Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Life and Miracles Of Saint Benedict


Founder and Abbot of the Monastery

Which is known as the Citadel of Campania

This is the conversation document of Saint Gregory as he gives testimony to the life and miracles of Saint Benedict taken from the dialogues of St Gregory.

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The files is in .rar so you need to extract the file as Microsoft word document

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


There are four books in the Dialogues U Monica, Gregorii Magni Dialogi(Rome 1924). of St Gregory the Great (540?-604). The first three contains accounts of the lives and miracles of various Italian saints, and the fourth and essay on the immortality of the soul. The entire second book is devoted to the Life and Miracles of St. Benedict - - an emphasis readily understood in the light of the author background and career.

When he was about thirty-five years old, St. Gregory resigned from the high political office he held as Prefect of Rome to enter to the religious life. He founded six monasteries on his estates in Sicily and turned his own home on the Caelian Hill in Rome into the Monastery of St Andrew's as an ordinary monk and lived there under the Rule of St. Benedict, which he was later to praise for its discretion. See ch 36.

In 578 Pope Benedict I ordained him one of the seven deacons of Rome, and the next year Pope Pelagius II sent him as nuncio to the Imperial Court at Constantinople, where he remained for six years. Shortly after his return to Rome he became abbot of St. Andrew's, and five years later, when Pelagius II died, the clergy and people of Rome elected him Pope. During his very active pontificate he continued to foster Benedictine monasticism, most notably in sending St. Augustine and is monks as missionaries to England and in writing the Life and Miracles of St Benedict. From the time it was first published (593) this 'biography of the greatest monk' -- as Thomas Hodhkin terms it Italy and Her Invaders IV (Oxford 1896) 411. -- enjoyed wide popularity and contributed greatly toward making St Benedict one of the most venerated figures in Christendom for centuries. In fact, apart from the rule, it is the only historical source we have for the life and character of the Patriarch of Western Monks.

I is clear from the general preface in Book One that St. Gregory's chief reason for writing the Dialogues was to honor the memory of the saints of Italy and to edify and instruct his fellow countrymen. He wanted them to realize that they were living in a land of saints and that great miracles were as numerous among the Fathers of Italy as they had been among the Fathers of the Desert and elsewhere. St Gregory was evidently inspired to undertake this work by the tradition of monastic biography which had already yielded the famous Lives of St Paul the Hermit, St Anthony the Great, St Pachomius and St Martin of Tours. The book was also written to comfort and encourage the people of Italy during one off the most disheartening periods of their history. Moricca, Dialogi3.38, 225-28. The wars between the Emperor Justinian and the barbarian Goths for the mastery of the country had left much of it a wilderness. Men and women had to live in constant dread of the savage Lombard hordes that swept down into Italy in 568 and were still slaying and pillaging wherever they turned. Floods and plagues and a long series of famines added to the general gloom. Many even felt that the final destruction of the world was at hand. After reading in the first three books of Dialogues about the many striking miracles performed in their very midst, how could they question God's unfailing protection of His people? Then in Book Four St. Gregory endeavored to strengthen their faith in the unseen hereafter by proving that the soul does not perish with the body and can look forward to eternal happiness.

Such then was the general purpose the Pope had in mind i publishing the Life and Miracles of St. Benedict. Even by modern standards he was well qualified to undertake this work. It appeared within fifty years of St. Benedict's death, and the author was not only very familiar with Subiaco and Monte Cassino, where the saint had spent most of his life, but had also been in personal contact with his disciples. "I was unable to learn about all his miraculous deeds,' he explains in the preface. 'But the few that I am going to relate I know from the lips of four of his own disciples,' whom he goes on to name and describe. Some further details were obtained from Exhilaratus, a monk of St. Gregory's own Monastery of St Andrew (ch.18), from a 'distinguished Antony' (ch.26) and from St Benedict's disciples Peregrinus (ch.27). These men had all been close to the events they reported and were undoubtedly eyewitnesses to many of them.

St Gregory eminent position among the Fathers and Doctors of the Church is an added guarantee for the substantial accuracy of his narrative. Whether some of the miracles and prophesies it contains were exaggerated before they reach him or could have been explained as the result of merely natural causes, it is impossible to say. But there can be no doubt of the Pope's well-founded conviction that St Benedict's miracles were numerous and striking enough to mark him out among his contemporaries as the great wonder-worker of Italy.

