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Saints for work and play

Many people seek a balance of work and play in their lives. But for St. Benedict, whose feast day is July 11, the real balance was “work and pray.” Benedict, the father of Western monasticism and co-patron of Europe, based his rule of community religious life on the principle of “ora et labora,” that is, prayer and work.

Benedict lived 1,500 years ago (480 A.D.-547 A.D.) in Nursia, a village in the mountains north of Rome. As a young man, he went to Rome to study, but was appalled by the wild lives led by his fellow students. He fled school and lived as a hermit in the mountains south of Rome, near Subiaco.

Monks Revolt!

After three years, word of Benedict’s holiness attracted a group of monks, who asked him to become their leader. He warned them that his way of life would be too strict for them, but they insisted. It wasn’t too long, though, before the monks realized Benedict was right. They attempted to poison him rather than live under his monastic rules. Their plot didn’t work. Benedict blessed the pitcher of poisoned wine, which shattered. Benedict wrote what is now called “The Rule of St. Benedict,” which still directs communal religious life 1,500 years later.

The rule divided the monks’ day into periods of work punctuated by prayer at specific times of the day. This prayer – the Divine Office – was also work: the work of God. Even a monk far from the monastery’s chapel was supposed to stop whatever labor he was doing, fall to his knees, and pray in communion with his fellow monks. Study of Scripture through sacred reading – up to four or more hours a day – was also part of the monks’ work.

Leisure Time Saints

But all work and no play makes for dull Christians. Just as there are patron saints for most occupations, there are also patron saints for many leisure pursuits. Like to visit the zoo on Saturday? St. Francis of Assisi is the saint for you. Do your grandchildren fill your free time? Say a special thank you to St. Anne and St. Joachim, patron saints of grandparents.

Check out the list below for more leisure time saints. If you want to know how they got to be the patron of that activity, trek to your nearest library and check out “Butler’s Lives of the Saints,” or visit the saints page on the Web at www.catholic.org.  

Acting: St. Genesius

Archery: St. George, St. Sebastian

Bicyclists: La Madonna di Ghisalo

Cavers, Spelunkers: St. Benedict

Coin Collectors: St. Eligius

Fishing: St. Peter, St. Andrew

Horseback Riding: St. George, St. Martin of Tours

Hunting: St. Eucstachius, St. Hubert of Liege

Ice Skating and Roller skating: St. Ludwina of Shiedam

Libraries: St. Jerome, St. Catherine of Alexandria

Needlework, Embroidery: St. Clare of Assisi, St. Rose of Lima

Travelers: St. Christopher, St. Brendan the Navigator

Volunteers: St. Vincent de Paul