After being a Benedictine for twelve years, it’s hard for me to admit that I have struggled feeling close to Saint Benedict. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a Benedictine Sister, and I appreciate the Rule that he left us and our way of life that is inspired by him. It’s just that I have found it hard to get to know Benedict as a real person, beyond the statues and stained-glass images. After all, it’s hard to identify with a guy who lived over fifteen hundred years ago. The little we do know of his life fits in one chapter of a book written by Saint Gregory the Great. Other than the Rule, we have no personal writing of Saint Benedict. And, there is no Hollywood Song of Bernadette-like movie about him.
This changed after visiting Subiaco a mere week ago! Subiaco, a 30-mile drive from Rome, is the place where St. Benedict withdrew from the world to be a hermit for three years. I was in the Sacro Speco, the Holy Cave where Benedict lived and prayed.
While spending time in the Holy Cave, I visualized Benedict at prayer. With the ear of my heart I could hear Benedict’s prayer and join my prayers to his. I could envision Benedict struggling with all of life’s big picture questions. I could identify with the tears he must have shed that come with compunction of the heart. I could bask in his awe-filled joy that comes with moments of deep prayer.
Clearly, I cannot say that I walked in Saint Benedict’s shoes by visiting Subiaco but going to Subiaco and visiting Sacro Speco helped me make the connection with Saint Benedict for which my heart and soul were yearning.