St Benedict

On July 11, it is the feast of St Benedict. The Tablet has joined other publications in claiming that this is a prayer by St Benedict of Nursia:

O Lord, I place myself in your hands and dedicate myself to you. I pledge myself to do your will in all things: To love the Lord God with all my heart, all my soul, all my strength. Not to kill. Not to steal. Not to covet. Not to bear false witness. To honour all persons. Not to do to another what I would not wish done to myself. To chastise the body. Not to seek after pleasures. To love fasting. To relieve the poor. To clothe the naked. To visit the sick. To bury the dead. To help in trouble. To console the sorrowing. To hold myself aloof from worldly ways. To prefer nothing to the love of Christ. Not to give way to anger. Not to foster a desire for revenge. Not to entertain deceit in the heart. Not to make a false peace. Not to forsake charity. Not to swear, lest I swear falsely. To speak the truth with heart and tongue. Not to return evil for evil. To do no injury: yea, even to bear patiently any injury done to me. [To love my enemies. Not to curse those who curse me, but rather to bless them. To bear persecution for justice’ sake. Not to be proud. Not to be given to intoxicating drink. Not to be an over-eater. Not to be lazy. Not to be slothful. Not to be a murmured. Not to be a detractor. To put my trust in God. To refer the good I see in myself to God. To refer any evil in myself to myself. To fear the Day of Judgment. To be in dread of hell. To desire eternal life with spiritual longing. To keep death before my eyes daily. To keep constant watch over my actions. To remember that God sees me everywhere. To call upon Christ for defence against evil thoughts that arises in my heart. To guard my tongue against wicked speech. To avoid much speaking. To avoid idle talk. To read only what is good to read. To look at only what is good to see. To pray often. To ask forgiveness daily for my sins, and to seek ways to amend my life. To obey my superiors in all things rightful. Not to desire to be thought holy, but to seek holiness. To fulfil the commandments of God by good works. To love chastity. To hate no one. Not to be jealous or envious of anyone. Not to love strife. Not to love pride. To honour the aged. To pray for my enemies.] To make peace after a quarrel, before the setting of the sun. Never to despair of your mercy, O God of Mercy. Amen.

The living Spirit and liturgical calendar – The Tablet

The Tablet sources the prayer as “ST BENEDICT OF NURSIA FROM THE HEART iN PILGRIMAGE: A PRAYERBOOK FOR CATHOLIC CHRISTIANS (BLOOMSBURY CONTINUUM, 2014)”. The Tablet omits the section I have indicated by [ ], replacing that by “…”.

The prayer is found at places such as EWTN, Catholic Company,… In each case, it is claimed that this is a prayer by St Benedict.

It isn’t.

This is actually a “prayer” version of Chapter 4 of The Rule of St Benedict – “The Instruments of Good Works”. The translation of the Rule that the prayer uses is by Rev. Boniface Verheyen, OSB. (1844-1923). The language has been made gender inclusive (and “4. Not to commit adultery” is omitted – as are other lines!)

There are a number of famous prayers that are attributed to saints – and scholars trace the history to (attempt to) demonstrate that the saint didn’t produce this particular prayer. Sorry.

In this case, the prayer isn’t simply “attributed” to St Benedict. Without any explanation, a prayer that we know isn’t St Benedict’s is claimed to be his. We know very little about St Benedict. There are even claims he isn’t a historical person.

The only recognized authority for the facts of Benedict’s life is book 2 of the Dialogues of St. Gregory I, who said that he had obtained his information from four of Benedict’s disciples.

St. Benedict (Britannica)

The prayer can be seen as a prayerful reflection on a Chapter of the Rule. That’s how it should be presented. I am surprised that a journal as scholarly as The Tablet passes it off as a prayer by St Benedict.

Similar Posts: