This invocation from the Litany of St. Benedict has always had a special attraction and meaning for me…but especially now, in the times that we are living through. As we celebrate his feast day on July 11, we realize the need for his help more than ever as we wage this “holy warfare.” St. Benedict was mightily used in combat against the devil during his life and ministry on earth, and he has retained that reputation as a saint in heaven. This is why the St. Benedict medal is such a powerful sacramental in the Church.
THE HOLY CROSS
St. Benedict had a great love for and devotion to the Holy Cross. He worked miracles by simply making the Sign of the Cross. The Cross, rather than representing the devil’s victory, is in fact the sign of his ultimate defeat. The Cross and Resurrection of Christ – the Paschal Mystery – is the source of all our faith, hope and power. The medal, first and foremost, emphasizes the Holy Cross. These are the letters imprinted on the Cross in the center of the medal:
CSPB – Crux Sancti Patris Benedicti – The Cross of our Holy Father Benedict;
CSSML – Crux Sacra Sit Mihi Lux – Let the Holy Cross be my Light;
NDSMD – Non Draco Sit Mihi Dux – Let not the dragon (devil) be my leader.
THE LETTERS AROUND THE MEDAL
The letters around the rim of the medal are the initials of a prayer against the devil:
VRS – Vade Retro Satana – Get behind me, Satan!
NSMV – Numquam Suade Mihi Vana – Never persuade me to vain things.
SMQL – Sunt Mala Quae Libas – They are evil things that you offer.
IVB – Ipse Venena Bibas – You yourself drink the poison.
Scripture tells us: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Wearing the medal and praying this prayer are good means to do this.
The medal of St. Benedict has traditionally been regarded as a protection against temptation, illness, and all attacks of the devil – both spiritual and physical. Some writers have also credited it with bringing about conversions. The medal, of course, has no power of its own but rather derives its effectiveness from the saving grace of Jesus Christ and the intercession of St. Benedict.
It is noteworthy that during his life, Benedict himself was protected against poisoned wine (as he blessed the cup, it broke and a serpent slithered out) and poisoned bread (snatched away by a raven before Benedict could eat it). These scenes are also depicted on the back of the medal (although you have to look carefully to find them).
AT THE HOUR OF DEATH
Because of the circumstances of St. Benedict’s death, he is one of the patrons of a happy and holy death. When he realized that the time of his last Passover was approaching, Benedict asked to be brought to the chapel. There, before the Blessed Sacrament, Benedict had his monks hold his arms outstretched in the form of a cross and he breathed his last. For that reason, the medal also has a prayer for St. Benedict’s protection at the hour of death printed on the reverse side with the words: Eius In Obitu Nostro Praesentia Muniamur – May we be protected by his presence at the hour of our death.
ST. BENEDICT: FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS
The whole world has been suffering with the COVID-19 pandemic, with all its physical, psychological, economic, political, and other effects. In our own country we have witnessed acts of violence, lawlessness, and wanton destruction. While it is not always easy to discern demonic activity from natural phenomena and “works of the flesh,” we can certainly imagine the devil’s delight in fomenting hatred and violence whenever, wherever, and however possible.
On his feast day, and always, may we invoke St. Benedict for his help, protection and intercession. And may we always seek to follow, as he did, his famous exhortation: “Prefer nothing to the love of Christ.” St. Benedict, Leader of the Holy Warfare, pray for us!
Click for Litany of St. Benedict