St. Benedict of Nursia

St. Benedict and the Stars,  35" x 60," Oil on panel, by Melissa Carmon

St. Benedict and the Stars, 35" x 60," Oil on panel, by Melissa Carmon


Saint Benedict
The fires are burning.
Man who knows,
who watches from shadows
waits, and all the while
tends flame

Little lights
oh yes they are small,
but patiently
your hands set to work
never ceasing

Little lights
set in strings
form veins
bring life

“In the black night of history
you yourself were a star”

In truth, we have forgotten what the
darkness was like
we have forgotten that many things live
in a dark wood,
and that the hungry grey bark
of trees swallows sound

"The jar is broken, Benedict,”
They say.  But Benedict doesn’t listen
he is too busy weaving

The monasteries, like knots
monasteries, like diamonds, 
set like constellations on the mountains
illuminated letters like gems
they span the skies

Benedict, with peace in death
a steady step,  and steady hands
once put in motion, the momentum
rolls across centuries
Dust to dust, perhaps. 
But life to life as well.  

"The woods are full of ghosts, Benedict."
But he doesn’t answer.  He only smiles. 
And looks down to kindle another light.


Historical background: 

St. Benedict (480 CE - 547 CE) In the tumultuous period that was the middle ages, when Europe was reshaped (and some say had disintegrated) after the fall of the Roman Empire, a small volume called the Rule of Saint Benedict, with wisdom for living successfully with one another in community, changed the world forever. Many monasteries were facing collapse, but the wisdom of Saint Benedict caught on— country by country, hamlet by hamlet, hill by hill. His good advice, which went against the strong Roman ideal of the pater familias, swept the continent. The monasteries were stabilized and began to flourish. They preserved the classical writings of the ancients—texts that were later resurrected in the Renaissance. They taught literacy, preserved libraries, and painted illuminated manuscripts. Their dedication to the preservation of learning was to influence culture drastically in the centuries to come. But at the time, Benedict was simply true to his vision.  The recent Pope Benedict, who adopted his name, said of him, “In the dark night of history, you yourself were a star.”