Monday, March 14, 2016

The Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 21

We have finished with the rules for praying, and we go into the governance of the monks at a monastery. Just like at a business, or even the military, the brother monks have some placed over them to help govern the monastery and ensure things run smoothly.


  1. If the community is rather large, some brothers are chosen for their good repute and holy life should be made deans.
  2. They will take care of their groups of ten, managing all affairs according to the commandments of God and the orders of their abbot.
  3. The deans selected should be the kind of men with whom the abbot can confidently share the burdens of his office.
  4. They are to be chosen for virtuous living and wise teaching, not for their rank.
  5. If perhaps one of these deans is found to be puffed up with any pride, and so deserving of censure, he is to be reproved at once, twice and even a third time. Should he refuse to amend, he must be removed from office
  6. and replaced by another who is worthy. 
  7. We prescribe the same course of action in regard to the prior.

Let us focus on verse 4 real quick. Notice that it says the deans should be chosen not by rank, but by wise teaching and virtuous living. So a fairly new monk could be made a dean over some of his more advanced brothers if he has been found to meet those requirements.

In verse 5 we see that if a dean becomes prideful he is to be reproved. If he doesn't change his ways then he is removed. Obviously, this is a wise move as we are humans and prone to err. A monk of a lesser rank who is put in charge of monks with a higher rank may get a big head; even a monk with a higher rank who is put in charge of those with a lesser rank may get a big head. A prideful leader can lead to dissention in the ranks and destroy unit morale in the military, how much more so in a monastery were the men are striving for salvation?
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