Today Benedictine monasteries throughout the world, including Downside Abbey, celebrate the Feast of St Benedict.
The universal Church celebrates him as Patron of Europe in July, but Benedictine communities celebrate his passing from this world to eternal life in heaven today. In his Dialogues, St Gregory the Great writes that, ‘Six days before he died, he gave orders for his tomb to be opened. Almost immediately he was seized with a violent fever that rapidly wasted his remaining energy. Each day his condition grew worse until finally, on the sixth day, he had his disciples carry him into the chapel where he received the Body and Blood of our Lord to gain strength for his approaching end. Then, supporting his weakened body on the arms of his brethren, he stood with his hands raised to heaven and, as he prayed, breathed his last.’
We celebrate the feast with solemn Vespers, antiphons at the Office, a great Mass with Downside School and a festal meal in the evening. A welcome relief from Lent!