Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 33

Rules, rules, rules. Why all of these rules? Rules help us govern our lives, and when we dedicate our lives to Christ we have rules to follow that govern our lives the way He wants us to live.


Chapter 33. MONKS AND PRIVATE OWNERSHIP

  1. Above all, this evil practice must be uprooted and removed from the monastery. 
  2. We mean that without an order from the abbot, no one may presume to give, receive 
  3. or retain anything as his own, nothing at all ― not a book, writing tablets or stylus ― in short, not a single item, 
  4. especially since monks may not have the free disposal even of their own bodies and wills. 
  5. For their needs, they are to look to the father of the monastery, and are not allowed anything which the abbot has not permitted. 
  6. All things should be the common possession of all, as it is written, so that no one presumes to call anything his own (Acts 4:32).
  7. But if anyone is caught indulging in this most evil practice, he should be warned a first time and a second time. 
  8. If he does not amend, let him be subjected to punishment.
This seems strange to us, that people should not have private ownership of anything unless somebody else tells them that they can. Why would this be so? Ego. Ego is the destroyer of many things, as is envy and jealousy. When we own things we often have a certain pride, others may become jealous of us and envy what we own - the "keeping up with the Joneses" mentality. When you have a group of people living together in an enclosed area, the ego can take hold and cause strife; this obviously should be avoided in a monastery where the brothers are trying to separate themselves from the world and work towards their salvation. It makes sense, then, that the abbot should only allow the brothers things that they need so there is less strife.

How does this apply to our lives, especially today when it seems like we have to own things that are essential to our daily lives? We need transportation to get to our jobs, which we need to pay for food, clothing, bills, shelter, etc.  Yet, we are reminded that we are not to cause our brothers to stumble. We shouldn't be flaunting what we have in front of everybody. We should be trying to live our lives in modesty and moderation.

So while we do not need to give up everything that we own, we do need to make sure that we practice moderation in our lives so our possessions do not end up owning us.
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