The Saint Benedict Medal is one of the most popularly recognized symbols in Catholicism. You can find bracelets, necklaces, door hangers and many other items which contain this medal. But what does it mean and should you wear one or have one in your home?
You may also be wondering where does the medal of St. Benedict come from and what is the purpose of this sacramental? Very reasonable questions! We'll answer those questions and get into the history of the St Benedict Medal below. Let's dive right in.
What is the Meaning of the Design of the Saint Benedict Medal?
The original design comes from the classic Benedictine cross, but how do you know if you hold an authentic Benedictine medal in your hands?
First, the front of the medal will include a picture of the noble St. Benedict of Nursia holding the cross and his rule. You will find a poisoned cup to his left and a raven to his right.
The presence of these two symbols often confuses Catholics due to their apparent randomness. The story goes that when St. Benedict was alive, a malicious priest attempted to poison his meal, and the raven carried off the poisoned bread. The cup was also poisoned, but St. Benedict made the sign of the cross above it, shattering the cup instantly.
Above, you will find the words Crux sancti patris Benedicti, or The Cross of Our Holy Father Benedict. Surrounding St. Benedict himself, you will also find the words Eius in obitu nostro praesentia muniamur, which reads in English as, “May We Be Strengthened By His Presence in the Hour of Our Death.”
On the back of the Benedictine medal, you will find the letters C S S M L - N D S M D. These letters are the initials of the words, “Crux sacra sit mihi lux! Non draco sit mihi dux!” In English, they translate to, “May the holy cross be my light! May the dragon never be my overlord!”
The larger letters on the back of the St Benedict medal are simply the initials found above Benedict on the front of the medal.
Surrounding the back of the medal, we have more initials. These are the initials of each line of the Rite of Exorcism.
The Rite of Exorcism reads like this (with translations beneath each line):
- Vade retro Satana! (Begone Satan!)
- Nunquam suade mihi vana! (Never tempt me with your vanities!)
- Sunt mala quae libas. (What you offer me is evil.)
- Ipse venena bibas! (Drink the poison yourself.)
Finally, there is the word “pax” at the top of the Saint Benedict medal, which translates to peace.
It should be noted that Solemn exorcisms can only be performed by a Catholic priest with the permission of his bishop.
What is the Meaning of the Saint Benedict Medal?
Before we go into the Saint Benedict medal meaning, we should touch on who was St. Benedict and what relevance does he have to Catholic's today.
St. Benedict, the patron saint of Europe, was born in 480 AD, yet he remains a popular saint to this day. A man of strength, courage, and conviction, he lived a life of solitude and quiet contemplation before God. Only when nearby monks witnessed his holiness did they reach out and ask him to become their abbot.
However, the monks hated his strict rule and required devout dedication. St. Benedict revolutionized the running of monasteries, which led to multiple assassination attempts by agents of Beelzebub posing as the disseminators of God’s word.
His strength and devotion to God in spite of his trials remain especially relevant to today’s generation, who seem further away from Him than ever.
The central St. Benedict medal meaning embraces everything St. Benedict's life stood for and the things he valued most, especially in the monastic life.
Wearing this medal is a ward against Satan and the fallen angels encroaching evil. It stands for the power of prayer in times of temptation and suffering. It symbolizes how prayer creates peace within ourselves and in our communities.
Those who carry the St. Benedict medallion with them reject all evil and provide encouragement as we walk along God’s path, with the Gospel as our guide and Him as our light.
What is the Origin of the Saint Benedict Medal?
It may surprise you to know that the St. Benedict medal has a relatively recent history. The version you carry with you today is what’s known as the Jubilee medal. Nobody knows when the first-ever medal was struck, but what we do know is that the symbols and design have changed over time.
The cross is the badge of our faith in Jesus Christ and has featured on all Christian medallions since the earliest Christians. For St. Benedict, we know that he was a particular fan of the writings of St. Gregory the Great.
The Benedictines forever passed on the St. Benedict cross as part of the medallions and other religious articles they wore to bolster their faith and ward off evil.
The St. Benedict medallion is also known as the medal-cross of St. Benedict, and additions have been made over time, especially regarding the presence of the Latin initials. We know that in the hour of death, St. Benedict helps us pass into the arms of God.
Various incarnations of the medal have appeared over time. Interestingly, the meaning of the letters on the medallion was unknown until 1647. At the Abbey of Metten in Bavaria, Germany, researchers discovered a Latin 1415 copy of the prayer of exorcism against Satan, which explained their meaning.
Today, we have the Jubilee Medal of Montecassino. Initially struck in 1880 under the strict supervision of the monks of Monte Cassino, Italy, this design marked the 1400th anniversary of St. Benedict’s birth.
It was first produced at St. Martin’s Archabbey in Beuron, Germany. Since then, the medal’s design has remained unchanged and is the most famous medal struck in the Christian world.
The Role of Pope Leo IX
The original design of the medal focused on a simple cross. It was Pope Leo IX who redesigned the medal for the first time.
The story goes he was inspired to do this because Bruno of Egisheim-Dagsburg, the future Pope Leo IX, was bitten by a snake. Through the power of the Benedictine cross, he survived and recovered. He lost the ability to speak for a time, and those surrounding him lost faith in his recovery.
When he received a vision of the Ladder to Heaven, he saw St. Benedict holding the radiant cross. The eternal saint touched Bruno, and he was cured of his ailments.
Leo IX redesigned the medal in 1049, and the Sisters of Charity attached the medal to their rosaries. The custom continues to survive today.
Only in 1742 did Pope Benedict XIV approve the design and create the medal that resembles its current design today.
What is the Use of the Saint Benedict Medal?
We do not covet Earthly possessions. The role of medals, beads, and other trinkets reinforces our faith and brings us closer to God. Every day, Satan attempts to exploit the flaws of humanity in an attempt to plunge us into depravity and sin.
The St Benedict medal is so popular because it’s an active way to add an extra layer of spiritual protection from temptation, poisoning, and evil. But what are some of the other reasons the faithful use this medal?
- Conversion - Bring those who have fallen back into the House of God and provide a path to salvation.
- Disease - Protection against disease, particularly contagious ones. Fight off pestilence and ward off the coming of death.
- Assistance - Also known as “The Cross of Happy Death,” this medal asks for St. Benedict’s guidance as we embark upon the final journey to paradise.
- Safe Delivery - A little-known meaning of this medal also pertains to the safe delivery of new lives into this world. As St. Benedict guides us on our final journey, he also guides us on our first.
There are no special rules regarding wearing a Saint Benedict medal. Medals can be worn around the neck, as part of a rosary, or simply hang from the mirror in your car.
Strictly speaking, these medals do not have to be blessed in advance by a priest. However, it’s strongly recommended that you request your local priest to enhance the protection provided by the medal.
Remember, the medal is merely a physical material to bring us closer to God. There are no obligations to possess it and no requirement to wear one to be a good Catholic.
The St Benedict medal is one of the most colorful Christian medallions. It remains the most popular medal to keep evil at bay. Although the need to avoid physical poisoning has largely receded in the modern world, spiritual poisoning is quite another thing.
When it feels more challenging than ever to resist temptation and maintain your faith, avoiding the spiritual poisonings of Satan is difficult. Purchase a St. Benedict medal and walk God’s path with the help of the House of Joppa.
Browse a beautiful collection of medallions, statues, and crosses at our catholic online store today.