Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 36

We have seen that there are exceptions to be made for the brothers in need. It is good for us to allow these weaker brethren exceptions because we are being merciful, just as God is merciful to us in our own weakness. This charity extends also to the brethren who have taken ill.


Chapter 36. THE SICK BROTHERS

  1. Care of the sick must rank above and before all else, so that they may truly be served as Christ, 
  2. for he said: I was sick and you visited me (Matt 25:36), 
  3. and, What you did for one of these least brothers you did for me (Matt 25:40). 
  4. Let the sick on their part bear in mind that they are served out of honor for God, and let them not by their excessive demands distress their brothers who serve them. 
  5. Still, sick brothers must be patiently borne with, because serving them leads to a great reward. 
  6. Consequently, the abbot should be extremely careful that they suffer no neglect.
  7. Let a separate room be designated for the sick, and let them be served by an attendant who is God-fearing, attentive and concerned. 
  8. The sick may take baths whenever it is advisable, but the healthy, and especially the young, should receive permission less readily. 
  9. Moreover, to regain their strength, the sick who are very weak may eat meat, but when their health improves, they should all abstain from meat as usual.
  10. The abbot must take the greatest care that cellarers and those whose who serve the sick do not neglect them, for the shortcomings of disciples are his responsibility.
We see that, yes, the sick brothers are served out of honor for God, but also out of concern. The sick are to be given more food (and meat - monks usually abstain from eating meat of certain types), they are to take baths more regularly, and have separate rooms. Those last two are surprising, given that when this rule was written there was no concept of the germ theory when this rule was written.

Then we see that the abbot is responsible for the shortcomings of the cellarer (whom we read earlier is responsible for the care of the sick) and the other brothers who attend the sick. If these brothers neglect the sick then it reflects poorly on the abbot; it shows that the abbot has not taught compassion to the brothers, and these shortcomings should rightly fall on the abbot's shoulders who is over the care of all of the brethren.
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