The Rule of St. Benedict

Cloistered, but open to the world, they reflect with holidaymakers, the joy of a life offered to God.

 Following in the footsteps of Christ
 « They should prefer absolutely nothing to Christ »
(Rule, ch. 72)

What brings thirty men of different backgrounds, aged between twenty-five and a hundred, together in this place ?
A common project ? An ideal ? A mission ? Perhaps.

But above all : Someone.

God : the most high, the utterly other, in his fascinating mystery-the Father « who dwells in inaccessible light».
Christ : the most lowly, most near-the child of Bethlehem, the carpenter of Nazareth, the prophet of Galilee, the crucified and risen One, the One who lives for ever at the right hand of the Father, the One who is with us everyday until the end of the world and who shares with us his Spirit of light, love and life.
The Spirit : the most intimate presence at the heart of the world, in the heart of man-the giver of life.

The purpose of monastic life is this : To give God his rightful place, absolute priority, the central place in everyday life.
The ideal of monastic life is this : To respond to the Love of God who, in Christ, made himself close to humankind in order to save it and draw it into eternal Life.
The mission of monastic life, in the Church and in the world, is this : To show forth, in silence and faithfulness, the infinite greatness and [no art] extraordinary closeness of God thrice holy.

«We will set up a school at the Lord's service»
(Rule of Saint Benedict, Prologue)

The monastery: a school of spiritual life

Already in the 3rd century, some men and women gave everything up and withdrew to the deserts of Egypt and the Middle East. Among them were Anthony, Paul, Macarius and Pachomius, Basil and Jerome, Paula and Macrina. They felt called to go as far as possible in putting nothing before Christ. Some lived on their own in small houses, sharing their time between work and reading, in constant prayer. Others set up communities where the spiritual art was taught by an experienced elder.

In 6th-century Italy, Benedict of Nursia (480-547) left Rome, where he was studying, to follow the path of the Scriptures. He first settled in solitude in a cave at Subiaco. Soon, disciples joined him, and he set up a community. He then moved to Monte Cassino where he founded a large monastery for which he wrote a Rule. He died there on 21st March 547.

The Rule of Saint Benedict stands out among the monastic rules of [no art] ancient times because of its balance between the human life and the spiritual life. Already Saint Gregory the Great (+607), Saint Benedict's biographer, admired the Rule. As the centuries went by, it became the main rule for monks in the West, the one that all the large abbeys and innumerable priories would follow during the Middle Ages.

According to the Rule, the monk comes to the monastery to be taught by a spiritual guide - the abbot - in order to learn how to serve the Lord : to learn how to think and to act in a way that pleases God and leads to salvation. A novice entering [no art.] monastic life has the support of the Rule, the Abbot and the community.

First of all, the monk is a disciple of Christ, of his Word and of his Spirit alive in the Church. He learns how to serve God and men, in the image of Christ who came not to be served but to serve. He learns how to love, following the example of Christ who gave up his life for the love of humankind.

For as we advance in the religious life and in faith, our hearts expand and we run the way of God's commandments with unspeakable sweetness of love. (Rule of Saint Benedict, Prologue).

Benedictine vocabulary

benedictine life monkWhat is an abbot ?
The abbot is the superior of the monastery. Usually he is a member of the community, elected by the brethren to carry responsibility for the common life. He looks after the spiritual welfare of each brother, and further attends to the material needs of the community.

What is an abbey ?
The abbey (or monastery) is where the abbot and community live. It is made up of several buildings, such as church, cloister, chapter house, refectory etc. Around the monastery there is a wall marking the monks’ enclosure.

What is the Angelus ?
The Angelus is a prayer which we recite three times a day, at morning, noon, and night. It commemorates the incarnation of the Word of God in the womb of the Virgin Mary, which took place when the angel (Latin: ‘angelus’) Gabriel was sent to her from God.

What is a Benedictine ? A Benedictine is a monk or nun who lives according to the Rule of Saint Benedict († 547).

What is a cell ?
A cell is the room in which the monk studies, meditates, prays, and sleeps.

What is a Chapter House?
The Chapter House is the place in which the community gathers every day to receive the abbot’s spiritual teaching and various items of news. Its name derives from the fact that it is in many monasteries the place in which the daily chapter from the monastic Rule is read and commented on by the abbot.

What is a Cistercian ?
A Cistercian is a monk or nun belonging to the Order of Cîteaux. The abbey of Cîteaux was founded in 1098 by a group of Benedictine monks from Molesmes in Burgundy.

What is a cloister ?
At the heart of the complex of monastic buildings there is a square courtyard known as the cloister garth. The cloister is the gallery that surrounds it, connecting the church, chapter house, refectory, library etc.

Who are the 'community' ?
The community is made up of the totality of monks who live together.

What is Compline ?
Compline is the last of our daily round of prayer services, bringing the day to completion.
St Anne de Kergonan Abbey - BP 11 - 56340 Plouharnel - Brittany, FRANCE - Map - Home