Friday, 17 July 2020

As we approach his octave day...

Our Holy Father St Benedict

Saturday 11th is one of the great feasts of St Benedict, our holy patron, after whom we are named. His main feast is March 21st, but this secondary feast is of a high rank for us. There are unholy doings attached to this date, and you may not be surprised to find that they involve the French!

There was a certain learned French Priest in the 7th century, who wished to go and venerate the body of Holy Benedict, and went to the place where the Saint had died, about 70 miles from Rome. There was no place which marked St Benedict’s tomb, so the Priest prayed, and the spot was revealed to one of his company. They dug and found two holy saints under a marble slab, St Benedict and his sister St Scholastica. They gathered the holy relics and took them back to Fleury in France. St Scholastica ended up in Le Mans. So this is how St Benedict ended up with two dates; the traditional date of his death, March 21st, and the date of his translation to Fleury, July 11th. The Italians and the monks of Montecassino either deny that this took place at all, or that the holy bones were swiped in a nefarious way by French priest or priests unknown.

So what about unholy doings? Well. Before 1066 ad, (and all that) and the slight little invasion by the French under William the Conqueror, we Benedictines celebrated our Saint on the usual day of March 21st… but, behold, here comes the French, and they keep the celebration on July 11th! The date of the triumphant translation (theft) of St Benedict to Fleury, and “hurrah for the French because we have the bone of St Benedict, so should be top nation and take over England”. The English monks were not too pleased at this, but the new Archbishop Lanfranc (starting life as an Italian, then a Benedictine Abbot in Bec in Normandy) was made Archbishop of Canterbury in 1070ad, after Archbishop Stigand had been deposed. So, to reinforce all things French in the New World Order under King William, Lanfranc imposed July 11th as the feast of St Benedict.

Such skulduggery! Such unholy doings! So dastardly! So underhand! So typical!

We English monks quietly obeyed… and had a huge celebration on both days! We are in the middle of St Benedict’s Octave - eight days of compulsory celebrations, so thanks Lanfrac, because we keep March 21st as well!

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