My last post was about private ownership in a monastery. There I discussed how monks were not allowed to own things (unless they had their abbot’s permission of course) as everything was to belong to the community. The chapter I will be analyzing today goes into a bit more detail regarding that.
Chapter Thirty-Four of The Rule of Saint Benedict is titled “Whether all ought alike to Receive what is Needful” (pg. 50). It begins with the bible quote ‘”Distribution was made to every man, according as he had need”‘ (pg. 50). This is the thesis/summary of chapter thirty-four. Saint Benedict goes onto elaborate saying:
“Herein we do not say that there should be respecting of persons—God forbid—but consideration for infirmities.” (pg. 50)
Basically, a monastery is supposed to make accommodations for monks who need them. An elderly sick monk will need more food or blankets than a healthy young one, so it’s important to take a monk’s disabilities into account when items are being distributed in the monastery. This isn’t just a medieval concept. Even in modern times, workplaces are expected to make reasonable accommodations for people.
Saint Benedict is aware that sometimes people get grumbly when they see someone else getting ‘more’ (for lack of a better term) than them. He reminds his monkish reader “that hath need of less [should] give thanks to God, and not be grieved” (pg. 50). In other words, a monk should be thankful he is healthy. The text also tells monks with disabilities that they should “be humbled for his infirmity” (pg. 50). He should “not [be] made proud by the kindness shown to him” (pg. 50). If everyone can do this, then “all the members of the family shall be at peace” (pg. 50).
In case these words don’t convince monks, the text warns the reader about “the evil of murmuring” (pg. 50). If a monk complains even with “the slightest word or sign on any account whatsoever” then he is to “be subjected to very severe punishment” (pg. 50).
- Saint Benedict. Blair, D. Oswald Hunter, translator. The Rule of Saint Benedict, With Explanatory Notes. Ichthus Publications.
(I bought my copy of The Rule of Saint Benedict on Amazon. You can purchase my edition of it here.)
Wikipedia’s overview of The Rule of Saint Benedict to double-check my interpretations of the text. Link to that article here.
Solesme Abbey’s translation of The Rule of Saint Benedict can be found here as a PDF. I used this to cross-check my translation.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library’s translation of The Rule of Saint Benedict can be found here as a PDF. I used this to cross-check my translation. (You have to scroll down to see the text.)