Skip to comments.The Medal of St. Benedict.
Posted on 01/16/2011 11:24:24 AM PST by markomalley
Reading through some of the very first posts of Catholicism Pure & Simple, during a discussion on the various devotions of the Church, I came across a request for an explanation of the St. Benedict Medal. Many Catholics own such a medal, but few understand the story behind its origin, and its usefulness in the Church today.
Tradition teaches that St. Benedict lived from 480 to 547, though we cannot be sure that these dates are historically accurate. His biographer, St. Gregory the Great, pope from 590 to 604, does not record the dates of his birth and death, though he refers to a Rule written by Benedict. Scholars debate the dating of the Rule though they seem to agree that it was written in the second third of the sixth century.
Saint Gregory wrote about St. Benedict in his Second Book of Dialogues, but his account of the life and miracles of Benedict cannot be regarded as a biography in the modern sense of the term. Gregorys purpose in writing Benedicts life was to edify and to inspire, not to seek out the particulars of his daily life. Gregory sought to show that saints of God, particularly St. Benedict, were still operative in the Christian Church in spite of all the political and religious chaos present in the realm. At the same time it would be inaccurate to claim that Gregory presented no facts about Benedicts life and works.
According to Gregorys Dialogues Benedict was born in Nursia, a village high in the mountains northeast of Rome. His parents sent him to Rome for classical studies but he found the life of the eternal city too degenerate for his tastes. Consequently he fled to a place southeast of Rome called Subiaco where he lived as a hermit for three years tended by the monk Romanus.
The hermit, Benedict, was then discovered by a group of monks who prevailed upon him to become their spiritual leader. His regime soon became too much for the lukewarm monks so they plotted to poison him. Gregory recounts the tale of Benedicts rescue; when he blessed the pitcher of poisoned wine, it broke into many pieces. Thereafter he left the undisciplined monks.
Benedict left the wayward monks and established twelve monasteries with twelve monks each in the area south of Rome. Later, perhaps in 529, he moved to Monte Cassino, about eighty miles southeast of Rome; there he destroyed the pagan temple dedicated to Apollo and built his premier monastery. It was there too that he wrote the Rule for the monastery of Monte Cassino though he envisioned that it could be used elsewhere.
The thirty-eight short chapters of the Second Book of Dialogues contain accounts of Benedicts life and miracles. Some chapters recount his ability to read other persons minds; other chapters tell of his miraculous works, e.g., making water flow from rocks, sending a disciple to walk on the water, making oil continue to flow from a flask. The miracle stories echo the events of certain prophets of Israel as well as happenings in the life of Jesus. The message is clear: Benedicts holiness mirrors the saints and prophets of old and God has not abandoned his people; he continues to bless them with holy persons.
Benedict is viewed as a monastic leader, not a scholar. Still he probably read Latin rather well, an ability that gave him access to the works of Cassian and other monastic writings, both rules and sayings. The Rule is the sole known example of Benedicts writing, but it manifests his genius to crystallize the best of the monastic tradition and to pass it on to the European West.
Gregory presents Benedict as the model of a saint who flees temptation to pursue a life of attention to God. Through a balanced pattern of living and praying Benedict reached the point where he glimpsed the glory of God. Gregory recounts a vision that Benedict received toward the end of his life: In the dead of night he suddenly beheld a flood of light shining down from above more brilliant than the sun, and with it every trace of darkness cleared away. According to his own description, the whole world was gathered up before his eyes in what appeared to be a single ray of light (ch. 34). St. Benedict, the monk par excellence, led a monastic life that reached the vision of God
For the early Christians, the cross was a favorite symbol and badge of their faith in Christ. From the writings of St. Gregory the Great (540-604), we know that St. Benedict had a deep faith in the Cross and worked miracles with the sign of the cross. This faith in, and special devotion to, the Cross was passed on to succeeding generations of Benedictines.
Devotion to the Cross of Christ also gave rise to the striking of medals that bore the image of St. Benedict holding a cross aloft in his right hand and his Rule for Monasteries in the other hand. Thus, the Cross has always been closely associated with the Medal of St. Benedict, which is often referred to as the Medal-Cross of St. Benedict.
In the course of time, other additions were made, such as the Latin petition on the margin of the medal, asking that by St. Benedicts presence we may be strengthened in the hour of death, as will be explained later.
