Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pax Inter Spinas

A Blessed Man of Peace

On this day c. 542, St Benedict of Nursia, father of Western monasticism, was called home to God. His feast is kept on this day in the Extraordinary Form, but in the Ordinary Form it is kept on 11 July, which is the day his relics were translated to the monastery of St Benoit-sur-Loire in France.

This bronze relief of St Benedict is by Bryan Neale, and it was unveiled in Westminster Cathedral in 1999. Following the express desire of Basil Cardinal Hume, the saint is depicted holding his blessed Rule, and its presence in the cathedral commemorates England's debt of gratitude to the sons of St Benedict who first evangelized England, and who continue to educate and minister to the Catholics of England. Cardinal Hume himself was a Benedictine, had been educated at Ampleforth Abbey by the Benedictines and had become abbot of that monastery before being called to be Archbishop of Westminster. The Cardinal died on 17 June 1999, so this bronze relief of St Benedict also remembers him. His episcopal motto was 'Pax Inter Spinas', Peace among thorns, which also features on this relief.

This motto is one that is dear to the Benedictines who follow the example of St Benedict. This saint lived in a time of considerable turmoil and upheaval in Europe, but despite the thorns of life, he sought and found peace in Christ through humble prayer and worshipful service. So, citing psalm 33[34] in his Rule, St Benedict reminds the monk to "Turn away from evil and do good; seek after peace and pursue it". This pursuit of peace, primarily the peace of a soul that is reconciled in Christ to God, is the monk's life-long quest; it is a quest mediated by St Benedict's Rule. The motto may also be related to an incident in St Benedict's life, where it is said that to quell the lusts of the flesh, he threw himself into a thorn bush, and thus, peace was restored to his soul.

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