The Rule was written by Benedict of Nursia circa 530 for a monastic community. 1,500 years later The Rule is still being followed by Benedictine monks and oblates and other Christian monastics.

How can this ancient document for monks be relevant to “nonreligious” Christians today? We might think that a monastery is disconnected from society, but Benedict didn’t see it that way. In his day the monasteries were the centers of spirituality, learning, and community. Village were often built around monasteries. The monks clock tower chimes organized peoples days between work, prayer, and meals. The monastery was the church and the school. The monks were connected to the people, providing food, care, prayer, and counsel.

St. Benedict’s rule cites 126 Bible verses in The Rule, 71 from the Psalms, the prayerbook of the Bible. His guidebook transformed the monasteries of his day to be kinder, gentler communities of disciples of Jesus Christ. Perhaps that’s why it’s spirit and principles are followed by ordinary Christ-followers even today.

A Call to Total Commitment and Obedience to Christ

Today Christian leaders invite people to far less commitment than Benedict called for and we see far less Christlikeness. He calls all of us who love Jesus to participate in “a school of the Lord’s service” — a program of discipleship to Christ — in which we train the rhythms of prayer and work, study and compassion. He calls us to life of obedience to the Lord, not just in action, but from the heart, guided by the Word and empowered by the Spirit.

To help us become the kind of persons who would love God with our whole self and love our neighbor as ourselves Benedict trained his followers to practice disciplines, especially praying the Psalms. But also work, Bible study, lectio divina (meditation), hospitality, fasting, submission to an elder, solitude and silence, reading, and others.

Excerpts From St. Benedict’s Rule

Here is a condensed version of Saint Benedict’s Rule that features excerpts that are especially relevant for Christ-followers today.

Come to Christ, the King

Listen, my children, to your master’s precepts, and incline the ear of your heart. Receive willingly and carry out effectively your loving father’s advice, that by the labor of obedience you may return to God from whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience.

[It is time for] renouncing your own will to do battle under the Lord Christ, the true King, and [to take] up the strong, bright weapons of obedience.

And first of all, whatever good work you begin to do, beg of Him with most earnest prayer to perfect it, that He who has now designed to count us among His sons and daughters may not at any time be grieved by our evil deeds. For we must always so serve [our Father] with the good things He has given us…

Let us arise, then, at last for the Scripture stirs us up, saying, “Now is the hour for us to rise from sleep” (Romans 13:11). Let us open our eyes to the deifying light, let us hear with attentive ears the warning which the divine voice cries daily to us, “Today if you hear His voice, harden not your hearts” (Psalm 95:7-8; Hebrews 3:7, 15, 4:7). And again, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 29, 3:6, 13, 22). And what does He say? “Come, My children, listen to Me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Psalm 34:11). “Run while you have the light of life, lest the darkness of death overtake you” (John 12:35)…

What can be sweeter to us, dear friends, than this voice of the Lord inviting us? Behold, in His loving kindness the Lord shows us the way of life.

We Begin By Obeying the Lord

Having our loins girded, therefore, with faith and the performance of good works, let us walk in His paths by the guidance of the Gospel, that we may deserve to see Him who has called us to His kingdom.

For if we wish to dwell in the tent of [God’s] kingdom, we must run to it by good deeds or we shall never reach it. But let us ask the Lord, with the Prophet, “Lord, who shall dwell in Your tent, or who shall rest upon Your holy mountain?” (Psalm 15:1)

After this question, friends, let us listen to the Lord as He answers and shows us the way to that tent, saying, “They who walk without stain and practice justice; they who speak truth from their heart; they who have not used their tongue for deceit; they who have done no evil to their neighbor; they who have given no place to slander against their neighbor.” (Psalm 15:2-3)

It is they who, under any temptation from the malicious devil, have brought him to naught by casting him and his temptation from the sight of their hearts; and who have laid hold of their thoughts while they were still young and [attached them to] Christ.

It is they who, fearing the Lord, do not pride themselves on their good observance; but convinced that the good which is in them cannot come from themselves and must be from the Lord, glorify the Lord’s work in them, using the words of the Prophet, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give the glory” (Psalm 115:1). Thus also the Apostle Paul attributed nothing of the success of his preaching to himself, but said, “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10). And again he says, “They who glory, let them glory in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31).

Hence the Lord says in the Gospel, “Whoever listens to these words of Mine and acts upon them, I will liken them to a wise man who built his house on rock. The floods came, the winds blew and beat against that house, and it did not fall, because it was founded on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25)

Having given us these assurances, the Lord is waiting every day for us to respond by our deeds to His holy admonitions…

Train as a Disciple of Jesus

Therefore we must prepare our hearts and our bodies to do battle under the holy obedience of His commands; and let us ask God that He be pleased to give us the help of his grace for anything which our nature finds hardly possible… We must hasten to do now what will profit us for eternity.

And so we are going to establish a school for the service of the Lord. In founding it we hope to introduce nothing harsh or burdensome. But if a certain strictness results from the dictates of equity for the amendment of vices or the preservation of charity, do not be at once dismayed and fly from the way of salvation, whose entrance cannot but be narrow. For as we advance in the [spiritual life of devotion to Christ] and in faith, our hearts expand and we run the way of God’s commandments with unspeakable sweetness of love…

[The spiritual father or mother] who is worthy to be over a [school of disciples to Christ Jesus]… holds the place of Christ… Their teaching should be a leaven of divine justice kneaded into the minds of their disciples… They should show them all that is good and holy by their deeds… Let them show equal love to all… Let them always bear in mind that they have undertaken the government of souls… Let them remember what is written: “First seek the kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be given you besides” (Matthew 6:33)…

Let all follow the Rule as guide, and let no one be so rash as to deviate from it. Let no one in the [school] follow their own heart’s fancy…

[The Gospel of Jesus and the teachings of the Bible] are the tools of the spiritual craft… Now the workshop in which we shall diligently execute all these tasks is [this school] and stability in the community [with one another in God’s kingdom as we live our daily lives.]

