Although some Catholics may know of St. Maurus, the blessing of St. Maurus appears to be something of a well-kept secret. It seems that few clergy and even fewer laity know about it. St. Maurus (also known as St. Maur) was a monk and protégé of St. Benedict of Nursia. The son of a Roman nobleman, young Maurus entered the monastery at Subiaco, at about the age of 12. Another, younger boy, Placidus (or Placid), entered the monastery sometime around then as well. In those days, it was not uncommon for parents to offer their children as “oblates” to a monastery where the boys would be given a sound education intellectually and morally. This was the case with Maurus and Placidus, whose families placed them under the care of St. Benedict.
The First Miracle of St. Maurus
In his book, The Life of Benedict, Pope St. Gregory the Great gives an account of St. Benedict’s life based on testimony of monks who actually lived with St. Benedict. Most notably, these included Constantinus, who succeeded St. Benedict as Abbot of Monte Cassino and Honoratus, the Abbot of Subiaco at the time when St. Gregory wrote about Benedict. In Chapter Seven, he tells of how Brother Maurus saved the young Placidus from drowning:
“…as Benedict was in his cell, young Placidus, the holy man’s monk, went out to take up water at the lake, and, putting down his pail carelessly, fell in after it. The water forthwith carried him away from the land as far as one may shoot an arrow. The man of God, being in his cell, by and by knew this. He called in haste for Maurus, saying: ‘Brother Maurus, run as fast as you can, for Placidus, who went to the lake to fetch water, has fallen in, and is carried a good way off.'”
Brother Maurus rushed post-haste, to the lake and ran out to Placid, grabbing him by the hair of his head and pulling him to safety. Apparently, Maurus thought that he had been running on land. Actually, though, he had run across the water of the lake. This, he determined after dragging young Placid to safety. St. Maurus attributed the miracle to St. Benedict’s intervention, and St. Benedict, a master of humility himself, attributed it to the humility and obedience of St. Maurus. Placid, for his part, recalled seeing the Abbot’s (Benedict’s) garment on his head at the time of the rescue, pointing to St. Benedict’s involvement, together with that of St. Maurus, in his rescue.
Foundations of the Blessing of St. Maurus
Of course, the rescue of Placidus from the lake represents just one of many miracles attributed to St. Maurus’ intercession. Through the sign of the cross and prayers, the blessing of St. Maurus healed numerous other people afflicted with ills and injuries over the years. One such healing from the blessing of St. Maurus involved a mute and crippled boy whose parents beseeched the Deacon Maurus for aid. Maurus made the sign of the Cross over him, telling him, in the name of the Holy Trinity, and through the intercession of Benedict, to rise, stand up and be cured. With that, the boy rose and began walking around, praising God for all to hear.
Similarly, the blessing of St. Maurus cured a badly injured priest who had fallen headlong down a long staircase at Monte Cassino. In this incident, Deacon Maurus utilized a relic of the true cross from the altar at the abbey. Exposing the relic, Maurus made the sign of the cross and prayed over the priest’s terribly injured arm and shoulder. Upon Maurus’ completion of his prayer, the priest’s arm healed miraculously, although they initially thought they would have to amputate it.
The Blessing of St. Maurus
Many other miraculous healings occurred through the blessing of St. Maurus over the years, through the use of the sign of the cross and the relic of the true cross. Because of this, the custom of blessing the ill with a relic of the true cross and an approved blessing of St. Maurus continued on. However, a relic of the true cross often is hard to come by. Therefore, in 1959 the Sacred Congregation of Rites approved the use of the Medal of St. Benedict in place of a relic of the true cross for the blessing, with the following form of blessing.
Approved Form of the Blessing
Before the blessing is imparted, the relic of the true Cross of our Lord or the medal of St. Benedict is exposed, at least two candles having been lit. Acts of contrition and firm confidence should then be excited in the sick person, so that through the merits and intercession of St. Benedict and St. Maurus if it should please God, health may be obtained. Three Our Fathers, Hail Marys and Glory be’s are recited in honor of the Blessed Trinity. Then a priest or deacon, having put on a stole, and with his right hand holding up the relic or the medal of St. Benedict before the sick person, say the following prayers:
V. Benediction and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, honor and power and strength to our God forever and ever.
V. My foot has stood in a direct way.
R. In the churches I will bless You, O Lord.
Through the invocation of the most holy name of the Lord may that faith, in which St. Maurus, by employing the words that follow, healed the sick, and in which I, though an unworthy sinner, utter the selfsame words, restore your health as you desire:
In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity and supported by the merits of the most holy Father Benedict, I bid you, N., to rise, stand upon your feet and be cured, in the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.
Antiphon. Surely He has borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows: by His bruises, we are healed.
V. He that forgives the iniquities of his creatures.
R. May He heal your infirmities.
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come to You.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with your spirit.
Let us pray
O God, the Creator, of all things, You ordained that Your only Son should take flesh of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit for the restoration of your people and You deigned to heal the wounds and infirmities of our souls by the redemption accomplished upon the sacred and glorious wood of the life-giving Cross: do You also vouchsafe through this powerful sign to restore health to Your servant N.
Through the same Christ our Lord.
Let us pray
Lord Jesus Christ, You conferred upon the master, blessed Benedict, the privilege of obtaining from You whatsoever he might ask in Your name: vouchsafe, through his intercession, to heal all the infirmities of this Your servant: in order that, being restored to health, he (she) may give thanks to Your holy name.
You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.
Through the invocation of the Immaculate Mother of God and ever-Virgin Mary, and the intercession of Saints Benedict and Maurus, may the Power + of God the Father, the Wisdom + of God the Son, and the Strength + of the Holy Spirit free you from your infirmities. Amen.
May God’s holy will be done, and may it be done to you as you wish and pray, for the praise and honor of the most holy Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The priest then blesses the sick person with the relic of the Cross or the medal of St. Benedict saying:
May the blessing of Almighty God, of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit descend upon you and abide with you forever.
The sick person then kisses the relic or the medal of St. Benedict.
This blessing, if need be, maybe repeated three times; also three votive Masses may be celebrated, namely in honor of the Passion, of St. Maurus, Abbot, and for the Poor Souls; otherwise, the fifteen decades of the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary are to be prayed according to the aforesaid intentions by the sick person, or by others in the person’s name.
Any Priest or Deacon May Impart the Blessing of St. Maurus
The Sacred Congregation has approved the above form of blessing for all priests and deacons, secular as well as regular clerics, to impart. If you don’t have access to a Benedictine priest or deacon, your parish priest or deacon, or other duly ordained Catholic clergies can pray this blessing over you with a medal of St. Benedict. Here also, the medal may be blessed by any priest or deacon using the approved form of blessing. It’s true that we have the sacrament of anointing of the sick, but why not take advantage of this special blessing as well? The Benedictine site, OSB.org, tells us:
Innumerable facts attest that where the blessing of St. Maurus has been received with a lively faith, sincere contrition, and firm confidence in God, persons have been relieved of their bodily ills, sicknesses have been cured, and evident miracles have been wrought.
Let us all approach the blessing of St. Maurus with a lively faith, sincere contrition and firm confidence in God, seeking the unity of our will with His in all things, including our infirmities – Dominus Providebit!