Reflections on the Rule of St Benedict: Introduction
(please scroll down for daily reflections)

We wanted the Rule of St Benedict (RB) to pulse through the website as it does through our life, hence the decision that the daily portion of the Rule, read in most Benedictine monasteries and by many individuals, should feature on the Home Page. The version selected is that of Dom Justin McCann of Ampleforth published by the Stanbrook Abbey Press in 1937 and used by kind permission of the Ampleforth Abbey Trust. There are several reasons for this choice: first of all, we feel it still reads as an elegant translation, then we wish to celebrate cooperation between the Ampleforth and Stanbrook communities over many years, and thirdly, perhaps the old-fashioned ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ can actually help us approach the Rule of St Benedict thoughtfully. For all its relevance, RB remains an ancient text which needs careful ‘unpacking’.

To accompany the extracts of the Rule we hope to post regular reflections, from members of the Stanbrook Community and Stanbrook Oblates. These do not aim to be scholarly commentaries of which there are many excellent editions available. Rather, the reflections allow us to re-visit the Rule, to try to listen to its familiar voice anew, and to share thoughts via this forum.

Your comments are welcome via

Click here for pdf of whole Rule: RB37

Reflections for July are by Diana Conney, Oblate of Stanbrook

July 5th Chapter 28 Those who refuse to amend after frequent reproofs

It seems odd to me that Benedict advocates the use of corporal punishment for persistent offending and only when that fails, prayer.  Surely it should be the other way round?  However, on thinking about it I realised that prayer of the abbot would probably be continuous and private and the prayer Benedict is talking about is public which makes the offence public too.  This shame is surely much more effective than physical punishment.  By the way I am not supporting Benedict’s advocacy of physical punishment but think that the underlying message of this chapter is that if one continues to offend it will be made public and hopefully the offender will think twice about continuing his behaviour.

July 6th Chapter 29 Readmission of Members who leave the Monastery

It is interesting that Benedict allows monks to change their minds even after what has probably been a long novitiate.  However, he also ensures that any monk who repeatedly comes and goes can after three attempts be told that the life is not for him.  In our own lives we can often find ourselves thinking that we can accomplish something if we only keep trying.  In fact this is often what we were told as children, certainly I was!  While this may be true (we need to try at least three times!) it may be that humility is telling us that however hard we try we will never be able to master that particular skill.  It is up to us to realise that God may have other plans and to listen to him.

July 7th Chapter 30 The manner of reproving the young

I  find this one of the most difficult chapters in the Rule but keep telling myself it is of its time and culture.  Certainly I hope no one today uses corporal punishment on anyone.  However, the key words for me are ‘appropriate treatment’.  In our lives whether as parents, teachers or supervisors in any capacity may find we have to reprove someone else.  Surely it is up to us to make sure the treatment is appropriate to the misdemeanour and not let our authority take over.