Holy Rule of St. Benedict
The Holy Rule of St. Benedict
The 1949 Edition
Translated by Rev. Boniface Verheyen, OSBof St. Benedict's Abbey, Atchison, Kansas
Chapter 1Of the Kinds or the Life of Monks
Chapter 2What Kind of Man the Abbot Ought to Be
Chapter 3Of Calling the Brethren for Counsel
Chapter 4The Instruments of Good Works
Chapter 5Of Obedience
Chapter 6Of Silence
Chapter 7Of Humility
Chapter 8Of the Divine Office during the Night
Chapter 9How Many Psalms Are to Be Said at the Night Office
Chapter 10How the Office Is to Be Said during the Summer Season
Chapter 11How the Night Office Is to Be Said on Sundays
Chapter 12How Lauds Are to Be Said
Chapter 13How Lauds Are to Be Said on Week Days
Chapter 14How the Night Office Is to Be Said on the Feasts of the Saints
Chapter 15At What Times the Alleluia Is to Be Said
Chapter 16How the Work of God Is to Be Performed during the Day
Chapter 17How Many Psalms Are to Be Sung at These Hours
Chapter 18In What Order the Psalms Are to Be Said
Chapter 19Of the Manner of Reciting the Psalter
Chapter 20Of Reverence at Prayer
Chapter 21Of the Deans of the Monastery
Chapter 22How the Monks Are to Sleep
Chapter 23Of Excommunication for Faults
Chapter 24What the Manner of Excommunication Should Be
Chapter 25Of Graver Faults
Chapter 26Of Those Who without the Command of the Abbot Associate with the Excommunicated
Chapter 27How Concerned the Abbot Should Be about the Excommunicated
Chapter 28Of Those Who Having Often Been Corrected Do Not Amend
Chapter 29Whether Brethren Who Leave the Monastery Ought to Be Received Again
Chapter 30How Young Boys Are to Be Corrected
Chapter 31The Kind of Man the Cellarer of the Monastery Ought to Be
Chapter 32Of the Tools and Goods of the Monastery
Chapter 33Whether Monks Ought to Have Anything of Their Own
Chapter 34Whether All Should Receive in Equal Measure What Is Necessary
Chapter 35Of the Weekly Servers in the Kitchen
Chapter 36Of the Sick Brethren
Chapter 37Of the Aged and Children
Chapter 38Of the Weekly Reader
Chapter 39Of the Quantity of Food
Chapter 40Of the Quantity of Drink
Chapter 41At What Times the Brethren Should Take Their Refection
Chapter 42That No One Speak after Complin
Chapter 43Of Those Who Are Tardy in Coming to the Work of God or to Table
Chapter 44Of Those Who Are Excommunicated–How They Make Satisfaction
Chapter 45Of Those Who Commit a Fault in the Oratory
Chapter 46Of Those Who Fail in Any Other Matters
Chapter 47Of Giving the Signal for the Time of the Work of God
Chapter 48Of the Daily Work
Chapter 49On the Keeping of Lent
Chapter 50Of the Brethren Who Work a Long Distance form the Oratory or Are on a Journey
Chapter 51Of the Brethren Who Do Not Go Very Far Away
Chapter 52Of the Oratory of the Monastery
Chapter 53Of the Reception of Guests
Chapter 54Whether a Monk Should Receive Letters or Anything Else
Chapter 55Of the Clothing and the Footgear of the Brethren
Chapter 56Of the Abbot's Table
Chapter 57Of the Artists of the Monastery
Chapter 58Of the Manner of Admitting Brethren
Chapter 59Of the Children of the Noble and of the Poor Who Are Offered
Chapter 60Of Priests Who May Wish to Live in the Monastery
Chapter 61How Stranger Monks Are to Be Received
Chapter 62Of the Priests of the Monastery
Chapter 63Of the Order in the Monastery
Chapter 64Of the Election of the Abbot
Chapter 65Of the Prior of the Monastery
Chapter 66Of the Porter of the Monastery
Chapter 67Of the Brethren Who Are Sent on a Journey
Chapter 68If a Brother is Commanded to Do Impossible Things
Chapter 69That in the Monastery No One Presume to Defend Another
Chapter 70That No One Presume to Strike Another
Chapter 71That the Brethren be Obedient to One Another
Chapter 72Of the Virtuous Zeal Which the Monks Ought to Have
Chapter 73Of This, that Not the Whole Observance of Righteousness is Laid Down in this Rule
Listen, O my son, to the precepts of thy master, and incline the ear of thy heart, and cheerfully receive and faithfully execute the admonitions of thy loving Father, that by the toil of obedience thou mayest return to Him from whom by the sloth of disobedience thou hast gone away.
