Over at Get Religion, Terry Mattingly calls our attention to this essay by George Weigel, who offers us the clearest statement of the signficance of Benedicts name that I have yet seen. St. Benedicts monastery was built as Platos Academy closed and Rome went into decline.
The civilizational achievement represented by Platos Academy could have been lost; classical culture might have gone the way of the Mayans. That it didnt had a lot to do with Benedict. His monks not only preserved crucial elements of the civilization of Athens and Rome during the Dark Ages; they transformed that civilization by infusing a biblical understanding of the human -- person, community, origins and destiny -- into the classical culture they preserved for future generations in their scriptoria and libraries.
The result of that fusion of Jerusalem, Athens and Rome was what we know as "Europe," or, more broadly, "the West." It was a colossal, indeed world-historical achievement. And the achievement was entirely consistent with what Pope Benedict XVI remembered in a recent interview as "a Benedictine motto: Succisa virescit -- pruned, it grows again." Thanks to St. Benedict and Western monasticism, the demise of classical civilization was the occasion for a new beginning -- and, eventually, a nobler civilizational accomplishment.