The Order of Saint Benedict
The Rule of Benedict. English.
When anyone is newly come for the reformation of her life,
let her not be granted an easy entrance;
but, as the Apostle says,
"Test the spirits to see whether they are from God."
If the newcomer, therefore, perseveres in her knocking,
and if it is seen after four or five days
that she bears patiently the harsh treatment offered her
and the difficulty of admission,
and that she persists in her petition,
then let entrance be granted her,
and let her stay in the guest house for a few days.
After that let her live in the novitiate,
where the novices study, eat and sleep.
A senior shall be assigned to them who is skilled in winning souls,
to watch over them with the utmost care.
Let her examine whether the novice is truly seeking God,
and whether she is zealous
for the Work of God, for obedience and for trials.
Let the novice be told all the hard and rugged ways
by which the journey to God is made.
If she promises stability and perseverance,
then at the end of two months
let this rule be read through to her,
and let her be addressed thus:
"Here is the law under which you wish to fight.
If you can observe it, enter;
if you cannot, you are free to depart."
If she still stands firm,
let her be taken to the above-mentioned novitiate
and again tested in all patience.
And after the lapse of six months let the Rule be read to her,
that she may know on what she is entering.
And if she still remains firm,
after four months let the same Rule be read to her again.
Then, having deliberated with herself,
if she promises to keep it in its entirety
and to observe everything that is commanded,
let her be received into the community.
But let her understand that,
according to the law of the Rule,
from that day forward she may not leave the monastery
nor withdraw her neck from under the yoke of the Rule
which she was free to refuse or to accept
during that prolonged deliberation.
When she is to be received
she promises before all in the oratory
fidelity to monastic life
This promise she shall make before God and His Saints,
so that if she should ever act otherwise,
she may know that she will be condemned by Him whom she mocks.
Of this promise of hers let her draw up a document
in the name of the Saints whose relics are there
and of the Abbess who is present.
Let her write this document with her own hand;
or if she is illiterate, let another write it at her request,
and let the novice put her mark to it.
Then let her place it with her own hand upon the altar;
and when she has placed it there,
let the novice at once intone this verse:
"Receive me, O Lord, according to Your word, and I shall live:
and let me not be confounded in my hope" (Ps. 118:116).
Let the whole community answer this verse three times
and add the "Glory be to the Father."
Then let the novice prostrate herself at each one's feet,
that they may pray for her.
And from that day forward
let her be counted as one of the community.
If she has any property,
let her either give it beforehand to the poor
or by solemn donation bestow it on the monastery,
reserving nothing at all for herself,
as indeed she knows that from that day forward
she will no longer have power even over her own body.
At once, therefore, in the oratory,
let her be divested of her own clothes which she is wearing
and dressed in the clothes of the monastery.
But let the clothes of which she was divested
be put aside in the wardrobe and kept there.
Then if she should ever listen to the persuasions of the devil
and decide to leave the monastery (which God forbid),
she may be divested of the monastic clothes and cast out.
Her document, however,
which the Abbess has taken from the altar,
shall not be returned to her, but shall be kept in the monastery.
If anyone of the nobility
offers his son to God in the monastery
and the boy is very young,
let his parents draw up the document which we mentioned above;
and at the oblation
let them wrap the document itself and the boy's hand in the altar cloth.
That is how they offer him.
As regards their property,
they shall promise in the same petition under oath
that they will never of themselves, or through an intermediary,
or in any way whatever,
give him anything
or provide him with the opportunity of owning anything.
if they are unwilling to do this,
and if they want to offer something as an alms to the monastery
for their advantage,
let them make a donation
of the property they wish to give to the monastery,
reserving the income to themselves if they wish.
And in this way let everything be barred,
so that the boy may have no expectations
whereby (which God forbid) he might be deceived and ruined,
as we have learned by experience.
Let those who are less well-to-do make a similar offering.
But those who have nothing at all
shall simply draw up the document
and offer their son before witnesses at the oblation.
If any ordained priest
should ask to be received into the monastery,
permission shall not be granted too readily.
But if he is quite persistent in his request,
let him know
that he will have to observe the whole discipline of the Rule
and that nothing will be relaxed in his favor,
that it may be as it is written:
"Friend, for what have you come (Matt. 26:50)?"
It shall be granted him, however, to stand next after the Abbot
and to give blessings and to celebrate Mass,
but only by order of the Abbot.
Without such order let him not make any exceptions for himself,
knowing that he is subject to the discipline of the Rule;
but rather let him give an example of humility to all.
If there happens to be question of an appointment
or of some business in the monastery,
let him expect the rank due him
according to the date of his entrance into the monastery,
and not the place granted him
out of reverence for the priesthood.
If any clerics, moved by the same desire,
should wish to join the monastery,
let them be placed in a middle rank.
But they too are to be admitted only if they promise
observance of the Rule and stability.
If a pilgrim monastic coming from a distant region
wants to live as a guest of the monastery,
let her be received for as long a time as she desires,
provided she is content
with the customs of the place as she finds them
and does not disturb the monastery by superfluous demands,
but is simply content with what she finds.
If, however, she censures or points out anything reasonably
and with the humility of charity,
let the Abbess consider prudently
whether perhaps it was for that very purpose
that the Lord sent her.
If afterwards she should want to bind herself to stability,
her wish should not be denied her,
especially since there has been opportunity
during her stay as a guest
to discover her character.
But if as a guest she was found exacting or prone to vice,
not only should she be denied membership in the community,
but she should even be politely requested to leave,
lest others be corrupted by her evil life.
