Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 64: On Constituting an Abbess, December 20, 2016

April 20, August 20, December 20

Chapter 64: On Constituting an Abbess

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.

Some thoughts

The selection of the monastic superior is an important decision. Benedict’s concern is that the right person be chosen even if that person might be the newest member of the community. The right person might be elected unanimously or by a smaller group.  No hard and fast rule for the choice except it must be a person willing to lead the community in holiness. Benedict knew human nature very well. He had had the experience in his own life of being elected Abbot of a monastic community which wanted to pursue their own vices and not holiness.

Should the community ignore St. Benedict’s instructions they run the risk of having the local bishop or the monastic superiors of nearby communities appoint an abbot or abbess who will demand that the community shape up and embrace zeal for God.


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