ROME IS having a rough ride on the back of an increasingly
secular European beast which is now rejecting the new EU Constitution. This has
led Cardinal Ratzinger deliberately to climb into the saddle as Pope Benedict
XV1 in the hope of steadying the animal.
his first General Audience as Pope on the 27th April, Ratzinger explained his
reasons for adopting the name Benedict: “St Benedict of Norcia ... the Great
Patriarch of Western Monasticism ... Co‑Patron of Europe ... [was an]
extraordinary figure ... The gradual expansion, of the Benedictine Order that
he founded had an enormous influence on the spread of Christianity across the
Continent. St Benedict ... is a fundamental reference point for European unity
and a powerful reminder of the indispensable Christian roots of its culture.”
in 1980 John Paul II, following in the footsteps of all the post war popes,
made a pilgrimage to the shrines which have grown up in the hills near Rome
around a cave which was frequented by this sixth century hermit, Benedict.
They lie above the ribbon‑like town of Subaico, 40 km east of Rome, which
today is choked with traffic going to the pilgrimage site. The plaque
recording John Paul II’s visit to St Benedict’s monastery specifically says
that he went as “una cum Europae episcopis” ‑ as one with the
bishops of Europe.
did St Benedict come to be, for Rome, “the first European”? The story is a
curious mixture of fact and fable.
Benedict the hermit
says Benedict was born in Norcia about 480 AD. He fled from the revelries of
Rome and took refuge in a cave below a monastery. Benedict eventually preached
to shepherds and so was invited to be the superior of a nearby monastery. But
the monks poisoned their new, strict Abbott, who returned to his grotto. Later
he founded St Clements in a deserted Roman villa. There he perfected a rule of
monastic life, the Regula Benedicti. This embodied the secret of
perfect piety, justice and order for his monastery.
Gregory the Great (590‑604) endowed the Benedictines. The monks then
went out to evangelise all Europe, including the British Isles. They applied
the Regula Benedicti wherever they settled. However strange a culture
or insular its people, a Benedictine monastery soon imparted, along with
Christianisation, the notion of European citizenship. As a result, by the
year 1000 AD there was a stable, pan‑European Christianisation of the
Benedictine brand, organised from the HQ in Subaico. And lo! the divided
unruly peoples of pagan Europe were united as a common Christian community,
Benedictine style. At least that is the story.
brings us to Benedict and Rome today. Readers will be well aware of the
Vatican’s efforts after World War II to dominate Europe through the Treaty of
Rome. This strategy was spearheaded by the “St Benedict for first European” campaign
conceived during World War II. Pius XII may have been silent about the
holocaust but he certainly made waves when one of Benedict’s early monasteries,
Monte Cassino, was bombed by the allies. Churchill, unworried, correctly
observed, “the enemy fortifications were hardly separate from the building
itself”. But Pius castigated it as an “atrocity bombing”. He and his two
successors, John XXIII and Paul VI, all vowed to use Benedict’s European
credentials to bring the continent to heel.
Benedict Patron of all Europe
the European ideal accelerating, Paul VI declared Benedict Patron of all Europe
in the papal brief, Pacis Nuntius (‘Messenger of Peace’). This
was issued on 24th October 1964 during the re‑consecration of the rebuilt
monastery of Monte Cassino. Pacis declares: “Messenger of peace,
creator of oneness, master of civilisation and above all, herald of the
religion of Christ and founder of monastic life in the West: these are
the proper titles with which to acclaim St Benedict Abbott. On the fall of
the Roman Empire, by then exhausted, Europe seemed to fall into darkness
[as at the end of WWII!] ... bereft of civilisation and spiritual
values”. Benedict, it said, “gave birth to the dawn of a new era ...
bonded the spiritual unity of Europe ... this unity is an exemplary type of
absolute beauty ... Pius X11 hailed St Benedict quite rightly as the Father of
Europe ...Through the merits of this great Saint Our same Predecessor desired
God to support the efforts of those trying to unite the European nations ...
John XXIII also fervently desired that this would come about.”
[Paul VI] also give Our full approval to this movement which is aiming to
create a united Europe ... We have been happy to receive the petitions of [numerous pro‑European people and
institutions are listed] to declare St Benedict, Patron Saint of Europe ...
this solemn proclamation ... is for us the suitable moment [to] re‑consecrate
to God, in honour of the Most Holy Virgin and St Benedict the temple of Monte
Cassino ...rebuilt due to Christian piety ...after the horrors of the world
war... May he [Benedict) watch over all European Life ....in virtue of
Our apostolic power ... in perpetuity ... we constitute and proclaim St
Benedict, Abbot, the heavenly principle Patron of All Europe...”
perpetuity” is Vatican speak for “as long as it suits”. Readers will have
spotted that Pope Benedict XVI referred to St Benedict as a “Co‑Patron”.
