A Declaration on Benedictine Monastic Life
for the Monasteries of the
Swiss-American Benedictine Congregation

Adopted 1975 by the General Chapter with changes approved in 2005.

Part II: Life in the Monastery D 11-25

Part I

1 Cor. 12:11-26
1 Jn. 3:14-16; 21-24

RB 5, 6, 7

D11 By the gift of a monastic vocation, the Spirit invites the monk to membership in a particular community. The Spirit's promptings are quiet and mysterious, but persistent. The monk discovers that his gift is to be accepted and shared in a life structured according to the Rule of Benedict. He gives himself to this life in a spirit of love and service, seeking God in obedience, silence and humility. The Spirit continues to speak to him through the prayer and work of this community under the guidance of its abbot. But in the last analysis, it is through the experience of every monk living together in love that the Spirit speaks to the community. C63

 

 

RB 1:1-2

A. Community

D12 Benedictine monks accept and appreciate the variety of monastic traditions, but their Rule commits them to a specific form of monasticism. They are cenobites, living in monasteries under a Rule and an abbot. Community life is the indispensable framework for the realization of the ideals to which the monks are committed by their profession. Still, the Benedictine monastic charism remains open to the Spirit's call to a life of solitude in the tradition of hermits. C39, 40, 48, S48

Mt. 16:25
Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35
Phil. 3:20
Eph. 4:16
RB Prologue: 22-24, 39, 45
RB 31:19; 53:22; 64:5

D13 The community of monks is created by the divine call which brings them together, and they are knit together by the sharing of faith, hope and love. The Rule calls the monks into the "school of the Lord's service,” the "house of God," the "tent of his kingdom," where the heavenly citizenship is already begun. Expressing their unity in community of goods, monks strengthen their common bonds through their prayer and work together and by their mutual support and compassion. With the encouragement and good example of his brothers, a monk can sacrifice his life in order to find it. C39, 63

Mt. 18:20
1 Thess. 5:19-21

RB 3:3; 61:4

1. Authority

D14 Monks remain individually responsible to the call of God in their hearts, but as a community they place themselves in a new way under the authority of Christ, who is present even when only two or three are gathered in his Name. The Benedictine monastic community has an authority proper to itself as a group of Christians living in brotherhood, under a rule and an abbot. The source and foundation of this authority is the Spirit; the exercise of this authority within the community must always remain under his inspiration. No monk can rightfully shirk his part in the work of discerning and responding to the divine call in matters that affect the whole community; for example, decisions about community prayer, kinds and amount of work, the acceptance and formation of candidates, the good order of the house, and the monastery's apostolic mission. S10

RB 5:12; 64; 2:2; 63:13; 3
RB 65:11
PC 4, 14
GS 24, 26, 30, 31

D15 The monks choose an abbot to lead them in fulfilling the vocation they have undertaken together. He is believed to represent Christ in the monastery. He is the focus of the unity, love and common striving of the brotherhood. All in the community must be obedient and docile to the Spirit and accountable to his promptings, but the abbot is entrusted with a special role in the exercise of Christ's authority. He shares the work of decision making with the whole community, realizing that the Spirit speaks in every member down to the youngest, but that he must shoulder the cross of final responsibility in the community. C6-7, S5


Mt. 18:15
Acts 2:45
2 Tim. 4:2
1 Pt. 5:2-4
RB 2

D16 The abbot exercises authority in loving service, guided by the Gospel and the Rule. As the leader, he must discern the needs of the community and the real direction of its initiatives. He is a teacher by example and by word, distributing the bread of God's Word to each and all as they need. He prays for discretion, kindness, and understanding, seeking obedience to the divine command, so that the obedience he asks of his brothers will not be submission to his own will but to the Spirit of God who sent him to this service. With God's help, he exercises a responsible stewardship over the flock committed to his care, and helps his brothers by encouragement and correction to surrender to the Lord. S11


Jn. 10:11
Col. 3:16
1 Pt. 2:25

RB 2:1-3; 2:7-9; 27:8
RB 72:10

D17 The other monks in their turn encourage their abbot, support and cooperate with him, and love him. They know that he cannot singlehandedly make the community what it professes and desires to be. He must look to his brothers for a corresponding gift of self to the community. Though he is called father and accepts the role of a good shepherd among them, he is still also a brother to his fellow monks. The monks recognize the concern of Christ and the action of the Spirit in all the abbot's dealings with them, and therefore they do not fear to share with him their joys, sufferings, hopes and fears. Should the abbot fail, the monks know that they themselves are partly to blame, since the abbot as their brother needs encouragement, support, edification, possible correction and, above all, personal love.


Lk. 12:48
Acts 2:42-47

RB 2:20; 36; 37
RB 49:5; 50:4
PC 15

2. Order in the community S32,33

D18 Bound together by baptism and a common monastic calling, all members of the community are brothers to one another, sharing the common table and goods of the monastery, carrying their burden of service in the prayer and work. There should be no divisions on the basis of talent, training, ministry or office where all share the same basic rights and responsibilities. Equality does not deny individuality, however. God gives the community a mixture of personalities and talents to be developed for the growth and health of the whole community. Equality does not mean, either, that special consideration should not be given for individual needs, especially those of the young, the old and the infirm, as directed in the Rule; nor does it rule out special demands on those to whom more has been given.

