A monastic workplace, a commercial success

Part of the genius of the Rule of St Benedict, which quickly surpassed other, earlier rules in the western Church to become the pre-eminent monastic rule [to head off any potential pedants at the pass, the Rule of St Augustine is not, strictly speaking, monastic, nor is it as comprehensive as St Benedict’s], is that it is moderate and balanced. It does not depict monastic life as a spiritual utopia, nor monks as Christian supermen. St Benedict knows well the humanity of monks, their first fervour and later laxity, their aptness to cut corners if even from the best of motives, their capacity to annoy each other and their tendency to value more highly what they want to what they need. He imposes a healthy discipline and allows for it to be modified, though this perhaps is also its weakness: it has ever after been modified in the name of holy pragmatism. He places a high value on a demanding formation that begins with strictness in order to make the life sweeter to live in the long term (and indulgence of novices’ preferences and weaknesses has been a perpetual source of trouble for monasteries, not least today when we are so desperate not to lose our few candidates whatever their faults). Continue reading “A monastic workplace, a commercial success”