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 August are by Bev Hallam, Oblate of Stanbrook

Reflections on the Rule of St. Benedict August 1-7

August 1

This short chapter underlines the prime importance of the Opus Dei and guides the practitioner in keeping up this commitment even when the structures of the monastery are not there to support. The life of prayer must go on when community timetables and activities are lacking.

To what extent do I keep this open commitment as well as I can?

August 2

The threat of excommunication for what to us may seem a minor infraction of the Rule seems somewhat harsh. But what does the casual taking of food outside the monastery imply? It compromises the feeling of belonging, of shared life which the sacred community mealtimes represent, positioned as they are between different offices of the day.

In a secular context, social observers tell us that homes in which families regularly eat together have stronger bonds and greater cohesion than the ad-libbers. Another example, I think, of Benedict’s understanding of how people and groups work.

August 3

This chapter, albeit quite short, puts before us some of the themes that recur throughout the Rule. Firstly, perhaps, the idea of heartfelt prayer taking place privately, without ostentation and noise, with inner stillness being reflected in a calm outward disposition. Important too is the idea so helpful to practitioners outside the monastery, of a sacred space dedicated to prayer and stillness and nothing else. A space that should be entered and left reverently, without disturbance to others who are still praying. How aware are we in our parishes of the volume of noise before and after Mass?

August 4

It is so easy to trot out the maxim that Benedictines are well-known for hospitality and this inspiring and beautiful section reminds us what true hospitality means. We are shown the high ideal to which we should aspire, that of seeing Christ in everyone we meet, particularly those who have little in terms of material or educational resources. We cannot only embrace in welcome and compassion ‘people like us.’ Our love for others cannot remain just conceptual or abstract. We need to wash the feet of others whoever the others may be. Interesting too how Benedict instructs that prayer should be shared first and foremost. Perhaps we should make a mental resolution not to forget the saying of grace before a shared meal and praying quietly for others as a habit of the heart.

August 5

This section which continues with the theme of welcoming guests reminds us how we, like the monks who need to protect the beauty of the enclosure, must serve and help others with warmth and generosity but at the same time keep a spiritual core of restraint and self-protection in order to maintain our own energies and integrity. We are no use to anyone if we are exhausted. How often can tiredness and weariness lead to resentful feelings of being used or taken for granted.

August 6

Benedict’s short chapter on personal gifts and possessions reprises his teaching on personal property in chapter 33, and we think of the number of times in scripture when Jesus refers to the binding, enslaving effects of money and material goods. One thinks too of the early Christians owning and sharing everything in common. Benedict allows no opportunity for his brethren to develop envy and jealousy over each other’s possessions, and I was interested to read recently of some schools banning student’s use of mobile phones on the grounds of fights and arguments breaking out precisely over coveting each other’s devices!

August 7

This chapter seems to illustrate some many of the qualities that we identify immediately with the Benedictine charism; those of moderation, thoughtfulness to practical detail for the benefit of the individual and care and respect for the goods of the monastery. We see respect for the person; clothes need to be clean and warm and to fit properly.

Many of us will remember childhood self-consciousness in having to wear hand-me-down clothes that were not quite right and how feeling ‘appropriate’ is important for confidence and dignity.  I was interested too on reading an article on the views of fashion designer Stella McCartney who writes that we do not respect our clothes enough, that we wash them when spot-cleaning would do, for example. Indeed, one detects a movement, particularly among the young, against the dictates of ‘fast fashion’, towards upcycling of vintage materials and a new respect for material goods that has a real resonance with Benedictine attitudes.