Saint Benedict. July 11 He is the father of Western Monasticism, most monks still follow his rule. Living as a hermit when he founded his order, a raven with bread offers him sustenance. He holds the Abbot’s staff. Jealous monks once tried to poison his wine; the snake of Satan is lurking in the chalice. The closed book is for mysterious teachings. Benedict was known for his supernatural gift of prophecy.
Francisco Ribalta Christ Embracing Saint Bernard (c. 1626) Christ leaves the cross for an instant in order to embrace Saint Bernard, founder of the Cistercian Order. The scene is based on one of the saint’s mystical visions, drawn from one of the most popular religious books of the Baroque era: Pedro de Ribadeneyra’s Flos Sanctorum or Book of the Lives of the Saints, published in 1599. (via Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain).
Pachomius, died 348 Father of Spiritual Communal Monastic Life. Before Pachomius, hermits would live in solitary cells in the desert. Pachomius gathered them in a community where they held all things in common and prayed together. His rule influenced both Basil the Great (14 Jun 379) and Benedict (11 Jul 547) who are accounted the founders of Eastern and Western monasticism respectively.
John Climacus: The Ladder of Divine Ascent. The classic of eastern Christendom, written for monks, this book calls for a high Christian commitment. It’s an ascetic handbook, so at times the message may seem harsh, but, read in context, the book is definitely worthy of the attention it has received.