Regula Benedicti

He should know that whoever undertakes the government of souls must prepare himself to account for them.

– In The Rule of St Benedict

Saint Benedict

Saint Benedict of Nursia

Listen, O my son, to the precepts of thy master, and incline the ear of thy heart, and cheerfully receive and faithfully execute the admonitions of thy loving Father, that by the toil of obedience thou mayest return to Him from whom by the sloth of disobedience thou hast gone away.

To thee, therefore, my speech is now directed, who, giving up thine own will, takest up the strong and most excellent arms of obedience, to do battle for Christ the Lord, the true King.

In the first place, beg of Him by most earnest prayer, that He perfect whatever good thou dost begin, in order that He who hath been pleased to count us in the number of His children, need never be grieved at our evil deeds. For we ought at all times so to serve Him with the good things which He hath given us, that He may not, like an angry father, disinherit his children, nor, like a dread lord, enraged at our evil deeds, hand us over to everlasting punishment as most wicked servants, who would not follow Him to glory.

Let us then rise at length, since the Scripture arouseth us, saying: “It is now the hour for us to rise from sleep” (Rom 13:11); and having opened our eyes to the deifying light, let us hear with awestruck ears what the divine voice, crying out daily, doth admonish us, saying: “Today, if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Ps 94[95]:8). And again: “He that hath ears to hear let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches” (Rev 2:7). And what doth He say? — “Come, children, hearken unto me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Ps 33[34]:12). “Run whilst you have the light of life, that the darkness of death overtake you not” (Jn 12:35).

And the Lord seeking His workman in the multitude of the people, to whom He proclaimeth these words, saith again: “Who is the man that desireth life and loveth to see good days” (Ps 33[34]:13)? If hearing this thou answerest, “I am he,” God saith to thee: “If thou wilt have true and everlasting life, keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile; turn away from evil and do good; seek after peace and pursue it” (Ps 33[34]:14-15). And when you shall have done these things, my eyes shall be upon you, and my ears unto your prayers. And before you shall call upon me I will say: “Behold, I am here” (Is 58:9).

What, dearest brethren, can be sweeter to us than this voice of the Lord inviting us? See, in His loving kindness, the Lord showeth us the way of life. Therefore, having our loins girt with faith and the performance of good works, let us walk His ways under the guidance of the Gospel, that we may be found worthy of seeing Him who hath called us to His kingdom (cf 1 Thes 2:12).

If we desire to dwell in the tabernacle of His kingdom, we cannot reach it in any way, unless we run thither by good works. But let us ask the Lord with the Prophet, saying to Him: “Lord, who shall dwell in Thy tabernacle, or who shall rest in Thy holy hill” (Ps 14[15]:1)?

After this question, brethren, let us listen to the Lord answering and showing us the way to this tabernacle, saying: “He that walketh without blemish and worketh justice; he that speaketh truth in his heart; who hath not used deceit in his tongue, nor hath done evil to his neighbor, nor hath taken up a reproach against his neighbor” (Ps 14[15]:2-3), who hath brought to naught the foul demon tempting him, casting him out of his heart with his temptation, and hath taken his evil thoughts whilst they were yet weak and hath dashed them against Christ (cf Ps 14[15]:4; Ps 136[137]:9); who fearing the Lord are not puffed up by their goodness of life, but holding that the actual good which is in them cannot be done by themselves, but by the Lord, they praise the Lord working in them (cf Ps 14[15]:4), saying with the Prophet: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us; by to Thy name give glory” (Ps 113[115:1]:9). Thus also the Apostle Paul hath not taken to himself any credit for his preaching, saying: “By the grace of God, I am what I am” (1 Cor 15:10). And again he saith: “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (2 Cor 10:17).

Hence, the Lord also saith in the Gospel: “He that heareth these my words and doeth them, shall be likened to a wise man who built his house upon a rock; the floods came, the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded on a rock” (Mt 7:24-25). The Lord fulfilling these words waiteth for us from day to day, that we respond to His holy admonitions by our works. Therefore, our days are lengthened to a truce for the amendment of the misdeeds of our present life; as the Apostle saith: “Knowest thou not that the patience of God leadeth thee to penance” (Rom 2:4)? For the good Lord saith: “I will not the death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live” (Ezek 33:11).

