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


April 8, 

Those who are sent on a journey are to receive underclothing from the wardrobe, and on their return are to give it back washed.  Moreover, their cowls and tunics must be somewhat better than those which they usually wear; these they are to receive when setting out on their journey, and give back when they return.

For their bedding let a mattress, a blanket, a coverlet, and a pillow suffice. These beds must be frequently inspected by the Abbot, because of private property which may be found therein. If anyone is discovered to have what he has not received from the Abbot, let him be most severely punished.  And in order that this vice of private ownership may be completely rooted out let all things that are necessary be supplied by the Abbot: that is, cowl, tunic, stockings, shoes, girdle, knife, pen, needle, handkerchief, and tablets; so that all plea of necessity may be taken away.  And let the Abbot always consider that passage in the Acts of the Apostles: "Distribution was made to each according as anyone had need." Therefore let the Abbot take into account the infirmities of those who are in need, and not the ill will of the envious.  Nevertheless, in all his decisions, let him think of the divine retribution.

 

St Benedict renews here the condemnation of private ownership and the norms for distribution according to need. But here St Benedict addresses the Abbot explicitly, insisting that the needs of the brethren are to be satisfied by him.  The abbot functions as a mediator between the God who is Providence and His servants.  The abbot provides for the upkeep of the brothers in the name of the Lord. On the other hand, St Benedict warns the brethren against discontent and jealousies which might arise over unequal distribution according to need (see Chapter 34).  The abbot has to guard against strict uniformity as well as favouritism in such a way as to allow charity to reign.