If, however, she has not proved to be the kind
who deserves to be put out,
she should not only on her own application be received
as a member of the community,
but she should even be persuaded to stay,
that the others may be instructed by her example,
and because in every place it is the same Lord who is served,
the same King for whom the battle is fought.
Moreover, if the Abbess perceives that she is worthy,
she may put her in a somewhat higher rank.
[And not only with regard to a nun
but also with regard to those in priestly or clerical orders
the Abbess may establish them in a higher rank
than would be theirs by date of entrance
if she perceives that their life is deserving.
Let the Abbess take care, however,
never to receive a nun from another known monastery
as a member of her community
without the consent of her Abbess or a letter of recommendation;
for it is written,
"Do not to another what you would not want done to yourself" (Tob. 4:16).
*[Applicable only to women of some contemporary monastic communities in the Anglican Communion.]
If an Abbot desire
to have a priest or a deacon ordained for his monastery,
let him choose one
who is worthy to exercise the priestly office.
But let the one who is ordained
beware of self-exaltation or pride;
and let him not presume to do anything
except what is commanded him by the Abbot,
knowing that he is so much the more subject
to the discipline of the Rule.
Nor should he by reason of his priesthood forget
the obedience and the discipline required by the Rule,
but make ever more and more progress towards God.
Let him always keep the place which he received
on entering the monastery,
except in his duties at the altar
or in case the choice of the community and the will of the Abbot
should promote him for the worthiness of his life.
Yet he must understand
that he is to observe the rules laid down by deans and Priors.
Should he presume to act otherwise,
let him be judged not as a priest but as a rebel.
And if he does not reform after repeated admonitions,
let even the Bishop be brought in as a witness.
If then he still fails to amend,
and his offenses are notorious,
let him be put out of the monastery,
but only if his contumacy is such
that he refuses to submit or to obey the Rule.
Let all keep their places in the monastery
established by the time of their entrance,
the merit of their lives and the decision of the Abbot.
Yet the Abbot must not disturb the flock committed to him,
nor by an arbitrary use of his power ordain anything unjustly;
but let him always think
of the account he will have to render to God
for all his decisions and his deeds.
Therefore in that order which he has established
or which they already had,
let the brethren approach to receive the kiss of peace and Communion,
intone the Psalms and stand in choir.
And in no place whatever should age decide the order
or be prejudicial to it;
for Samuel and Daniel as mere boys judged priests.
Except for those already mentioned, therefore,
whom the Abbot has promoted by a special decision
or demoted for definite reasons,
all the rest shall take their order
according to the time of their entrance.
Thus, for example,
he who came to the monastery at the second hour of the day,
whatever be his age or his dignity,
must know that he is junior
to one who came at the first hour of the day.
Boys, however, are to be kept under discipline
in all matters and by everyone.
The juniors, therefore, should honor their seniors,
and the seniors love their juniors.
In the very manner of address,
let no one call another by the mere name;
but let the seniors call their juniors Brothers,
and the juniors call their seniors Fathers,
by which is conveyed the reverence due to a father.
But the Abbot,
since he is believed to represent Christ,
shall be called Lord and Abbot,
not for any pretensions of his own
but out of honor and love for Christ.
Let the Abbot himself reflect on this,
and show himself worthy of such an honor.
And wherever the brethren meet one another
the junior shall ask the senior for his blessing.
When a senior passes by,
a junior shall rise and give him a place to sit,
nor shall the junior presume to sit with him
unless his senior bid him,
that it may be as was written,
"In honor anticipating one another."
Boys, both small and adolescent,
shall keep strictly to their rank in oratory and at table.
But outside of that, wherever they may be,
let them be under supervision and discipline,
until they come to the age of discretion.
In the constituting of an Abbess
let this plan always be followed,
that the office be conferred on the one who is chosen
either by the whole community unanimously in the fear of God
or else by a part of the community, however small,
if its counsel is more wholesome.
Merit of life and wisdom of doctrine
should determine the choice of the one to be constituted,
even if she be the last of the order of the community.
But if (which God forbid)
the whole community should agree to choose a person
who will acquiesce in their vices,
and if those vices somehow become known to the Bishop
to whose diocese the place belongs,
or to the Abbots, Abbesses or the faithful of the vicinity,
let them prevent the success of this conspiracy of the wicked,
and set a worthy steward over the house of God.
They may be sure
that they will receive a good reward for this action
if they do it with a pure intention and out of zeal for God;
as, on the contrary, they will sin if they fail to do it.
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Selections above from Saint Benedict's Rule for Monasteries, translated from the Latin by Leonard J. Doyle OblSB, of Saint John's Abbey, (© Copyright 1948, 2001, by the Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, MN 56321). Adapted for use here with the division into sense lines of the first edition that was republished in 2001 to mark the 75th anniversary of Liturgical Press. Doyle's translation is available in both hardcover and paperback editions.
Benedict's Rule: A Translation and Commentary by Terrence G. Kardong, O.S.B. is the first line-by-line exegesis of the entire Rule of Benedict written originally in English. This full commentary -- predominately literary and historical criticism -- is based on and includes a Latin text of Regula Benedicti (Liturgical Press). Hardcover, 664 pp., 6 x 9, ISBN 0-8146-2325-5, $59.95.
RB 1980 in Latin and English
with Notes is a modern, scholarly translation ed. by Timothy Fry, OSB (Liturgical Press, 1981), 672 p.,
translation by itself is also available in
Rev. 03ix09 / © Copyright 1995-2009 by OSB, MN / archive.osb.org/rb/text/rbeaad2.html