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Nowhere did the order link itself so intimately with people and institutions, secular as well as religious, as in England.Through the influence of saintly men, Wilfrid, Benedict Biscop, and Dunstan, the Benedictine Rule spread with extraordinary rapidity, and in the North, when once the Easter controversy had been settled and the Roman supremacy acknowledged (Synod of Whitby, 664), it was adopted in most of the monasteries that had been founded by the Celtic missionaries from Iona.
Other foundations quickly followed as the Benedictine missionaries carried the light of the Gospel with them throughout the length and breadth of the land. Benedict seemed to have taken possession of the country as his own, and the history of his order in England is the history of the English Church.
Benedict until more than a hundred years later, when the change was effected chiefly through the influence of Pepin the Short, the father of Charlemagne.
By the ninth century, however, the Benedictine had become the only form of monastic life throughout the whole of Western Europe, excepting Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, where the Celtic observance still prevailed for another century or two.
There is no general or common superior over the whole order other than the pope himself, and the order consists, so to speak, of what are practically a number of orders, called "congregations", each of which is autonomous; all are united, not under the obedience to one general superior, but only by the spiritual bond of allegiance to the same Rule, which may be modified according to the circumstances of each particular house or congregation. Benedict did not, strictly speaking, found an order; we have no evidence that he ever contemplated the spread of his Rule to any monasteries besides those which he had himself established.
It is in this latter sense that the term is applied in this article to all monasteries professing to observe St. Subiaco was his original foundation and the cradle of the institute. Gregory we learn that twelve other monasteries in the vicinity of Subiaco also owed their origin to him, and that when he was obliged to leave that neighbourhood he founded the celebrated Abbey of Monte Cassino, which eventually become the centre whence his Rule and institute spread. Placid's mission to Sicily in 534, which first gained general credence in the eleventh century, though accepted as genuine by such writers as Mabillon and Ruinart, is now generally admitted to be mere romance.