Celebrating the Saints who Shape Us

St. Benedict (b. 480-547)

Portsmouth Institute’s Executive Director Chris Fisher outlined the impact of St. Benedict on the Institute: “Like the monastic cloister, the Portsmouth Institute is a place where one might grow in contemplation…where through the practices of Christian humanism, liturgy, and lectio divina, one can learn to see the presence of God’s grace in our world and in our lives.” The Portsmouth Institute entrusts its mission to the patronage of St. Benedict, to whom we pray for intercession as we work to inspire students, teachers, and lifelong learners in the love of learning and desire for God.

St. Benedict wrote:

“And so to prepare ourselves for the journey before us, let us renew our faith and set ourselves high standards by which to lead our lives. The Gospel should be our guide in following the way of Christ to prepare ourselves for his presence in the Kingdom to which he has called us.”

-St. Benedict, The Rule

Works by Saint Benedict:

The Rule of St. Benedict

Saint Gregory the Great (b. 540-604)

St. Gregory the Great—a Roman of patrician stock who founded and lived in a monastic community under the Rule of St. Benedict before being elected pope—lived a deeply spiritual and pastoral life. St. Gregory was also an esteemed intellectual praised both for defending the Church and for his prolific writing, especially his Dialogues, in which he wrote of the lives of saints including St. Benedict, and his Moralia in Job. Deeply influenced by St. Augustine, St. Gregory also contributed to the development of the Catholic understanding of how to read Scripture.

St. Gregory the Great wrote:

“For there are some who are eminently endowed with virtues, and for the training of others are exalted by great gifts, who are pure in zeal for chastity, strong in the might of abstinence, filled with the feasts of doctrine, humble in the long-suffering of patience, erect in the fortitude of authority, tender in the grace of loving-kindness, strict in the severity of justice. Truly such as these, if when called they refuse to undertake offices of supreme rule, for the most part deprive themselves of the very gifts which they received not for themselves alone, but for others also… For hence it was that the Truth said to His disciples, ‘A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid: neither do they light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that it may give light to all that are in the house’ (Matthew 5:15).”

-St. Gregory the Great, Book of Pastoral Care

Works by Saint Gregory the Great include:


Book of Pastoral Care

Saint Benet Biscop (b. 628-690)

St. Benet Biscop is patron of the English Benedictines. He became the founder and abbot of the monasteries of Saints Peter and Paul at Monkwearmouth and Jarrow in the Kingdom of Northumbria in northern England. He frequently pilgrimaged to Rome, carrying relics, manuscripts, Roman chant and liturgy, and an impressive library to northern England. As a result, his monasteries became flourishing centers of prayer, learning, and culture, producing monks including St. Bede. It is for his contributions to the development of Christian culture that we invoke his intercession.

St. Bede noted especially St. Benet Biscop’s commitment to learning:

“After he had formed the rule for his monastery, he made his fourth voyage to Rome, and returned loaded with more abundant spiritual merchandise than before. In the first place, he brought back a large quantity of books of all kinds; secondly, a great number of relics of Christ’s Apostles and martyrs, all likely to bring a blessing on many an English church; thirdly, he introduced the Roman mode of chanting, singing, and ministering in the church, by obtaining permission from Pope Agatho to take back with him John, the archchanter of the Church of St. Peter, and abbot of the monastery of St. Martin to teach the English. This John, when he arrived in England, not only communicated instruction by teaching personally, but left behind him numerous writings, which are still preserved in the library of the same monastery.” -St. Bede, The Lives of The Holy Abbots of Weremouth and Jarrow

Saint Bede (b. 672/73-735)

An English Benedictine monk, author, and scholar, Bede had a profound effect on the formation of a universal practice of the Christian faith. Speaking on the influence of Bede on Christian prayer and learning, Pope Benedict XVI said that “the fame of holiness and wisdom that Bede already enjoyed in his lifetime, earned him the title of ‘Venerable’… After his death, Bede’s writings were widely disseminated in his homeland and on the European continent… Notker Balbulus, Abbot of Sankt Gallen (d. 912), noting the extraordinary influence of Bede, compared him to a new sun that God had caused to rise, not in the East but in the West, to illuminate the world…It is a fact that with his works Bede made an effective contribution to building a Christian Europe in which the various peoples and cultures amalgamated with one another, thereby giving them a single physiognomy, inspired by the Christian faith.”

