17 Jan. 18 May. 17 Sept.
Let all therefore, follow the Rule in all things as their guide, and let no man rashly depart from it. Let no one in the monastery follow the will of his own heart: nor let any one presume insolently to contend with his Abbot, either within or without the monastery. But if he should so presume, let him be subjected to the discipline appointed by the Rule. The Abbot himself, however, must do everything with the fear of God and in observance of the Rule: knowing that he will have without doubt to render to God, the most just Judge, an account of all his judgments. If it happen that less important matters have to be transacted for the good of the monastery, let him take counsel with the Seniors only, as it is written: “Do all things with counsel, and thou shalt not afterwards repent it.”
This concluding portion of Chapter III begins with two strongly worded injunctions. Both injunction ought to be copied out by hand during the noviciate, and learned by heart. The first is: In omnibus igitur omnes magistram sequantur regulam, neque ab ea temere declinetur a quoquam, “Let all therefore, follow the Rule in all things as their guide, and let no man rashly depart from it.| The Holy Rule is a monk’s quotidian and spontaneous reference. Over time, a monk begins instinctively to turn to the Holy Rule for guidance in omnibus, “in all things.” The second injunction is equally compelling: Nullus in monasterio proprii sequatur cordis voluntatem, “Let no one in the monastery follow the will of his own heart.” One enters the monastery to submit in all things to the Holy Rule and to renounce in all things the will of one’s own heart.
This radical abnegation of one’s own will and inclinations extends even to one’s personal understanding and interpretation of the Holy Rule. For this reason, Saint Benedict adds: “Nor let any one presume insolently to contend with his Abbot, either within or without the monastery.” One of the clearest indications that a man us not suited to Benedictne life is a reluctance to let go of those principles and practices that, in the world, may have served him well enough, but that, in the cloister, will hold him back from the particular form of holiness to which Our Lord invites him. The abbot is the authentic interpreter of the Holy Rule; he does this principally by means of the daily Chapter.
The abbot himself is guided by the Declarations and Statutes approved by the competent hierarchical authority. The Declarations and Statutes are the lens through which the abbot reads the Holy Rule, and against which he measures his own teaching of it. Saint Benedict says, “The abbot himself, however, must do everything with the fear of God and in observance of the Rule: knowing that he will have without doubt to render to God, the most just Judge, an account of all his judgments.” The abbot will make the Holy Rule the object of a life–long study, never thinking that he has, in some way, mastered its doctrine or sufficiently appropriated its content. The Holy Rule is, in some way, like the Sacred Scriptures from which so much of it is woven; one’s understanding of it grows in proportion to one’s practice of it.
There are, of course, a variety of readings of the Holy Rule and diverse ways of applying its doctrine to life. Even in the last two centuries, different schools of Benedictine life emerged, each one having its own emphases, and each one proposing the reading of the Holy Rule through a particular lens. I think of Abbot Guéranger at Solesmes, Abbot Casaretti in Italy, Père Muard at La–Pierre–Qui–Vire, the Abbots Wolter in Germany and in Begium, Père Emmanuel at Le Mesnil–Saint–Loup, Blessed Abbot Marmion at Maredsous, Dom Gérard at Le Barroux, and so many others, to say nothing of the great teaching abbesses of the last century who resurrected monasteries from terminal decline and infused new life into an observance grown tepid and listless. I think, particular, of the Venerable Caterina Lavizzari and of the intrepid Madre Ildegarde Cabitza of Rosano.
I pray that our monastery will always be characterised by devotion to the Holy Rule. By devotion to the Holy Rule, I do not mean a vaguely sentimental attachment to it; I mean a lively, spontaneous, and continuous reference to it. For us monks, sons of Saint Benedict, the Rule has a sacred character; it enshrines all that we need to know and practice in order to have, as Saint Benedict will say in Chapter LXIII, “some degree of goodness of life, and a beginning of holiness.” I often refer you to Bossuet’s panegyric on the Holy Rule. The learned bishop of Meaux, who, in his own day, was uncompromisingly zealous for the reform of monastic life in his diocese, says this:
Saint Benedict, your blessed legislator, always brings you back to the beginning, judging rightly that the spiritual life cannot subsist without a continual renewal of fervour. It is for this reason that he calls the living out of his rule a little beginning. Let us then speak in truth of this rule; and to crown this humility, by which it was, in so sacred a manner, brought low, let us raise it up today, and celebrate its grandeur and its perfection before the Church of God.
This rule is a summary of Christianity, a learned and mysterious abridgement of the whole doctrine of the Gospel, of all the institutions of the holy Fathers, of all the counsels of perfection. Therein appear with eminence: prudence and simplicity, humility and courage, severity and gentleness, liberty and dependence. Therein correction has all its firmness; condescension, all its charm; commandment, all its vigour; subjection, its repose; silence, its gravity; the word, its grace; strength, its exercise; and weakness, its support.
In becoming a novice here, a man resolves to give preference for the Holy Rule over every other school of holiness and every other systematic presentation of the way to God. One does not become a Benedictine to follow Saint John of the Cross, or Saint Ignatius, or Saint Francis de Sales, or any other way to God, however praiseworthy and inspiring it may be. We are Benedictines by reason of our unwavering reference to and preference for the Rule of Saint Benedict.
The first and last articles of the Declarations of our monastery express this:
The Benedictine Monks of Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, established at Silverstream Priory (Monasterium Beatæ Mariæ Virginis in Coenaculo) in the Diocese of Meath in Ireland, attach themselves steadfastly to the Rule of Saint Benedict, receiving it from the Church as a wise and certain norm of conduct for God-seeking men and lovers of Christ. The study of the Holy Rule will remain each monk’s lifelong pursuit, seeking in every age of the spiritual life to understand it better, to savour its wisdom, and to put it into practice «with a dilated heart and with the unspeakable sweetness of love».
Given that Saint Benedict was, as Pope Saint Gregory tells us in his Dialogues, filled with the Spirit of all the Just, we cannot doubt that his Rule contains all that is most perfectly suited to a life of perpetual adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament, making of those who profess it hosts and sacrificial offerings with the Son of God in the divine Eucharist. The brethren will, therefore, fulfil by the help of Christ this «least of rules written for beginners» so that they may one day receive the happy reward promised to those who, having confessed and adored «the Lord Christ, our true King» in this life, will praise Him for all the immensity of His glorious eternity, saying with all the Saints: Praised and forever adored be the Son of God Who, hidden beneath the Eucharistic veil, «hath loved us, and hath delivered Himself for us» in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Amen.