Now, brethren, that we have asked the Lord who it is that shall dwell in His tabernacle, we have heard the conditions for dwelling there; and if we fulfil the duties of tenants, we shall be heirs of the kingdom of heaven. Our hearts and our bodies must, therefore, be ready to do battle under the biddings of holy obedience; and let us ask the Lord that He supply by the help of His grace what is impossible to us by nature. And if, flying from the pains of hell, we desire to reach life everlasting, then, while there is yet time, and we are still in the flesh, and are able during the present life to fulfil all these things, we must make haste to do now what will profit us forever.

We are, therefore, about to found a school of the Lord’s service, in which we hope to introduce nothing harsh or burdensome. But even if, to correct vices or to preserve charity, sound reason dictateth anything that turneth out somewhat stringent, do not at once fly in dismay from the way of salvation, the beginning of which cannot but be narrow. But as we advance in the religious life and faith, we shall run the way of God’s commandments with expanded hearts and unspeakable sweetness of love; so that never departing from His guidance and persevering in the monastery in His doctrine till death, we may by patience share in the sufferings of Christ, and be found worthy to be coheirs with Him of His kingdom.

Chapters

1.Kinds or the Life of Monks
2. Kind of Man the Abbot Ought to Be
3. Calling the Brethren for Counsel
4. Instruments of Good Works
5. Obedience
6. Silence
7. Humility
8. Divine Office during the Night
9. How Many Psalms Are to Be Said at the Night Office
10. How the Office Is to Be Said During the Summer Season
11. How the Night Office Is to Be Said on Sundays
12. How Lauds Are to Be Said
13. How Lauds Are to Be Said during Week on Days
14. How Night Offices are Said on the Feasts of Saints
15. Times the Alleluia Is to Be Said
16. How the Work of God Is to Be Performed during the Day
17. How Many Psalms Are to Be Sung at These Hours
18. Order the Psalms Are to Be Said
19. Manner of Reciting the Psalter
20. Reverence at Prayer
21. Deans of the Monastery
22. How Monks Are to Sleep
23. Excommunication for Faults
24. Manner of Excommunication
25. Graver Faults
26. Association with Excommunicated without Approval
27. Abbot’s Concern about the Excommunicated
28. Those Who Having Often Been Corrected Do Not Amend
29. Brethren Who Leave the Monastery
30. How Young Boys Are to Be Corrected
31. Kind of Man the Cellarer of the Monastery Ought to Be
32. Tools and Goods of the Monastery
33. Whether Monks Ought to Own Anything
34. Receiving in Equal Measure What Is Necessary
35. Weekly Servers in the Kitchen
36. Sick Brethren
37. Aged and Children
38. Weekly Reader
39. Quantity of Food
40. Quantity of Drink
41. Times the Brethren Should Take Their Refection
42. No One Speak after Complin
43. Tardiness in Coming to the Work of God or to Table
44. How those Who Are Excommunicated Make Satisfaction
45. Those Who Commit A Fault in the Oratory
46. Those Who Fail in Any Other Matters
47. Giving the Signal for the Time of the Work of God
48. Daily Work
49. Keeping of Lent
50. Working Far from the Oratory or Are on a Journey
51. Brethren Who Do Not Go Very Far Away
52. Oratory of the Monastery
53. Reception of Guests
54. Whether a Monk Should Receive Letters or Anything Else
55. Clothing and Footgear of the Brethren
56. Abbot’s Table
57. Artists of the Monastery
58. Manner of Admitting Brethren
59. Children of the Noble and Poor Who Are Offered
60. Priests Who Wish to Live in the Monastery
61. How Stranger Monks Are to Be Received
62. Priests of the Monastery
63. Order in the Monastery
64. Election of the Abbot
65. Prior of the Monastery
66. Porter of the Monastery
67. Brethren Who Are Sent on a Journey
68. If a Brother Is Commanded to Do Impossible Things
69. In the Monastery No One Presume to Defend Another
70. No One Presume to Strike Another
71. Brethren Be Obedient to One Another
72. Virtuous Zeal Which the Monks Ought to Have
73. Not the Whole Observance of Righteousness Is in this Rule

U. I. O. G. D.

Bibliography

  1. Regula Benedicti. (1949). Holy Rule of Saint Benedict of Nursia, trans. Rev. Boniface Verheyen, OSB. Atchison, KS: St. Benedict’s Abbey.

Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them (Matt 7:20).

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