To thee, therefore, my speech is now directed, who, giving up thine own will, takest up the strong and most excellent arms of obedience, to do battle for Christ the Lord, the true King.
In the first place, beg of Him by most earnest prayer, that He perfect whatever good thou dost begin, in order that He who hath been pleased to count us in the number of His children, need never be grieved at our evil deeds. For we ought at all times so to serve Him with the good things which He hath given us, that He may not, like an angry father, disinherit his children, nor, like a dread lord, enraged at our evil deeds, hand us over to everlasting punishment as most wicked servants, who would not follow Him to glory.
Let us then rise at length, since the Scripture arouseth us, saying: It is now the hour for us to rise from sleep (Rom 13:11); and having opened our eyes to the deifying light, let us hear with awestruck ears what the divine voice, crying out daily, doth admonish us, saying: Today, if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts (Ps 94:8). And again: He that hath ears to hear let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches (Rev 2:7). And what doth He say?–Come, children, hearken unto me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord (Ps 33:12). Run whilst you have the light of life, that the darkness of death overtake you not (Jn 12:35).
And the Lord seeking His workman in the multitude of the people, to whom He proclaimeth these words, saith again: Who is the man that desireth life and loveth to see good days (Ps 33:13)? If hearing this thou answerest, I am he, God saith to thee: If thou wilt have true and everlasting life, keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile; turn away from evil and do good; seek after peace and pursue it (Ps 33:14-15). And when you shall have done these things, my eyes shall be upon you, and my ears unto your prayers. And before you shall call upon me I will say: Behold, I am here (Is 58:9).
What, dearest brethren, can be sweeter to us than this voice of the Lord inviting us? See, in His loving kindness, the Lord showeth us the way of life. Therefore, having our loins girt with faith and the performance of good works, let us walk His ways under the guidance of the Gospel, that we may be found worthy of seeing Him who hath called us to His kingdom (cf 1 Thes 2:12).
If we desire to dwell in the tabernacle of His kingdom, we cannot reach it in any way, unless we run thither by good works. But let us ask the Lord with the Prophet, saying to Him: Lord, who shall dwell in Thy tabernacle, or who shall rest in Thy holy hill (Ps 14:1)?
After this question, brethren, let us listen to the Lord answering and showing us the way to this tabernacle, saying: He that walketh without blemish and worketh justice; he that speaketh truth in his heart; who hath not used deceit in his tongue, nor hath done evil to his neighbor, nor hath taken up a reproach against his neighbor (Ps 14:2-3), who hath brought to naught the foul demon tempting him, casting him out of his heart with his temptation, and hath taken his evil thoughts whilst they were yet weak and hath dashed them against Christ (cf Ps 14:4; Ps 136:9); who fearing the Lord are not puffed up by their goodness of life, but holding that the actual good which is in them cannot be done by themselves, but by the Lord, they praise the Lord working in them (cf Ps 14:4), saying with the Prophet: Not to us, O Lord, not to us; by to Thy name give glory (Ps 113[115:1]:9). Thus also the Apostle Paul hath not taken to himself any credit for his preaching, saying: By the grace of God, I am what I am (1 Cor 15:10). And again he saith: He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord (2 Cor 10:17).
Hence, the Lord also saith in the Gospel: He that heareth these my words and doeth them, shall be likened to a wise man who built his house upon a rock; the floods came, the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded on a rock (Mt 7:24-25). The Lord fulfilling these words waiteth for us from day to day, that we respond to His holy admonitions by our works. Therefore, our days are lengthened to a truce for the amendment of the misdeeds of our present life; as the Apostle saith: Knowest thou not that the patience of God leadeth thee to penance (Rom 2:4)? For the good Lord saith: I will not the death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live (Ezek 33:11).
