The Rule of St Benedict

Saint Benedict in his rule synthesized the monastic customs of his time. His three pillars for the monastic life are the Opus Dei (Divine Office), Lectio Divina and Work even though he also legislated for people who could not read, providing for them by community reading. He recommends that everything be done per ducatum Evangelii (with the Gospel to lead).

He orders that the novice should truly seek God Ut reverum Deum quaerat and where can he be found if not in his Word since this Word ‘is all and is in all’ (Col 3:11)? Saint Benedict wishes that ‘God be glorified in all things’ ut in omnibus glorificatur Deus (RB 57:9, 1Pet 4:11). But God must be found first in before he can be glorified. As the poet wrote, there are, ‘sermons in stones, books in the running brooks and good in everything.’

St Benedict legislated for about 4-5 hours every day for each of his three main exercises. He recommends early morning reading and was practical enough to realize the some people would find it difficult and would have to be encouraged to keep at it. (RB 48) Reading was done in the cells or in the cloisters, in the church, refectory and chapter room and even in the dormitory though Benedict warns readers not to disturb others.

This was one of the reasons for the monastery being a house of silence for it was a house of reading and prayer. When done in the cloister the northern cloister running parallel to the church was usually the reading cloister as it got most sun and was thus brighter and warmer. Bookstands and reading pulpits are features of all monastic architecture and good acoustics were required in all monastic spaces.