A task difficult and arduous

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Chapter II. What Kind of Man the Abbot Ought to Be
14 Jan. 15 May. 14 Sept.
The Abbot ought always to remember what he is, and what he is called, and to know that to whom more is committed, from him more is required; and he must consider how difficult and arduous a task he hath undertaken, of ruling souls and adapting himself to many dispositions. Let him so accommodate and suit himself to the character and intelligence of each, winning some by kindness, others by reproof, others by persuasion, that he may not only suffer no loss in the flock committed to him, but may even rejoice in their virtuous increase.

Let Things Be What They Are Called

Saint Benedict would have both persons and things be in truth what they are called. Thus does he say, concerning the Oratory of the monastery, "Let the Oratory be what it is called, a place of prayer: and let nothing else be done, or kept there" (Chapter LII), and concerning the Abbot, "The Abbot ought always to remember what he is, and what he is called" (Chapter II). Persons and things are not named casually in Benedictine life; the name by which someone or something is called is a bearer of meaning and a summons to live the meaning signified. What some would perceive as a certain Benedictine formalism is, in fact, a radically sacramental approach to all of life.

Responsibility Before God

The Abbot (or Conventual Prior) is a father; he bears responsibility before God for each of his sons and for the monastic family as a whole. "And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more" (Luke 12:48).

All Things to All Men

Saint Benedict would have the Abbot close whatever gap there may be between himself and one of his sons in need. "To the weak I became weak," says the Apostle, "that I might gain the weak. I became all things to all men, that I might save all" (1 Corinthians 9:22). And in another place, "Rejoice with them that rejoice; weep with them that weep" (Romans 12:15).

Caring for the Flock

The Abbot must preserve the flock entrusted to him by Christ, by keeping all his sheep within the fold; even more, he must do all in his power to foster the steady regeneration of the flock. This he will do gladly, spending himself in love to protect and nurture new life within the monastic family. "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking care of it, not by constraint, but willingly, according to God" (1 Peter 5:2).

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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