In the (Old Testament) Book of Wisdom the writer makes it clear that wisdom is not something one learns in a classroom or by obtaining knowledge, but that it comes from seeking after the ways of God through prayer. The author realizes that to have wisdom we must behave the way God does, with mercy and love. Indeed the most beautiful part of the Book of Wisdom comes when the author shows how God’s mercy is connected with wisdom when he writes, “But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook sins for the sake of repentance. For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made.” (Wisdom 11:23-24; but do read all of it from 11:23-12:1.) That Jesus continued to emphasize this message of mercy and love is evidence that this is important to our growth in holiness. The wise one is the holy one, and the holy one is the one who shows mercy and love.
Born into slavery, Benedict was given his freedom when he was 18, becoming a day laborer due to his lack of education. He was ridiculed for being generous to the poor, but he remained unperturbed by this, ministering to the sick and sharing what little he had. At 21 he entered the Franciscans in Palermo, spending the first part of his ministry as a lay worker in the kitchen. But after the head of the friary died, this simple man who could neither read nor write was chosen to be the new leader. He was said to have possessed divinely-given knowledge of the Scriptures and of deep theological truths, “which astounded learned men and aided him in the direction of souls.” * St. Benedict was generous to the poor throughout his entire life and miracles were reported through his intercession. It was said that at times his faced glowed radiantly, especially when he was at prayer. Toward the end of his life he willingly returned to his humble position in the kitchen, dying at the hour he said he would, having lived a life of service, mercy, compassion, and spiritual wisdom. This is a man who truly lived the gospel, even though he could not read a word.
©Michele L. Catanese
* The quote is from an excellent article on St. Benedict the Black found at http://www.roman-catholic-saints.com/st-benedict-the-moor.html. Another good resource is found at http://catholicsaints.info/saint-benedict-the-black/.
Note: The next post will be on August 28.
1. This is a photo I took in Maine at the Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse. I chose this for the beginning of the post because lighthouses are often symbolic of seeking and finding since they are meant to safely guide mariners to the ports that they seek.
2. This is a photo of a church almost hidden in the reeds from a vantage point at the Jordan River in Israel. I took this picture with the intention of the church being seen obscurely and therefore I chose it here for the same reason: it takes a bit of effort to seek and find. Quite often what we seek appears gradually, but it is worth the effort.
3. This icon is called The Silence of St. Thomas Aquinas by Fr. William Hart McNichols. I chose to use it here because it completely captures the point I was making about some of the brilliant theologian saints. St. Thomas was more than a brilliant thinker; he was a mystic and a holy man. In this icon he is seen contemplating holy wisdom which he finds in the profound silence of prayer. He could not have lived the holy life he did, nor could he have written a word, without obtaining spiritual wisdom. This icon can be found at https://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-silence-of-st-thomas-aquinas-097-william-hart-mcnichols.html.
4. This painting of St. Benedict the Black is from Mexico. I chose it because it shows the Saint in great simplicity, dressed in his Franciscan robes, his face aglow with the love of God. I love that his heart is in his hand, as if he is about to offer it to the viewer. It reminds me of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and perhaps the artist meant for us to realize the Benedict's heart had become one with the heart of Christ. It is an absolutely stunning painting which captures the true essence of this great Saint as well as the connection between wisdom and love.
5. This is another of my photos, taken in Fort Davis National Park in Fort Davis, TX. I chose it here because it shows a vista which would be a difficult path for one to try to cross.
6. This final image is one of seven paintings of the same subject done by Vincent van Gogh, one of his Sunflowers series. I chose this particular one because of his predominant usage of shades of yellow. It seems to capture light and life, especially if you look closely and notice the texture that he used in some of the flowers. By adding texture he has made these sunflowers burst with life.