote, which can be summed up as “Pray and work”.

Patron Saint Index

Isa 6:1-8
Mt 10:24-33

“Do not be afraid of those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”

Today is the feast day of St. Benedict, the founder of the Benedictine monasteries. Many would say that Saint Benedict contributed more than anyone to the rise of monasticism in the West. What fascinated me was not the fact that he created the Benedictine order of monks — although that is definitely admirable in many ways — but the way by which he was moved by his faith in the Lord.

Saint Benedict was born around 480, the son of a Roman noble of Nursia (in the province of Perugia, in southeastern Umbria). As a young man, he was sent to Rome to finish his education, to study rhetoric, the act of persuasive arguments, not grounded in truth, but in eloquence and the technique to convince the audience. His fellow students were mostly of noble birth or of means, and they had what most deemed desirable – education, wealth, youth – and they spent most of their efforts in pursuit of pleasure but not the truth.

The young Benedict watched in horror as the vices unraveled the lives and the ethics of his peers and companions. Afraid for his soul, Benedict fled Rome, gave up his inheritance and lived in a small village. It was later on that God called him into deeper solitude.

The experiences of St. Benedict are something that we all go through in some ways; and hopefully, we are as strong spiritually and choose to distance ourselves from temptations as he did so many years ago. We currently live in the wonderful age of technology, an age of convenience, of information disseminated on the Internet, on social media and the like. The vast amount of sights, sounds, opinions and ‘truths’ out there is astounding. Some are real truths, good for our souls and our bodies.  While some deceive us, falsities masking themselves as truths, to the detriment of our souls and bodies. This is not to say that everything good for the body is bad for the soul. No. Let’s not twist this into some fanatic opinion. Pleasure, in itself, is not a bad thing. Pleasure only becomes a vice when it takes hold of our whole being to the exclusion of everything else, especially things relating to God and our higher purposes. Think of overeating and overworking. I dare say that neither of those things are good for anyone, wouldn’t you agree?  

With so much confusion in this world, we really need to sift through all the noise, decipher if they are truths or lies, whether they are good or bad for us, spiritually as well as physically. We may not necessarily go into solitude like St. Benedict, but we do have to maintain a stance against things that can corrupt us inside and out. It may be tough to turn away from temptations and vices (mine are chocolates and anger), the pain of which is only temporary, but if we don’t get a handle on this and turn away, the results would be less than desirable (weight gain and broken relationships) – the efforts of which would last for eternity.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us to heed Your warnings. Let us focus more on the health of our souls and less on pleasures of our bodies. Let us focus on the eternal rather than the temporal.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for the life of St. Benedict and the lives of many other saints, who set examples for what we should strive for.

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