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



RB 66; 73
PC 2, espec. 2a

B: The Rule D 33-48 C 3, S76

D33 The inspiration for this community life of monks comes from the Rule of Benedict, second only to the Sacred Scriptures as a charter for Benedictine living. Through centuries the Church has recognized in the Rule a faithful interpretation of the gospel. It brings the Spirit's voice to monks of every age, calling back to foundational norms while urging adaptation to new conditions. As a guide and norm of life for Benedictine monks, the Rule is not a code to which monks conform in every detail in spite of changing circumstances. The Rule comes to life in the daily experience of monks, as each community reads it in the light of monastic tradition and under the abbot's direction.

 

 

Jn 14:26; 16:13

D34 In serving his brothers, the abbot is not set adrift in this decision making but bases his decisions on the Rule, tradition, and the life of the community. This framework provides a firm foundation for leadership. The interplay of Rule and community resembles the relationship of Bible and Church. In both instances, the Spirit's aid is needed for authentic interpretation, and is sought in prayer, silence, study and discussion.

RB 3:11; 64:20,22
DV 9-10

PC 22


D35 Because of the autonomy each monastery enjoys in living according to the Rule, Benedictine life may be different from house to house and still authentic in each. Admitting this variety, monasteries are still able to league themselves together for support and cooperation. The Swiss-American Congregation respects differences among the member monasteries, but recognizes that links in origin and tradition have produced a common spirit and purpose in interpreting the Rule. The communities help one another hold to this tradition and bring forth the best it has to offer. C1,3, 64-75; S 66-86

 

 

Heb. 4:12

C. The Word of God

D36 Christian life is a continuing response to the creating and redeeming Word of God. Monasticism highlights the attitude of faithful listening all believers must have as they stand before the Lord, aware of their own weakness and trusting in the saving power of this two-edged sword, the Word of God. The Rule provides the structures a community of monks needs to remain at constant attention to the divine call: the Eucharist, the Liturgy of the Hours, holy reading, individual prayer, fasting, silence, obedience.


Rev. 1:16; 2:12; 3:1-3; 19:15
Eph. 6:17
1 Pt. 5:8
PC 6
DV 5,21

D37 God speaks everywhere, but his message is muted because people do not have ears to hear. Their hearts are dulled by many noises. They cannot always distinguish the Word of God from merely human words. By remaining close to the inspired Scriptures in his public and private prayer and in his reading, the monk learns to recognize the echo of God's Word in all his daily experience, in the lives of others, and in the events of the world. He is silent lest the voice of the Spirit be drowned out by his own chatter. For guidance, he has apostolic tradition and the teaching Church, and for help and example he has his brothers, with whom he is listening to the Lord.

 

 

 

Jn. 1:14, 18
Acts 2:11
2 Cor. 4:6-8, 10
Col. 3:16
Rev. 1:12-16

RB 16:5; 43:3
SC 7: 83-101

1. Opus Dei C 47

D38 The monk prefers nothing to the Work of God, the community's daily offering of public prayer and praise. By faith he recognizes Jesus Christ risen and present in the midst of the community, praying with the monks, offering himself to them, inviting them to a total surrender of their persons, their time and talents, as they participate in his work of manifesting the Father's glory. The Liturgy of the Hours is a sacramental sign of the Father's work in building the community. In choir the monks respond in psalms and sacred songs to the revealing Word, praising, blessing and thanking God for his gifts. They proclaim to one another the wonderful works of creation and redemption in Christ. The community Eucharist celebrates the unity of the monks, sealed with one another in the Lord's new covenant through passion, death and resurrection. The reverent and careful celebration of the Work of God, both its music and its ritual, has been a hallmark of the Benedictine tradition. In this time of liturgical renewal, monastic communities should seek to recreate this tradition of liturgy for themselves and for the wider Church.

