Not noisy in speech

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CHAPTER VII. Of Humility

8 Feb. 9 June. 9 Oct.
The eleventh degree of humility is, that when a monk speaketh, he do so gently and without laughter, humbly, gravely, with few and reasonable words, and that he be not noisy in his speech, as it is written: "A wise man is known by the fewness of his words."

A Preference for Quietness

For Saint Benedict, humility is closely -- I should rather say -- inseparably bound up with one's speech, and with a marked preference for quietness. First of all, he would have his monk's speech be gentle. Our Lord says: "It is from the heart's overflow that the mouth speaks; a good man utters good words from his store of goodness" (Matthew 12:34-35). So too will the gentle-hearted man utter gentle words from his store of gentleness. Thus must a Benedictine return again and again to Our Lord's sweet invitation: "Come to me, all you that labour and are burdened; I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon yourselves, and learn from me; I am gentle and humble of heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).

Shrill Laughter

Secondly, Saint Benedict would have his monk speak without laughter. The kind of laughter that Saint Benedict condemns is the laughter of cruel sarcasm; the mocking laughter of the worldly and the jaded; the shrill laughter of the shallow-minded and superficial; the idiotic laughter of one who makes a joke of everything, even of things sacred.

The Loud and Boisterous

Thirdly, Saint Benedict teaches that it is not fitting that a monk be boisterous and loud-mouthed. We have all, I think, at one time or another witnessed the unpleasant arrival of a loud and boisterous person in a room of people. This is the kind of demeanour often affected by certain politicians and would-be-people-pleasers. Such behaviour, while it may be thought to put people at ease, has the opposite effect. It assaults the soul and makes one want to run for cover.

Few Words

Fourthly, Saint Benedict would have his monk learn to speak with few and reasonable words. The need to expatiate on every subject is a sure indicator of unchecked pride.


Fifthly, Saint Benedict would have his monk speak quietly. The prideful man raises his voice so as to drown out every other speaker by dint of sheer volume. He seeks to impose himself in conversation by speaking more loudly than anyone else. Very often, people are so wearied by the proverbial "loud-mouth" that they instinctively recoil in his presence. A raised tone of voice is a sure indicator of pride; it is a attempt to control others and to impose oneself in a given situation.


The humble man, by his few words, tends to allow others to be more at ease around him, knowing that there is one who will actually listen to what they have to say.

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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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