St. Bede wrote:

“Let us not forget…the work of the unchanging might of God’s right hand: His wonders, memorable from of old, cease not to be poured forth in brightness on the world.”

-St. Bede, Life of Cuthbert

Works by Saint Bede include:

Ecclesiastical History of the English People

Life of Cuthbert and Lives of the Abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow

Saint Anselm of Canterbury (b. 1033/34-1109)

Pope Benedict XVI once described Saint Anselm as “[a] monk with an intense spiritual life, an excellent teacher of the young, a theologian with an extraordinary capacity for speculation, a wise man of governance and an intransigent defender of libertas Ecclesiae, of the Church’s freedom, Anselm is one of the eminent figures of the Middle Ages who was able to harmonize all these qualities, thanks to the profound mystical experience that always guided his thought and his action.” Saint Anselm—a Benedictine monk, abbot, and Archbishop of Canterbury—was able to sustain great spiritual depth and learning while remaining engaged in the affairs of the world. For this we seek his intercession.

St. Anselm wrote:

“Come now, insignificant man, leave behind for a time your preoccupations; seclude yourself for a while from your disquieting thoughts. Turn aside now from heavy cares, and set aside your wearisome tasks. Make time for God, and rest a while in Him. Enter into the inner chamber of your mind; shut out everything except God and what is of aid to you in seeking Him; after closing the chamber door, seek Him out.”

-St. Anselm of Canterbury, Proslogion

Works by Saint Anselm include:

Prayers and Meditations of Saint Anselm

Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works

Saint John Henry Newman (1801-1890)

St. John Henry Newman had a deep understanding and love for the influence Saint Benedict had on both the Church and the development of Christian culture. He articulated his vision of the Benedictine life of contemplation as “poetic”—that is, a life of prayer, fellowship, and learning that enlivens “the imagination and affections; it leads to admiration, enthusiasm, devotion, love.” It is this poetic disposition which the Portsmouth Insitute seeks to restore in our work of evangelization.

Newman wrote:

“[St Benedict] found the world, physical and social, in ruins, and his mission was to restore it in the way, not of science, but of nature, not as if setting about to do it,

not professing to do it by any set time or by any rare specific or by any series of strokes, but so quietly, patiently, gradually, that often, till the work was done, it was not known to be doing. It was a restoration, rather than a visitation, correction, or conversion. The new world which he helped to create was a growth rather than a structure. Silent men were observed about the country, or discovered in the forest, digging, clearing, and building; and other silent men, not seen, were sitting in the cold cloister, tiring their eyes, and keeping their attention on the stretch, while they painfully deciphered and copied and re-copied the manuscripts which they had saved… By degrees the woody swamp became a hermitage, a religious house, a farm, an abbey, a village, a seminary, a school of learning, and a city.”

-St. John Henry Newman, The Mission of St. Benedict

Works by Saint John Henry Newman include:

A Benedictine Education: The Mission of St. Benedict and The Benedictine Schools

The Idea of a University

Grammar of Assent

Blessed Columba Marmion, O.S.B. (b. 1858-1923)

Originally from Ireland, Blessed Columba Marmion entered the Benedictine Abbey of Mardesous, Belgium where he became abbot in 1909. He was known for his deep spiritual life, leading many souls to Christ through his retreats and conferences. Much of his spiritual wisdom is contained in the books he published, including: Christ, the Life of the Soul, Christ in His Mysteries, and Christ, the Ideal of the Monk.

Blessed Columba Marmion wrote:

“Let us contemplate in the light of Revelation God’s plan for us. This contemplation will be a source of light, strength and joy for our souls.”

Blessed Columba Marmion, Christ the Life of the Soul: Spiritual Conferences

Works by Blessed Columba Marmion include:

Christ, the Life of the Soul

Christ in His Mysteries

Christ, the Ideal of the Monk