The Rule of Saint Benedict

Introduction

The Rule of Saint Benedict (Latin: Regula Benedicti) is a book of precepts written by Benedict of Nursia (c. 480 – 550 AD) for monks living communally under the authority of an abbot.

The spirit of St. Benedict's Rule is summed up in the motto of the Benedictine Confederation: pax ("peace") and the traditional ora et labora ("pray and work").

Compared to other precepts, the Rule provides a moderate path between individual zeal and formulaic institutionalism; because of this middle ground it has been widely popular. Benedict's concerns were the needs of monks in a community environment: namely, to establish due order, to foster an understanding of the relational nature of human beings, and to provide a spiritual father to support and strengthen the individual's ascetic effort and the spiritual growth that is required for the fulfillment of the human vocation, theosis.

The Rule of Saint Benedict has been used by Benedictines for fifteen centuries, and thus St. Benedict is sometimes regarded as the founder of Western monasticism. There is, however, no evidence to suggest that Benedict intended to found a religious order in the modern sense and it was not until the later Middle Ages that mention was made of an "Order of Saint Benedict". His Rule was written as a guide for individual, autonomous communities, and to this day all Benedictine Houses (and the Congregations in which they have grouped themselves) remain self-governing. Advantages seen in retaining this unique Benedictine emphasis on autonomy include cultivating models of tightly bonded communities and contemplative lifestyles. Perceived disadvantages comprise geographical isolation from important activities in adjacent communities. Other perceived losses include inefficiency and lack of mobility in the service of others, and insufficient appeal to potential members. These different emphases emerged within the framework of the Rule in the course of history and are to some extent present within the Benedictine Confederation and the Cistercian Orders of the Common and the Strict Observance.


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