We do not know just when the first medal of St. Benedict was struck. At some point in history a series of capital letters was placed around the large figure of the cross on the reverse side of the medal. For a long time the meaning of these letters was unknown, but in 1647 a manuscript dating back to 1415 was found at the Abbey of Metten in Bavaria, giving an explanation of the letters. They are the initial letters of a Latin prayer of exorcism against Satan, as will be explained below.
On the face of the medal is the image of Saint Benedict. In his right hand he holds the cross, the Christians symbol of salvation. The cross reminds us of the zealous work of evangelizing and civilizing England and Europe carried out mainly by the Benedictine monks and nuns, especially for the sixth to the ninth/tenth centuries.
In St. Benedicts left hand is his Rule for Monasteries that could well be summed up in the words of the Prolog exhorting us to walk in Gods ways, with the Gospel as our guide.
On a pedestal to the right of St. Benedict is the poisoned cup, shattered when he made the sign of the cross over it. On a pedestal to the left is a raven about to carry away a loaf of poisoned bread that a jealous enemy had sent to St. Benedict.
Above the cup and the raven are the Latin words: Crux s. patris Benedicti (The Cross of our holy father Benedict). On the margin of the medal, encircling the figure of Benedict, are the Latin words: Eius in obitu nostro praesentia muniamur! (May we be strengthened by his presence in the hour of our death!). Benedictines have always regarded St. Benedict as a special patron of a happy death. He himself died in the chapel at Montecassino while standing with his arms raised up to heaven, supported by the brothers of the monastery, shortly after St. Benedict had received Holy Communion.
Below Benedict we read: ex SM Casino MDCCCLXXX (from holy Monte Cassino, 1880). This is the medal struck to commemorate the 1400th anniversary of the birth of Saint Benedict.
On the back of the Medal the cross is dominant. On the arms of the cross are the initial letters of a rhythmic Latin prayer: Crux sacra sit mihi lux! Nunquam draco sit mihi dux! (May the holy cross be my light! May the dragon never be my guide!).
In the angles of the cross, the letters C S P B stand for Crux Sancti Patris Benedicti (The cross of our holy father Benedict).
Above the cross is the word pax (peace), that has been a Benedictine motto for centuries. Around the margin of the back of the medal, the letters V R S N S M V S M Q L I V B are the initial letters, as mentioned above, of a Latin prayer of exorcism against Satan: Vade retro Satana! Nunquam suade mihi vana! Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas! (Begone Satan! Never tempt me with your vanities! What you offer me is evil. Drink the poison yourself!)
There is no special way prescribed for carrying or wearing the Medal of St. Benedict. It can be worn on a chain around the neck, attached to ones rosary, kept in ones pocket or purse, or placed in ones car or home. The medal is often put into the foundations of houses and building, on the walls of barns and sheds, or in ones place of business.
The purpose of using the medal in any of the above ways is to call down Gods blessing and protection upon us, wherever we are, and upon our homes and possessions, especially through the intercession of St. Benedict. By the conscious and devout use of the medal, it becomes, as it were, a constant silent prayer and reminder to us of our dignity as followers of Christ.
The medal is a prayer of exorcism against Satan, a prayer for strength in time of temptation, a prayer for peace among ourselves and among the nations of the world, a prayer that the Cross of Christ be our light and guide, a prayer of firm rejection of all that is evil, a prayer of petition that we may with Christian courage walk in Gods ways, with the Gospel as our guide, as St. Benedict urges us.
The Medal of St. Benedict can serve as a constant reminder of the need for us to take up our cross daily and follow the true King, Christ our Lord, and thus learn to share in his heavenly kingdom, as St. Benedict urges us in the Prologue of his Rule.
By a Rescript of the Sacred Congregation of Religious (4 May 1965) lay Oblates of St. Benedict are permitted to wear the Medal of St. Benedict instead of the small black cloth scapular formerly worn.
I’m wearing mine right now. Thanks for posting.
It is my understanding that only a Benedictine can bless this medal. Mine fell off my chain and I need to get it put back on!
It’s a powerful sacramental, that’s for sure.
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They now have a boarder in the house, He is a promise keeper. He is helping her understand how wrong.
Any priest since the sixties. I read that somewhere.
The parents, however, were consoled by hearing the devil declare, by the mouth of their son, that he felt himself controlled by a superior power, and that he would go out of the boy at the third hour of the night. So in effect it happened: the infernal spirit went out at the time mentioned, and the boy was restored to peace of mind and health of body.