Now, brethren, that we have asked the Lord who it is that shall dwell in His tabernacle, we have heard the conditions for dwelling there; and if we fulfil the duties of tenants, we shall be heirs of the kingdom of heaven. Our hearts and our bodies must, therefore, be ready to do battle under the biddings of holy obedience; and let us ask the Lord that He supply by the help of His grace what is impossible to us by nature. And if, flying from the pains of hell, we desire to reach life everlasting, then, while there is yet time, and we are still in the flesh, and are able during the present life to fulfil all these things, we must make haste to do now what will profit us forever.
We are, therefore, about to found a school of the Lord's service, in which we hope to introduce nothing harsh or burdensome. But even if, to correct vices or to preserve charity, sound reason dictateth anything that turneth out somewhat stringent, do not at once fly in dismay from the way of salvation, the beginning of which cannot but be narrow. But as we advance in the religious life and faith, we shall run the way of God's commandments with expanded hearts and unspeakable sweetness of love; so that never departing from His guidance and persevering in the monastery in His doctrine till death, we may by patience share in the sufferings of Christ, and be found worthy to be coheirs with Him of His kingdom.
Of the Kinds or the Life of Monks
It is well known that there are four kinds of monks. The first kind is that of Cenobites, that is, the monastic, who live under a rule and an Abbot.
The second kind is that of Anchorites, or Hermits, that is, of those who, no longer in the first fervor of their conversion, but taught by long monastic practice and the help of many brethren, have already learned to fight against the devil; and going forth from the rank of their brethren well trained for single combat in the desert, they are able, with the help of God, to cope single-handed without the help of others, against the vices of the flesh and evil thoughts.
But a third and most vile class of monks is that of Sarabaites, who have been tried by no rule under the hand of a master, as gold is tried in the fire (cf Prov 27:21); but, soft as lead, and still keeping faith with the world by their works, they are known to belie God by their tonsure. Living in two's and three's, or even singly, without a shepherd, enclosed, not in the Lord's sheepfold, but in their own, the gratification of their desires is law unto them; because what they choose to do they call holy, but what they dislike they hold to be unlawful.
But the fourth class of monks is that called Landlopers, who keep going their whole life long from one province to another, staying three or four days at a time in different cells as guests. Always roving and never settled, they indulge their passions and the cravings of their appetite, and are in every way worse than the Sarabaites. It is better to pass all these over in silence than to speak of their most wretched life.
Therefore, passing these over, let us go on with the help of God to lay down a rule for that most valiant kind of monks, the Cenobites.
What Kind of Man the Abbot Ought to Be
The Abbot who is worthy to be over a monastery, ought always to be mindful of what he is called, and make his works square with his name of Superior. For he is believed to hold the place of Christ in the monastery, when he is called by his name, according to the saying of the Apostle: You have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry Abba (Father) (Rom 8:15). Therefore, the Abbot should never teach, prescribe, or command (which God forbid) anything contrary to the laws of the Lord; but his commands and teaching should be instilled like a leaven of divine justice into the minds of his disciples.
Let the Abbot always bear in mind that he must give an account in the dread judgment of God of both his own teaching and of the obedience of his disciples. And let the Abbot know that whatever lack of profit the master of the house shall find in the sheep, will be laid to the blame of the shepherd. On the other hand he will be blameless, if he gave all a shepherd's care to his restless and unruly flock, and took all pains to correct their corrupt manners; so that their shepherd, acquitted at the Lord's judgment seat, may say to the Lord with the Prophet: I have not hid Thy justice within my heart. I have declared Thy truth and Thy salvation (Ps 39:11). But they contemning have despised me (Is 1:2; Ezek 20:27). Then at length eternal death will be the crushing doom of the rebellious sheep under his charge.
When, therefore, anyone taketh the name of Abbot he should govern his disciples by a twofold teaching; namely, he should show them all that is good and holy by his deeds more than by his words; explain the commandments of God to intelligent disciples by words, but show the divine precepts to the dull and simple by his works. And let him show by his actions, that whatever he teacheth his disciples as being contrary to the law of God must not be done, lest perhaps when he hath preached to others, he himself should become a castaway (1 Cor 9:27), and he himself committing sin, God one day say to him: Why dost thou declare My justices, and take My covenant in thy mouth? But thou hast hated discipline, and hast cast My words behind thee (Ps 49:16-17). And: Thou who sawest the mote in thy brother's eye, hast not seen the beam in thine own (Mt 7:3).
