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The Rule of Saint Benedict

The Order of Saint Benedict has published an excellent Index to texts on-line of the Rule of St. Benedict and a pathway to its extensive Bibliographic Index.

The Rule of St. Benedict is a set of guidelines and principles for monastic life. Written by St. Benedict in the 6th century, the Rule of St Benedict, or RB, is still used as the basis for the lifestyle followed by Cistercian monks and nuns as well as their Benedictine brethren.

St. Benedict wrote his "little rule for beginners" as he called it at a time in history when life was barbaric and uncivilized. (Benedict, for instance, cautions his monks to remove their knives before going to bed lest they accidentally cut themselves during the night!) Nonetheless, we find the Rule is relevant for those of us living in the 21st century. For Cistercians, the Rule of St. Benedict, has a status second only to scripture. It is used as the primary focus of study for novices during their initial formation period. Monks and nuns make their professions according to the Rule, have frequent public reading of the Rule, and refer to it frequently for guidance in making decisions.

In addition, there is much in the Rule that speaks to non-monastic people as well. No doubt this is because Benedict based his Rule on the teachings of Christ and the wisdom of the Scriptures. In the Prologue, for example, Benedict says "What, dear brothers, is more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling to us? See how the Lord in his love shows us the way of life. Clothed then with faith and performance of good works, let us set out on this way with the Gospel for our guide that we may deserve to see him who has called us to his kingdom" (RB: Prologue: 19-21).

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