The Fifth Century brings us not one but two future Saints. It is 480 A.D. and a little voice cries out, Here I am world! But no sooner heard, than another tiny cry fills the air. Not one, but two babies will be born to the parents of the future Saint Benedict and his twin sister Saint Scholastica.
Now, Norcia is not easy to get to, as we well know. We often wonder why God chooses the most remote places in the world for apparitions by Mother Mary, by the Archangel Michael, for Miracles of the Eucharist and the birth of great Saints. Could it be, because we are too busy to hear or see God working in our midst? I don’t know.
What do you think?
Born of the nobility, Saint Benedict would have every advantage enabling him to receive the best education and preparation for life. It is believed that when he was no more than in his teens, his parents sent Saint Benedict and his nurse to Rome, to pursue a higher education, more than likely majoring in law. As they had been blessed to be born of the nobility, it was the custom of people of their station to send their sons to acquire an education preparing them for a career as public magistrates or judges, in this way fulfilling their God-given obligations to serve.
Now Rome of his day had become nothing but a barbaric cesspool, filled with pagan tribes, who had invaded her shores, spreading heresy and immoral behavior the likes of which was leading to a widespread depraved and decadent culture infecting all, but especially the intelligentsia, as usual the students.
As goes the world, sadly, often follows the Church. Poor Mother Church was reeling from the attacks within and without – with schisms threatening to tear down all that the Early Church Fathers had built. Immoral and amoral behavior soon became the accepted norm of the day with Christians accepting and adopting the culture of the hordes of heathens who had stormed their land. With permissiveness, war and rampant widespread plundering are sure to follow. There was not a ruler or king who was not either a pagan, or an atheist, or a heretic.
Holiness begets holiness, as well as sin begets sin. As sheep willingly follow a goat to slaughter, so it was with this scourge which covered society. It was such a deadly epidemic no one was exempt from its poisonous infection. The wholesale evil and totally immoral behavior of the parents soon cascaded down to the youth, who willing followed and consequently mimicked their example. By the grace of God, the young Benedict was repulsed by all the evil and scandalous behavior he could see permeating not only Rome, but the schools. Not prideful, and totally devoid of the brash opinion of youth, and society as well, that they can handle anything, Benedict made the decision to leave Rome. The only one he told was his nurse, who accompanied him.
The path was clear for him. Having completed all that higher education of his day could offer, he left behind his books; and rejecting all the trappings of the world, his parents’ wealth and comforts of home and estate, departed for a life centered in God. It is fairly certain Benedict left Rome at age twenty, as he was mature enough to discern the decadency and immorality of his friends and class mates.
First small step to a holy life
Benedict and his nurse made their way to Affile, a small town deep into the mountains, about thirty miles from Rome. There he would start a new life, with possibly others who desired a life centered in God. This was not to be. Try as he may, he soon realized he could not achieve here the closeness with God he so dearly desired. Leaving the temptations of Rome had not been enough. If he was to know God, he would have to lead a solitary life – away from the world.
The anonymity he so desperately sought was not to be his in this small village, especially once he miraculously mended an earthenware vessel, which his nurse had borrowed and broken. He pleaded with her to not share the miraculous happenings. Did she comply? No! She went about the village broadcasting the miracle that had come about. The locals even put up a sign on the church, detailing the miracle and the young man who had brought it about. Enough said, that was to be the end of any possible inner peace and quiet meditative reflection he could hope for. The only way was to leave Affile and any friends he had made there, sympatico as they might have been. He found he could no longer have the comfort of having his pious nurse with him. He made the decision to make it alone, with only God as his Comfort and Shield.
From Bob and Penny Lord’s Chapter on Saint Benedict.