While there was activity in the West to set up monasteries prior to St. Benedict, he is universally regarded as the founder of Western monasticism, partly for the comprehensive and detailed rule he executed. In The Life and Miracles of St. Benedict, St. Gregory the Great chronicles this abbot’s prodigious work of founding community after community. Gregory received his information directly from disciples of the great saint and, using the form of dialogue with his deacon, Peter, related incidents in Benedict’s life that show even at the beginning of his search how close he was to sanctity.
An often-told story throws light on the virtue of Benedict and his direction of his brother monks. It seems a certain priest, Florentius, who lived in the neighborhood of Benedict’s monastery, observed that the saint had inspired many to a more fervent piety. Seized by envy and hatred for Benedict, Florentius sent him a loaf of bread he had poisoned, hoping to kill his rival. Benedict, however, knew what was in the bread and gave it to a raven to take away.