CHAPTER III. Of calling the Brethren to Council (2)
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.”
Saint Benedict says, 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 teacher, and let no man rashly depart from it.” One of the things that characterises our monastery is, if I dare say it, devotion to the Holy Rule. This is something given us by Our Lord, a kind of founding grace. It is a grace that I have long cherished and that I have tried to communicate to you as the flame of one candle is passed to many others until the night is made bright by their radiance.
One would think that love for the Holy Rule ought to characterise all who make profession under it. Yes, all monks ought to have a singular attachment to the Holy Rule, for it is by the Holy Rule that we are monks and sons of Saint Benedict. It is not by membership in a confederation or in a federation, however good these things may be in themselves; it is by attachment to the Holy Rule and, insofar as possible, even to the letter of it, for the letter encloses the spirit of the Holy Rule like the honeycomb contains the honey. Learn well the wise saying of Abbot Guéranger and never forget it: “It is by the Rule of Saint Benedict that we shall be Benedictines.”
Cherish even those prescriptions of the Holy Rule that for reasons of a pia consideratio of human infirmities, and out of a merciful concession to the little and the weak among us, we are unable to observe to the letter. All of these prescriptions remain significant and life-giving for us.
I encourage each of you to cultivate a personal devotion to the Holy Rule. Make it your habitual and ordinary reference. Imbue yourselves with its doctrine. God did not call you here to become a Carmelite, or a Dominican, or a Franciscan, or an Oratorian. He called you here to become a son of Saint Benedict.
If you were or are attracted to Carmel, to Saint Teresa and Saint John of the Cross, or to Saint Thérèse and her Little Way, know that nothing of their teaching is missing from the Rule of Saint Benedict: purification of the heart, ceaseless prayer, secret exchanges with the Word, the Divine Bridegroom, and participation by patience in the Passion of Christ.
If you were or are drawn to Saint Dominic, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and Saint Catherine of Siena, know that the Rule of Saint Benedict calls you to the joy of the Gospel, to the love of chastity, to the quest for Truth, to confidence in the mercy of God for sinners, and to the ceaseless prayer of the heart represented by the Holy Rosary.
If you were or are fascinated by the Little Poor Man of Assisi, the Seraphic Saint Francis, know that the Rule of Saint Benedict offers you complete disappropriation to the point of having neither your body nor your will at your own disposal; that the Twelfth Degree of Humility is configuration to the Crucified Jesus; and that the adorable Body of Christ, the Sacred Host, shows you the perfection of monastic holiness in silence, hiddenness, poverty, and humility.
If you were or are charmed by Saint Philip and the Oratory, know that the Rule of Saint Benedict calls you to good cheer, to gentlemanly courtesy, to an ever greater infusion of the charity of God, that is the Holy Ghost.
All of these virtues, qualities, and gifts are found in abundance in the Holy Rule. Why do I say this? I say it because Saint Gregory the Great authorises me to do so when he tells us that Saint Benedict, the vir Dei, was filled with the Spirit of all the just. Saint Gregory says:
The man of god, Benedict, had the spirit of the one true God, who, by the grace of our redemption, hath filled the hearts of his elect servants; of whom Saint John saith: “He was the true light, which doth lighten every man coming into this world,” [John 1:9]. Of whom, again, we find it written: “Of his fulness we have all received,” [John 1:16]. (Second Book of the Dialogues, Chapter 8)
The Holy Rule is, according to Bossuet, a mysterious abridgement of the Gospel, and the Gospel is the wellspring of every variety of holiness and of a torrent of graces that irrigates the Church by means of countless rivulets in every age and in every place. The son of Saint Benedict may rightly say with Saint Thérèse, Je choisis tout, “I choose all,” because in submission to the Holy Rule, he places himself in the school of the Lord’s service, he enrols in the army of the Lord Christ, the True King. Saint Benedict himself concludes the Holy Rule by saying:
Whoever, therefore, thou art that hasteneth to thy heavenly country, fulfil by the help of Christ this least of Rules which we have written for beginners; and then at length thou shalt arrive, under God’s protection, at the lofty summits of doctrine and virtue of which we have spoken above. (Chapter 73)