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Keepers of the Flame: How Benedictines Preserve Truth, Goodness and Beauty

The world around us often feels adrift, crass, and devoid of depth. As Benedictines, we hold a different vision than what the world presents. We are called to be both protectors and cultivators of all that is beautiful, wise, and enduringly human.  Our rich history shows us it's a task undertaken through the ages – from safeguarding precious texts to nurturing the evolving expressions of the human spirit.

The Fall of Rome and the Keepers of Knowledge

In those chaotic centuries after the Roman Empire crumbled, Europe faced the threat of losing its vast intellectual and cultural heritage. Yet, within our Benedictine monasteries,  we focused on becoming sanctuaries of knowledge. Our forefathers recognized the preciousness of ancient texts– those legacies of philosophy, literature, and science that shaped the Western mind.

We are called to be both protectors and cultivators of all that is beautiful, wise, and enduringly human.

With meticulous care, the Benedictine monks of old copied and preserved those manuscripts. Their work in the scriptorium was more than creating books; they were safeguarding the link between a faltering present and the wisdom of the past.  Through their efforts, future generations would rediscover Cicero, Virgil, and Plato– giants whose insights still illuminate our path.

Preservation as a Living Tradition

Our commitment to preserving culture isn't confined to dusty volumes. Even today, within our monasteries, we practice traditional bookbinding, manuscript restoration, and the careful archiving of historical records. This allows us to share the past and keep our heritage accessible.

More broadly, we understand our role in shaping the culture around us. Our libraries,  museums and schools (like our own St. Bernard Preparatory School, for example) offer essential resources for education and enrichment. Monasteries themselves are living showcases of liturgical music, sacred art, and architecture – all evolving art forms that still offer beauty and inspiration today.

True culture isn't mere entertainment; it's nourishment for the soul.

The Cave-Dwelling Kid Who Changed the World

In this clip from his Pivotal Players series on Catholic saints, Bishop Barron takes us to St. Benedict’s cave and explains how a cave-dwelling teenager was the means by which God preserved ancient culture during the fall of Rome. Watch and learn how a young hermit saved our western civilization from extinction.

How to Cultivate and Defend Beauty in Your Own Life

As Benedictines, our devotion to the true, the good and the beautiful is deeply intertwined with our faith. We understand that culture can be a pathway to spiritual connection.  True culture isn't mere entertainment; it's nourishment for the soul.

In a world that often favors the fleeting and superficial, it's important to cultivate a love for the enduring:

  • Seek the Timeless: Immerse yourself in the great literature, music, and art from throughout history. These works hold profound insights and beauty that transcend any particular era.

  • Practice Discernment: Develop a discerning eye and ear. Not everything labeled as "culture" is equally enriching.

  • Embrace Beauty: Seek beauty in both nature and human creativity. Surround yourself with things that uplift and inspire.

  • Cultivate Silence and Reflection: Carve out quiet moments for prayer, meditation, or simply reflecting on the things you've read and experienced.

The Timeless Battle

Spiritual barbarians are ever-present, manifesting in the nihilism and culture of death that pervade our society.  It's easy to succumb to cynicism or despair. But our Benedictine charism reminds us that light outshines darkness. By preserving and fostering true culture, we fight back – we stand for wisdom, beauty, and the belief in the goodness of life itself.

Whether within a medieval scriptorium or our modern monasteries, our commitment to preserving culture is our sacred responsibility. In doing so, we honor the legacy of countless Benedictines before us, and most importantly, contribute to a world that values both knowledge and the richness of the human spirit.

Called to become a Benedictine monk?

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