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Fulgens Radiatur: St Benedict's Brilliance

Updated: Jul 12, 2020

Bread & Wine

by Margaux Salcedo


Written on the Feast of St Benedict

July 11, 2020

Manila, Philippines


From the time quarantine was imposed, believe it or not I have not opened my Netflix app. I have not watched a single K-Drama or Netflix series.

Instead - I'm a little embarrassed to admit this - I've been reading papal encyclicals. I wasn't inclined to share this guilty pleasure but today I am moved to share with you my favorite encyclical thus far: Fulgens Radiatur, the encyclical of Pope Pius XII (currently my favorite writer among the Popes) on St. Benedict.

For two reasons: First, today is St. Benedict's Feast Day. I am, after all, a daughter of St Benedict, having studied in St. Scholastica's College Manila for elementary and high school, and having taught albeit briefly for their college. Second, there is a tragic incident mentioned in the encyclical that relates to the fire that happened in Pandacan Church yesterday (a fire burned down the Sto Nino de Pandacan Parish on July 10 at around 1:00 p.m.; no injuries reported although the church interiors have become charcoal black and as of this writing, the Sto Nino has not been found).

Rebuilding Monte Cassino; Rebuilding Sto Niño de Pandacan

While the encyclical is a tribute to St Benedict, it was also written by Pope Pius XII to address the tragic destruction of Monte Cassino, where you will find the abbey, the head house of the Benedictine Order, built by St Benedict himself around 529.

Pope Pius XII wrote: "When the recent war (World War II) was raging and spread in a lamentable way to the shores of Campania and Latium, it reached ... the holy summit of Monte Cassino ... ruin and destruction came to that illustrious home of learning and piety which had survived the turmoil of centuries like a torch conquering darkness. ... Practically nothing else survived from the destruction except the sacred crypt in which the relics of the holy Patriarch are preciously kept."  For historical perspective: Monte Cassino was bombed during World War II by Allied forces under incorrect estimation and suspicion that the abbey was being used as a German artillery observation point (it wasn't). The bombing mission started in the morning of February 15, 1944, and 1,150 tons of high explosives and incendiary bombs were dropped on the abbey, reducing the entire top of Monte Cassino to a smoking mass of rubble. The town of Cassino was completely razed by the air and artillery bombardments, especially by the air raid of March 15, 1944, when 1,250 tons of bombs were dropped on the town. 

Aftermath of the bombing of Monte Cassino

The way that Pope Pius XII grieved for the abbey in this encyclical reminded me of all the weeping that echoed across parishes yesterday as photos of the fire that razed Sto Nino de Pandacan were shared on social media.