c. 480-550

What’s known about the father of Western monasticism is from the “Dialogues of (Pope) St. Gregory the Great.” Sent to Rome to study, 20-year-old Benedict shunned the city’s wickedness to take up solitary living in Subiaco. He stayed there for about 25 years, with disciples he organized into 12 small communities. Around 529 he established the monastery at Monte Cassino, near Naples, where he spent the rest of his life and finalized his famous Rule, which spread throughout Western Europe. St. Scholastica was his sister; St. Gregory describes their spiritual talks and moving final meeting. Benedict is the patron saint of Europe and of spelunkers, perhaps because some of his early foundations were in caves or grottoes.

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