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



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

July 28th

Since ‘idleness is the enemy of the soul’, St Benedict prescribes both manual labour and sacred reading between the hours for prayer. Farm work, however, sometimes requires especially long hours. Therefore, Benedict's at pains to assure the monks that they shouldn't get unhappy or cranky when they need to do extra work in the fields. Instead, he reminds them that living through ‘the labour of their hands', like the Apostles and Fathers of the Church makes them true monks. St Teresa of Avila made much the same point to nuns who felt practical duties pulled them away from more important prayer when she said, ‘God walks among the pots and pans.`

 

July 29th

During the time assigned for sacred reading, monitors are to ensure no one's wasting time or disturbing others. This gives me flashbacks to study halls at school, but then St Benedict did call the monastery ‘a school of the Lord's service’ back in the Prologue.

 

July 30th

Sacred reading time’s also scheduled on Sundays.  Anyone who can't or won't read’s to be given another task. St Benedict asks abbots to make sure that such tasks aren't too hard for any sick or frail monk to handle.

 

 

 

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

July 28th

Since ‘idleness is the enemy of the soul’, St Benedict prescribes both manual labour and sacred reading between the hours for prayer. Farm work, however, sometimes requires especially long hours. Therefore, Benedict's at pains to assure the monks that they shouldn't get unhappy or cranky when they need to do extra work in the fields. Instead, he reminds them that living through ‘the labour of their hands', like the Apostles and Fathers of the Church makes them true monks. St Teresa of Avila made much the same point to nuns who felt practical duties pulled them away from more important prayer when she said, ‘God walks among the pots and pans.`

 

July 29th

During the time assigned for sacred reading, monitors are to ensure no one's wasting time or disturbing others. This gives me flashbacks to study halls at school, but then St Benedict did call the monastery ‘a school of the Lord's service’ back in the Prologue.

 

July 30th

Sacred reading time’s also scheduled on Sundays.  Anyone who can't or won't read’s to be given another task. St Benedict asks abbots to make sure that such tasks aren't too hard for any sick or frail monk to handle.

 

 

 

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

July 28th

Since ‘idleness is the enemy of the soul’, St Benedict prescribes both manual labour and sacred reading between the hours for prayer. Farm work, however, sometimes requires especially long hours. Therefore, Benedict's at pains to assure the monks that they shouldn't get unhappy or cranky when they need to do extra work in the fields. Instead, he reminds them that living through ‘the labour of their hands', like the Apostles and Fathers of the Church makes them true monks. St Teresa of Avila made much the same point to nuns who felt practical duties pulled them away from more important prayer when she said, ‘God walks among the pots and pans.`

 

July 29th

During the time assigned for sacred reading, monitors are to ensure no one's wasting time or disturbing others. This gives me flashbacks to study halls at school, but then St Benedict did call the monastery ‘a school of the Lord's service’ back in the Prologue.

 

July 30th

Sacred reading time’s also scheduled on Sundays.  Anyone who can't or won't read’s to be given another task. St Benedict asks abbots to make sure that such tasks aren't too hard for any sick or frail monk to handle.

 

 

 

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

July 28th

Since ‘idleness is the enemy of the soul’, St Benedict prescribes both manual labour and sacred reading between the hours for prayer. Farm work, however, sometimes requires especially long hours. Therefore, Benedict's at pains to assure the monks that they shouldn't get unhappy or cranky when they need to do extra work in the fields. Instead, he reminds them that living through ‘the labour of their hands', like the Apostles and Fathers of the Church makes them true monks. St Teresa of Avila made much the same point to nuns who felt practical duties pulled them away from more important prayer when she said, ‘God walks among the pots and pans.`

 

July 29th

During the time assigned for sacred reading, monitors are to ensure no one's wasting time or disturbing others. This gives me flashbacks to study halls at school, but then St Benedict did call the monastery ‘a school of the Lord's service’ back in the Prologue.

 

July 30th

Sacred reading time’s also scheduled on Sundays.  Anyone who can't or won't read’s to be given another task. St Benedict asks abbots to make sure that such tasks aren't too hard for any sick or frail monk to handle.

 

 

 

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

July 28th

Since ‘idleness is the enemy of the soul’, St Benedict prescribes both manual labour and sacred reading between the hours for prayer. Farm work, however, sometimes requires especially long hours. Therefore, Benedict's at pains to assure the monks that they shouldn't get unhappy or cranky when they need to do extra work in the fields. Instead, he reminds them that living through ‘the labour of their hands', like the Apostles and Fathers of the Church makes them true monks. St Teresa of Avila made much the same point to nuns who felt practical duties pulled them away from more important prayer when she said, ‘God walks among the pots and pans.`

 

July 29th

During the time assigned for sacred reading, monitors are to ensure no one's wasting time or disturbing others. This gives me flashbacks to study halls at school, but then St Benedict did call the monastery ‘a school of the Lord's service’ back in the Prologue.

 

July 30th

Sacred reading time’s also scheduled on Sundays.  Anyone who can't or won't read’s to be given another task. St Benedict asks abbots to make sure that such tasks aren't too hard for any sick or frail monk to handle.

 

 

 

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

July 28th

Since ‘idleness is the enemy of the soul’, St Benedict prescribes both manual labour and sacred reading between the hours for prayer. Farm work, however, sometimes requires especially long hours. Therefore, Benedict's at pains to assure the monks that they shouldn't get unhappy or cranky when they need to do extra work in the fields. Instead, he reminds them that living through ‘the labour of their hands', like the Apostles and Fathers of the Church makes them true monks. St Teresa of Avila made much the same point to nuns who felt practical duties pulled them away from more important prayer when she said, ‘God walks among the pots and pans.`

 

July 29th

During the time assigned for sacred reading, monitors are to ensure no one's wasting time or disturbing others. This gives me flashbacks to study halls at school, but then St Benedict did call the monastery ‘a school of the Lord's service’ back in the Prologue.

