A sacramental of exorcism and of healing, it is used to call down God’s blessing and protection through the intercession of the great saint
Like every sacramental, its power does not lie in its beauty, or even in the prayer engraved on it, but can only be ascribed to the merits of Christ Jesus, to the efficacious prayers of St. Benedict, to the blessing of the Church and to the faith and disposition of the person using the medal. They walk not in superstition but in faith, like the hemorrhagic woman who believed her healing could come from the mere touch of the tassel of Christ’s cloak, or like those who had been healed and exorcised through a cloth that had been in contact with St. Paul.
“When handkerchiefs or aprons that had merely touched his skin were placed on sick people, they were healed of their diseases, and evil spirits were expelled” (Acts 19:12).
The medal of St. Benedict is covered back and front with images, and also with a curious series of letters. On the front, the great Abbot and founder of Western Monasticism is depicted at the center. In his right hand he holds a cross, representing the saving power of Christ. In his left hand he shows the book of the Holy Rule, followed by his spiritual descendants even to modern times, and symbolizing here the Benedictine work of prayer and evangelization over the centuries.
The meaning of the series of letters displayed on both sides of the medal went unknown until, in 1647, a manuscript dating to 1415 was discovered in the Abbey of Metten in Bavaria. It explained that each letter represents one word of a Latin prayer of exorcism.
So, let us look at the medal:
At the center of the front of the medal is, of course, Benedict, in the robes of a monk. To his right is a broken cup, which recalls an incident in Benedict’s life: rebellious monks, angry with Benedict, had poisoned his wine. When, at the start of his meal, he made the sign of the cross the cup shattered, and the conspirators fled.
To Benedict’s left is a raven, which removed bread that had also been poisoned.
Above the cup and the raven are the words Crux Sancti Patris, Benedicti (The Cross of our Holy Father, Benedict). Around the edge, enclosing the image of Benedict are the words Eius in obitu nostro praesentia muniamur! (“May we be strengthened by his presence in the hour of our death!”)
St. Benedict is — like St. Joseph — a patron of a “happy death.”
Under his feet there are the letters ex SM Casino MDCCCLXX (From holy Mounte Cassino, 1880). This commemorates the striking of this medal on the 1400th anniversary of Benedict’s birth. St. Scholastica was his twin.
The back of the medal is dominated by central cross. At the top of the cross is the word “pax,” Latin for “peace.” This is the greeting and motto of the Benedictine Order.
All around the cross, from each side, are four large letters: C. S. P. B. (Crux Sancti Patris Benedicti, or “Cross of the Holy Father Benedict”).
In the vertical line of the cross are again initial letters of a Latin prayer, “Crux sacra sit mihi lux! Nunquam draco sit mihi dux!” As follows:
- C. S. S. M. L. (Crux Sacra Sit Mihi Lux): “The Holy Cross be my light”
In the horizontal line of the cross:
- N. D. S. M. D. (Non Draco Sit Mihi Dux) “May the dragon never be my guide!)
Starting from the top, in a clockwise direction, and around the edge appear the initials of the prayer of exorcism:
- V. R. S. (Vade Retro Satan): “Get away, Satan”
- N. S. M. V. (Not Suade Mihi Vana): “Never tempt me with your vanities!”
- S. M. Q. L. (Sunt Mala Quae Libas): “What you offer me is evil.”
- I. V. B. (Ipse Venena Bibas): “Drink the poison yourself!”
The medal itself does not have power, and to believe so would be an un-Christian act of superstition. Rather, the medal is a visible sign of the inner devotion and faith of the believer in Jesus Christ and in his servant, St. Benedict, who acts by faith.
As the medal is a prayer of exorcism against Satan, it is used to call down God’s blessing and protection upon us, through the intercession of the great saint. It is also a reminder of our baptismal rejection of all that is evil.
There is a plenary indulgence granted to anyone who, at the hour of death, “uses, kisses or hold the blessed medal between the hands with veneration.” The indulgence is also granted if the person entrusts his soul to God, makes a good confession and receive Holy Communion.
Through an order of the Sacred Congregation of Religious in 1965, Benedictine Oblates (lay Benedictines) are permitted to wear the medal of St. Benedict in place of the small black cloth scapular that had formerly been worn.
Since you are here…
…we’d like to have one more word with you. We are excited to report that Aleteia’s readership is growing at a rapid rate, world-wide! Our team proves its mission every day by providing high-quality content that informs and inspires a Christian life. But quality journalism has a cost and it’s more than ads can cover. We want our articles to be accessible to everyone, free of charge, but we need your help. To continue our efforts to nourish and inspire our Catholic family, your support is invaluable. Become an Aleteia Patron today for as little as $3 a month. May we count on you?