The Benedictine Order was named after its founder, the abbot Benedict of Nursia (Norcia). Benedict, who was born in 480 in Nursia and died between 547 and 560, is regarded as the father of western monasticism and in 1964 was declared the Patron of Europe by Pope Paul VI. Information about his life can be found in the second book of the „Dialogues“, attributed to Pope Gregor the Great:
As a young man Benedict considered Rome to be decadent and left the city where he had been studying, to become a monk in the solitude of the mountains of Subiaco. As other young men started to join him he organised them into small monastic communities. Around 529 he moved south, to found a monastery at Montecassino which provided room for a large community.
Benedict`s historical significance lies primarily in his Rule which became the definitive norm for western monasteries in the 8th century and which has given spiritual guidance to countless people up to the present day. In his Rule, Benedict adopts the tradition of the monastic movement of the 4th and 5th centuries, and he himself refers to the „Holy Father“ Basilius and the writings of Cassian.
The 73 chapters of the Rule contain general principles of spiritual teaching and at the same time provide guidelines for the arrangement of community life. They show a high degree of openness and are characterised by discretio, by enlightened moderation, and by the gift of differentiation. The communal search for God requires the formal regulation of times and activities, of prayer (nothing should take precedence over service to God) and work, of eating and sleeping. Thus there arises a peaceful order in which one becomes aware of the equality of all people before God and of the common ownership of property, but which at the same time takes account of individual differences, needs and weaknesses.
The foundations of the Benedictine search for God are listening (the Rule begins: "Listen..., and incline the ear of your heart...“); obedience, as the search for God`s will (the community elects an abbot to interpret this); humility, which is described in chapter 7 as an imitation of the humiliation of Christ and the way to perfect love; stability (stabilitas), through which a monk keeps firmly on this path and remains in his community.