Monday, March 21, 2016

The Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 28

We have reached the end of dealing with the excommunicated. This chapter covers what to do if a monk has been excommunicated and yet still refuses to change his ways.


  1. If a brother has been reproved frequently for any fault, or if he has even been excommunicated, yet does not amend, let him receive a sharper punishment: that is, let him feel the strokes of the rod.
  2. But if even then he does not reform, or perhaps becomes proud and would actually defend his conduct, which God forbid, the abbot should follow the procedure of a wise physician.
  3. After he has applied compresses, the ointment of encouragement, the medicine of divine Scripture, and finally the cauterizing iron of excommunication and strokes of the rod,
  4. and if he then perceives that his earnest efforts are unavailing, let him apply an even better remedy: he and all the brothers should pray for him
  5. so that the Lord, who can do all things, may bring about the health of the sick brother.
  6. Yet if even this procedure does not heal him, then finally, the abbot must use the knife and amputate. For the Apostle says: Banish the evil one from your midst (1 Cor 5:13);
  7. and again, If the unbeliever departs, let him depart (1 Cor 7:15),
  8. lest one diseased sheep infect the whole flock.

There is some vivid imagery in this chapter, especially in verse 6. I just want to point out that this verse does not mean that the abbot should really pull a knife on a disobedient monk and cut some limbs off; it is talking about removing the monk from the monastery, severing him from the brotherhood of the other monks.

Notice, however, that this isn't the immediate action taken towards the excommunicated, rather the imagery of the Church as a hospital and the priest/abbot as the doctor is still in use with terms such as ointment, medicine, and even cauterization. And if all of those fail, the abbot and the other monks are to use a better remedy; prayer.

It seems that the last thing Saint Benedict wanted was for monks to just be shoved or of the monastery doors for insubordination; he has this Rule laid out in such a way to remind the abbot and the other monks to always care for each other's spiritual needs, only cutting someone off as a last resort. This causes me to ponder how many times God tries to correct us - giving us chance after chance - before He cuts us off. Truly, Saint Benedict was very wise in trying to be like Christ in this manner.
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