Saturday, August 22, 2009

Rule of St Benedict Reading for August 22, 2009

April 22, August 22, December 22

Chapter 65: On the Prior of the Monastery

It happens all too often that the constituting of a Prior
gives rise to grave scandals in monasteries.
For there are some who become inflated with the evil spirit of pride
and consider themselves second Abbots.
By usurping power
they foster scandals and cause dissensions in the community.
Especially does this happen
in those places where the Prior is constituted
by the same Bishop or the same Abbots
who constitute the Abbot himself.
What an absurd procedure this is
can easily be seen;
for it gives the Prior an occasion for becoming proud
from the very time of his constitution,
by putting the thought into his mind
that he is freed from the authority of his Abbot:
"For," he will say to himself, "you were constituted
by the same persons who constitute the Abbot."
From this source are stirred up envy, quarrels, detraction,
rivalry, dissensions and disorders.
For while the Abbot and the Prior are at variance,
their souls cannot but be endangered by this dissension;
and those who are under them,
currying favor with one side or the other,
go to ruin.
The guilt for this dangerous state of affairs
rests on the heads of those
whose action brought about such disorder.

Some thoughts

"Prior" is a word that has a complicated history with different
meanings at different points in the history of Benedictines. At the
time Benedict wrote the RB, the term meant the Abbot's assistant.
Later on in the Middle Ages, the role of the prior was that of a
temporal assistant. Perhaps a modern analogy would be the roles of
priest and rector in TEC. The priest or abbot deals with spiritual
matters while the rector or prior deals with the day to day life
maintenance stuff such as handling the money, seeing to repairs etc.

Evidently even in Benedict's lifetime, priors abused their authority.
Maybe the Bishop used a prior against an abbot. Maybe Benedict was
the abbot and it was his own prior that was involved. Who knows? But
it is clear that for Benedict, authority of and for the monastery
rests in the and no one else and chaos results when another usurps the

The first several times I read this chapter I was puzzled about how I
could apply it to my own life when I am not in a monastery. And then
I began to apply it to the workplace where I saw that without ever
experiencing corporate America, Benedict had summed up the company I
worked for where there was in fact a similar situation. I realized
that in a hierarchical structure such as corporate America or the
monastery, chaos results when we try to step outside of our place
within that structure.

Thinking that led me to consider just what is my place in my parish,
community etc. Who was God callign me to be? To what role did God
call me? It's as Aslan says to Lucy "I tell no one's story to
another" or words to that effect.

While all are welcome to comment here on this blog, should you desire to dialog about the reading I invite you to join the email list: Mere Benedictines

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