There are many great works, miracles, and images associated with our great patron, St. Benedict of Nursia. Most identify him as the author of the famous Rule of St. Benedict, in which he provides instruction for monastic life. At St. Benedict Classical Academy, a common association is in reference to the famous Benedictine motto, “ora et labora”- “pray and work.”
Yet perhaps less well known is the significance of two images frequently used in depictions of St. Benedict. Benedictine images and symbols often include a raven holding a loaf of bread between its beak. St. Gregory the Great is known to have elaborated on the origin and story surrounding the raven in his Dialogues. He claims that St. Benedict regularly fed a raven from his own portion of bread at mealtime. On one occasion, a malicious priest poisoned the bread he was to consume. Knowing that the bread was tainted, St. Benedict called upon the raven to dispose of it and to ensure that no other being would be harmed. According to the story, the raven obeyed St. Benedict’s command and flew off with the poisoned bread.
The story of St. Benedict and the raven is not the only miraculous story involving a saint and an animal. Yet this story is particularly inspiring as it so clearly demonstrates the power of virtue, especially of charity and obedience. St. Benedict willingly sacrificed some of his own food to provide nourishment for the raven and the raven, in turn, remained obedient to St. Benedict in his hour of need. This lesson is one we frequently teach at St. Benedict Elementary- that in doing good, practicing virtue, and being charitable towards those around us, we allow God to work in our lives in beautiful ways. Those of us fortunate enough to witness the daily exchange of joy and love among children recognize that this too is a little miracle and one that so beautifully captures the spirit of St. Benedict and the mission of St. Benedict Elementary. Let us pray and work that we may grow in obedience, like the raven, towards God, and virtue, like our great and holy patron.
Author: Sarah Barry, Director of Admission