Recently our parish received a relic of Saint Benedict of Nursia (d. 582). We placed the reliquary with the relic in the corner shrine of the True Cross in the church. One of the front stained glass windows will have an image of Saint Benedict, too. And while we can’t all have our own personal relic of Saint Benedict, we can all have a Saint Benedict Medal (you can order a really cool St. Benedict Medal online from the Monkrock Webstore).
St. Benedict is a great saint to know, what with our world descending into darkness. We need monks and missionaries to bring a new infusion of grace to the world. So much of what we think of as Catholic comes to us from and through Benedict. When governments failed and barbarians invaded, Benedictine monks went out into the world armed with the Faith, the liturgy, and the Gospel to transform their world, which became our world. The books we read today from antiquity are here because the Benedictines copied them by hand. There are plenty of reasons to honor St. Benedict, as chances are we can all trace our Catholic heritage back to him spiritually in many ways.
So not surprisingly, on one side of the medal, we see St. Benedict blessing us with the cross, while in his other hand, he holds the Rule of his order. If we look carefully, we can find a broken cup and a raven. Once when evil men tried to poison St. Benedict, the cup of wine broke and a raven carried away the bread before he could take a sip or bite. Thus did God prevent his murder. On this side of the medal, we find the year 1880, and a reference to Monte Casino. Monte Casino is the mother abbey of the Benedictines where St. Benedict is buried, and so it has the exclusive right to strike these medals. The year 1880 was the 1400th anniversary of Benedict’s birth and on that occasion the medal was updated, but the medal and its prayers go back centuries before that. Around the circle we read (in Latin), “May we, at our death, be fortified by his presence.” A St. Benedict Cross is a crucifix with one of these medals imbedded within it. These are sometimes called The Cross of the Happy Death. Saint Benedict died in prayer in Church, having received the last rites and Holy Communion, and surrounded by his brother monks. Thus many Catholics have piously kissed or worn the St. Benedict Cross in the hour of their deaths, commending their souls to God.
Still, this is more than just a medal honoring St. Benedict. This medal is a tool in the spiritual struggle against evil, as it contains upon it the initial letters of several prayers and prayers of exorcism that are repulsive to the devil. Traditionally, if someone felt a diabolical influence in their lives, they would begin to wear a St. Benedict Medal. So, on the other side of the medal, we see the word PAX above the cross, meaning “peace,” which was the first word uttered by the risen Savior to his disciples. Then we see another 27 letters. It is interesting that over the generations, the meaning of these letters was forgotten, but then someone found an explanation of the letters in a scriptorium, so now we know again their meaning.
- In the four quarters around the cross, we see “CSPB” that stands for “Crux Sancti Patris Benedicti,” i.e., “The Cross of our Holy Father Benedict.”
- Within the cross, we see “CSSML-NDSMD” which stands for “Crux sacra sit mihi lux! Nunquam draco sit mihi dux!” i.e., “The Holy Cross be my light! Let not the devil be my overlord.”
- Encircling the cross, we find “VRSNSMV-SMQLIVB” which stands for “Vade retro Satana! Nunquam suade mihi vana! Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas!” i.e., “Depart Satan! Never tempt me with your vanities! Evil are the things you offer. Drink the poison yourself!”
Filled with symbols and letters as it is, this medal is simply a piece of metal if it isn’t properly blessed. Only a Catholic priest can bless these medals, and you’ll need to take him this specific prayer (see below) for this blessing (print out two copies, as you will need to pray with him the responses). Before you get started, remind the priest that the prescribed ritual calls for the use of holy water as well. Once blessed, the St. Benedict Medal can become a powerful tool in our arsenal for the spiritual walk. But remember, this is not superstitious. The medal is but the outward sign of our internal disposition. Thus, this medal represents prayer.
THE PROPER BLESSING FOR A ST. BENEDICT MEDAL
Priest: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Response: Who made heaven and earth.
Priest: In the name of God the Father † almighty, who made heaven and earth, the seas and all that is in them, I exorcise these medals against the power and attacks of the evil one. May all who use these medals devoutly be blessed with health of soul and body. In the name of the Father † almighty, of his Son † Jesus Christ our Lord, and of the Holy † Spirit the Paraclete, and in the love of the same Lord Jesus Christ who will come on the last day to judge the living and the dead, and the world by fire. R. Amen.
Priest: Let us pray. Almighty God, the boundless source of all good things, we humbly, ask that, through the intercession of St. Benedict, you pour out your blessings † upon these medals. May those who use them devoutly and earnestly strive to perform good works be blessed by you with health of soul and body, the grace of a holy life, and remission of the temporal punishment due to sin. May they also, with the help of your merciful love, resist the temptations of the evil one and strive to exercise true charity and justice toward all, so that one day they may appear sinless and holy in your sight. This we ask through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.
The priest sprinkles the medals with holy water.