The Rule of St. Benedict

The Rule of St. Benedict

The Rule of St. Benedict

The Rule of St. Benedict


Since the 6th century, this has been one of the most influential documents of Western thought and civilization. Full of plain wisdom, the words of St. Benedict are a guide for work, prayer, study, and community life.


Monasticism is the quest for union with God through prayer, penance and separation from the world, pursued by men sharing a communal life. The energy generated by this kind of living produces effects within the individual member, within the community and to some extent upon the world at large.

Flourishing for a thousand years, Christian monasticism had spectacular effects in all three areas. Mystics, saints and miracle workers were frequently numbered among the inhabitants of monasteries. These members seemed to grow holy together, drawing upon one another's virtues to combat their own weaknesses. And the monastery itself frequently became the center for spiritual inspiration and guidance throughout its area as the sanctity of its members became known.

More visible than these (and in some ways more accessible to the twentieth-century observer) were the effects of Christian monasticism on the world around it. These effects were rich and varied: theology, philosophy, art, architecture, music, science, history--all were marked and some were reshaped by the contributions of the monks. Christian monasteries assisted in the growth and protection of the Church, nurtured and preserved art and learning when these were threatened with destruction, and fostered developments in agronomy and the practical arts. In the process monasticism became a politically potent, intellectually vibrant and artistically rich force which transformed Western civilazation.

The power that effected that transformation was the monastic ideal. It marked the man who embraced it with a fierce single-mindedness. Seeking only the glory of God and union with Him, the monk saw everything he attempted as a step nearer his goal. Consequently, he . . .

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