Mentoring and Monitoring Benedictine
Voices From The Monastery
And so the combination of this attraction and frustration led me to a dissertation topic which has evolved into a study titled "Voices from the Monastery: The Benedictine Higher Education Community on the Rule of St. Benedict." The evolution continues but the project is rapidly drawing to a close. My original plan was to evaluate the congruence of administrative practice to the actual concepts represented in the chapters of the Rule of St. Benedict. Aware of the power of the RB tocontinue to speak to a pluralistic society in the contemporary world, I wanted to see how the RB has actually been used to develop community in higher education settings. I asked Benedictines serving on campuses as educators and administrators which parts of theRule they found essential to creating campus community, and to evaluate the degree of relevance and degree of implementation of those essential chapters.
The final step would have been to "carry the message" to focus groups primarily in student affairs at my university and compare their experience to determine congruence or establish common ground by translating those essential chapters of the Rule in a non-Benedictine environment. In other words, to "evangelize."
I was interested in the actual application of the RB1 as a guide and the precepts as they appear in chapter form. I used this translation of the RB although there are more recent translations, such as the one by Patrick Barry, O.S.B., which might lend themselves well for interpretations into non-Benedictine environments. I focused the survey on the use of the RB itself rather than the application of Benedictine values which might be derived from it, as have others. The survey mentions "the Rule's relevance to maintaining a community in a higher education setting." I used the word community assuming that it was a common term. However community is often a reality in monastery but only an ideal on campuses such as mine.
The question became, to quote one of my committee members, "Well do they (Benedictine administrators) practice what they preach? Or do they just give lip service to this Rule?" I apologize for the skepticism--remember I am coming from a public research university.