Eastern European politics has forced the Vatican to elevate saints Cyril and
Methodius to the status of co‑patrons as a sweetener to smooth the way
for Rome’s invasion of Russian Orthodoxy in the east!
Subaico v. secularism
as secular Euro‑peronsalities, including Euro MPs and their people, seek
to broaden and secularise the European ideal, Rome is retaliating in the guise
of the Fondazione Sublacense Vita a Famiglia (‘Subaico Foundation for
Life and Family’) founded in 2001 from pre‑existing pressure groups. Its
stated aim is to “follow the humanistic values spread throughout Europe by
Benedictine monasticism”. What monks and their concubines have to do with
family life is none too clear! The Foundation has widespread support from RC
academics and pro-Rome Euro MPs. (See below for its numerous and influential
Grygiel’s prophetic vision
we quote Prof Grygiel’s prophetic vision: “Europe in the Third Millennium will
either be Benedictine or will disappear as a spiritual and cultural reality,
remaining a place of material riches and spiritual poverty, a peninsula of Asia
and an economic and military partner of the United States. The future of
Europe depends on the ability of Europeans to preserve the close ties and ideal
balance between ora and labors [Benedict’s slogan ‘pray and work’
is used as synonymous with continued RC Euro‑Christianisation). The
future of Europe will not be decided in the great centres of political and
economic power but in the tiny abbeys scattered over the entire continent...”
*THE SUBAICO FOUNDATION
include the St Benedict Prize awarded to the person who best supports Rome in
by sympathetic academics is sponsored in the unique Subaico library containing
early monastic manuscripts to strengthen the Benedict legend.
prestigious Schools Competition offers a prize for the best “Benedict in
trips are organised to important sites of European romanisation.
publishing organisation Radici (‘Roots’) produces annual popular adult
material on the [RC] Christian roots of Europe. Saint Benedict the First
European by John Paul II, ‑ favoured Polish Prof Ludmilla Grygiel
with a forward by romanist Euro‑MP Lorenzo Cesa ‑ was presented to
the European Parliament in 2004. Cesa grabbed headlines in Italy on the 30th
May 2005 viciously castigating the French for their “severe judgement” on
should Benedict’s euro‑halo ever slip the Foundation is grooming an
alternative by instituting a Day for St Thomas More ‑ on his own saints
day naturally assisting experts on Europe’s [RC] Christian roots to gather at
various venues for conferences.
ORIGINS OF MONASTICISM WERE NOT EUROPEAN
monastic idea originated in Palestine, Syria and Egypt. It entered Europe in
the third century by the vehicle of the Roman Empire. Asceticism came to
Italy, Spain, Gaul (France), and hence the British Isles, along the trade
routes. As pagan Rome disintegrated, the monastic ideal became popular in
Europe, particularly around Rome which was now in chaos. The first European monastic
writings, including the rules for monastic life, were Latin translations of
eastern manuscripts. Only later did the monks produce original Latin material.
is but “a shadowy figure in this history”. Probably “in the second quarter of
the sixth century [he] edited, shortened, tightened and in general improved one
of these monastic rules making it his own”. Gregory the Great simply gathered
traditions that had passed from mouth to mouth concerning Benedict. The
majority were far fetched miracle stories featured in frescoes on the monastery
walls. Gregory’s famous Vita [life] of Benedict gave apparent substance
to these shadowy memories.
Benedictines, really the Black Monks, came into their own after 800 AD when the
pope and the Franks formed an alliance known as the Holy Roman Empire. They
introduced a single, recognised, set of regulations to stamp out the plague of
varied monks. The Franks legislated in 817 that all monasteries had to follow
the Regula Benedicti. An expert confirms that, “Memory of competing
rules faded and monks and nuns created the myth of Benedict as founding father
of Western monasticism ... Each monastery, whether of men or women, was an
independent institution. The individual newcomer joined a particular monastery
... for life ... The modern notion of a monastic order ‑ with a table of
organisation, a headquarters, meetings, and mobility between one house and
another ... did not yet exist.”
11th century psalter in the British Library depicts the monks at their zenith.
An awesome Benedict is enthroned with monks before him. His halo proclaims him
“father ‑ and leader of monks” and a headband states “fear God”. A monk
beneath his feet denotes a “zone of humility”. The monks present Benedict with
the Regula. God’s hand emerges from a cloud proffering a stole stating
“whoever listens to you listens to me”. Yet the Black Monks’ dominance only
lasted three centuries. They never networked New monks, like Francis of
Assisi, came along who were revolted by Benedictine degeneracy and cried for
reform. Francis is really the first euro‑monk who can claim to be the
founder of a standardised pan‑European monastic chain, governed from
Assisi by a hierarchy. Luther was nailing his 95 thesis to the church door at
Wittenberg before the Benedictines attempted to develop such a hierarchical
structure. The epithet “Benedictine” was coined even later. The Oxford
Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources puts the first appearance
of a new Latin word, Benedictinus, at 1526.