The Rule of Benedict

In existence for 1,500 years, the Rule of Saint Benedict has become the leading guide in Western Christianity for monastic living in community, but it is also a practical guide that can be used to help everyone establish and maintain loving relationships with God, with others, with the material world, and with one’s own self.  As the whole person is made up of body, mind, and spirit, the Rule is written for a life that recognizes that the three elements should be affirmed in a balanced life of prayer, study, and work.  The spirit of the Rule is summed up in the motto of the Benedictine Confederation – pax (“peace”) and the traditional ora et labora (“pray and work”).

From the opening words, “Listen my son to the instructions of your Master, turn the ear of your heart to the advice of a loving father;” through the instructions on hospitality, community, humility, prayer, work, compassion, and obedience; to the final words of Chapter LXXII – “They should prefer nothing to Christ.  May He bring us all alike to life everlasting.” – the Rule serves as a roadmap to a relationship with God and those in the communities in which one lives – family, school, church, neighborhood, etc.

The Rule is one based on moderation and reasonableness, with an understanding not just of the capabilities of human nature but also its weaknesses.  

The Benedictine Ethos Today

  • God exists and is present to every aspect of human existence.  Therefore, one must bring a reverent and mindful attitude to life.  Prayer is not the only thing worth doing in this world, but without prayer, nothing else is done as well nor are things kept in proper perspective.
  • Every person is of equal worth in the eyes of God.  Therefore, no one can be considered a mere object but must be given voice in his or her own destiny.
  • Authority is necessary in every human society and it must be obeyed insofar as it serves the common good.
  • It is possible for human beings of various backgrounds and cultures to live in a harmonious community.  People are meant to live in mutuality and not alienation.
  • Personal fulfillment is just as important as the profit of the community, but mature happiness can only be found in serving others.
  • Truth is never served by force or violence.  We prove that we do not really believe in the truth when we impose it on others by violent force.
  • Competition is an artificial means of stimulating human striving; in the long run it cannot produce the same fruits of peace and joy that can be achieved by  cooperation.


Lawrence Kardong, OSB 
The Benedictines