Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 22

Yesterday we read that deans were to be chosen to better help the abbot, and to govern the monastery more efficiently. Today we will read about how the monks are to sleep. Why have a rule set out for sleeping? Because everything is ordered to help maintain peace.


  1. The monks are to sleep in separate beds.
  2. They receive bedding as provided by the abbot, suitable to monastic life.
  3. If possible, all are to sleep in one place, but should the size of the community preclude this, they will sleep in groups of ten or twenty under the watchful care of seniors.
  4. A lamp must be kept burning in the room until morning.
  5. They should sleep clothed, and girded with belts or cords; but they should remove their knives, lest they accidentally cut themselves in their sleep.
  6. Thus the monks will always be ready to arise without delay when the signal is given; each will hasten to arrive at the Work of God before others, yet with all dignity and decorum.
  7. The younger brothers should not have their beds next to each other, but interspersed among those of the seniors.
  8. On arising for the Work of God, they will quietly encourage each other, for the sleepy like to make excuses.

We see that monks are to have separate beds, but that they should all sleep together unless they have many brothers. A lamp must be kept burning, this most likely facilitates movement to relieve ones self at night or for those brothers who may be in and out during vigils.

We also read that the monks should sleep clothed, ready to begin the day with haste, but remove their knives so they aren't cut. This reminds me of the military somewhat; in years past soldiers would sleep in their uniforms, having their boots ready to be laced and tied quickly in case of emergencies or other things. I know I learned this at Basic Training, but I don't know if it is still taught. Any way, this facilitates the monks to start their day of prayer and work almost from the start.

We go on to read that the younger brothers should not have beds next to each other, but interspersed amongst the older monks. This helps to keep the younger ones from whispering and what not throughout the night. I have a few children and I have seen what happens when they try to sleep together; no sleeping gets done because they keep each other awake. It makes sense, then, to keep the less mature brothers separate and use the more mature ones to keep them in check.

Lastly, we see that the brothers are to encourage each other on waking. At Basic Training, and while deployed, I had to wake up for PT pretty early in the morning, and I told myself I would keep that routine when I got home - but without that encouragement from my Drill Sergeants and buddies I ended up going back to sleep and falling out of that routine. In the same manner the brothers encourage one another so none fall into a spirit of sloth; they are helping each other to achieve salvation.
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