During the more than 1500 years of their existence, the Benedictines have not been immune to periods of laxity and decline, often following periods of greater prosperity and an attendant relaxing of discipline. In such times, dynamic Benedictines have often led reform movements to return to a stricter observance of both the letter and spirit of the Rule of St Benedict, at least as they understood it. Examples include the Camaldolese, the Cistercians, the Trappists (a reform of the Cistercians), and the Sylvestrines. At the heart of reform movements, past and present, lie hermeneutical questions about what fidelity to tradition means. For example, are sixth-century objectives, like blending in with contemporary dress or providing service to visitors, better served or compromised by retaining sixth-century clothing or by insisting that service excludes formal educational enterprises?
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