The Rule of St. Benedict

Date: 1909

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Chapter XXVI the Benedictine Rule



The Abbot and His Duties


An abbot to be fit to rule a monastery should ever remember what he is called, and in his acts illustrate his high position. For in a monastery he is considered to take the place of Christ, since he is called by His name. As the apostle says, "Ye have received the spirit of the adoption of sons, whereby we cry, ’Abba, Father.’"2 Therefore the abbot should neither teach, ordain, nor require anything against the command of our Lord (God forbid!), but in the minds of his disciples let his orders and teaching be mingled with the leaven of divine justice. . . .

When anyone shall receive the name of abbot, he ought to rule his disciples with a twofold teaching: that is, he should first show them in acts rather than words all that is good and holy. To such as are of understanding, indeed, he may expound the Lord’s behests by words; but to the hard-hearted and to the simple-minded he must manifest the divine precepts in his life. . . .

Let the abbot make no distinction of persons in the monastery. Let not one be loved more than another, except those who are found to excel in obedience or good works. Let not the free-born be put before the serf-born in religion, unless there is some other reasonable cause for it. . . . For one thing only are we preferred by Him, if we are found better than others in good works and more humble. Let the abbot, therefore, have equal love for all, and let all, according to their deserts, be under the same discipline.

The abbot in his teaching should always observe that apostolic rule which says, "Reprove, entreat, rebuke."3 That is to say, as occasions require, he ought to mingle encouragement with reproofs. Let him manifest the sternness of a master and the loving affection of a father. He must reprove the undisciplined and restless severely, but he should exhort such as are obedient, quiet, and patient, for their better profit. We charge him, however, to reprove and punish the stubborn and negligent. Let him not shut his eyes to the sins of offenders; but, as soon as these begin to show themselves and to grow, he must use every means to root them up utterly. . . . To the more virtuous and apprehensive, indeed, he may for the first or second time use words of warning; but in dealing with the stubborn, the hard-hearted, the proud, and the disobedient, even at the very beginning of their sin, let him chastise them with stripes and with bodily punishment, knowing that it is written, "The fool is not corrected with words."1 And again, "Strike thy son with a rod and thou shalt deliver his soul from death."2 . . .

Whenever any weighty matters have to be transacted in the monastery, let the abbot call together all the community and himself propose the matter for discussion. After hearing the advice of the brethren, let him consider it in his own mind and then do what he shall judge most expedient. We ordain that all must be called to council, because the Lord often reveals to a younger member what is best. And let the brethren give their advice with all humble subjection, and presume not stiffly to defend their own opinion. Let them rather leave the matter to the abbot’s discretion, so that all submit to what he shall deem best. As it is fitting for disciples to obey their master, so it behooves the master to dispose of all things with forethought and justice. . . .

1 , translated by F. A. Gasquet. London, 1909. Chatto and Windus.

1S. Benedicti regula, 2–3.

2Romans, viii, 15.

32 Timothy, iv, 2.

1Proverbs, xxiii, 9.

2Ibid., xxiii, 13.

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Chicago: F. A. Gasquet, trans., The Rule of St. Benedict in Readings in Early European History, ed. Webster, Hutton (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1926), 291–292. Original Sources, accessed April 13, 2024,

MLA: . The Rule of St. Benedict, translted by F. A. Gasquet, in Readings in Early European History, edited by Webster, Hutton, Boston, Ginn and Company, 1926, pp. 291–292. Original Sources. 13 Apr. 2024.

Harvard: (trans.), The Rule of St. Benedict. cited in 1926, Readings in Early European History, ed. , Ginn and Company, Boston, pp.291–292. Original Sources, retrieved 13 April 2024, from