The Benedictine medal: a long history of devotion

The Benedictine medal: a long history of devotion

Fr Fabian Duggan OSB

With the possible exception of the Miraculous Medal, there is no other medal in Catholic piety with such a long history of devotion as the medal of St Benedict. It is also perhaps the only medal which carries with it an exorcisim against the power of Satan.

The origin of the medal goes back to the days of St Benedict himself (6th century) - not that he made such a medal, but his reliance on the power of the cross of Christ is the main feature on the medal.

The short life of St Benedict, as dictated by Pope St Gregory the Great, relates many instances when Benedict performed astounding miracles by invoking the power of the cross. One such example occurred when, against his will, he was chosen to be abbot of a monastery whose monks left a lot to be desired. Wishing to get rid of him because they found him too strict, the evil monks poisoned his cup of wine, which was immediately shattered "as if a stone had been thrown at it" when he blessed it with the sign of the cross.

On another occasion, the monks found it impossible to lift a certain building block of stone and called upon St Benedict for help. When he came he immediately saw Satan standing on the stone. With the sign of the cross the devil departed and the monks found they could lift the stone with ease.

For several centuries no one knew what the cryptic letters on the medal stood for. It was only in 1647 that a manuscript was discovered in a Bavarian monastery which unravelled the mystery. The letters stood for an ancient exorcisim which has now been incorporated into the medal, thus adding weight and power to the medal itself.

A new design of the medal was struck in 1880 under the supervision of the monks of Monte Cassino to mark the 1400th anniversary of the birth of St Benedict. Since that time, the Jubilee Medal of 1880 has proven to be more popular throughout the Christian world than any other medal in honour of St Benedict.

On the face of the medal is the image of St Benedict. In his right hand he holds aloft the cross as the symbol of salvation. On a pedestal to the right of St Benedict is the poisoned cup and at his left is a raven, a typical Benedictine symbol, about to carry away a poisoned loaf sent by a jealous enemy.

Written by Fr Fabian Duggan OSB, from the Wagga Wagga Diocese.

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