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Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 42: That No One Speak After Compline, March 21, 2017

March 21, July 21, November 20
Chapter 42: That No One Speak After Compline

Monastics ought to be zealous for silence at all times,
but especially during the hours of the night.
For every season, therefore,
whether there be fasting or two meals,
let the program be as follows:

If it be a season when there are two meals,
then as soon as they have risen from supper
they shall all sit together,
and one of them shall read the Conferences
or the Lives of the Fathers
or something else that may edify the hearers;
not the Heptateuch or the Books of Kings, however,
because it will not be expedient for weak minds
to hear those parts of Scripture at that hour;
but they shall be read at other times.

If it be a day of fast,
then having allowed a short interval after Vespers
they shall proceed at once to the reading of the Conferences,
as prescribed above;
four or five pages being read, or as much as time permits,
so that during the delay provided by this reading
all may come together,
including those who may have been occupied
in some work assigned them.

When all, therefore, are gathered together,
let them say Compline;
and when they come out from Compline,
no one shall be allowed to say anything from that time on.
And if anyone should be found evading this rule of silence,
let her undergo severe punishment.
An exception shall be made
if the need of speaking to guests should arise
or if the Abbess should give someone an order.
But even this should be done with the utmost gravity
and the most becoming restraint.

 

Some Thoughts:
 
One might be forgiven for thinking this section really ought to be called “What to read in the evenings” as more attention seems to be given to that than silence, as the chapter says. Seems to me, though, the importance of the selection of reading materials is very much linked to what is or is not conducive to silence.
 
The Hepateuch, the 1st 7 books of the Bible, Genesis through Judges, is fraught, at least for me, with some of the most challenging passages in all of Scripture. Ditto Kings. For that matter, 1st and 2nd Samuel also, which Benedict did not specify.
 
Perhaps Benedict knew far earlier than most that what we put into our minds just before bedtime will have repercussions on our sleep, our ability to find repose in God and therefore affect us the next day.
 
I find myself wondering how many people would have fewer nightmares, anxieties, insomnia etc if they did not use the 11 PM news as their bedtime story.

Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 37: On the Old and Children, March 16, 2017

March 16, July 16, November 15
Chapter 37: On the Old and Children

Although human nature itself is drawn to special kindness towards
these times of life, that is towards the old and children, still
the authority of the Rule should also provide for them.

Let their weakness be always taken into account, and let them by
no means be held to the rigor of the Rule with regard to food. On
the contrary, let a kind consideration be shown to them, and let
them eat before the regular hours.

Some thoughts
 
It is like Benedict’s kindness that he makes provision in the Rule for children and the elderly. They were a vulnerable population in his day, as were widows. While I have seen kindliness to children, I have not seen so much of that for the elderly. We need it.
 
Children and the elderly both need certain types of food, Benedict tells us, so that they may flourish. Benedict talks a lot about food in the RB. He expects his monastics to abstain from meat except for certain holy days, but this does not apply to children and the elderly. Of course, once a child reached the age of thirteen, that child was pretty much considered an adult and at that time would join the monastics in the fast from meat.
 
Loving the phrase “kind consideration.” Wherever we are, with whomsoever we might be with, let us always show a kind consideration.

Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 36: On the Sick, March 15, 2017

March 15, July 15, November 14
Chapter 36: On the Sick

Before all things and above all things, care must be taken of the
sick, so that they will be served as if they were Christ in person;
for He Himself said, “I was sick, and you visited Me” (Matt 25:36),
and, “What you did for one of these least ones, you did for Me”
(Matt.25:40).

But let the sick on their part consider that they are being served
for the honor of God, and let them not annoy their sisters who are
serving them by their unnecessary demands. Yet they should be
patiently borne with, because from such as these is gained a more
abundant reward. Therefore the Abbess shall take the greatest care
that they suffer no neglect.

For these sick let there be assigned a special room and an
attendant who is God-fearing, diligent and solicitous. Let the use
of baths be afforded the sick as often as may be expedient; but to
the healthy, and especially to the young, let them be granted more
rarely.
Moreover, let the use of meat be granted to the sick who are very
weak, for the restoration of their strength; but when they are
convalescent, let all abstain from meat as usual.

The Abbess shall take the greatest care that the sick be not
neglected by the cellarers or the attendants; for she also is
responsible for what is done wrongly by her disciples.

Some thoughts
The sick are to be cared for as if they were Jesus. Would that all who claim to be Christian treated the sick this way. Too many people begrudge the sick the care they need for all sorts of folderol excuses. Jesus is very clear: care for the sick.
 
The sick also have a responsibility to be thankful for the care they receive. The sick are to remember that they are not getting care because of any merit of theirs, but because it is being done as an act of worship of God. As a result, the ill are to be considerate when asking for their needs to be met and not drain the resources of those caring for them or demanding more than is a reasonable accommodation
 
Of course, back in Benedict’s day, they did not know about bacteria, germs or viri. Benedict counsels the monastics the best ways he knows: a separate room both for their peace and ability to rest but also to protect the rest of the community from disease; baths (apparently they did not bathe every day ordinarily); and meat to restore their strength while ill.
 
The monastic superior, in this case, and in every other situation in the community, is the final authority and is where the buck stops.
 
