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 secretary@stanbrookabbey.org.uk



June 15th

St Benedict says we should begin Sunday Lauds with Psalm 66/67. ‘O God, be gracious and bless us and let your face shine upon us’ echoes the beautiful blessing Moses and Aaron were given for the Israelites in Numbers 6:22-27.

 

June 16th

On weekdays Lauds also begins with Psalm 66/67. Here, St Benedict emphasizes that we should say the psalm slowly so everyone has time to get to their places by the time the 50th Psalm starts and attendance is taken. As a morning sleepyhead and a slow mover, I'd surely depend on this kind leeway sometimes in the monastery.

 

June 17th

As medicine against scandal in the community,  St Benedict directs us to include the final portion of the  Lord's prayer in all the  Office  hours and to say the entire prayer at Lauds  and  Vespers. The older I get, the more I see how much  I need  to give and receive forgiveness. Has it been the same for you?

 

June 18th

St Benedict says to use Sunday's framework for feast days but to fill the framework with prayers specific to the occasion involved.

 

June 19th

We learn when it's appropriate to voice ‘Alleluia‘ as an Easter people and when the liturgical cycles ask us to  consider  other elements of salvation history instead.

 

June 20th

Here, we‘re told why  we can  count the number of  daily offices as either 7 or 8.  Did  St Benedict point this out to settle an argument  among monks over the proper number of hours  gently? Or to forestall arguments about which hours should be dropped while still retaining a daily psychological nod to the traditional view of ‘7’ as the sacred number indicating completeness? 

 



The reflections from May-Sept are by Patricia Kelly-Evans who lives in Pennsylvania and is exploring the oblate path.

Chapters 8-18

June 11th-25th

 

St Benedict follows his discussion of the Ladder of Humility with 11 chapters and 15 daily reading portions on how the Divine Office, also known as the� Liturgy of the Hours� or �Work of God' should be arranged.

We begin with several Chapters on the number and arrangement of psalms, readings, and other prayers during the Night Office which the Rule also refers to as Matins. (This seems different from the Night Office [Compline] and more like more like what my office books call the Office of Readings or Vigils.)

 

June 11th

Today's reading covers scheduling Matins and Lauds both in winter when dawn comes later and in summer when it comes earlier. The eminently practical St Benedict provides for study time between the 2 offices in winter but only for a brief bio-break in the summer when dawn comes earlier.

 

June 12th

Here, St Benedict gives specifications for the number of psalms and readings to be included in Matins during most of the year. The readings are to come from both the Old and New Testaments as well as the commentaries of the Fathers.

This is also where St. Benedict specifies beginning the prayer day with �O, Lord, open my lips...�. It's good to acknowledge that even our gift of praising God is actually a return of his gift in giving us the breath to do the praising.

 

June 13th

In summer, the monks are supposed to say as many psalms as in winter, but they can include fewer readings from Scripture and the Fathers since dawn comes earlier.

 

June 14th

Sundays are special. The monks are  directed to  start Matins earlier than on weekdays  on both summer and winter Sundays  and to include the  � Te Deum  Laudamus� in celebration. Also, Benedict notes that the only reason the monastery community might have to shorten or omit anything during Matins would be oversleeping. However, he directs any person at fault for the community �s oversleeping to do penance in the oratory.










 










 

 


 

 

 

 
















 


 





 


 








 







 


 


 


 


 


 


 






 








 

 

 

 




























 

 

 

 

 






 



 


 


 



















 

 

 













 




















 















RB Chapters 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30

Oct 30, 31, Nov 1,2,3,4,5,6

These chapters all deal with the problems caused when someone acts in such a way as to destroy, or at the very least unsettle and harm, community life, and rather than offer brief reflections, I have chosen to look at the issue as a whole in just one longer reflection.

Benedict suggests various remedies involving the increased exclusion of the offending person from community life until that person sees the error of their ways or decides to leave the community altogether.

He also stresses that the abbot/abbess should bear in mind that the errant sheep is nevertheless one of the flock entrusted to their care and that all possible efforts must be made to attempt to heal the situation.

Few of us will find ourselves in the position to exclude anyone outright from any community in which we participate, including the family, although certainly nightmare family situations do arise and serious action may unfortunately be necessary. If we know of such family crises � I am sadly familiar with at least three � then our prayerful support for all concerned is invaluable.

What we might ask ourselves is where, in our daily lives, we are in a community, where do we belong in a group, say a choir or a Parish group or any recreational/social society, either as a simple member or on a committee. When tensions arise, when someone appears to be out to wreck the group, when someone refuses to delegate or to listen or to enter into constructive dialogue, what can we do, as Christians, as Benedictine Oblates to heal the situation? What steps can we take to seek peace and pursue it? We are hardly going to be in a position to ensure the offending person has to drink their tea alone in another room, and if everyone refuses to speak to said person, nothing will be solved.

Maybe the first step is to listen with the heart to what the root of the problem might be, to speak only with kindness and patience ourselves, not to condemn or judge or reject out of hand, but to try and understand where the other is coming from. Ask yourself: What would make this situation whole again? What words or actions would heal? What positive outcome could we seek, work for, hope for, pray for? Are we/am I prepared to forgive? What steps are we/am I prepared to take to bring about peace?

I am not suggesting this is easy, and sometimes the only solution does indeed seem to be to ask the offender to leave the group. On the other hand, maybe we are too quick to be offended, to be indignant, hurt, irritated, self-righteous, angry, resentful. Have we split into factions? Are we perhaps beavering away in the background to gather support for our/my point of view? Do we somehow seem to present a threat to the person causing trouble? Have we thought that we might be part of the problem? Bear in mind that for everyone else I am the Other who has to be lived with.

Life is not easy, and relationships with other people certainly aren�t. We really are chal