The Rule of St. Benedict

“Listen, O my son, to the precepts of thy master, and incline the ear of thy heart”

The Rule of St. Benedict begins with these words. Ears and heart are open to hear what Benedict and our fellow humans would like to say to us. This approach is found throughout the entire Rule: to listen, keep silence, be obedient, humble – all factors that are central to living respectfully together in a loving community.

A compact, clearly structured handbook

Much has been written about the Rule of St. Benedict. One thing is certain, it as meaningful today as 1500 years ago. Benedict lived at the end of the 5th and the beginning of the 6th century, in the midst of the transition from the Late Antique period to the Early Middle Ages. It was a time of turmoil and uncertainty. When he wrote his Rule, Benedict wanted to provide orientation and support.

The Rule is a small, practical handbook that achieves great things. In its 73 chapters Benedict lays down the rules for everyday life in a monastic community: behaviour towards fellow brothers and sisters, communal prayer, hierarchal and democratic ground rules, association with the outside world. He talks about human failings and human greatness, placing humility in a central position. With its clear text and discretion the Rule has lost none of its meaningfulness, even in today’s world.

The Rule of St. Benedict is nowadays followed and studied not only behind monastery walls but also outside. Books about management and Benedict are much in demand. The Rule is written for a community of people and contains instructions that can be followed within the family, at work and in free time activities.

Rediscovering the Rule day by day

In his commentary, Georg Holzherr, former abbot of Einsiedeln, compares the Rule of St. Benedict with a vintage red wine that one savours in small sips so that it can be fully appreciated.

In Benedictine convents the Rule is read every day, but always just a few paragraphs at a time. In this way the nuns can fully acquaint themselves with the message of St. Benedict. Each reading provides new insight into the Rule of St. Benedict, has a motivating influence and gives inspiration.