Today is the feast of St. Benedict of Nursia, the author of the Rule of St. Benedict who’s honored by many as the father of Western monasticism.
One of the earliest biographies of his life was written by Pope St. Gregory the Great, and it includes many stories of incredible miracles performed by the monk. Here are 7 of the best.
1) Broke a glass full of poison with the Sign of the Cross
The abbot of a nearby monastery died and the monks there asked St. Benedict if he would become their new abbot. He declined at first, but they insisted, so he agreed. Benedict was stricter than the previous abbot and soon the monks came to hate Benedict. They decided to kill him and put some poison in his glass of wine.
But when he made the Sign of the Cross to bless the wine, the wine glass suddenly broke as if a rock had been thrown at it. St. Gregory the Great writes in his telling of the story: “on which accident the man of God by and by perceived that the glass had in it the drink of death, which could not endure the sign of life.”
2) Saved a man from drowning by briefly becoming another person
A monk named Placidus was getting water from lake, accidentally fell in, and was swept away quickly by a current. Even though Benedict was a good distance from the lake, he miraculously knew what had happened and immediately ordered another monk Maurus to run to the lake to save Placidus.
When Maurus arrived at the lake, without thinking about it he ran across the surface of the lake, grabbed Placidus by the hair, and dragged him back to shore. He only realized he had walked on water after he was back on land. St. Gregory the Great writes that Maurus “marveled and was afraid of what he had done.”
And this is where things got a lot weirder. Talking about the event later that day, Maurus insisted that he had hardly been aware of walking on water as he was doing it. And Placidus? He claimed that the person who had pulled him from the water in the middle of the lake wasn’t wearing Maurus’ clothes, but Benedict’s.
In other words, in some mysterious way, although Maurus had been the one who went to the lake, Benedict had miraculously worked through him to walk on water and save Placidus.
3) Reading the minds of his monks
A few of his monks were sent to deliver a message to another town. For the length of the journey, Benedict ordered them to fast, as was their custom. But the trip took a bit longer than they were expecting and someone invited them to their house for a good meal and they accepted – who would know?
Benedict would. When they got back, he immediately asked them where they had been eating. When they said they hadn’t eaten anywhere, he told them where they had eaten and what they had eaten, including how many drinks they had had. Caught, as well as afraid of the fact that Benedict could know all the details of what they had done, they “fell down trembling at his feet” and confessed their sin.
4) Brought a child back to life
During a construction project at the abbey, Satan himself came to St. Benedict and told him that he planned on attacking the monks working on the project. Benedict at once sent a message of warning to the workers. Just as soon as the message arrived, a partially completed wall collapsed on a small boy who was helping with the work, killing him.
Grief stricken, the monks brought the dead, mangled body to Benedict, who laid the child’s corpse on a table, sent everyone out of the room, and started praying. Miraculously, the boy came back to life, his body healed of all injuries.
5) Moved a huge stone with his prayer
Some monks were busy building new cells at their abbey and came across a huge stone that blocked the path of their building. Even working all together, they were unable to move the stone.
So what did they do? Call St. Benedict of course! He said a prayer for them that the stone would move, and – voilà! – the monks were able to easily move the stone.
6) Exorcised a stubborn demon
A man in a nearby town was possessed by a demon, and his local bishop was unable to exorcise it. He sent the man to the shrines of many holy martyrs, but without any effect.
Finally, the bishop summoned Benedict, who called on Our Lord Jesus Christ in prayer and immediately freed the man of the demon. Benedict left them man with two rules to follow to avoid another demonic attack: (1) abstain from meat the rest of his life, and (2) do not try to enter the priesthood.
7) Unfazed by the Devil’s trickery
During construction, Benedict requested that the monks dig a deep hole in a certain spot. The monks found an old brass idol. For some reason, one of the monks set the idol in their kitchen; not with the intention of worshipping it, but just as a place to put it.
Suddenly, a massive fire broke out in the kitchen. Worried the fire might engulf their whole building, the monks called for Benedict, who said he saw no fire. When the monks insisted the kitchen was full of flames, Benedict realized that the flames were a trick of the Devil to scare them – a trick that was completely ineffective on him. He prayed that the monks would be freed from the deception, and they quickly were.
[See also: 11 Awesome Things You Can Buy from Monks]