Raising a Benedict

Benedict is our first child, and he was named on purpose. In a world that is increasingly anti-God and anti-religion, my wife and I desire Ben, and all of our children, to stand against the curve and proclaim Christ above everything else.

Stained-glass window depicting St. Benedict of Nursia
Stained-glass window depicting St. Benedict of Nursia (photo: Shutterstock)

He was born Oct. 6, 2020. Benedict is our first child, and he was named on purpose. In a world that is increasingly anti-God and anti-religion, my wife and I desire Ben, and all of our children, to stand against the curve and proclaim Christ above everything else. 

Being named after St. Benedict of Nursia and Pope Benedict XVI was where we started. 

We celebrate the feast day of St. Benedict (480-547) on July 11 every year. This giant of a saint is critical for Church history and for society. There is so much that could be said about his life and works. However, it is his relevance for how to become and remain holy in a broken world that is most pivotal for us today.

In a 2008 Wednesday audience, Pope Benedict XVI noted that in the time of St. Benedict, “the world was overturned by a tremendous crisis of values and institutions caused by the collapse of the Roman Empire … and the decay of morals.” 

Today’s world is not that different from that of St. Benedict’s. Many people have forgotten that faith is the glue that holds humanity together; we as a human family collectively neglect to keep Christ at the center of everything. 

The Pope noted that much of the biographical information we have on the saint of Nursia is from the second book of The Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great. This work chronicles many miracles of St. Benedict. In his introduction, Gregory writes a short phrase that summarizes the importance of Benedict: “his age was inferior to his virtue.” Raising a Benedict in today’s world means that we are called to remember this simple slogan and live by it, rejecting calls to conform to this age out of a fear of “not fitting in” and transcending the mess for the holy life that is being offered to us at each moment. 

It is also clear that not all parents hold faith to be a priority, which can make this challenge even more difficult. This can be seen in the results of a recent study. A 2023 Pew Research study found that parents tend to prioritize finances and hard work over everything else. “Roughly nine-in-ten parents say it’s extremely or very important to them that their children be financially independent when they are adults, and the same share say it’s equally important that their children have jobs or careers they enjoy.”

Only 35% of parents said they hoped that their children have the same religious beliefs as they do when they grow up. 

We would do well in light of these gloomy findings to keep our focus on Christ. That is why Benedict wrote his Rule of Life. To worship Jesus, and him alone, requires humility and obedience. This is what St. Benedict teaches as paramount to the Christian life. “The first degree of humility is obedience without delay. This is becoming to those who value nothing as more dear to them than Christ” (The Rule, Ch. 5). For this reason, God gives us commands — not to control us, as the world might think, but to instruct us towards living according to what and Who we were made for. As parents, even though it can be tough at times, it is those commands we must rely on. 

In Benedict’s description of obedience, he also makes reference to the words of Christ, “How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:14). We must strive as parents and as Catholics to reject the easy route and cling to the sacrificial way of Calvary. 

We have found that remaining steadfast to being a great parent rather than a comfortable dad and mom is the key. It requires zeal. Saying evening prayers with the kids before bed and praying before chaotic meals is part of domestic-church life that was different from St. Benedict’s monastic life, but it also requires zeal of the Gospel, of which the great saint spoke. 

“Let monks exercise this [good] zeal …” Benedict said. 

“Let them most patiently tolerate their infirmities whether physical or of character; let them compete in yielding obedience; let none follow what he judges convenient to himself, but rather what he judges convenient to another … on no account let them exalt anything above Christ” (The Rule, Ch. 72). 

As Pope Benedict XVI once said, the zeal of Christ is “a zeal of love that pays in person.” 

It requires that we give our entire self; it requires constant sacrificial love. While the statistics show that some parents might be more interested in bank accounts than in handing down the faith, let us accept the call to raise another Benedict, to place the worship of Christ above all else. It is that, and that alone, that can allow God to be born anew in us, in our culture and in our country and our world.