March 14 – Benedict of Nursia; Leobinus of Chartres

Benedict of Nursia (ca. 480–543) is universally hailed as the father of western monasticism. Son of a Roman nobleman, Benedict left his studies when he was about 20, and with his old nurse removed to a town some 40 miles away. There he miraculously repaired a bit of crockery his servant broke, and the fame from that miracle (his nurse was ever the blabbermouth) drove him into the mountains near the little hamlet of Subiaco. There he lived in a cave for three years, visited (and fed) occasionally by one Romanus, a local monk. Despite his wish to get away from the world, his fame spread abroad (Romanus was ever the blabbermouth), and when the abbot of the monastery back in town went to the next life, the monks begged Benedict to be their new leader. Not long after, they tried to poison him. Not one of my sources showed the least suspicion concerning how their previous abbot died.

Sensing he wasn’t wanted, Benedict returned to his cave, but between his miracles and his saintliness, the stream of sanctity seekers (there must be a Latin word for that) grew such that he was obliged to start not one, not two, not three (deep inhale), but TWELVE monasteries. Sadly he also attracted jealous enemies, one of whom tried to corrupt the monks of one monastery by hiring women to dance naked in the plaza (that’ll show ’em!). Sensing once again he wasn’t wanted, Benedict skipped town.

From Subiaco he went to Monte Cassino (“Mount Jackpot”) in southern Italy, where he spent the rest of his days. His sister Scholastica (Feb 10) became abbess of a women’s monastery nearby. Benedict was granted many miraculous powers, including the ability to see into the hearts of men (women too, probably). Thus it is said that when Totila, king of the Goths (not to be confused with Tortilla, king of the Chips) came to visit, Benedict told him he was a doer of wicked deeds, and that in ten years he would go to Rome, sail across the sea, and meet an untimely end. You’ll never guess what happened.

Benedict is most famous, however, for the Rule that bears his name—a set of principles that has guided thousands of monasteries ever since. Shunning eremitism (“hermitness”) and harsh mortifications, the Rule centers around the common prayer life of the monastery, and simple but honest work (which is why Benedictines hardly ever run for Congress).

He is the patron of spelunkers, and of servants who break their master’s belongings.

Leobinus of Chartres (d. 558), was also known as Lubinus, Lubin, Lubinius, Lumine, Leubinus, and Loubin, although which one his mother called him when he was in trouble, we (sadly) do not know. Leob’s peasant parents spent all his college money buying him first names, so to seek learning he removed to the monastery at Noailles, France, earning his nocturnal lessons by his diurnal labor. The monks complained about his late-night studying (his candle kept them awake and they had to get up early for prayers, the poor dears), so he put a screen around his candle and studied on. For some reason he never joined that monastery, but he was invited by (St.) Avitus of Perche (“perch”) to join his.

In the wars between the Franks and Burgundians (hmm, hot dogs or pinot noir? let me think), Lubin was captured and waterboarded (or the sixth century equivalent), but he refused to tell his tormentors the location of the abbey’s treasure, and they left him for drowned. He wasn’t, and after recovering he went on to become abbot of Brou and bishop of Chartres. He even participated in the famous synods of Orleans and Paris, about which I’m not going to say anything. He is the patron saint of people with dropsy (whom he was able to miraculously heal), and of wine merchants. Guess the Burgundians won.