Click here for pdf of whole Rule: RB37

Between September and December 2018 the reflections on the Rule are Mary Cockroft who has been an oblate of Stanbrook for over 20 years. The reflections were first posted on this site in 2015 and re-appear now by popular request and lightly tweaked by Mary.
Scroll down below the booklist and introduction to find the reflections.
Comments are welcome via
secretary@stanbrookabbey.org.uk



Further Reading:
If you have enjoyed looking at words and patterns in the Rule you will probably benefit from Sr Aquinata Boeckmann's approach, eg in her Perspectives on the Rule of St Benedict (2005), pub. Collegeville.
Dom Hugh Gilbert's books: Unfolding the Mystery (2007) and Living the Mystery (2008) and The Tale of Quisquis, published since he has become a bishop.
Gregory Collins OSB: Meeting Christ in his Mysteries (2010) pub. Columba.
Maria Boulding OSB: Gateway to Resurrection (2010) pub. Continuum, is shot through with the Paschal dimension of Benedictine life.
Anything by Michael Casey OCSO!


Reflections on the Rule of St Benedict: Introduction

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 OSB published by the Stanbrook Abbey Press in 1937 and used here 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 reflections, initially from members of the Stanbrook Community. 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

CHAPTERS 8 - 18
Feb 10, June 11, Oct 11

Chapters 8 - 18 deal with the times and content of the various Offices, the liturgy which forms the heart of Benedictine life. Obviously the detailed instructions about which psalms to sing and when are not going to be of much practical interest to those not in charge of organising the liturgy for a monastic community. My reflections on 8 - 18 are all about the why and how of saying the Office myself in less than ideal circumstances, and indeed often with less than ideal commitment and enthusiasm.
I ask myself a few questions to start with - Why? Why pray the Office at all? Why follow a fixed routine, a fixed schedule for praying the psalms? What place - honestly - does the Office have in my life? Does my life need reorganising so as to enable me to get up with time for Morning Prayer? Does the rest of the day need reorganising? How do I feel about praying with the psalms?

Feb 11, June 12, Oct 12
The Office in a monastic setting is obviously the main work of the day - the rest of the day's activities fit in round it. In my own life, out in the world, I fear it tends to be the other way round - is there a realistic chance that I could shift the balance of priorities in my life, even a little bit?
If mornings don't "work" for me, what about coffee time? I am sure God can cope with me combining coffee and prayer.  Is church open for long enough before or after Mass for me to say Morning Prayer there?
Could I say Midday Prayer, at least now and then, before lunch?
Is there a bit of space for Vespers around afternoon tea time, before the evening meal and evening activities occupy me? Could I switch off the 10 o'clock News and say Compline? Just how often in any one day do I need to hear the news? Better to be praying for the world.
I pray for the grace to look honestly for spaces in each day which could be given to the Office. Probably not all of it, as I am not an enclosed nun, but at least some of it.

Feb 12, June 13, Oct 13
I am not a person with a very organised, predictable routine to my life, so for me a rigid approach to the Office is not realistic. On the other hand, a bit of discipline would help. What would help me to establish more disciplined habits?
First of all, possibly, the thought that I am connected with my monastic community, as well as with every priest in the Church, all over the world, and countless lay people, Benedictine Oblates included.
I may live alone, I may know very few Christians, I may be a long way from "my" monastic family, I may be ill or housebound, but I am connected. If I am praying the Office, even at a slightly weird time, then somewhere in the world others are doing the same. I am the praying Church in my home, my street, my block of flats, my hospital ward, my care home, my tube train ........
Where two or three are gathered in my name ........  I just can't see them!

Feb 13, June 14, Oct 14
Discipline and commitment are about turning up. As a Benedictine Oblate I promised Renewal of Life according to the Rule. The Rule asks me to turn up and pray with the psalms, consecrating the hours and days of my life to the Lord.
Thought: be realistic about how much I can fit in, and when, on any given day, but turn up. And remember to ask God's help to do so. This is his project, not mine; for his honour and glory, not for my sense of achievement.

Feb 14, June 15, Oct 15
Sometimes I personally find it helpful to vary my approach. If I use a different translation of the psalms, something new may strike me. I am fortunate, too, to be able to read them in a couple of other languages, where the psalms acquire a different rhythm and again, lines leap out at me which in the usual English translation had become so familiar that I had ceased to ‘hear' them.
A couple of my favourites are lines from Ps 120 (121) which I hear in French when I am in Lourdes. Some Sundays in Lourdes I go to Mass at Carmel - the only peaceful place to be at Mass in Lourdes! I recommend it! The nuns sing Terce before Sunday Mass and these lines speak to me anew each year:  
          Le Seigneur te gardera, au départ et au retour, maintenant, à jamais.
         (The Lord will guard your going and coming, both now and for ever)
          Le Seigneur ton gardien, le Seigneur ton ombrage, se tient près de toi.
         (The Lord is your guard and your shade; at your right side he stands)


Feb 15, June 16, Oct 16
When I am at Stanbrook I often ‘hear' a line of the psalms more clearly because they are being sung more slowly than I would read them. Certainly I approach the saying of the Office with more enthusiasm after a visit to Stanbrook. Blessed are those within easy reach of a Benedictine Community, or those in a parish where maybe Morning Prayer is said together before Mass.
At home I could try reading the psalms out loud and pausing slightly every two lines, as I would if I were singing them in choir.
I ask for the grace to hear what the Lord might be saying to me, today in the psalms I pray.

