It is a fact of history that
St. Benedict and his monks were the saviors of Western civilization.
What they did was this: in the midst of a crumbling civilization, the monks
kept the best from Roman and Greek civilization, then Christianized both
classical heritages. The combination of the best from Rome, Greece and
Christianity was the foundation of the golden age of Europe. The feat is
unparalleled even today.
The arrangement of Benedict's monks
went this way: he organized small groups of monks living intensely the
fullness of the Gospel, dispersed all over Europe, but all were one mind and
one heart in the permanent worship of the name of God. They had no
central government. Perfect obedience to the Holy Rule was what made
them one heart and one mind, in spite of the distance.
The Abbot had absolute power
in each monastery and the total responsibility for the well-being of the
monastery. The monasteries were powerful, independent islands of
spirituality and compassion and learning in a world wracked by savagery.
St. Benedict, himself, describes his
monasticism as a rule of life for beginners and suggests that anyone who
would want to climb higher in the ladder of perfection should read the Long
Rules of St. Basil and the Institutes of John Cassian.
Because the monks observed "fuga mundo",
that is, fleeing from the world, they become unaffected by the evils of the
world. Unfortunately, many Benedictine monks and nuns do not observe
this anymore. Their exposure to the world has made them part of the
world. It is impossible to attain the goals of monasticism if one is
constantly exposed to the world. However, separation from the world
does not automatically make them saints. It is separation from the
world that makes it easier for them to become saints.