SAINT BENEDICT OF ANIAN (c.750-821), abbot
Today, the Church honors Saint Benedict of Anian, who left the honors and prestige of serving at royal court for a life of asceticism and prayer. Being recognized for embracing a life of personal sanctity, many souls were attracted to him, so that they may also embrace the monastic lifestyle.
The son of the governor of Languedoc, a former province of France, Benedict was born about the year 750 and given the name Witiza. In his early youth, he served as a cup-bearer to King Pepin and his son Charlemagne, enjoying great honors and possessions.
At the age of twenty, Witiza began seeking God in his life. Without relinquishing his place at court, he lived a very mortified life for three years; then, after a narrow escape from drowning, he made his vow to leave the secular world to which he was accustomed, and he entered the Saint Sequanus Monastery near Langres in north-eastern France, where he took the name Benedict.
In reward for his heroic austerities in the monastic way of life, God bestowed upon him the gift of tears, and inspired him with a knowledge of spiritual truths. As procurator for the monastery, he was very attentive to the needs of his religious brothers, and was also known for his hospitality to the poor as well as guests.
Upon the death of the current abbot, Benedict declined the appointment of abbot for the monastery, and returned to his own country at Languedoc. There, he built himself a small hermitage beside the Anian brook on his family’s estate, and lived some years in great solitude and poverty, praying continually that God would teach him to recognize His will, and make him faithfully respond to all that God would be asking of him.
When the fame of his sanctity became known throughout the countryside, many souls were drawn to him. As a result, Benedict felt obliged to build a large abbey, and, within a short time, became its abbot for three hundred monks.
Just as his namesake, Saint Benedict of Nursia who was the founder of Western monasticism, this Benedict of Anian became the great restorer of monastic discipline throughout France and Germany. First, he drew up a code of Rules, patterned after the first Saint Benedict, his patron, and, through penitential disciplines, he enforced their exact observance.
Secondly, he carefully regulated all matters regarding food, clothing, and every detail of life; and thirdly, by prescribing the same regimen for all the monks following his Rule, he sought to remove all jealousies, which resulted in promoting perfect charity.
In the Provincial Council at which he was present, held in the year 813 under King Charlemagne, it was declared that all monks of the West should adopt the rule of Abbot Benedict of Anian. He thus became known as the restorer of Western monasticism and is often called “the second Benedict”.
On February 11, 821, Abbot Benedict of Anian died of natural causes in Aachen, Germany. We commemorate his feastday on February 12.
(From ewtn.com/library, saints.sqpn.com, catholic-saints.info and magnificat.ca)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Commons for Religious ~ abbot)
“Lord, in Your abbot, Saint Benedict of Anian, You give an example of the Gospel lived to perfection. Help us to follow him by keeping before us the things of Heaven amid all the changes of this world.
“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”