10th July 2021
On 24th October 1964, Pope Paul VI wrote as follows about St Benedict,
When darkness seemed to be spreading over Europe after the fall of the Roman empire, he brought the light of dawn to shine upon this continent. For with the cross, the book and the plough, Christian civilization was carried, principally through him and his disciples, to the peoples who lived in those lands which stretch from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia, and from Ireland to Poland.
With the cross, that is, the Law of Christ, he strengthened and developed the institutions of private and social life. Through the “Work of God,” that is, through the careful and assiduous conduct of prayer, he taught that divine worship was of the greatest importance in the social order…
With the book, that is, with the culture of the mind, this venerable patriarch from whom so many monasteries have drawn their name and their spirit, spread his doctrine through the old classics of literature and the liberal arts, preserved and passed on to posterity by them with so much care.
And lastly, with the plough, that is, through agriculture, he changed the waste and desert lands into orchards and delightful gardens; and joining work with prayer in the spirit of those words, ora et labora, he restored the dignity of human labour.
As we celebrate his feast on 11th July, we pray for our own country and for the continent of Europe, for peace and for prosperity, for an end to this pandemic and for health. Above all, we pray that the peoples of Europe will continue to treasure the message of St Benedict, the cross, the book and the plough: love of God, love of true learning and all that is best in human culture, art and literature, and love for God’s beautiful creation that has been gifted to us.
With every blessing
Brendan Coffey OSB, Abbot of Glenstal