ENLARGING THE HEART

UPDATE:             1ST January 2015   We now begin a new series of commentaries on the Rule of our Holy Father Saint Benedict (Series 3). We hope this will continue to be a source of spiritual nourishment for you. 


Daily readings from the Rule of Saint Benedict

By a Benedictine of Saint Cecilia's Abbey, Ryde


"... as we progress in our monastic life and in faith, our hearts

   shall be enlarged, and we shall run with unspeakable sweetness of love in the way of God's commandments." 

(From the Prologue of the Rule of Saint Benedict)


St Benedict wrote his Rule for monks some fifteen centuries ago.  Driven by his love of Christ, he wanted to establish his monastery as a “school of the Lord’s service”: a place where people who truly seek God could find him; places where “authentic Gospel values prevail”[1]; where nothing whatever would be preferred to Christ. The Rule of St Benedict spread all over Europe, and had an enormous influence on the life and spirituality of the Latin Church.  It continues to inspire monks, nuns, and countless lay people throughout the world today.

Like many monasteries we divide the Rule into sections so that the whole Rule is covered over a period of three months. The commentaries will follow the sequence of the sections.



[1] Pope John Paul II, to Benedictine Abbots, 23 September 1996


CHAPTER 23:

ON EXCOMMUNICATION FOR FAULTS

 

Feb 28 

If any brother is found to be contumacious, or disobedient, or proud, or a murmurer, or in any way opposed to the Holy Rule and the orders of his seniors, or contemptuous, let him, according to Our Lord's commandment, be admonished once or twice privately by his seniors.  If he does not amend, let him be rebuked in public before all.  But if even then he does not correct himself, let him be subjected to excommunication, if he understands the nature of that punishment.  Should he, however, not be amenable to such corrections, let him be subjected to corporal punishment.

 

The following 8 chapters of the Rule are devoted to the correction of faults.  This section is no doubt the one with the least present-day application. Despite the Rule of St Benedict’s tremendous influence throughout the centuries, it remains a sixth-century Rule.  But if we allow our own horizons to broaden somewhat to take in something of the Rule’s perspective, if we try to see things from its standpoint, we can learn much from it. For example, in these chapters we find some precious teaching about community life and about how our actions affect that life, and of our need for conversion and purification.

 

It is important to realize that what is being dealt with here is not weakness or ignorance but consistent complaining, resistance, rebellion, scorning the rule and our superiors.  It is a question then of faults against the community and fraternal charity.  Note how St Benedict refers us back to the Lord’s commandment, to the Gospel where the Lord prescribes first correcting someone privately, then before witnesses, and finally before the presence of the ecclesiastical community (Mt 18:15-17). He situates this correction in the ecclesiastical order established by Christ. Growth is gradual; St Benedict legislates for warnings, but he also recognizes that we need to grow. He wants to stop an action before it takes root in us.

 

We tend to think of our faults as something between ourselves and God, or ourselves and another.  St Benedict recognizes that they have an effect on the whole community.  As members of a single body, we cannot be indifferent when a member injures itself and therefore damages the life of the whole.  The notion that what we do affects others is lost today.  These chapters are not about punishment but about charity and responsibility.