Let him make no distinction of persons in the monastery. Let him not love one more than another, unless it be one whom he findeth more exemplary in good works and obedience. Let not a free-born be preferred to a freedman, unless there be some other reasonable cause. But if from a just reason the Abbot deemeth it proper to make such a distinction, he may do so in regard to the rank of anyone whomsoever; otherwise let everyone keep his own place; for whether bond or free, we are all one in Christ (cf Gal 3:28; Eph 6:8), and we all bear an equal burden of servitude under one Lord, for there is no respect of persons with God (Rom 2:11). We are distinguished with Him in this respect alone, if we are found to excel others in good works and in humility. Therefore, let him have equal charity for all, and impose a uniform discipline for all according to merit.
For in his teaching the Abbot should always observe that principle of the Apostle in which he saith: Reprove, entreat, rebuke (2 Tm 4:2), that is, mingling gentleness with severity, as the occasion may call for, let him show the severity of the master and the loving affection of a father. He must sternly rebuke the undisciplined and restless; but he must exhort the obedient, meek, and patient to advance in virtue. But we charge him to rebuke and punish the negligent and haughty. Let him not shut his eyes to the sins of evil-doers; but on their first appearance let him do his utmost to cut them out from the root at once, mindful of the fate of Heli, the priest of Silo (cf 1 Sam 2:11-4:18). The well-disposed and those of good understanding, let him correct at the first and second admonition only with words; but let him chastise the wicked and the hard of heart, and the proud and disobedient at the very first offense with stripes and other bodily punishments, knowing that it is written: The fool is not corrected with words (Prov 29:19). And again: Strike thy son with the rod, and thou shalt deliver his soul from death (Prov 23:14).
The Abbot ought always to remember what he is and what he is called, and to know that to whom much hath been entrusted, from him much will be required; and let him understand what a difficult and arduous task he assumeth in governing souls and accommodating himself to a variety of characters. Let him so adjust and adapt himself to everyone–to one gentleness of speech, to another by reproofs, and to still another by entreaties, to each one according to his bent and understanding–that he not only suffer no loss in his flock, but may rejoice in the increase of a worthy fold.
Above all things, that the Abbot may not neglect or undervalue the welfare of the souls entrusted to him, let him not have too great a concern about fleeting, earthly, perishable things; but let him always consider that he hath undertaken the government of souls, of which he must give an account. And that he may not perhaps complain of the want of earthly means, let him remember what is written: Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you (Mt 6:33). And again: There is no want to them that fear Him (Ps 33:10). And let him know that he who undertaketh the government of souls must prepare himself to give an account for them; and whatever the number of brethren he hath under his charge, let him be sure that on judgment day he will, without doubt, have to give an account to the Lord for all these souls, in addition to that of his own. And thus, whilst he is in constant fear of the Shepherd's future examination about the sheep entrusted to him, and is watchful of his account for others, he is made solicitous also on his own account; and whilst by his admonitions he had administered correction to others, he is freed from his own failings.
Of Calling the Brethren for Counsel
Whenever weighty matters are to be transacted in the monastery, let the Abbot call together the whole community, and make known the matter which is to be considered. Having heard the brethren's views, let him weigh the matter with himself and do what he thinketh best. It is for this reason, however, we said that all should be called for counsel, because the Lord often revealeth to the younger what is best. Let the brethren, however, give their advice with humble submission, and let them not presume stubbornly to defend what seemeth right to them, for it must depend rather on the Abbot's will, so that all obey him in what he considereth best. But as it becometh disciples to obey their master, so also it becometh the master to dispose all things with prudence and justice. Therefore, let all follow the Rule as their guide in everything, and let no one rashly depart from it.
Let no one in the monastery follow the bent of his own heart, and let no one dare to dispute insolently with his Abbot, either inside or outside the monastery. If any one dare to do so, let him be placed under the correction of the Rule. Let the Abbot himself, however, do everything in the fear of the Lord and out of reverence for the Rule, knowing that, beyond a doubt, he will have to give an account