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

July 2, 2020
Chapter 25
Serious Faults

Those guilty of a serious fault are to be excluded from both the table and the oratory. No one in the community should associate or converse with them at all. They will work alone at the tasks assigned to them, living continually in sorrow and penance, pondering that fearful judgment of the apostle: "Such a person is handed over for the destruction of the flesh that the spirit may be saved on the day of Jesus Christ (I Cor 5:5)." Let them take their food alone in an amount and at a time the prioress or abbot considers appropriate. They should not be blessed by anyone passing by, nor should the food that is given them be blessed.

"There is no failure except in no longer trying," it is said. Benedict has no intention of letting anyone sink to the point where the intolerable is unnoticed and unremarked and institutionalized. Each of us is capable of betraying the best in us. We cut corners in the office, we stop cleaning the house, we let the study and the reading and the praying go. We sit around in life letting the juice turn black in us. We let the family down. We let the business slide. We let our minds and souls go to straw. We fight the call to growth and goodness with everything in us. We let the world carry us instead of carrying our part of the world. And, at that point, Benedict's Rule calls for the group whose life we affect to say "Enough," to quit bearing us up on the litter of community, to quit rewarding our selfish and surly behavior with security and affirmation and a patina of holiness. Excommunication, for all practical purposes, says "You want to be a world unto yourself? Fine, be one."

The problem, of course, is that a human being needs help to be a human being. At our worst we seek the solace of another's hand. So, before expelling the rebellious, Benedict isolates them to give them time to decide if being out of the community is really what they want, really what they need, really what will bring them happiness. It is a time for making choices all over again.

It's not a bad idea to distance ourselves from what we say we do not want in order to discover whether the problem is actually in it or, perhaps, in us. Sabbaticals and long vacations and discernment retreats, even going away to college when we're young, all can help us see our parents and our family and our function in life in a completely different way. The point of the Rule is simply that we have to take intervals to explore consciously what we ourselves are holding back from the group that depends on us.

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.