 

1 Cor. 7:7; 12:4-27

D19 The community grows and deepens as the monks discover together, under the abbot's leadership, how best to apply the values of monastic tradition to new challenges and opportunities. Each monk has a personal gift from God to be treasured by the community and developed for the greater glory of the Giver of all good gifts. The discernment and development of these gifts in the light of community needs is a responsibility of abbot, monk, and community. The abbot sees to it that education and training are provided and encourages each monk to give his best to the community.

 

1 Cor. 10-13

D20 In larger monasteries deaneries may benefit the whole community and individual monks. These smaller circles may allow more personal contact and encourage friendships; and when individual growth is supported, community life is enriched. Wise direction and a sense of accountability to the total community is needed to keep these groups from turning in on themselves. S33

RB 21

Gen. 12:1-2
Ex. 3:12
Mt. 28:20
Rom. 8:29
Eph. 4:3
Gal. 6:1-5

RB 23-29; 33:4
RB 44-46

3. Monastic Profession C32-34; S42, 43

D21 By his public monastic profession, the Benedictine monk intensifies his baptismal commitment to God in Christ and enters into a covenant with his community. He surrenders all he is and has to his brothers in expression of his total gift of self to God with them. From now on his life, his talents, his own will are not his to direct or govern, but are submitted to the good of the community under the abbot. The monk can make this act of faith because he believes that the God who gave the call is present in the brotherhood and will be faithful to his promise. He relies, too, on the support of his brothers in faith, prayer, example and encouragement, hoping to mature with them into the image of Christ. The monk's union with his brothers is in many ways the measure of his union with God, so he fears the excommunication that comes when he cuts himself off from other monks and the common exercises.

Rom. 6:1-6
Phil. 3:10-11

RB Prologue 50
RB 58:17

D22 The profession of stability, conversatio morum and obedience according to the Rule is a threefold expression of the single monastic commitment. The monk's life cannot be divided into compartments, and neither can his threefold monastic profession, though each of the elements brings a distinct dimension to his promise. The monk promises obedient fidelity to God in the monastic pattern of life with his community. The Spirit shows him the way he will live out what was begun at baptism, participation in the death of Jesus in order to share in his resurrection.

1 Cor. 10:13
2 Cor. 12:9
Phil. 2:8

RB 4:78; 58:23

Stability C39-42; S48

D23 By his promise of stability the monk casts his lot with a particular community, committing himself in Christ to his brothers in a shared experience of life. His profession is not general or vague, but a pledge to community life with these monks in this place according to their monastic traditions and under their abbot. The abbot and community must work closely with those working away from the monastery to maintain a genuine bond that insures their stability in the community. Monks know they remain weak and sinful men, prone to laziness and self-will, but they count on God's grace to help them become a sign to one another and to the world of the faithfulness of God, the foundation on which every believer stands firm. Stability affirms that Christian freedom is not an aimless restlessness but obedience persevering until death, in imitation of Christ.

 

 

Lk. 17:21
Rom. 8:29
2 Cor. 3:18
Phil. 2:8
Phil. 3:12-14
1 Jn: 4-18
RB Prologue 49
RB 7:67
RB 73:1-2
LG 41

Conversatio morum C37-39

D 24 Conversatio in the Rule of Benedict indicates the progressive nature of the monastic profession, a continuing effort to seek God truly and grow into the likeness of Christ. It commits the monk to the pattern of observances adopted by his community. The monk promises to walk the path of return to the Father with his brothers, always listening with them to the Spirit's call for internal and external renewal. Conversatio is not a conversion once and for all; it can mean "conversion of life" as a constantly renewed, persevering quest for holy monastic observance. The monk is not alone in this lifelong dynamic process of conformation to Christ. The brothers build up, support and encourage one another as they climb the ladder of humility that will bring them to the love that casts out fear. This way of humility is fundamentally a commitment to living in the truth revealed in Christ. It frees the monk to be and give himself in love. The monk benefits from knowing that his brothers are with him, that they too are struggling to imitate Jesus who humbled himself and became obedient to death--even to death on a cross. Stability and conversatio together express an aspect of the mystery of redemption: the kingdom of Christ is already in our midst, the source of grace and hope, but it is still being built in us gradually until the final hour.

 

 


Jn. 4:34, 6:38
Acts 13:2-3
Phil. 2:8-10
1 Thess. 5:12
Heb. 10:5-7

Obedience C43

D25 The cenobite surrenders himself in service to God by his public profession of a life of obedience. This surrender is realized in his obedience to his abbot, and to his brothers, but in root his obedience is always to God. By this monastic commitment, the monk begins to live in and with the community the obedience to which he was called in baptism. His obedience is part of the gift the monastic community as a whole offers to the Father. Now the monk listens for the divine summons as a member of the brotherhood, submitting his own will to the call discerned in common. The voice of God is expressed above all through the Rule and the abbot, and the monk sacrifices his own desires and pleasures to walk by another's judgment and command. But all members of the community, including the abbot and officials, are called to be obedient to the Lord and to one another in love and service. Believing that the divine command is heard throughout the community, the monk binds himself to be sensitive to God's active presence among all his brother monks.

