The Order of Saint Benedict is founded on the Rule of saint Benedict, who was born in the second half of the 5th century (around 480 in Norcia, the Province of Umbria, Italy). He studied very little in Rome and disgusted by the corrupted lifestyle of Romans, he left the city to live the monastic life.
He went and lived into a cave in Subiaco where he founded twelve monasteries of twelve monks each. However, he had to leave Subiaco and move to Mount Cassino. There, he built a monastery to which he gave a rule that reached us as the Rule of Saint Benedict.
Benedict conceived his legislation as a “minimum Rule … for beginners” whose observance will help them “attain to the loftier heights of doctrine and virtue” (cf. chap 73). With this mindset in its composition, the rule appeared to be very flexible and easy to fulfill by anyone. For example, Benedict allowed wine, though with a bit of embarrassment, to his monks (RB 40): “We read, it is true, that wine is by no means a drink for monks; but since the monks of our day cannot be persuaded of this, let us at least agree to drink sparingly and not to satiety, because “wine makes even the wise fall away”; he allowed meat for the sick brothers (RB 39). At the vigil, he reduced the number of psalms from 24 in the roman office to 12 in his rule. For the vespers, 4 psalms instead of 5 as in the roman office. Moreover, the rule softly equilibrated the life of the monk between the Work of God (Liturgy), the manual work and personal formation with the Lectio Divina (meditation and studies).
During the Carolingian reform the emperor (Louis the Pious following his father Charlemagne) wanted to unify monastic practice by proposing one monastic rule for all the monasteries of his empire. In fact Charlemagne had asked for it from the Abbot of Mount Cassino because of its qualities (brief, clear and flexible). Bishops and Abbots, during the Synod of Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) in 817 proposed the Rule of Saint Benedict. It thus became the monastic rule for all the western monasteries and Benedict was recognized as the Patriarch of the western monks.
Under the Rule of Saint Benedict are mainly the Benedictines (Black Benedictines), Cistercians, Olivetans, Camaldolenses (White Benedictines), Silvestrines (Blue Benedictines) and other later congregations. Today 19 congregations constitute the Order of Saint Benedict. Among these congregations there is the one of St. Ottilien in Germany. The Congregation of St. Ottilien has the following abbeys in Africa: Peramiho, Ndanda, Hanga, Mvimwa in Tanzania, Tigoni in Kenya, Inkamana in South Africa, Agbang in Togo, and the Priories of Tororo in Uganda, Kairo in Egypt, Katibunga in Zambia (Mpika Diocese), etc.
Our founders here in Zambia came from Tanzania (Hanga monastery) and started in Katibunga on 1st October 1987. This community has around 40 monks today.
For the junior student-monks of Katibunga and of other East African monasteries, Beda House was established here in Lusaka on 8th December 2019. It provides a Benedictine environment while they attend studies at their respective universities and seminaries. At the moment 12 monks live at Beda House in Woodlands. Among these, 5 are students of St. Bonaventure University.