The first degree of humility is obedience without delay. This is the virtue of those who hold nothing dearer to them than Christ… For the obedience given to [your teachers] is given to God, since [Christ] himself has said, “Those who hear you, hear Me” (Matthew 10:40)…

Disciplines for a Shared Life in Christ

Let us do what the Prophet says: “I said, ‘I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue. I have set a guard to my mouth.’ I was mute and was humbled, and kept silence even from good things.” (Psalm 39:1-2)…

The Prophet proves himself to be on guard when he says, “Lord, my heart is not exalted, nor are mine eyes lifted up; neither have I walked in great matters, nor in wonders above me. Rather have I been of humble mind… as a weaned child on its mother’s breast, so You solace my soul.” (Psalm 131:1-2)…

[Pray together from the Psalms each day for this is the Work of God]… “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare Your praise” (Psalm 51:15). [At night pray,] “Lord, have mercy on us” (Psalm 123:3)… [In the morning sing,] “Alleluia!”… [Remember,] “Seven times in the day,” says the Prophet, “I have rendered praise to you” (Psalm 119:164).

We believe that the divine presence is everywhere… Let us therefore consider how we ought to conduct ourselves in the sight of the Godhead and of His Angels, and let us take part in the psalmody in such a way that our mind may be in harmony with our voice…

Let us follow the Scripture, “Distribution was made to each according as anyone had need” (Acts 4:35). By this… [we show] consideration for infirmities…

Above all, let not the evil of murmuring appear for any reason…

Friends… serve one another, and let no one be excused from the kitchen service… Wash the feet of [one another]…

Over-indulgence [in eating] must be avoided… [And set aside times for fasting.]…

At the hour for [community prayer], as soon as the signal is heard… abandon whatever you may have in hand and hasten [to the gathering]…

If you commit some fault… come immediately before [your spiritual father or mother] and the community… to confess… But if the sin-sickness is of the soul… reveal it only to [your spiritual father or mother], who knows how to cure their own and others’ wounds without exposing them and making them public…

Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore [you] should be occupied at certain times in manual labor, and again at fixed hours in sacred reading [from the Scriptures and the holy fathers and mothers]…

Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for He is going to say, “I came as a guest, and you received Me” (Matthew 25:35). And to all let due honor be shown…

Let those who receive new clothes always give back the old ones at once, to be put away in the wardrobe for the poor…

Receiving New Disciples of Christ

When anyone is newly come for the reformation of their life, let them not be granted an easy entrance; but as the Apostle says, “Test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1)… Examine whether novices are truly seeking God, and whether they are zealous for [daily prayer], for obedience and for humbling themselves. Let the [beginners] be told all the hard and rugged ways by which the journey to God is made.

If they promise stability [in the community of disciples] and perseverance [in following Christ] then at the end of two months let this Rule be read through to them and let them be addressed thus: “Here is the [rule] under which you wish to fight. If you can observe it, enter [with us]; if you cannot, you are free to depart.”…

They who are to be received shall make a promise before [the community] of their stability and of the reformation of their life and of obedience [to Christ]… before God and His Saints…

Let the [new disciple pray]: “Receive me, O Lord, according to Your word, and I shall live: and let me not be confounded in my hope.”…

The juniors… should honor their seniors, and the senior love their juniors…

[Spiritual fathers and mothers] must therefore be learned in the divine law, that they may have a treasure of knowledge from which to bring forth new things and old. They must be chaste, sober, and merciful… They should hate vices; they should love the [community members]…

Let them not be excitable and worried, nor exacting and headstrong, nor jealous and over-suspicious; for then they are never at rest…

Let all the affairs of [the school]… be administered by [various leaders in the community]… Thus with the duties being shared by several, no one person will become proud…

Zeal for Christ is What Sustains Us

Just as there is an evil zeal of bitterness which separates from God and leads to hell, so there is a good zeal which separates from vices and leads to God and to live everlasting. This zeal, therefore, the [disciples] should practice with the most fervent love. Thus they should anticipate one another in honor; most patiently endure one another’s infirmities, whether of body or of character; [submitting] one to another — no one [seeking selfish advantage], but rather what benefits another…

Prefer nothing whatever to Christ. And may He bring us all together to life everlasting!

Endnote

St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, translated from the Latin by Leonard J. Doyle and pub. by Liturgical Press in 1948 (originally written by Benedict in 530), pp. 1-5, 7-9, 11, 13, 18-21, 29, 30, 33, 36, 41, 53-54, 59, 63, 67-68, 73, 77, 80-82, 89, 91, 93, 100. The entire Rule is a 101 page small booklet and I have included just a few highlights. I have slightly edited the wording by using gender neutral language. Also, as indicated in the brackets, I have paraphrased terms like monastery, Abbot, and monks to apply the teachings for us today.

4 responses to “The Rule of St. Benedict

    • Hi Stephen, thank you for sharing. I encourage you to read through some of these posts on Jesus’ easy yoke. Following Jesus daily is an invitation to relaxing and resting in Jesus. I think you may find it a helpful and biblical perspective to view Benedict’s rule with. Ultimately, this way of life can only be lived empowered by the Spirit and is done so in confidence that we are forgiven and loved, despite our failures. May you know more deeply today how vast Christ’s love is for you! Blessings!

  • I am forming one group the study The Bible and the Rule of Bendic

    May you help me with ideas, material the study and prayer?

    target lay people and confusion in the religion reducing the sacred and reverencia

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