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Book Two of the Dialogues: Life of Saint Benedict


At the same time a certain clergyman, that served in the church of Aquinum, was possessed: whom the venerable man Constantius, Bishop of the same city, sent to many places of holy martyrs for help: but God's holy martyrs would not deliver him, to the end that the world might know what great grace was in the servant of God, Benedict: wherefore at length he was brought to him, who, praying for help to Jesus Christ our Lord, forthwith cast the old enemy out of the possessed man's body, giving him this charge: "Go your way, and hereafter abstain from eating of flesh, and presume not to enter into holy orders, for whenever you shall attempt any such thing, the devil again will have power over you."

The man departed safe and sound, and because punishment fresh in memory used to terrify the mind, he observed for a time what the man of God had given him in commandment. But after many years, when all his seniors were dead, and he saw his juniors preferred before him to holy orders, he neglected the words of the man of God, as though forgotten through length of time, and took on him holy orders: whereupon immediately the devil that before had left him entered again, and never ceased to torment him, until he had separated his soul from his body.

PETER: This holy man, as I perceive, knew the secret counsel of God: for he saw that this clergyman was delivered to the power of the devil, to the end he should not presume to enter into holy orders.

GREGORY: Why should he not know the secrets of God, who kept the commandments of God: when as the scripture says: "He that cleaves to our Lord, is one spirit with him?" [1 Cor. 6:17]

PETER: If he that cleaves to our Lord, be one spirit with our Lord, what is the meaning of that which the Apostle says: "Who knows the sense of our Lord, or who hath been his counselor?" [Rom. 11:34], for it seems very inconvenient to be ignorant of his sense, to whom being so united he is made one thing.

GREGORY: Holy men, in that they be one with our Lord are not ignorant of his sense: for the same Apostle says: "For what man knows those things which belong to man, but the spirit of man which is in him? Even so, the things which belong to God, no man knows, but the spirit of God." And to show also that he knew such things as belong to God, he added straight after: "But we have not received the spirit of this world, but the spirit which is of God." And for this cause, again he says: "that eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor it hath ascended into the heart of man, those things which God hath prepared for them that love him, but God hath revealed to us by his spirit." [1 Cor. 2:9-12]

PETER: If, then, the mysteries of God were revealed to the same Apostle by the spirit of God, why did he then, entreating of this question, set down these words beforehand, saying: "O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God: how incomprehensible be his judgments, and his ways investigable?" [Rom. 11:33]

And again, whiles I am thus speaking of this matter, another question comes to my mind: for the prophet David said to our Lord: "With my lips have I uttered all the judgments of thy mouth," [Ps. 118 (119):13]. Wherefore, seeing it is less to know, than to utter: what is the reason that St. Paul affirmed the judgments of God to be incomprehensible; and yet David said that he did not know only them, but also with his lips pronounce them?

GREGORY: To both these questions I have already briefly answered, when I said that holy men, in that they be one with our Lord, are not ignorant of the sense of our Lord. For all such, as do devoutly follow our Lord, be also by devotion one with our Lord; and yet for all this, in that they are laden with the burden of their corruptible flesh, they be not with God: and so in that they be joined with him, they know the secret judgments of God, and in that they be separated from God, they know them not: for seeing they do not as yet perfectly penetrate his secret mysteries, they give testimony that his judgments be incomprehensible.

But those that adhere to him with their soul, and cleaving to the sayings of the holy scripture, or to secret revelations, acknowledge what they receive: such persons both know these things and do utter them: for those judgments which God does conceal they know not, and those which he does utter they know: and therefore the prophet David, when he had said: "I have with my lips uttered all the judgments;" [Ps. 118(119):13], he added immediately, "of thy mouth," as though he should plainly say: Those judgments I may both know and utter, which I knew you spoke, for those things which you do not speak, without all question, you conceal from our knowledge.

Wherefore the saying of David and St. Paul agree together: for the judgments of God are incomprehensible; and yet those which himself with his own mouth deigned to speak, are uttered with men's tongues: because men may come to the knowledge of them, and being revealed, they may be uttered, and by no means can be kept secret.

PETER: Now I see the answer to my question. But I pray you to proceed, if anything yet remains to be told of his virtue and miracles.


OSB Index | Gen. Information | Saint Benedict


25 July 2001
Order of Saint Benedict
Collegeville, MN 56321-2015


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