Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 27

The last few chapters we have read about diverse things dealing with excommunication. One thing I keep repeating is how the excommunication is a tool for repentance, it is used to help bring people back into the fold; excommunication is almost similar to having a child sit in the corner on a spiritual level. During this whole period, the abbot is making sure to take care of the excommunicated much in the same way a loving father would care for his wayward child.


  1. The abbot must exercise the utmost care and concern for wayward brothers, because it is not the healthy who need a physician, but the sick (Matt 9:12).
  2. Therefore, he ought to use every skill of a wise physician and send in senpectae, that is, mature and wise brothers
  3. who, under the cloak of secrecy, may support the wavering brother, urge him to be humble as a way of making satisfaction, and console him lest he be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow (2 Cor 2:7).
  4. Rather, as the Apostle also says: Let love for him be reaffirmed (2 Cor 2:8), and let all pray for him.
  5. It is the abbot's responsibility to have great concern and to act with all speed, discernment and diligence in order not to lose any of the sheep entrusted to him.
  6. He should realize that he has undertaken care of the sick, not tyranny over the healthy.
  7. Let him also fear the threat of the Prophet in which God says: What you saw to be fat you claimed for yourselves, and what was weak you cast aside (Ezek 34: 3-4).
  8. He is to imitate the loving example of the Good Shepherd who left the ninety-nine sheep in the mountains and went in search of the one sheep that had strayed.
  9. So great was his compassion for its weakness that he mercifully placed it on his sacred shoulders and so carried it back to the flock (Luke 15:5).

Let us look back over verse 6, "He should realize that he has undertaken care of the sick, not tyranny over the healthy." This is quite the contrast to the typical Western view of an abbot who many see as particularly overbearing and demanding. And yet, in this chapter we read how the abbot is supposed to act lovingly towards those in error (note I said lovingly, not acceptingly), because it is the sick that need healing; a monastery isn't a (or shouldn't be a) hospital where Dr. House practices, but one where Dr. Hibbert does with his jovial self.

We also read of the senpectae who are to help their brother by supporting him (as in lifting his spirits, not taking his side in error), and to even console him if he is overwhelmed. So we see that even though the excommunicated person seems to have a harsh punishment that he is still given love and support, not complete alienation.
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