|Order of Saint Benedict|
Frontside of the Saint Benedict Medal
|Motto||Ora et Labora
(Pray and Work)
|Type||Catholic religious order|
|Headquarters||The Abbot Primate of Benedictine Confederation, based at Sant'Anselmo in Rome, supervises the union of autonomous houses|
|Founder||Benedict of Nursia|
The Order of Saint Benedict (Latin name: Ordo Sancti Benedicti) is a Roman Catholic religious order of independent monastic communities that observe the Rule of Saint Benedict. Within the order, each individual community (which may be a monastery, a priory or abbey) maintains its own autonomy, while the organization as a whole exists to represent their mutual interests. Today the terms "Order of Saint Benedict" and "Benedictine Order" are also used frequently to refer to the total of the independent Benedictine abbeys, thereby giving the wrong impression of a "generalate" or "motherhouse" with jurisdiction over dependent communities. The Benedictine Confederation, which was established in 1883 by Pope Leo XIII in his brief Summum semper, is the international governing body of the order, headed by the Abbot Primate. Members of the order generally use the initials O.S.B. after their name.
The monastery at Subiaco established in Italy by Saint Benedict of Nursia circa 529 was the first of a dozen monasteries founded by him. Even so, there is no evidence to suggest that he intended to found an order. To the contrary, the Rule of St Benedict presupposes the autonomy of each community. Despite the absence of a Benedictine order, since most monasteries founded during the Middle Ages adopted the Rule of St Benedict, it became the standard for Western Monasticism.
Today Benedictine monasticism is fundamentally different from other Western religious orders insofar as its individual communities are not part of a religious order with "Generalates" and "Superiors General". Rather, in modern times, the various autonomous houses have formed themselves loosely into congregations (for example, Cassinese, English, Solesmes, Subiaco, Camaldolese, Sylvestrines) that in turn are represented in the Benedictine Confederation that came into existence through Pope Leo XIII's Apostolic Brief "Summum semper" on July 12, 1883. This organization facilitates dialogue of Benedictine communities with each other and the relationship between Benedictine communities and other religious orders and the church at large.
The Rule of Saint Benedict is also used by a number of religious orders that began as reforms of the Benedictine tradition such as the Cistercians and Trappists although none of these groups are part of the Benedictine Confederation.
The largest number of Benedictines are Roman Catholics, but there are also some within the Anglican Communion and occasionally within other Christian denominations as well, for example, within the Lutheran Church.
In the English Reformation, all monasteries were dissolved and their lands confiscated by the Crown, forcing their Catholic members to flee into exile on the Continent, although during the 19th century they were able to return to England, including to Selby Abbey in Yorkshire, one of the few great monastic churches to survive the Dissolution. Noteworthy, too, is St. Mildred's Priory, Isle of Thanet, Kent, built in 1027 on the site of an Abbey founded in 670 by the daughter of the first Christian King of Kent. Currently the Priory is home to a community of Benedictine nuns. Four of the most notable English Abbeys are the Basilica of St Gregory the Great at Downside, commonly known as Downside Abbey, Ealing Abbey in Ealing, West London and St. Lawrence's in Yorkshire (Ampleforth Abbey) and Worth Abbey which has appeared in two BBC2 TV programmes; 'The Monastery (BBC TV series)' and 'The Big Silence' . In 1928, Prinknash Abbey was officially returned to the Benedictines after four hundred years. Henry VIII had used the site as a hunting lodge. During the next few years, Prinknash Park, so called, was used as a home, until it was returned to the order. Since the Oxford Movement there has also been a modest flourishing of Benedictine monasticism in the Anglican Church and Protestant Churches. Anglican Benedictine Abbots are invited guests of the Benedictine Abbot Primate in Rome at Abbatial gatherings at Sant'Anselmo. There are an estimated 2,400 celibate Anglican Religious (1080 men and 1320 women) in the Anglican Communion as a whole, some of whom have adopted the Rule of St. Benedict. For a full list of all historic Benedictine houses in England & Wales see below.
Monasticism had been introduced into the region of modern France during the Roman era by Saint Martin of Tours, who founded the first monastery in Western Europe. The Rule of St. Benedict was promoted by various rulers of France, especially the House of Capet. Figures such as Benedict of Aniane were authorized by the Emperor Louis the Pious and his successors to promote its adoption by monasteries throughout the Holy Roman Empire. It expanded throughout the next millennium, growing through periods of revival and decay over the centuries. Monasteries were among the institutions of the Catholic Church swept away during the French Revolution.
Monasteries were again allowed to form in the 19th century under the Bourbon Restoration. Later that century, under the Third French Republic, laws were enacted preventing religious teaching. The original intent was to allow secular schools. Thus in 1880 and 1882, Benedictine teaching monks were effectively exiled; this was not completed until 1901.
The Rule of Saint Benedict (ch. 58.17) requires candidates for reception into a Benedictine community to promise solemnly stability (to remain in the same monastery), conversatio morum (an idiomatic Latin phrase suggesting "conversion of manners"), and obedience (to the superior, because the superior holds the place of Christ in their community). This solemn commitment tends to be referred to as the "Benedictine vow" and is the Benedictine antecedent and equivalent of the evangelical counsels professed by candidates for reception into a religious order. Much scholarship over the last 50 years has been dedicated to the translation of conversatio morum. The older translation "conversion of life" has generally been replaced with phrases such as "a monastic manner of life," drawing from the Vulgate's use of conversatio as the translation of "citizenship" or "homeland" in Philippians 3:20. Some scholars have claimed that the vow formula of the Rule is best translated as "to live in this place as a monk, in obedience to its rule and abbot."
Benedictine abbots and abbesses have full jurisdiction of their abbey and thus absolute authority over the monks or nuns who are resident. This authority includes the power to assign duties, to decide which books may or may not be read, to regulate comings and goings, and to punish and to excommunicate, in the sense of an enforced isolation from the monastic community.
A tight communal timetable (horarium) is meant to ensure that the time given by God is not wasted but in whichever way necessary used in his service, whether for prayer, work, meals, spiritual reading, sleep.
Although Benedictines do not take a vow of silence, hours of strict silence are set, and at other time silence is maintained as much as is practically possible. Social conversations tend to be limited to communal recreation times. But such details, like the many other details of the daily routine of a Benedictine house that the Rule of St Benedict leaves to the discretion of the superior, are set out in its customary.[clarification needed]
In the Roman Catholic Church, according to the norms of the Code of Canon Law 1983, a Benedictine abbey is a "religious institute", and its professed members are therefore members of the "Consecrated Life", commonly referred to as "Religious". Benedictine monks who have not been ordained and all nuns are members of the laity among the Christian faithful. Only those Benedictine monks who have been ordained as a deacon or priest are also members of the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church. Benedictine Oblates endeavor to embrace the spirit of the Benedictine vow in their own life in the world.
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