 

 

 

Col. 3:16
DV 21

2. Lectio Divina and Individual Prayer C 48, 50

D39 The fervor and intensity of the public prayer of the community hinges on the holy reading and private prayer monks do individually. This hidden part of their service requires determination, discipline and time. It needs mutual encouragement, support, and sometimes correction, because human nature glorifies production and is doubtful about effects which cannot be measured. Holy reading concentrates on Sacred Scripture but extends to other writings, ancient and modem, that reflect God's Word. In solitude and meditative silence the divine message finds its own depth in the monk, opening him to the transforming action of the Holy Spirit. Monks do well to share insights obtained from reading, thereby encouraging one another to a more intense life in Christ. This may profitably lead them to share prayer outside the Liturgy of the Hours.

 

 

Isa. 56:7
Jn. 17:3

D40 The monk needs private prayer to grow in knowledge of Jesus Christ and to fathom the meaning of his own life and vocation. This quiet prayer personalizes the community's response to the divine summons, and helps the monk form a spirit of unceasing prayer. The monk takes inspiration from the Divine Office for his personal spiritual life and, reinforced by holy reading and private prayer, returns to the common prayer and the common life with more of himself to give. The monastery therefore should be a place of silence and reflection and so a house of prayer.
1 Thess. 5:17

RB 20; 52:3

D. Work C 3-4, 53

D41 The Rule of Benedict insists on work as an important part of the monk's labor of obedience. The Rule does not put work above everything else, however, or single out one type of work as more monastic than all others. Monks show their love by serving one another in whatever work they do, invoking God's blessing on tasks large and small. They share in God's continuing creation while supporting themselves by earnings and by producing for their needs.

Col. 3:17
1 Cor. 4:12

RB 48
GS 35

D42 Some kinds of work, however, fit the monastic life better than others. A community needs to remember this when it is faced with new work opportunities. Benedictines do not work as a corps of independents or careerists, but as a community. They are interested in all the involvements of the monastery, for each monk carries the community's presence and influence to his particular task. Though like most people of our time monks must often specialize in one area or another, the community should not let individuals become isolated from the common life they have professed.

 

D43 Many works of the monastery are directly ministerial. Missions are founded in places where the Church is in an early stage of development. Pastoral needs of the local Church are cared for in retreats, in other types of religious ministry, in counseling. Monks educate in various kinds of schools and training programs. These are community works in which all share and for which all are responsible. A monk does not have to leave his monastery to participate in the apostolate. C35, S45

AG 18

D44 A responsible approach to the work of the community fosters the monk's solidarity with the poor and all who must support themselves by their daily labor. However, the Benedictine vocation to be poor like Christ does not commit the monks to a life of bare survival. With hard work and good management they may have more than they need and more to share with others by almsgiving and hospitality. Both the work and the sharing are gospel signs in a world obsessed by production and gain.

Acts 20:35
1 Jn. 3:17
James 2:16
GS 69

D45 As important as work is in the Benedictine community, it is not an end in itself. Healthy life in the community requires times of recreation and relaxation. Even the work itself, performed with dedication and thoroughness, must be governed by peaceful and prayerful composure, for as God's work its success does not depend on the speed, intensity, or amount of the monk's labor.

 

E. Hospitality

D46 The Benedictine community welcomes Christ in the person of the guest. Hospitality is a constant ministry in the monastery, where guests are never lacking. All members of the community have undertaken this service by their monastic commitment.

Mt. 25:31-46
Heb. 13:2
1 Pt. 4:9
RB 53:1,7,13,15,16

Jn. 13:35; 15:9-12

D47 Guests come to the monastery to pray, to witness a shared life of dedication to Christ, and to experience the gifts of joy, peace and love promised to believers gathered together in his name. Visitors offer the community spiritual gifts of their own from prayer and Christian service. Efforts should be made to bring guests into the community life in various ways without disrupting the order and balance of that life. They should be encouraged to join the public prayer and other spiritual exercises, and may be invited to share the common table or to join monks in work and recreation.

RB 53:8-9

D48 The monastery, with its prayer and silence, is recognized as a place where people from different walks of life and with different styles of thinking can find peace and inner renewal. This makes the monastery especially suitable for promoting understanding and unity among separated Christian Churches, between different races, and in political and social movements. The monastic community’s openness to these many people demands of itself an openness to newness and discovery and change.

Part III: Monastic Life in the World D 49-61

 

Table of Contents

 

Rev. 08 Apr 2009 | www.osb.org/swissam/declaration/IIB.html