May 06, 2014

St. Petronax of Monte Cassino

 Benedictine  Abbot
Feast Day : 6 May

St. Petronax is another obscure, but important saint in the history of the Benedictines. He was born about the year 670 in Brescia, Italy. As is true of many of the saints in the early centuries, we don't know anything about his birth, family or early life.

At some time in his younger years, he came to know Pope Gregory II, who encouraged him to make a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Benedict of Nursia at Monte Cassino. In 581, the Lombards had destroyed the monastery, which St. Benedict had built. In 718 Petronax found Benedict's tomb among the rubble of the monastery ruins.
Petronax also found a few solitaries living among the ruins. In the 8th century, the solitary life was a very common form of religious life in which one totally dedicated himself or herself to God through prayer and manual labor. Petronax decided to join the solitaries and because of his holiness of life, he was elected their superior.

Many disciples soon joined him and with the assistance of several noblemen, they were able to rebuild the monastery of Monte Cassino. Tradition tells us that Pope Gregory gave him an autographed copy of the Rule written by St. Benedict.

St. Willibald, the bishop of EichstΓ€tt is believed to have spent ten years at Monte Cassino under Petronax direction. Many other well known saints and nobleman are said to have spent time within the walls of this famous newly restored monastery.

Petronax spent the remainder of his life as abbot of Monte Cassino and is believed to have died of advanced age on May 6, 750. While we don't know many facts about his life, he must have been an impressive man to obtain the assistance of three popes and many noble families to rebuild this now famous monastery. He also must have been a very holy man to attract so many to the monastic life.

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