The Rule of St. Benedict (2024)

Although considered the founder of western monasticism and the patron saint of Europe, St. Benedict of Norcia, who lived in fifth-century Italy and whose name has been taken by various popes through the ages, gave the developing Christian world a spiritual wisdom that is as applicable to Christians today as it was 15 centuries ago.

The Rule of Benedict is a written code of conduct that Benedictines follow under its own autonomous administration and the spiritual guidance of the local abbot. But scholars say it was actually intended not so much a clerical rule but a pathway for all Christian lay persons of Benedict’s time to attain closeness to God.

It is believed that Benedict drew from several existing rules and philosophies during his time and that he placed a great emphasis on the importance of stability, fidelity to the monastic way of life and obedience. Though promises of poverty and chastity are implied in the Benedictine way, stability, fidelity and obedience receive primary attention in the rule &#0151 perhaps because of their close relationship with community life.

According to Benedictine Sister Jane Michele McClure, in her article on “The Rule of St. Benedict”, “Benedict envisioned a balanced life of prayer and work as the ideal. Monastics would spend time in prayer so as to discover why they’re working, and would spend time in work so that good order and harmony would prevail in the monastery. According to Benedict, all things &#0151 eating, drinking, sleeping, reading, working and praying &#0151 should be done in moderation.”

In “Wisdom Distilled” from the Daily, Sister Joan Chittister writes that in Benedict’s Rule, “All must be given its due, but only its due. There should be something of everything and not too much of anything.”

Dating back 1500 years, the Rule of St. Benedict remains today a powerful and a relevant guide for individuals who seek God in the ordinary circ*mstances of daily life. Discover the wisdom behind the writings and practices of St. Benedict and gather insight as to why our new pope chose the name Benedict XVI.

Benedictine Father Damian DuQuesnay, a spiritual director at St. Leo College near Tampa, FL, said there was a need for order and discipline among early Christians seeking a deeper fidelity to Christ.

The rule applied to people outside of the monastery, notes Father DuQuesnay. Many travelers in Europe looked to the monasteries as a place of hospitality and refuge, and the rule was intended to provide them with a code of conduct for their stay.

In addition to sponsoring a college, St. Leo Abbey in Tampa serves as a place of retreat and spiritual direction for many large and small groups annually. “In these days of chaos and mistrust, many people seek a quiet place to get properly oriented with God and to discern what life is all about and how to live it successfully,” Father DuQuesnay said. “People are captivated by the peacefulness and privacy of our place &#0151 reflecting without the distraction of city life. We perform a very meaningful function in the opportunities we offer people of all denominations who want to come and figure out what life and human existence is all about.”

Obedience is the central vow for the Benedictine monk; stability, meaning the monk joins the house for all his days, is second, followed by the “conversion of manners,” a reference to the religious vows of celibacy, poverty and chastity.

“Let everyone that comes to be received as Christ” is one of the most familiar and oft-quoted phrases of the Rule of Benedict. Sister McClure said, “It emphasizes the preeminent position which hospitality occupies in every Benedictine Monastery. Benedictine hospitality goes beyond the exercise of the expected social graces &#0151 the superficial smile or the warm reception of expected guests. Hospitality for Benedict meant that everyone who comes should be received with a genuine acceptance.

“When Benedict wrote his rule, society seemed to be falling apart,” said Sister McClure. “Though materially prosperous, the Roman Empire was in a state of decline. After Benedict’s death, barbarian hordes would overrun Europe and the very survival of Western civilization would be called into question. Benedictine monasteries &#0151 with their message of balance and moderation, stability, hospitality and stewardship &#0151 were credited with the preservation of Western culture.”

For more information on the Rule of Benedict, visit the Sisters of St. Benedict of Ferdinand, Ind. website at

or visit

(This article courtesy of the St. Augustine Catholic.)

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The Rule of St. Benedict (2024)


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