St. Benedict is the patron of Europe, students, and Benedictine monasticism. He established the greatest and most famous of all monasteries at Monte Cassino, which became the home of the Benedictine Order. When he died there were 14 Benedictine communities, and by the 14th century there were over 30,000. There established his famous Rule which changed and renewed the monastic life of Europe.
St. Benedict was born in central Italy of good family, was educated at Rome, at 14 years of age joined a Christian group outside the city, and afterwards lived as a hermit in a mountain cave. During this period he made a close study of the Scriptures, and for the rest of his life, in complete self-dedication, gave all that God asked. "The finger of God had only to point, and he followed whatever the cost." The cave was a hidden retreat upon a barren mountainside, its whereabouts known only to a single friend who brought him food in secret, lowering it by rope over the mountain edge.
After three years he was chosen by the monks of a neighboring monastery to be their abbot, but so strict was his discipline and so stern his rebukes of their laxity that they sought to remove him, even attempting to poison him, and he was glad to escape to his mountain refuge.
But now he could not be alone, for disciples flocked to him. They came from every rank of life, and his cave was no longer convenient in view of the demands made upon him. He was subjected also to the jealous persecution of a local priest. In 527, therefore, he travelled to Monte Cassino, 85 miles southeast of Rome, on the summit of which stood an altar to Apollo; there he tore down the pagan shrine and established the greatest and most famous of all monasteries.
At Monte Cassino he established his famous Rule which changed and renewed the monastic life of Europe. He provided against vagabondage, immorality, and other evils then prevalent in religious houses. A monk was to be a soldier of God, "a member of a spiritual garrison holding duty for Christ in a hostile world"; and to be always on duty. It was a great and happy brotherhood with a strong family unity, so that wherever its members went they felt a common bond, and drew their strength from their home at Cassino, built upon the rock.