Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 63: On the Order of the Community

April 18, August 18, December 18

Chapter 63: On the Order of the Community

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.

Some thoughts
It must have been quite a hard life for boys in the monastery – and here’s another example: ‘Boys…are to be kept under discipline in all matters and by everyone.’
By everyone! It’s not always easy being under the authority of just *one* person, but to have to be under the authority of *every*one else in the community?
On the other hand, people of a certain age are wont to comment that the lack of discipline of boys (and girls) these days and their failure to accept authority from anybody, parents or teachers or other authority figures, is a major cause of the rise in crime. Certainly many of the children I observe in the library, supermarket, and in the street seem to have scant respect for their elders.
Thinking about it, it’s hardly a child’s fault if he is not disciplined, is it? The responsibility lies with the people who ought to be dispensing discipline, guidance and good example. St Benedict addresses his rule to the community, meaning ‘keep the boys under discipline’, not to the boys themselves, saying, ‘stay under the discipline of the community.’
Clearly, the fact that the boys were under the discipline of the adults in the community in no way rendered them second-class members of it: they took their place regardless of their age, and the examples of noted ‘boys’ in the Bible are given to ensure a scriptural basis for not treating the boys as subordinate to the adults – unusual, I would imagine, in St Benedict’s day.

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