 

July 30th

Sacred reading time’s also scheduled on Sundays.  Anyone who can't or won't read’s to be given another task. St Benedict asks abbots to make sure that such tasks aren't too hard for any sick or frail monk to handle.

 

 

 

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

July 21st

St Benedict calls for silence once Compline ends. This has both practical and spiritual benefits. The monastic community can settle into needed sleep without dealing with being disturbed by chatter or other noise among the membership. The deep silence that promotes sleep even more importantly provides a good atmosphere for the monks to hear God�s voice at end of each day. Winding down into quiet�s also useful for those of us who live outside monastic walls though it�s not always easy to manage.

 

 

July 22nd

 While the monks are required to proceed to prayer as soon as they hear the signal that one of the daily Office hours is about to begin,  St Benedict is realistic and kind enough to allow a little wiggle room for the slower monks  to be counted as  �on time.�  That�s why he directs the opening Glorias to be said slowly. Monks who don�t arrive by the time those Glorias are finished aren�t to go their regular places but to a designated penitential place. This is to be within the oratory so the latecomers will still benefit from the Office and won�t indulge in chatter, extra sleep, or idleness.

 

July 23rd

Today, we learn the Benedictine family rules for mealtimes. The monks are to come to meals on time as well as stay with the community till everyone's finished eating and the final blessing's been said. No snacking's allowed between meals, and the monks don't get to pick and choose when or what they'll eat. Rather, they're to take what their superiors offer or do without.  All this sounds strict to 21st century ears, but there are many mothers and food service workers who can appreciate St Benedict's reasoning.

 

July 24th

 St. Benedict now gives directions on how those who are excommunicated from meals or from prayer in the oratory are to make satisfaction. The procedure involves prostration and asking pardon of both the abbot and the community.

 

July 25th

Monks who make mistakes in the oratory are expected to acknowledge their faults and make humble satisfaction for them. Trying to ignore the mistakes or pretend nothing happened will lead to greater penalties.

 

July 26th

Community members also must acknowledge any faults they commit at work throughout the monastery rather than waiting for someone else to point them out or hoping they will go unnoticed. Special mention is made of carelessly losing or breaking tools and objects belonging to the community, but other faults are possible.

 St Benedict differentiates between these faults in following the Rule and private sins which are to be confessed to the abbot or another �spiritual father.�

 

July 27th

The abbot directs the timing of the hours of the daily Office either personally or by appointing people to act in his stead. Anyone who chants or reads during the Office is to do so reverently and humbly.  Abbots are told to appoint only cantors and readers whose service will be good for building up the community's spiritual health. This echoes chapter 38�s directions about who should and shouldn't be permitted to read at meals.

 

 

 

 

 


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

July 21st


St Benedict calls for silence once Compline ends. This has both practical and spiritual benefits. The monastic community can settle into needed sleep without dealing with being disturbed by chatter or other noise among the membership. The deep silence that promotes sleep even more importantly provides a good atmosphere for the monks to hear God�s voice at end of each day. Winding down into quiet�s also useful for those of us who live outside monastic walls though it�s not always easy to manage.


 July 22nd


 While the monks are required to proceed to prayer as soon as they hear the signal that one of the daily Office hours is about to begin,  St Benedict is realistic and kind enough to allow a little wiggle room for the slower monks  to be counted as  �on time.�  That�s why he directs the opening Glorias to be said slowly. Monks who don�t arrive by the time those Glorias are finished aren�t to go their regular places but to a designated penitential place. This is to be within the oratory so the latecomers will still benefit from the Office and won�t indulge in chatter, extra sleep, or idleness.


 July 23rd


Today, we learn the Benedictine family rules for mealtimes. The monks are to come to meals on time as well as stay with the community till everyone's finished eating and the final blessing's been said. No snacking's allowed between meals, and the monks don't get to pick and choose when or what they'll eat. Rather, they're to take what their superiors offer or do without.  All this sounds strict to 21st century ears, but there are many mothers and food service workers who can appreciate St Benedict's reasoning.

July 24th

 St Benedict now gives directions on how those who are excommunicated from meals or from prayer in the oratory are to make satisfaction. The procedure involves prostration and asking pardon of both the abbot and the community.


 July 25th


Monks who make mistakes in the oratory are expected to acknowledge their faults and make humble satisfaction for them. Trying to ignore the mistakes or pretend nothing happened will lead to greater penalties.


 July 26th


Community members also must acknowledge any faults they commit at work throughout the monastery rather than waiting for someone else to point them out or hoping they will go unnoticed. Special mention is made of carelessly losing or breaking tools and objects belonging to the community, but other faults are possible.

St Benedict differentiates between these faults in following the Rule and private sins which are to be confessed to the abbot or another �spiritual father.�

July 27th


The abbot directs the timing of the hours of the daily Office either personally or by appointing people to act in his stead. Anyone who chants or reads during the Office is to do so reverently and humbly.  Abbots are told to appoint only cantors and readers whose service will be good for building up the community's spiritual health. This echoes chapter 38�s directions about who should and shouldn't be permitted to read at meals.


 


 


 






July 17th

In order to feed the soul as well as the body, St Benedict calls for readers to be appointed for meal service. The readers are to serve for a week and be blessed by the community in much the same way as the table servers, but Benedict notes that not all community members will be able to read for the benefit of the group.  He restricts the role of reader to those who can. He also gives Instructions for maintaining decorum and ensuring that readers can be heard.

 

July 18th and 19th

St Benedict now directs how much food and drink should be allotted to each monk daily. &n