“He who needs less should thank God and not be discontented; but he who needs more should be humbled by the thought of his infirmity...”
The Medal of St. Benedict
The Benedictine medal is one of the oldest and honoured tokens in Western Christendom. Although its origins are obscure, it has been a trusty spiritual tool used by generations of Christians towards the love of God and neighbour and against the devil and his minions.
The medal comes in a variety of forms, though the most popular is a design minted in 1880 in celebration of the 1,400th anniversary of our Holy Father St. Benedict. The traditional medals feature a cross, an image of the Saint and a number of texts related to the the use of the object. Our community of Gilbertines, as an English expression of Benedictine spirituality, have had their own unique design created as a way of encouraging unity and recognition within their community.
The face of the medal includes an image of St. Benedict in profile. It is based on a sketch Prior Robert-Charles made of the statue of St. Benedict that welcomes guests to Charles House, their priory. A cross sits above the Saint’s head, separating two sets of initials from the Latin prayer: Nunquam draco sit mihi due! (May the dragon never be my guide!) Crux sacra sit mihi lux! (May the Holy Cross be my light!) The initials below the image — OSBCn — are post nominals formerly used by our group before we became Catholic and remain as a remembrance that the Holy Spirit has been active preparing us for our Gilbertine revival for over twenty years. And finally, around the outside is the Latin phrase: Eius in obitu nostro praesentia muniamur! (May we be strengthened by his presence in the hour of our death). St. Benedict died an holy death and this is a powerful prayer that we have the same kind of blessing at our final hour.
Tradition tells us that St. Benedict had a special devotion to the cross — no Benedictine medal would be complete without one! The cross featured on this side of our medal is known as a voided cross which recalls the resurrection and victory over this terrible instrument of violence. The equal proportions call to mind the four-fold Gilbertine membership (Sisters, Brothers, Canons Regular and Companions). The cross is surmounted by a crown or ‘coronet’ designed with maple leaves and oak leaves (the national trees of Canada and the United States). Every crown ultimately belongs to the kingship of Christ, but this particular coronet and cross design is the heraldic badge granted to our Prior General by the Canadian Heraldic Authority in 2011. It is used by us as a symbol of our members’ friendship with each other under his leadership.
At the top of the design is the Benedictine motto: pax (peace). At the bottom you’ll see three nails reminding us of Christ’s Passion. Around the outside are initials of an ancient prayer of exorcism against satan: Vade retro satana! Nunquam suade mihi vana! (Begone satan! Never tempt me with your vanities!) Sent mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas! (What you offer me is evil. Drink the poison yourself!) The meaning of the letters were lost but were rediscovered in 1647 at the Abbey of Metten in Bavaria when an old manuscript (from 1415) was discovered that explained them.
And finally, the letters C S P B (around the cross and crown) stand for Crux Sancti Patris Benedicti (The cross of our holy father Benedict).
Use of the Medal
Gilbertines wear the medal as a part of their habit (and with permission use the medal with modest secular (or clerical) clothing to replace the habit). Companions of the community also wear the medal to show their association with the community.
The Medal of St. Benedict is employed by the faithful to ward off spiritual and physical evil, especially those related to poison, temptation and the machinations of the devil and other evil spirits. It is effective in the destruction of witchcraft and all other diabolical and haunting influences. All of our community medals are blessed by a Catholic priest.