San Benedetto

The birthplace of St. Benedict in Nursia has always drawn men from faraway lands to seek God after the pattern established by the great saint’s Rule. Immersed in the peace and beauty of the enveloping Sibylline Mountains, monks for more than 15 centuries have engaged in spiritual warfare for their own salvation while also imploring God for the welfare for those in town.

The community of Benedictines who live there today, often known to the world simply as "The Monks of Norcia", adhere to the ancient observance of the Rule of St. Benedict. ('Norcia' is the modern name in Italian for the place described as 'Nursia'.)The monks are building a new monastery on the mountainside where they will live out a life dedicated exclusively to God.

The monks are restoring a dilapidated 16th-century monastery overlooking the Valley of St. Scholastica.

Their historic church was the only church in Norcia that remained standing after a massive earthquake struck Norcia in 2016, though it was severely damaged.

In 2019, after breaking ground and beginning to raise the walls of their new home, the monks added a motto to the monastery’s crest: Nova Facio Omnia. Taken from the Book of the Apocalypse, it describes the New Jerusalem in all its splendor and underlines what Christ does for all who cooperate with His plan: “Behold, I make all things new!”



In his great Rule, St. Benedict says that a monk's life should be a perpetual Lent. And for St. Benedict, the monk "was a normal layman who wanted to dedicate more of his time to God. The whole Christian life should be a Lenten preparation for our great hope: eternity in Heaven. This does not mean great feats, but great desire.

If we want to see Him face-to-face in the next life, we have to start preparing for that now. For monk or layman, that means giving up certain things that, while they may be good in themselves, can take away a bit from our dedication, devotion and self-giving to God. As the modern practices of weight training and gymnastics have shown, the pain of exercise gives way to lightness and freedom. Likewise, our will needs training to love more and to love better.

One of the main ways to prepare is through fasting. The traditional, ancient idea of fasting is simple: not eating. The fast is usually broken after a certain liturgical prayer, whether it's midday prayer, Sext, or later afternoon prayer, None, or even Vespers, which is in the evening, not long before sunset. What seems extraordinary now, was once the norm for all Christians and not just monks. The "Great Fast," from September 14 to Easter, was once common for all Christians, even in times when hard manual labour and journeys on foot were common. St. Benedict even rebukes a layman who broke the fast on an hours-long journey to visit him.

While the monks mainly eat the same variety of simple dishes throughout the year, which is based on seasonal ingredients that we have been growing in the garden, there are a few special Lenten recipes we prepare during this penitential period. Here is one that you might like to try at home with family or friends.

St Benedict’s Lenten Lentils (serves 4-6)



  1. Sauté the minced carrot, celery, onion and garlic in olive oil for 10 minutes.
  2. Add stock, lentils, bay leaf; bring to a boil and then simmer gently for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add diced tomatoes and salt to taste, continue cooking for at least 15 more minutes, until lentils are tender and have slightly thickened.
  4. Remove the lentils from the heat source and let them sit covered for 10 minutes (this will help thicken them).
  5. Serve drizzled with olive oil and accompanied by toasted bread.

Such recipes help us during Lent to mark the season, but fasting for long periods is difficult. One might begin the practice by trying to skip breakfast, or having a small one. You could still have coffee or tea, but try not having anything to eat until lunch.

In the spiritual life, success is not the measure, but purity of heart, so the important thing is to try.

You can download a pdf version of this recipe here