March 11, July 11, November 10
Chapter 33: Whether Monks Ought to Have Anything of Their Own
This vice especially
is to be cut out of the monastery by the roots.
Let no one presume to give or receive anything
without the Abbot’s leave,
or to have anything as his own —
whether book or tablets or pen or whatever it may be —
since they are not permitted to have even their bodies or wills
at their own disposal;
but for all their necessities
let them look to the Father of the monastery.
And let it be unlawful to have anything
which the Abbot has not given or allowed.
Let all things be common to all,
as it is written (Acts 4:32),
and let no one say or assume that anything is his own.
But if anyone is caught indulging in this most wicked vice,
let him be admonished once and a second time.
If he fails to amend,
let him undergo punishment.
Such strong language to start off today’s reading. Why would it be a vice for a monk to have possessions? We human beings tend to be greedy and jealous of those who have more than others. I think Benedict wanted to prevent that.
It is up to the monastic superior to determine what is or is not beneficial to each monk. Because it is that person’s decision, then the monastics simply have to accept it, because in the monastery, they own nothing, not even themselves.
For those of us who do not live in a monastic community maybe what we could take from this is this question. What do we own that we do not need? What could we sell and then give those proceeds to the poor?