The following fact took place at Luxeuil about the same time. A young girl was irresistibly compelled by the wicked spirit to utter, at every turn, the most obscene words. One would have thought that the devil had taken up his abode on the lips of his victim. In order to free her from this violence of the enemy of every virtue, her friends gave her also, some water to , drink which had been sanctified by contact with the medal of St. Benedict. Immediately she felt herself freed from this wretched compulsion, nor did she ever after transgress in her words the rules of Christian modesty.
The same year, 1665, there was a man who had a sore on his arm, but so large and so inflamed, that no remedy seemed to have any effect on it. It was suggested that the next time the sore was dressed, there should be also tied on his arm a medal of St. Benedict. This was done, and the next day, on taking off the bandages, the sore was found to be in a healthy state, and after a few days was perfectly healed.
About the same time, another sick man was reduced to such a state that nothing seemed to give him relief, and he was despaired of. In this sad condition, he asked to be given to drink some water in which the medal of St. Benedict had been dipped, and very soon afterwards he was restored to perfect health.
In the year 1666, the castle of Maillot, not many miles from Besanc_on, was infested by devils. Its inmates were being continually alarmed by hearing strange noises, and numbers of their cattle were dying from unknown distempers. At length, such was the terror, that the building was abandoned. Some pious persons recommended the medal of St. Benedict being hung up here and there on the walls of the castle, and the event justified their conf1dence. Instantly all cause of fear disappeared, the house was perfectly quiet, and the inmates lived in it henceforth without being molested.
In 1665, a village of Lorraine was being laid waste by frequent fires. Every day some house was burnt down, and no one could discover any cause for these destructive fires. After twelve houses had been thus destroyed, the inhabitants went in despair to a neighbouring monastery, and asked what they had better do under this calamity. The monks gave them several medals of St. Benedict, advising them to hang them on the walls of the houses which were still spared. The villagers followed this advice, and from that time they had no more cause to fear further ravages from fire.
In a certain part of Burgundy a distemper broke out amongst the cattle, and so virulent was it, that the cows gave blood instead of milk. They were perfectly cured on being made to drink water into which the medal of St. Benedict had been put.
This fact happened in the same year, 1665. The owner of a brick-kiln complained of not being able to bake the clay, no matter how intensely the kiln was heated. A medal of St. Benedict was fastened to the wall; the fire immediately regained its power, nor did the unnatural phenomenon again appear. This event happened about the same year as the last.
At the end of the pray I finished with this!
IN HIM With Him In The Unity of the Holy Spirit!
I live close to a Benedictine monsastery and as far as I know only Benedictines can bless them. It has to do with the exorcism power of the medal.
The Medal of St. Benedict must be blessed by a Benedictine Father, or by a priest especially authorized. [The blessing can now be given by any priest (Instr., 26 Sept. 1964; Can. 1168). Also, Dom Gueranger states that the Medal is powerful even without the special Benedictine blessing. Publisher, 1995]. There are three solemn prayers of the Church for the blessing of the Medal.
The first prayer is an exorcism of the wicked spirit, to make void his evil influence, with the earnest petition that the Medal be for the welfare of the body and soul of the wearer. The second prayer is a fervent petition:
O Almighty God, the Giver of all good gifts, we humbly beseech Thee that Thou wouldst bestow, through the intercession of the holy Father St. Benedict, Thy blessing upon these Medals, their letters and characters designed by Thee, that all who wear them and strive to perform good works may obtain health of body and soul, the grace of salvation, the indulgences conceded to us, and by the assistance of Thy mercy, escape the snares and deceptions of the devil and appear holy and stainless in Thy sight. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen
The third prayer is very impressive in virtue of the detailed and solemn commemoration of the agony, sufferings and death of Our Lord.
After the blessing, the Medals cannot be sold; otherwise, the blessing is lost. Medals must be bought before they are blessed.
Maybe the Benedictines are possessive of this blessing, but I have been told by them and by my parish priest that the St. Benedict medal needs to be blessed by a Benedictine.
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
The image of God, was faithfully preserved in you, O Father. For you took up the Cross and followed Christ. By Your actions you taught us to look beyond the flesh for it passes, rather to be concerned about the soul which is immortal. Wherefore, O Holy Benedict, your soul rejoices with the angels.
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
O sun that shinest with the Mystic Dayspring's radiance, who didst enlighten the monastics of the western lands, thou art worthily the namesake of benediction; do thou purge us of the filth of passions thoroughly by the sweat of thine illustrious accomplishments, for we cry to thee: Rejoice, O thrice-blessed Benedict.
I read the pope changed it in the sixties. Pope Paul. I am watching my team play football will investagate later. luv ya big sis! Praise Jesus!