The parchment web” “

To mark the 7th World Day of the Consecrated Life (2 February) we publish a refection on St. Benedict who, in his rule of "ora et labora", "epitomized" the Christian roots of Europe" "

It was Benedict’s monks who, from the 6th century, were the first to weave the web (“ora et labora”) that united Europe. The Benedictine Order, or more properly the Benedictine Confederation, consists of 21 congregations and is led by an abbot primate. 18 of these congregations are present in Europe. According to estimates provided by the Benedictine secretariat, referring to the end of 2000, there are 4705 Benedictine monks in Europe (8694 in the world), and 10345 Benedictine sisters (16592 in the world). The action of leaven, as every housewife has discovered, is both powerful and delicate. To re-invent evangelically the European person, how should we proceed? To what leaven should we entrust ourselves in multi-cultural dialogue, in the public and private sphere of modern society? We need to rediscover the tensions that may still inhabit us now, because they have inhabited Europe, i.e. the ancient and more recent tradition: the relation with God, with the Gospel, to enable it to speak to man’s conscience, appeal to his freedom and re-integrate it in his life. Europe and whoever wants to call himself European have roots and cuttings. What are they? And what’s their specific connotation? Why not start out from the deepest and unique root that is the relation of the person with God? It is no accident that a monk has been, for centuries, the patron saint of Europe, i.e. a man who with his life, his thought, his virtues, expressed this relation with God in all its splendor. Benedict of Norcia, indeed, is the first bridge that the Church built between our continent and that inner world whose existence is guaranteed by the faith alone and of which the saints are witnesses. Benedict, with his inexhaustible search for God, his centering of his whole life on Jesus Christ, his brotherly life open to hospitality, indicated to Europeans convulsed by wars and revolutions, and bewildered by philosophic messages, what was the right road to take: the way of prayer and of work, both in necessary conjunction, for if deprived of the one or the other component, they each turn out to be false and deficient. The silk road, the amber road, the pilgrim road leading south to Rome, exalt the spirit and lead the imagination and the emotions to open themselves to a wide and hospitable acceptance of others, to recognize values and customs different from those received in our own nation, our own family and our own cultural sphere. Is not the road of prayer and of work the centre of the person? Does it not construct, in silence, and with humble but real means, the European person, in his culture, in his language? Benedict, with his monks, created a genuine web that preserved and diffused the literary heritage of Europe. He saved it from dying and disappearing with his sons, who patiently wove a parchment web, a network of manuscripts, codices, miniatures. What can the monk and the Christian involved in family life, and inserted in the world of ordinary life, have to say to each other? The monk becomes the symbol – in his more direct acceptance of realities that speak of the eternal, of everything that is invisible to our eyes –, of the most simple and yet the most radical of Gospel truths: the Word that transmits the memory of God, the Son and the Holy Spirit; the breaking of the bread that renders present the Lord in history and in the conscience of man; the communion of brothers and sisters that becomes the community in which to act in the expectation of His return. The icon of the world that surrounds Benedict undergoes variations, different nuances; that’s why John Paul II came to the rescue in Tertio Millennio adveniente, tracing guidelines for the reinvention of monasticism and hence of the Christian and the domestic nucleus. Benedict, who withdrew from the world, became the witness of life for the very world from which he had withdrawn. His vitality, restored to its essential roots, proved rich in leaven, because it was a vocation that came from the Spirit. So Benedict and his web, with his struggle, with the splendour of the truth and of the Word of God, remains ever present, symbol of the faith that dares to express itself in the most essential act of living: the praise of God. By what ways does he continue to pass through Europe? By the realization of the evangelic witness of all his children.

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