St. Augustine was sent to England with forty monks, and Pope Gregory reminded him, after his consecration as bishop, that he must continue to live in community with his priests after the manner of the first Christians in Jerusalem. So, too, St. Boniface in Germany, and so, too, in other countries. Everywhere it was the community, and not merely the individual, which established the Church on a firm foundation, and supplanted barbaric customs by the ideas and habits of Christian civilization.
Around the monasteries there gathered a peaceful population that soon grew into the village and the town, these in time frequently modeling their local governments on the pattern of the Benedictine Rule. In addition to being zealous promoters of learning and letters, the monks were craftsmen and inventors, architects and copyists, and having done the work of printers before the age of printing, they first introduced it into Italy at Subiaco, and into England at Westminster.
Then again, by dint of skill and labor, the monks restored the knowledge and pursuit of agriculture. Trees, fruits, flowers, and vegetables were imported from one country to another and the healing virtues of plants and minerals were studied and applied to alleviate the sufferings of the sick.
The monasteries were hospitals and places of refuge for the weak and homeless, and the monks were always ready to defend the oppressed against the powerful, whether they were kings or nobles. Little does England reckon today how many of its ancient liberties it owes entirely to the monastic order.
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