Friday, January 15, 2016

St Maurus, and a Famous Miracle of St Benedict

January 15th is the feast day of St Maurus, a disciple of St Benedict who is famous for his role in one of his master’s more impressive miracles. This is recounted by St Gregory the Great in chapter 7 of the Second Book of his Dialogues, which is devoted to the life of St Benedict.

“On a certain day, as the venerable Benedict was in his cell, the young Placidus, one of the Saint’s monks, went out to draw water from the lake; and putting his pail into the water carelessly, fell in after it. The water swiftly carried him away, and drew him nearly a bowshot from the land. Now the man of God, though he was in his cell, knew this at once, and called in haste for Maurus, saying: ‘Brother Maurus, run, for the boy who went to the lake to fetch water, has fallen in, and the water has already carried him a long way off!’

St Maurus Saves St Placid from Drowning, by Spinello Aretino, 1388, from the sacristy of San Miniato al Monte in Florence. The church is still to this day the home of a community of Olivetan monks; in accordance with a common medieval custom, St Benedict and his contemporaries are depicted in white Olivetan habit.
A marvelous thing, and unheard of since the time of the Apostle Peter! Having asked for and received a blessing, and departing in all haste at his father’s command, Maurus ran over the water to the place whither the young lad had been carried by the water, thinking that he was going over the land; and took him by the hair of his head, and swiftly returned with him. As soon as he touched the land, coming to himself, he looked back, and realized that he had run on the water. That which could not have presumed to do, being now done, he both marveled and was afraid of what he had done.

Returning therefore to the father, he told him what had happened. And the the venerable Benedict did not attribute this to his own merits, but to the obedience of Maurus. Maurus, on the contrary, said that it was done only in accord with his command, and that he had nothing to do with that miracle, not knowing at that time what he did. But in this amicable contention of mutual humility, the youth who had been saved came as judge; for he said, ‘When I was being drawn out of the water, I saw the Abbot’s garment over my head, and perceived that it was he that drew me out of the water.’ ”

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