Benedict of Nursia, founder of the Benedictine order, was born around 480 and died on the 21st of May 547. When he was 12, his mother died and he was sent to live with his sister in Rome so that he could continue his studies. He was shocked by the debauchery of the city, so much so that he decided to become a monk when he was barely seventeen.
Benedict is also the founder of the Monastery of Montecassino, which is where he wrote his Rule (around 540), taking inspiration from the lifes of various saints and monks (including himself). The main objective of his rule was to live a better life through discipline and spirituality (this principle is the reason for the motto “ora et labora”, “pray and work”).
According to Benedict’s rule, monastic life should be organized around three pillars which were intended to make sure the monk is always focused on God. These pillars are:
1. Communal Prayer
2. Private Prayer
A benedictine monk’s main job was usually transcribing sacred texts.
In his rule, prayer is intened as the act of contemplating Christ and the Word in one’s cell, during mass or while participating in che monastery’s life.
Benedict’s rule defines a monks life in every detailed aspect. It has a Prologue and seventy three chapters. A monk’s main duties were living in an isolated monastery and collaborating with his brothers. No monk is ever called another monk’s “boss”. The head of the monastery is the Abbot, a word which means “loving father”.
In the last chapter of his rule, Benedicts explains that this rule is not intended as a series of instructions to reach perfection but as a series of guidelines for devotion. His rule is aimed at novices, those who intend to become monk and whoever else might need it as a guide to prayer. The rule is also intended as a guideline for the organization of monasteries, a monk’s obligations within them and any necessary disciplinary actions.
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