The Rule of Benedict

I doubt that I'm the only Shipmate to have benefited from the Rule of Benedict; I'm hoping there will be enough who would like to talk about it, and some of the issues it raises.

Just at the moment I'm wondering why it's so negative about wandering monks, who don't live in a regular community. In Orthodoxy, and other religious traditions, they are respected and accepted. Why is Benedict suspicious?

Comments

  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    One of Benedict's major concerns is the stability of the Community, and he regards wandering monks as a threat to that. In an age when monastic rules varied widely from community to community someone coming in and saying, 'we did it like this at my old monastery' might well have been a destabilizing influence.
  • I think also there may be different sorts of wandering Monks. My understanding is in Orthodoxy those Monks actually see the wandering as part of their vocation. In Celtic Christianity parlancy "They wandered for Christ". In other words the wandering was part of their Charism.

    I think those Benedict was getting at were the monastic equivalent of church hoppers who were always moving from one monastery to another in the hope of finding a more perfect regime. You will meet similar in Aelred of Rievaulx accounts of Monks who would once have been in less strenuous regimes (such as Benedictine) who when faced with the rigours of the Cistercian way wanted it to be more relaxed like the former Benedictine way they had followed.
  • To further explain while the first group might stay at a monastery they would not seek to be formally admitted to the community but remain even long term as a guest. While the later would seek to become a member asap but then decide he had found somewhere where the rule was more conducive to his spiritual health and then seek to move onto that monastery.
  • QohelethQoheleth Shipmate
    Stabilitas is, of course, a key monastic virtue for Benedict. He characterises the gyrovagues by slavery to (a) their own will and (b) their palate, which implies a failure of ascesis in both mind/soul and body, as in the two sides of the ladder of humility. For B, the corrective is obedience due by the cenobite to Rule and Abbot.
  • QohelethQoheleth Shipmate
    PS. Kardong suggests that a stay of 'three or four days' means that they leave just before they obliged to join in the daily work of the community.
  • Benedict was a monk, not a friar.
  • CyprianCyprian Shipmate
    In Orthodoxy, and other religious traditions, they are respected and accepted. Why is Benedict suspicious?

    My experience is that the prevalent Orthodox view of monasticism, both within and without the Benedictine tradition, is not very far from what was expressed by St Benedict. Monastics may be permitted to live their monastic life in true isolation, apart from a community, but the view seems to be that ideally only those who are very mature and grounded in their monastic life ought to live in this way, after some considerable years. Even then, they would still be under obedience to a monastic superior and generally wouldn't roam freely.

    The idea of receiving the monastic tonsure and then immediately being given no grounding, no monastic formation, and being under no obedience, while wandering freely, seems to be something not prevalent in Orthodoxy.
  • CyprianCyprian Shipmate
    Oh, and apart from that, yes, I do love the Rule.

    I use the fourth chapter for examination of conscience prior to confession.
  • Thank you for those insights. It still seems odd to me that wandering religious are rare in Western Christianity, but common (?) elsewhere in the world.

    Another problem for me, as a non monastic, is the virtue of Obedience. Yes, I know it's obedience to God but, without a superior over me, it doesn't have an easy focus.
  • QohelethQoheleth Shipmate
    On the Celtic tradition of wandering as voluntary exile: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celtic_Christianity#Peregrinatio

    and:
    The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 891 recounts the story of three Irish peregrini who may be taken as a possibly typical example: "And three Scots came to King Alfred from Ireland in a boat without oars. They had left home bent on serving God in a state of pilgrimage, they cared not where. Their boat was made from two and a half hides and contained enough provisions to last them seven days, and within a week they landed in Cornwall and shortly afterwards came to King Alfred. They were called Dubslane, Macbeth and Maelinmum" (Webb, Lives of the Saints, p. 19).

    Could Benedict's gyrovagues have been a degenerate expression of Augustine's peregrinatio impulse, of which other traces have now been lost?
  • 'Gyrovagues', 'peregrini' - some lovely New Words!

    (Well, new to me, that is).
  • Jengie JonJengie Jon Shipmate
    edited January 12
    By accident, I was googling to see if I could evidence something from the Russian Orthodox tradition, I found out that Peregrini actually appears in the Rule of St Benedict. It is usually translated 'strangers'. Also in ancient Rome it was used for those who were between citizens and barbarians.
  • Thank you for those insights. It still seems odd to me that wandering religious are rare in Western Christianity, but common (?) elsewhere in the world.

    Another problem for me, as a non monastic, is the virtue of Obedience. Yes, I know it's obedience to God but, without a superior over me, it doesn't have an easy focus.

    Have you read The Way of a Pilgrim? Peasant pilgrim wanders his way hither and yon over 19th century Russia. He has a superior of a sort, and every now and then checks in with him. Excellent reading if you like that sort of thing (which I do—it's a big part of my journey to Orthodoxy).
  • Funnily enough I started "The Way of a Pilgrim" last night. I was going to ask about it on the Orthodoxy thread but, since you mention it here, the beginning surprised me. The narrator is struck by a verse in a sermon, identifies it, then hunts through his Bible and finds other verses on the same theme. This doesn't fit with my view of a 19th century Russian peasant. American evangelical feels more likely.

    I have Googled and there's no suggestion that the work is not authentic, but I did wonder.
  • The perpetual pilgrim is actually quite present. When I was reading books by modern pilgrims about their pilgrimage these people often make a brief appearance, some more salubrious than others. My search for perpetual pilgrim turned up a 19th century Saint amongst other candidates. I have met one nomadic hermit. She spends the summer in casual employment in Northumberland and wild camps in Scotland in winter. So while not numerous they continue in the West.
  • Funnily enough I started "The Way of a Pilgrim" last night. I was going to ask about it on the Orthodoxy thread but, since you mention it here, the beginning surprised me. The narrator is struck by a verse in a sermon, identifies it, then hunts through his Bible and finds other verses on the same theme. This doesn't fit with my view of a 19th century Russian peasant. American evangelical feels more likely.

    I have Googled and there's no suggestion that the work is not authentic, but I did wonder.

    Perhaps you are feeling an unfortunate side-effect of the fantasy that American con-evos have woven to the effect that they are the only people in the history of the church who care enough to read what the Bible really says. There is something behind it; I learned far more about the Bible when I was an evangelical than before or since, and it's stood me in good stead.
  • There is something in that (and I share the truth of your last point). I had been assuming that a typical 19th century Russian was unlikely to be literate, let alone own a Bible and know their way around it, but this is probably cultural stereotyping on my part.
  • You find out more about this peasant as the book goes on, and it explains this point.
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