Feb 16, June 17, Oct 17
Sometimes when I am praying the psalms I find it helpful to emphasise words which normally don't get stressed:
The Lord IS my shepherd            (TRUST HIM!)
He guides ME along the right path     (KEEP GOING!)
The Lord IS compassion and love     (BELIEVE IT!)
I suppose this is a form of Lectio. Maybe today I could choose a favourite psalm, or indeed any psalm, and use it as Lectio Divina.

Feb 17, June 18, Sept 18
There are days when I need to break the routine and use just one psalm, say, for Morning or Evening Prayer, but in that case I would try to pray with it much more slowly and reflectively, maybe taking a line from it into my day - writing it out and carrying it round with me, or propping it up on the desk or in the kitchen where I can keep seeing it.
Ask myself: what is the Lord saying to me in this psalm today? Am I listening?

Feb 18, June 19, Oct 19
Whilst I normally use the Divine Office of the Church (i.e. when I am sufficiently organised), ‘Magnificat' (magnificat.com) offers an abbreviated possibility for Morning and Evening Prayer, and intercessions which often strike me as more meaningful than the ones in the Breviary.
On the principle, anyway, that one psalm is better than none, and that real life may be unavoidably crowded with demands on my time, I carry ‘Magnificat' with me.

Feb 19, June 20, Oct 20
For days when I am on my travels and don't want to be carting a heavy Breviary about, I am grateful for ‘Universalis' (universalis.com), which, for an incredibly tiny price, offers the possibility of downloading as much of the Office as you want onto laptop, iPad, even mobile phone. This is incredibly useful at airports/on planes and trains/in motorway cafés/hospital waiting rooms, and unobtrusive too.
This means, of course, that I have absolutely no excuse for not ‘turning up'. The 3 volume Breviary is seriously expensive and even the Benedictine Daily Prayer, a short 1 volume breviary which I acquired recently, is hardly cheap - I was fortunate enough to spot it in a pile of bargain books.
Offer a prayer of thanks for the blessings which the Internet can, after all, bring even to my spiritual life.

Feb 20, June 21, Oct 21
I have learnt by heart the psalm I use as an Invitatory Psalm. Even if the rest of my day, despite the best of intentions, goes pear-shaped, this psalm gets said. If I have got as far as the car and have still not said it, then I say it as I am driving off into the day.
I think it might be good to know more of the psalms off by heart so today I will choose an evening or night prayer psalm - not necessarily a very long one - and start learning it.

Feb 21, June 22, Oct 22
Did Our Lord learn the psalms by heart? Presumably. This is a wonderful thought - that when I pray the psalms I am hearing the words and ideas which Our Lord heard. I am letting the same thoughts enter my heart as He did. I am reflecting, as Jesus did, on the relationship between God and myself in all life's situations.
That knowledge brings me very close to Our Lord. I thank God for this blessing.

Feb 22, June 23, Oct 23
The more often I pray with the Office, the more likely it is that lines from the psalms will pop up and form my reactions to moments in my life.
Sunsets always make me think of Psalm 112(113):
From the rising of the sun to its setting, praised be the name of the Lord.
Or when I am trying to control my stress levels I think of Psalm 130 (131):
Truly I have set my soul in silence and peace ...
When I just need to relax and be sure God loves me:
Look towards him and be radiant/ Look up to the Lord with gladness and SMILE.      Psalm 33 (34)

Feb 23, June 24, Oct 24
I don't know why I often find it hard to keep saying the Office. Maybe others, too, start with enthusiasm and then find Life and Human Nature keep getting in the way.
I pray for the grace I need to persevere, to see the point of perseverance; to know that while it can feel very lonely, I am, in another sense, never alone when I am praying with the Church.

Feb 24, June 25, Oct 25
Benedict has written in enormous amount of detail about the how and the when of saying the Office. Then both in Chapter 8 and again in Chapter 18 he says such human, reasonable things about it as well.  
Praying the Office should not be a burden for me, something on my (long) to-do list, rushed through in order to fulfil an obligation. For me it needs to lead into something deeper, to form a kind of river flowing through my days and a treasury of phrases and thoughts which have supported and encouraged people on their journey, including Our Lord, for over 3,000 years.
Hope in him, hold firm and take heart. Hope in the Lord.   Ps 26 (27)