As the general title of the four books indicates, St Gregory has presented his account in the form of a dialogue, a literary device quite common among the pagan classical authors as well as among the Fathers of the Church.7 The discussion takes place between the author and his deacon Peter, and, as in the case of many earlier 'Dialogues', the leading speaker completely dominates the conversation. He did not employ this literary form, however, merely as a means of interrupting his narrative from time to time and of adding a note of informality. Peter's remarks and suggestion, his questions and doubts were designed to give Pope Gregory an opportunity to draw spiritual lessons for his readers from the saint's miracles and life. Though only incidental to the story, these digressions have great doctrinal value and contain the practical moral reflections for which St Gregory is so famous. His discourses on divine revelation (ch 16) and on his contemplative prayer (ch 35) are two notable examples.

Very likely Peter was also meant to be a spokesman for the members of the papal household, giving expression to the interest and enthusiasm with which they had watched the Pope compiling his narrative. For as St. Gregory mentioned in a letter to Maximian, the bishop of Syracuse, it was in answer to their urgent requests that he had originally decided to write about the saints of Italy.8

In addition, Peter's words helped to indicate the logical order the author has observed in presenting the miracles and prophecies. For in harmony with hi general purpose of showing St Benedict's holiness by recounting his miraculous deeds, Pope Gregory does not follow the chronological order of events except in broadly outlining the saint;s life and spiritual development. In the preface he accompanies him from his home in Norcia to Rome, the scene of his studies. Then comes the saint's flight from the city of Affile and shortly after to the wilderness at Subiaco, where he spent three years in solitude preparing for his future work by a life of prayer and fasting (ch 1). His decisive victory over the tempter marked the dramatic climax in his conquest of self (ch 2). If left him ready for closer union with God, a fuller share in His miraculous powers and an active part in destroying the influence of Satan over souls. (chs 3-4). As Peter observes (ch 8), the miracles St Benedict performed among his disciples at Subiaco reveal him as a man filled with the spirit of all the just -- of Moses (ch 5). Eliseus (ch 6), St Peter (ch 7), Elias and David (ch 8) -- or rather, Gregory explains, as a man filled with the Spirit of Christ.

Now that the evil spirit could no longer hope to threaten St Benedict's purity of soul, he started to assail him outwardly by molesting his disciples and inciting Florentius, as unworthy priest, to slander and attack him. To escape the priest's envy. St Benedict withdrew to Monte Cassino (ch 8). His first three miracles there show how complete his mastery was over the common enemy of mankind, who kept trying to undermine his work and in helpless rage restored to abusive insults (chs 9-11). St Gregory next considers the numerous occasions on which the saint manifested the spirit of prophecy by foretelling future events and reading the human heart (chs 12-22). Then at Peter's request he describes him in his everyday life, showing the miraculous power of his word, his generosity and sympathy with the afflicted, and his boundless trust in almighty God (chs 23-30). After that he answers another of Peter's questions by citing one instance where St Benedict performed a miracle at will (ch 31) and another where he raised a boy to life through prayer (ch 32). After using St Scholastica's miracle to show that eve the saints cannot always have their wishes fulfilled (ch 33), he mentions her death and the vision St Benedict had of her soul as it entered heaven (ch 34). This leads him to consider the high point in the saint's spiritual development, the great vision in which he beheld the whole world gathered up in a single ray of light (ch 35).

Peter urges him to continue, but Gregory, pleading his desire to take up lives of other holy men, briefly discusses St Benedict's Rule for Monks (ch 36) and closes with an account of his death and his entrance into heaven (ch 37). Then comes an epilogue recalling one of the miracles that was wrought after his death through his intercession (ch 38).

There are also three short references to the saint in the third and fourth books of the Dialogues. Mention is made in Book Three of the advice he gave the hermit Martin, who had chained himself to a rock inside his narrow cave. St Benedict send word to him that the love of Christ should keep him chained there instead of the iron chain he was using, and the saintly hermit heeded his advice (ch 16). In Book Four there is a brief description of the great vision (ch 8), followed by another vision involving two of St Benedict's disciples (ch 9).

The present translation is based o the text given in Moricca's critical edition of the Dialogues. The Douay Version was used in citing the old testament. Except where the Confraternity Version is mentioned in the footnotes, the New Testament quotations have been taken from Monsignor Ronald Knox's translation, with the kind permission of His Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, who holds the copyright, and of Sheed & Ward, the publisher.

The translator are indebted to the late Father Alexius Hoffmann, O.S.B., whose translation of the Life and Miracles of St Benedict they consulted throughout.

Life and Miracles of St Benedict

(Book Two of the Dialogues)
Pope St Gregory the Great

Translated by
Benedict R. Avery, O.S.B.

A book by St. Benedict's Crusade

Nihil Obstat: John Eidenschink, O.S.B, J.C.D.,D.D.,
Abbot, St. John's Abbey.

Imprimatur: +Joseph F. Busch. D.D.,
Bishop of St Cloud. March 21, 1949

Copyright 1949 by the Order of St Benedict, Inc. Collegeville, Minnesota. 10/8/56