These sisters are, as I said before, Benedictine nuns, which means they follow the Rule of St. Benedict. Which led me to start thinking about the Medal of St. Benedict. Ever heard of it? It's a very old and important sacramental of the Church which is making a comeback. I've seen the medal around quite a bit and you probably have, too. I just did not know much about it. So, I decided to do a little research. Let's learn a little bit about sacramentals and the Medal of St. Benedict. Let's start with Benedict himself.
Who was St. Benedict?
St. Benedict of Nursia (d. 547) is widely considered to be the "father of Western monasticism" because he is credited with being the first person in Europe to write and adopt a specifically Christian "way of life" which was both practical and widely effective. According to St. Benedict's "rule", monks would live together in a monastic community (the monastery) with the times of their day mapped out and divided between work, prayer, rest and worship. Benedict's Rule soon became the model for Christian monasticism throughout Europe and spread like wildfire throughout the continent during the Middle Ages. It led to the development of very organized (yet autonomous) monasteries throughout Europe which played an important role of cohesion between rural, warring European societies throughout the centuries and which preserved much ancient European learning and culture. This is the reason that St. Benedict is considered to be the first patron saint of Europe. Benedict was a very holy and devout Christian. The motto of his monastery was "pax" which is Latin for "peace" because he believed that in living out the rule in harmony and holy obedience, inner and eternal Christian peace would result.
What is a Sacramental?
The Medal of St. Benedict
Many Catholics carry or wear a medal of their patron saint. And while St. Benedict was certainly an important figure in the historical Church, the Medal of St. Benedict is a little different than a regular saint's medal, because as much as it honors St. Benedict, it truly seeks to glorify and invokes the power of Christ's cross. The medal is two-sided: one side displays St. Benedict while the other displays a simple cross with letters that symbolize ancient invocations against Satan and evil. Maybe it's just a guy thing, but I think that the symbolism is super cool. Here is what you'll find on a St. Benedict Medal:
This side of the medal dates back to 1880 and underneath the image of the saint are inscribed the following: "Ex S M Casino MDCCCLXXX" which mean, "From holy Monte Casino, 1880". Monte Casino is the name of St. Benedict's first hilltop monastery, originally founded in the year 529, which can still be found about 80 miles outside of Rome.
St. Michael's Abbey in Metten, Germany. The self-professed witch did not know why she was particularly repulsed by that place. A search of the monastery revealed that many of the interior walls contained the symbol of the cross along with the initials of the Vade Retro Satana prayer, but the meaning of the initials were still unknown. Further searching turned up a manuscript in the monastery's library which had an illustration of St. Benedict (right) with the Vade Retro Satana prayer written in full, finally solving the centuries-old mystery of the meaning behind the initials.
The Place for Sacramentals Today
Are sacramentals such as the Medal of St. Benedict outdated? Are they a form of pious superstition? Have they been officially tossed? In a way, you might think so. After all, there is an entire generation of Catholic adults who look upon sacramentals as But you'd be wrong. The Church encourages today, as much as ever, the use of sacramentals such as the Medal of St. Benedict. In fact, we may very well be living in an age in which sacramentals are more important than ever. They are constant and tangible reminders of our holy Faith. They are powerful reminders of Christ's final dominion over all. They should help us to realize Christ conquers all and that in him (and only in him), we can overcome the worst that Satan tries to throw our way.
|A well-worn scapular.|
Go ahead. Pray your rosary regularly! Light a candle! Wear a scapular! And display the Medal of St. Benedict. Remember - you're goal in life is to become a saint (yes, you!). We need all the help we can get!