Daily Reading from the Rule of Benedict

Yesterday's Reading

About the Rule of Benedict

Benedict of Nursia was born in the year 480. As a student in Rome, he tired of the decadent culture around him and left to live a simple spiritual life as a hermit in the countryside of Subiaco about thirty miles outside of the city. It wasn't long, however, before he was discovered both by the people of the area and disciples who were themselves looking for a more meaningful way of life. Out of these associations sprang the monastic life that would eventually cover Europe.

The Rule of Benedict is not a treatise in systematic theology. Its logic is the logic of daily life lived in Christ and lived well. This early monastic rule is part of the Wisdom tradition of Christianity and is rooted in the Bible for its inspiration and its end. It deals with the meaning and purpose of life. The positions taken in the Rule in the light of themes in the wisdom literature of other culture find Benedict of Nursia in the stream of thinkers who lived out of a single tradition but from the perspective of universal and fundamental insights into life.

Excerpted from The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages by Joan Chittister, OSB

August 26, 2019
Chapter 68
Assignment of Impossible Tasks

Monastics may be assigned a burdensome task or something they cannot do. If so, they should, with complete gentleness and obedience, accept the order given them. Should they see, however, that the weight of the burden is altogether too much for their strength, then they should choose the appropriate moment and explain patiently to the prioress or abbot the reasons why they cannot perform the task. This they ought to do without pride, obstinacy or refusal. If after the explanation the abbot or prioress is still determined to hold to their original order, then the junior must recognize that this is best. Trusting in God's help, they must in love obey.

An old Jewish proverb teaches, "When you have no choice, don't be afraid." A modern saying argues, "There's no way out but through." The straight and simple truth is that there are some things in life that must be done, even when we don't want to do them, even when we believe we can't do them. Is the rule cruel on this point? Not if there is any truth in experience at all. The reality is that we are often incapable of assessing our own limits, our real talents, our true strength, our necessary ordeals. If parents and teachers and employers and counselors and prioresses somewhere hadn't insisted, we would never have gone to college or stayed at the party or tried the work or met the person or begun the project that, eventually, changed our lives and made us more than we ever knew ourselves to be. Benedict understood clearly that the function of leadership is to call us beyond ourselves, to stretch us to our limits, to turn the clay into breathless beauty. But, first, of course, we have to allow it to happen.

The Rule of Benedict Insights for the Ages

Is there a great spiritual tradition that deals with the contemporary issues facing the human community? In her new introduction to the Rule, Joan Chittister boldly claims that Benedict’s sixth-century text is the only one of the great traditions that directly touches today’s issues: stewardship, conversion, communication, reflection, contemplation, humility and equality. Tracing Benedict’s original Rule paragraph by paragraph, the new book expands the principles of the Rule into the larger context of spiritual living in a secular world and makes the seemingly archaic instructions relevant for a contemporary audience. A new foreword, updated content, an appendix, a Gregorian Chant download and a recommended calendar for reading the entries and commentaries make this an invaluable resource for solitary or communal contemplation. (Crossroad; Paperback) Order here.