The Feast of St Benedict 2019
The episode referred to in the responsory above, depicted by Spinello Aretino, 1388, in the sacristy of the church of San Miniato in Florence.
In the Second Book of St Gregory the Great’s Dialogues, dedicated to the life and miracles of St Benedict, this episode of a miracle also performed by the Prophet Elisha (4 Kings 6, 1-7) is recounted thus in chapter six:
(A) certain Goth, poor of spirit, came to conversion (i.e., became a monk) whom the
man of God Benedict most gladly; and one day, commanded him to take … a sickle, and cut away the briars from a certain plot of ground, so that a garden might be made there. Now this place, which the Goth had undertaken to clear, was by the side of a lake, and while he was cutting away the cluster of briars with all his strength, the head of the sickle flew off the handle and fell into the water, in a place where it was so deep that there was no hope of getting it back. The Goth, in great fear, ran to the monk Maurus, and told him what he had lost, confessing his own fault, and Maurus went to the servant of God Benedict and told him. Therefore, the man of God Benedict went to the lake, took the handle from the Goth’s hand, and put it into the water, and soon the iron head came up from the deep, and entered again into the handle (of the sickle), which he returned at once to the Goth, saying, ‘Behold, work on, and be sad no more.’
St Benedict died on March 21 in the year 543 or 547, and this was the date on which his principal feast was traditionally kept, and is still kept by Benedictines; it is sometimes referred to on the liturgical calendars of Benedictine liturgical books as the “Transitus – Passing” There was also a second feast to honor the translation of his relics, which was kept on July 11. The location to which the relics were translated is still a matter of dispute, with the Abbey of Monte Cassino in Italy, founded by the Saint himself, and the French Abbey of Fleury, also known as Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire, both claiming to possess them. This second feast is found in many medieval missals and breviaries, even in places not served by monastic communities. (It was not, however, observed by either the Cistercians or Carthusians.). The second feast was in a certain sense the more solemn in the traditional use of the Benedictines; March 21 always falls in Lent, and the celebration of octaves in Lent was prohibited, but most monastic missals have the July 11 feast with an octave. In the post-Conciliar reform of the Calendar, many Saints, including St Benedict, were moved out of Lent; in his case, to the day of this second feast in the Benedictine Calendar.
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