Holy Week with St. Benedict

by Fr. Benedict Solomon, O.Praem.

Today is the feast of St. Benedict in the 1962 Calendar. And St. Benedict’s life is a model of how we should approach Holy Week.

St. Benedict was born around 480, and was the son of a noble. He moved to Rome to continue his studies. After a period of time, he became disillusioned by the worldly lifestyle in Rome. He fled and eventually lived a life of penance in a cave as a hermit. On one occasion, St. Benedict was tempted by impure thoughts. So he took off his clothes and rolled around in a thorn bush. He also performed many miracles and drove out evil spirits and temptations by simply making the sign of the cross. St. Benedict said, “The life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent. Since few, however, have the strength for this, we urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and to wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times. This we can do in a fitting manner by refusing to indulge evil habits and by devoting ourselves to prayer with tears, to reading, to compunction of heart, and to self-denial.”

In other words, let each one deny himself some food, drink, sleep, needless talking and idle jesting, and look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing. Christ was taken to the cross in silence, like a lamb to the slaughter. So we should approach Holy Week with a focus on silence. Silence from music, from our busy thoughts, from anything that isn’t necessary and isn’t of God. St. Benedict says that monks should only speak when necessary. Even if we are speaking about edifying and holy matters, we should still be careful, because as the book of Proverbs says, “In much speaking, thou shalt not escape sin.” And then he goes on to condemn in the monastery course speech, idle words, and speech which leads to laughter.

So as we enter Holy Week, let us imitate this monastic ideal as much as possible, by setting this week aside to prepare our hearts for the Sacred Triduum and Easter.

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