Friday, August 07, 2009

Rule of St Benedict Reading for August 7, 2009

April 7, August 7, December 7

Chapter 55: On the Clothes and Shoes of the Brethren

Let clothing be given to the brethren
according to the nature of the place in which they dwell
and its climate;
for in cold regions more will be needed,
and in warm regions less.
This is to be taken into consideration, therefore, by the Abbot.

We believe, however, that in ordinary places
the following dress is sufficient for each monk:
a tunic,
a cowl (thick and woolly for winter, thin or worn for summer),
a scapular for work,
stockings and shoes to cover the feet.

The monks should not complain
about the color or the coarseness of any of these things,
but be content with what can be found
in the district where they live and
can be purchased cheaply.

The Abbot shall see to the size of the garments,
that they be not too short for those who wear them,
but of the proper fit.

Let those who receive new clothes
always give back the old ones at once,
to be put away in the wardrobe for the poor.
For it is sufficient if a monk has two tunics and two cowls,
to allow for night wear and for the washing of these garments;
more than that is superfluity and should be taken away.
Let them return their stockings also and anything else that is old
when they receive new ones.

Those who are sent on a journey
shall receive drawers from the wardrobe,
which they shall wash and restore on their return.
And let their cowls and tunics be somewhat better
than what they usually wear.
These they shall receive from the wardrobe
when they set out on a journey,
and restore when they return.

Some thoughts:

Ah, the wardrobe. How many clothes are enough? Too much? What is or is not appropriate to wear? All issues in Benedict's day just as they are in ours. I am also reminded of a Yankee aphorism: Use it up or wear it out; make it do or do without. Benedict would have approved, I believe. We see here that Benedict is concerned to have his monks adequately dressed for the climate in which they live. They are to have sufficient clothing but not too much.

I've always been a little tickled that the monks who are sent on a journey get underpants, but this garment is not considered necessary for wear within the monastery it self. And now that I can pick up Kardong's Commentary and check it out, I see that "drawers" is a bad translation. Kardong uses "pants" and he clarifies in his Notes on the translation that he means "leggings" which would be suitable for riding a horse.

We, of course, live in a different time with different expectations of that which is appropriate. If we live in the USA, our society expects us to bathe daily, wear clean clothes daily and when we fail in such grooming, it's considered a warning sign about our mental health. We have different aspects to our lives which seem to demand different wardrobes.

There is much that could be said, but I prefer to keep this as mercifully brief as I can. This passage raises questions, I believe, that we must each answer for ourselves and families. Are our wardrobes adequate or are they abundant? Do we give what we no longer wear to the poor?

These questions are not as simple to answer as one might think. For my own life, I find much prayer is needed to discern what is right.

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