Wednesday, 21 March 2007

The Passing of St Benedict

In the year that was to be his last, the man of God foretold the day of his holy death to a number of his disciples. In men­tioning it to some who were with him in the monastery, he bound them to strict secrecy. Some others, however, who were stationed elsewhere he only informed of the special sign they would receive at the time of his death.

Six days before he died he gave orders for his tomb to be opened. Almost immediately he was seized with a violent fever that rapidly wasted his remaining energy. Each day his condition grew worse until finally on the sixth day he had his disciples carry him into the chapel, where he received the Body and Blood of our Lord to gain strength for his ap­proaching end. Then, supporting his weak­ened body on the arms of his brethren, he stood with his hands raised to heaven and as he prayed breathed his last

That day two monks, one of them at the monastery, the other some distance away, re­ceived the very same revelation. They both saw a magnificent road covered with rich car­peting and glittering with thousands of lights. From his monastery it stretched eastward in a straight line until it reached up into heaven. And there in the brightness stood a man of majestic appearance, who asked them, 'Do you know who passed this way?' 'No,' they replied. 'This,' he told them, 'is the road taken by blessed Benedict, the Lord's beloved, when he went to heaven.'

Thus while the brethren who were with Benedict witnessed his death, those who were absent knew about it through the sign he had promised them. His body was laid to rest in the Chapel of St. John the Baptist, which he had built to replace the altar of Apollo.

Even in the cave at Subiaco, where he had lived before, this holy man still works numerous miracles for people who turn to him with faith and confidence. The incident I am going to relate happened only recently.

A woman who had completely lost her mind was roaming day and night over hills and valleys, through forests and fields, resting only when she was utterly exhausted. One day in the course of her aimless wanderings she strayed into the saint's cave and rested there without the least idea of where she was. The next morning she woke up entirely cured and left the cave without even a trace of her former affliction. After that she remained free from it for the rest of her life.

From the Life and Miracles of St Benedict (Book Two of The Dialogues)
by Pope St Gregory the Great

Photograph: wood carving of St Benedict at the Abbey of Our Lady and St John, Alton, Hampshire, (England)

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