The Rule of St. Benedict and the kind of care they gave the sick is the foundation for our modern medical care and hospitals. A gigantic industry grew out of the monastics simple obedience to Jesus and the Rule. How well that industry meets needs is often manipulated. Care is often denied because the needy are considered unworthy in some way even if the lack of care might threaten the rest fo the population.
 
Benedict’s example tells Christians what our relationship to the sick must be: treat them as if they were Jesus. Pure and simple. Treat them as if they were Jesus.

Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 35: On the Weekly Servers in the Kitchen, March 13, 2017

March 13, July 13, November 12
Chapter 35: On the Weekly Servers in the Kitchen

Let the brethren serve one another, and let no one be excused from
the kitchen service
except by reason of sickness or occupation in some important work.
For this service brings increase of reward and of charity. But let
helpers be provided for the weak ones, that they may not be
distressed by this work; and indeed let everyone have help, as
required by the size of the community or the circumstances of the
locality. If the community is a large one,
the cellarer shall be excused from the kitchen service; and so also
those whose occupations are of greater utility, as we said above.
Let the rest serve one another in charity.

The one who is ending his week of service shall do the cleaning on
Saturday. He shall wash the towels with which the brethren wipe
their hands and feet; and this server who is ending his week, aided
by the one who is about to begin, shall wash the feet of all the
brethren. He shall return the utensils of his office to the
cellarer clean and in good condition,
and the cellarer in turn shall consign them to the incoming server,
in order that he may know what he gives out and what he receives
back.

Some thoughts
 
Whenever I read this chapter, I am always struck by the homiism, if that is a word and according to the spellcheck it isn’t but it should be. Housework and meal preparation go in every home, and with his famed attention to detail, Benedict tells us how to make it work not only in the community but also out here in the world.
 
Seems to me that if a group of people take turns doing the housework and the cooking, instead of expecting one person to do it all, there will be a great deal of peace and harminy in communal living situations.

Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 34: Whether All Should Receive in Equal Measure What Is Necessary, March 12, 2017

March 12, July 12, November 11
Chapter 34: Whether All Should Receive in Equal Measure What Is
Necessary

Let us follow the Scripture,
“Distribution was made to each
according as anyone had need” (Acts 4:35).
By this we do not mean that there should be respecting of persons
(which God forbid),
but consideration for infirmities.
She who needs less should thank God and not be discontented;
but she who needs more
should be humbled by the thought of her infirmity
rather than feeling important
on account of the kindness shown her.
Thus all the members will be at peace.

Above all, let not the evil of murmuring appear
for any reason whatsoever
in the least word or sign.
If anyone is caught at it,
let her be placed under very severe discipline.

 

Some thoughts
 
The criterion is need. That’s the sole consideration. Who needs what? That’s all Benedict cares about that needs are met. Those who need more receive it. They need to understand that they receive it only because of need and not due to their former station in life or because of any merit. They receive solely because they are in need which is a humbling thing to be.
 
Those who need less are to be glad that they are not in need.After all, one day in the future they may be in need.
 
Benedict counsels to simply meet needs without argument, proof of merit, and it is not at another’s expense because the one who is not in need is not missing out on anything. I really wish that all who read these words grasp this concept. Meet needs and don’t shilly-shally about it, making up excuses or justifications for greed. Meet needs.
 
Once again we see the saint admonishing those who would murmur, i.e. complain or gossip or make sarcastic, snarky, snide comments. There are harsh penalties in the Rule for this sort of behavior. While not a fan of harsh anything, I believe life would be far more enjoyable without complaints, gossip, sarcastic, snarky, snide comments. Don’t you?

Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 33: Whether Monks Ought to Have Anything of Their Own, March 11, 2017

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 —

anything whatever,

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.

 
Some thoughts

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?

Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 32: On the Tools and Property of the Monastery, March 10, 2017

March 10, July 10, November 9
Chapter 32: On the Tools and Property of the Monastery

For the care of the monastery’s property
in tools, clothing and other articles
let the Abbess appoint sisters
on whose manner of life and character she can rely;
and let her, as she shall judge to be expedient,
consign the various articles to them,
to be looked after and to be collected again.
The Abbess shall keep a list of these articles,
so that
as the sisters succeed one another in their assignments
she may know what she gives and what she receives back.

If anyone treats the monastery’s property
in a slovenly or careless way,
let her be corrected.
If she fails to amend,
let her undergo the discipline of the Rule.

 

Some thoughts
 
Taking care of something so that it lasts a long time is somewhat of a foreign concept in a society that flaunts consumerism, isn’t it? I remember on of those Bush presidents saying something like it was the patriotic duty of US citizens to spend money and buy stuff. He said that in the middle of the worst depression since the Great Depression. So I guess it was the second Bush that said it.
 
When I was in high school, we female students had to take Home Ec. It was required. In Home Ec we were taught about frugality and thrift, This included not only cooking lessons, but how to shop wisely, how to mend, how to sew, how to darn. We were taught to take so much care and to take pride in what we made so it would be durable and last.
 
Later on in US History II, we were taught about “planned obsolescence,” the idea that goods are manufactured in such a way that they will fail and need to be replaced. My reaction was horror because what about taking pride in craftsmanship? The teacher explained that if things didn’t need to be replaced, the economy would die.
 
To this day, I am still horrified that the US economy is based upon planned obsolescence. I think Benedict would be too.