The Rule of the Congregation of the Good Samaritan
This rule is meant to govern the life of communities of both men and women. Thus, some of the chapters below are worded in the feminine, others in the masculine. Both apply equally to either gender. The words ‘monastery’ and ‘convent’ are interchangeable.
Listen carefully, my child, to your master's precepts, and incline the ear of your heart (Prov. 4:20). Receive willingly and carry out effectively your loving father's advice, that by the labor of obedience you may return to Him from whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience.
To you, therefore, my words are now addressed, whoever you may be, who are renouncing your own will to do battle under the Lord Christ, the true King, and are taking up the strong, bright weapons of obedience.
And first of all, whatever good work you begin to do, beg of Him with most earnest prayer to perfect it, that He who has now deigned to count us among His children may not at any time be grieved by our evil deeds. For we must always so serve Him with the good things He has given us, that He will never as an angry Father disinherit His children, nor ever as a dread Lord, provoked by our evil actions, deliver us to everlasting punishment as wicked servants who would not follow Him to glory.
Let us arise, then, at last, for the Scripture stirs us up, saying, "Now is the hour for us to rise from sleep" (Rom. 13:11). Let us open our eyes to the deifying light, let us hear with attentive ears the warning which the divine voice cries daily to us, "Today if you hear His voice, harden not your hearts" (Ps. 94:8). And again, "Whoever has ears to hear, hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Matt. 11-15; Apoc. 2:7). And what does He say? "Come, My children, listen to Me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord" (Ps. 33:12). "Run while you have the light of life, lest the darkness of death overtake you" (John 12:35).
And the Lord, seeking his laborer in the multitude to whom He thus cries out, says again, "Who is the one who will have life, and desires to see good days" (Ps. 33:13)? And if, hearing Him, you answer, "I am the one," God says to you, "If you will have true and everlasting life, keep your tongue from evil and your lips that they speak no guile. Turn away from evil and do good; seek after peace and pursue it" (Ps. 33:14-15). And when you have done these things, My eyes shall be upon you and My ears open to your prayers; and before you call upon Me, I will say to you, 'Behold, here I am'" (Ps. 33:16; Is. 65:24; 58:9).
What can be sweeter to us, dear ones, than this voice of the Lord inviting us? Behold, in His loving kindness the Lord shows us the way of life.
Having our loins girded, therefore, with faith and the performance of good works (Eph. 6:14), let us walk in His paths by the guidance of the Gospel, that we may deserve to see Him who has called us to His kingdom (1 Thess. 2:12).
For if we wish to dwell in the tent of that kingdom, we must run to it by good deeds or we shall never reach it.
But let us ask the Lord, with the Prophet, "Lord, who shall dwell in Your tent, or who shall rest upon Your holy mountain" (Ps. 14:1)?
After this question, brothers and sisters, let us listen to the Lord as He answers and shows us the way to that tent, saying, "The one Who walks without stain and practices justice; who speaks truth from his heart; who has not used his tongue for deceit; who has done no evil to his neighbor; who has given no place to slander against his neighbor."
This is the one who, under any temptation from the malicious devil, has brought him to naught (Ps. 14:4) by casting him and his temptation from the sight of his heart; and who has laid hold of his thoughts while they were still young and dashed them against Christ (Ps. 136:9).
It is they who, fearing the Lord (Ps. 14:4), do not pride themselves on their good observance; but, convinced that the good which is in them cannot come from themselves and must be from the Lord, glorify the Lord's work in them (Ps. 14:4), using the words of the Prophet, "Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give the glory" (Ps. 113[115:1]:9). Thus also the Apostle Paul attributed nothing of the success of his preaching to himself, but said, "By the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). And again he says, "He who glories, let him glory in the Lord" (2 Cor. 10:17).
Hence the Lord says in the Gospel, "Whoever listens to these words of Mine and acts upon them, I will liken to a wise person who built a house on rock. The floods came, the winds blew and beat against that house, and it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock" (Matt. 7:24-25).
Having given us these assurances, the Lord is waiting every day for us to respond by our deeds to His holy admonitions. And the days of this life are lengthened and a truce granted us for this very reason, that we may amend our evil ways. As the Apostle says, "Do you not know that God's patience is inviting you to repent" (Rom. 2:4)? For the merciful Lord tells us, "I desire not the death of the sinner, but that the sinner should be converted and live" (Ezech. 33:11).
So, brothers and sisters, we have asked the Lord who is to dwell in His tent, and we have heard His commands to anyone who would dwell there; it remains for us to fulfill those duties.
Therefore we must prepare our hearts and our bodies to do battle under the holy obedience of His commands; and let us ask God that He be pleased to give us the help of His grace for anything which our nature finds hardly possible. And if we want to escape the pains of hell and attain life everlasting, then, while there is still time, while we are still in the body and are able to fulfill all these things by the light of this life, we must hasten to do now what will profit us for eternity.
And so we are going to establish a congregation for the service of the Lord. In founding it we hope to introduce nothing harsh or burdensome. But if a certain strictness results from the dictates of equity for the amendment of vices or the preservation of charity, do not be at once dismayed and fly from the way of salvation, whose entrance cannot but be narrow (Matt. 7:14). 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. Thus, never departing from His congregation, but persevering in the monastery according to His teaching until death, we may by patience share in the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 4:13) and deserve to have a share also in His kingdom.