RB 5:12; 71
LG 42
PC 14

Mt. 19:12
1 Cor. 7
2 Cor. 11:2

Celibate Chastity and Community of Goods C44-46; S44-46

D26 The way of life promised by stability and conversatio involves celibacy and the community of goods. Consecrated celibacy is a gift of God given to one with whom God wishes to unite himself in a special way. The acceptance of this gift for the sake of the kingdom is a supreme act of faith that God can and will satisfy the human heart's desire for unique love. To renounce the fulfillment of life which another person can give as partner and lifelong companion is only the negative side of the profession of God's all-giving and perfectly satisfying fullness.

RB 4:12, 41, 59, 64


1 Jn 3:1-2

D27 Celibate love has its own fruitfulness. When freely accepted it sets the monk free to bring others into this mystery of the love of Christ. It broadens the monk's vision of Christ's love and makes him all the more eager to gather others into that love. It engenders a dynamism that ever seeks to extend this love of Christ. A celibate love that does not broaden its vision of Christ's love must destroy itself, either as celibate or as love.

RB 4:21
LG 46; 48-51
PC 12


Col 1:24
RB 4:30, 31. 70

D28 The monk in his celibacy does his share in the construction of the world-in- the-making by bringing to bear upon it the most profound value of the world and of humanity, by resisting the everlasting tendency of the creature to make itself an absolute and to proclaim its independence from the Source of life. Moreover, the transforming effects of this commitment depend on a loving and ever deepening prayer life. Consecrated celibacy always requires support and protection but especially in its developing years. Sure of God’s love, eager to respond to it, and thus able to support the suffering inherent in all love, the monk, rooted in Christ, will become ever stronger and more reliable. In this way the monk by his celibate chastity will be an authentic and faithful image of God's love.

Mk. 12:25
Jn 6:54
Rev 21:1-4

D29 For the Benedictine monk, true fraternal love is a necessary environment for successful cultivation of vowed celibacy. The monk is a vulnerable human being who needs to experience human fellowship. He does not desire to live in isolation. Thus celibacy does not at all mean to renounce true human love. Friendship is not a luxury within a community but a necessity that is self-evident. By consecrated celibacy the monk professes his faith in his own immortality, in the resurrection of the body, in the continuing existence of his own soul.
RB 4:26, 69; 72:8


Gen. 1:4, 9, 12
Acts 2:42; 4:32-35

RB 31:10

D30 Monks express their commitment to one another by sharing their possessions. This community of goods expresses their community life, helping to bind them together in dependence on one another for earthly needs and their trust in God. Together they strive for an attitude of simplicity and stewardship. Whatever goods or equipment are needed for work are adequate but simple. These and all things in the monastery are handled like the vessels of the altar. In this way the monks respect the goodness and beauty of God's creation, especially as reflected in the craft and art of these vessels. This corporate and personal poverty allows the community to share its blessings, no matter how meager, with those less fortunate. S 44

PC 13

Lk. 12:22-34
! Cor. 10:23-24
James 2:1-9; 5:1-6

D31 Further than this, monastic poverty entails the surrender of one's own body, talents, time and will to the brotherhood. It fosters a sense of solidarity with the poor and suffering of the world. By this detachment, monks hope to free themselves from the trap of worldly goods, no longer worrying about what they will eat or drink or wear, but depending on God's bounty. This single focus on God lies at the heart of all monastic asceticism. Each member tries to show the self-emptying of Jesus in his own way of living and so to manifest a search for God alone.

2 Cor. 3:18

RB 58:7

4. Entrance and Lifelong Growth C 26-38, 47-54; S47-49

D32 Entry into life of a Benedictine monastic community is marked by three stages. The foundation is laid in the novitiate, before any promises are made. The novice examines his vocation and is given a chance to find out, in the presence of the community, whether he is called and able to seek God in this kind of service. If he and the community decide that his beginning justifies a further step, the novice commits himself to God in the monastery for a limited period. The growth already begun is nurtured during these years of temporary profession, as he learns the meaning of his profession by doing what he has promised. He is guided in prayer, instructed in monastic tradition, trained in work and given some responsibility. The community continues to weigh his progress to determine whether he can be faithful in a lifelong monastic profession. Solemn profession is the climax of this preparation, but is still the beginning of monastic growth. It engages the monk permanently in a process of growth in Christ in the community, under the Rule and its abbot. Still special care should be given to these newly professed to help them in this new stage of life. C3, S76

Part II B. The Rule D33-48

 

Table of Contents

 

Rev. 17 Dec 2014 | www.swissamericanmonks.org/