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

February of course brings Lent so this month's book choice has a Lenten focus.

Did St Benedict invent the Lent book?

As we know, RB 48: 15 stipulates that at the beginning of Lent each monk is to receive a ‘codex’ from the library which is to be read ‘straight through and entire’ (per ordinem ex integro)  during the weeks of Lent – a practice which is maintained in many monasteries today and which is often extended to oblates. Scholars debate whether the ‘codex’ would have been a book of Scripture or a spiritual work of some kind, perhaps a patristic commentary.

No such custom is mentioned in the Rule of the Master on which the Rule of St Benedict seems to draw heavily, so it could be that St Benedict himself invented the idea. ‘The Lent Book’ has been taken up by contemporary publishers with some enthusiasm. Some current and recent Lent Books are listed below:

Thy Will be Done by Stephen Cherry, Dean of King’s College Cambridge, is the 2021 Lent Book from Continuum.
Through 36 short chapters, arranged over the 6 weeks of the Lenten season, readers are taken on a journey through this most familiar prayer. They will find new insights from guides as diverse as St Gregory of Nyssa and Michelle Obama to deepen their own prayer this Lent.

The Wind, the Fountain and the Fire by Fr Mark Barrett, a Benedictine monk of Worth Abbey, was the 2020 Lent Book from Continuum. This book guides readers through the major Sunday Gospel readings of Lent, skilfully unpacking the scriptural allusions which reveal hidden depths in the familiar stories and helping to engage us personally in the story of salvation.

The SPCK Lent Book for 2021 is The Way of Julian of Norwich: A Prayer Journey through Lent by Sheila Upjohn.

The author leads readers through Mother Julian’s encouraging teaching on prayer, suffering and the providence of God.  A book for our times.

And for those who did not read SPCK’s 2020 Lent Book last year,  The Way of Benedict: Eight Blessings for Lent by Laurentia Johns OSB shows how the Rule of St Benedict can help us find peace and joy in daily life during Lent and throughout the year.

These last two books have sections for reflection and discussion at the end of each chapter which may be used individually or in groups.















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 challenged as Christians to look on everyone � not just those we find it easy to get on with � as Christ does. The compassionate love of the Trinity is all-embracing. It accepts every single person right where they are now, today, whatever mess they are in, no exceptions. God loves me infinitely, unconditionally. He loves everyone else infinitely, unconditionally. This is NOT a fluffy concept! We are asked to take seriously, at the nitty-gritty level of everyday life and relationships, the command we reflected on yet again this last week in the Gospel for Sunday 30 (Matthew 22:34-40) to love others, to love and accept every single person we encounter TODAY, as we ourselves are loved by God. That is an immense task, but it is the essential task of our lives. It is here that we will meet God today. Let�s hope � and trust � that practice, aided by Grace, makes perfect!