There are two kinds of monks. The first kind are the Cenobites: those who
live in monasteries and serve under a
rule and a
The second kind are the Anchorites or Hermits: those who, having learned by the help of many brethren how to fight against the devil, go out well armed from the ranks of the community to the solitary combat of the desert. They are able now, with no help save from God, to fight single-handed against the vices of the flesh and their own evil thoughts.
A Mother General who is worthy to be over a
monastery should always remember what
she is called, and live up to the name
Therefore the Mother General ought not to teach or ordain or command anything which is against the Lord's precepts; on the contrary, her commands and her teaching should be a leaven of divine justice kneaded into the minds of her disciples.
Let the Mother General always bear in mind that at the dread Judgment of God there will be an examination of these two matters: her teaching and the obedience of her disciples. And let the Mother General be sure that any lack of profit the master of the house may find in the sheep will be laid to the blame of the shepherd. On the other hand, if the shepherd has bestowed all her pastoral diligence on a restless, unruly flock and tried every remedy for their unhealthy behavior, then she will be acquitted at the Lord's Judgment and may say to the Lord with the Prophet: "I have not concealed Your justice within my heart; Your truth and Your salvation I have declared" (Ps. 39:11). "But they have despised and rejected me" (Is. 1:2; Ezech. 20:27). And then finally let death itself, irresistible, punish those disobedient sheep under her charge.
Therefore, when anyone receives the name of Mother General, she ought to govern her disciples with a twofold teaching. That is to say, she should show them all that is good and holy by her deeds even more than by her words, expounding the Lord's commandments in words to the intelligent among her disciples, but demonstrating the divine precepts by her actions for those of harder hearts and ruder minds. And whatever she has taught her disciples to be contrary to God's law, let her indicate by her example that it is not to be done, lest, while preaching to others, she herself be found reprobate (1 Cor. 9:27), and lest God one day say to her in her sin, "Why do you declare My statutes and profess My covenant with your lips, whereas you hate discipline and have cast My words behind you" (Ps. 49:16-17)? And again, "You were looking at the speck in your brother's eye, and did not see the beam in your own" (Matt. 7:3).
Let her make no distinction of persons in the monastery. Let her not love one more than another, unless it be one whom she finds better in good works or in obedience. Let her not advance one of noble birth ahead of one who was formerly a slave, unless there be some other reasonable ground for it. But if the Mother General for just reason think fit to do so, let her advance one of any rank whatever. Otherwise let them keep their due places; because, whether slaves or free, we are all one in Christ (Gal. 3:28) and bear in equal burden of service in the army of the same Lord. For with God there is no respect of persons (Rom. 2:11). Only for one reason are we preferred in His sight: if we be found better than others in good works and humility. Therefore let the Mother General show equal love to all and impose the same discipline on all according to their deserts.
In her teaching the Mother General should always follow the Apostle's formula: "Reprove, entreat, rebuke" (2 Tim. 4:2); threatening at one time and coaxing at another as the occasion may require, showing now the stern countenance of a mistress, now the loving affection of a mother. That is to say, it is the undisciplined and restless whom she must reprove rather sharply; it is the obedient, meek and patient whom she must entreat to advance in virtue; while as for the negligent and disdainful, these we charge her to rebuke and correct.
And let her not shut her eyes to the faults of offenders; but, since she has the authority, let her cut out those faults by the roots as soon as they begin to appear, remembering the fate of Heli, the priest of Silo (1 Kings 2-4). The well-disposed and those of good understanding let her correct with verbal admonition the first and second time. But bold, hard, proud and disobedient characters she should curb at the very beginning of their ill-doing by stripes and other bodily punishments, knowing that it is written, "the fool is not corrected with words" (Prov. 18:2; 29:19), and again, "Beat your son with the rod, and you will deliver his soul from death" (Prov. 23:13-14).
The Mother General should always remember what she is and what she is called, and should know that to whom more is committed, from her more is required (Luke 12:48). Let her understand also what a difficult and arduous task she has undertaken: ruling souls and adapting herself to a variety of characters. One she must coax, another scold, another persuade, according to each one's character and understanding. Thus she must adjust and adapt herself to all in such a way that she may not only suffer no loss in the flock committed to her care, but may even rejoice in the increase of a good flock.
Above all let her not neglect or undervalue the welfare of the souls committed to her, in a greater concern for fleeting, earthly, perishable things; but let her always bear in mind that she has undertaken the government of souls and that she will have to give an account of them.
And if she be tempted to allege a lack of earthly means, let her remember what is written: "First seek the
Let her know, then, that she who has undertaken the government of souls must prepare herself to render an account of them. Whatever number of sisters she knows she has under her care, she may be sure beyond doubt that on Judgment Day she will have to give the Lord an account of all these souls, as well as of her own soul.
Thus the constant apprehension about her coming examination as shepherd (Ezech. 34) concerning the sheep entrusted to her, and her anxiety over the account that must be given for others, make her careful of her own record. And while by her admonitions she is helping others to amend, she herself is cleansed of her faults.
Whenever any important business has to be done in the monastery, let the Father General call together the whole community and state the matter to be acted upon. Then, having heard the brethren's advice, let him turn the matter over in his own mind and do what he shall judge to be most expedient. The reason we have said that all should be called for counsel is that the Lord often reveals to the younger what is best.
Let the brethren give their advice with all the deference required by humility, and not presume stubbornly to defend their opinions; but let the decision rather depend on the Father General's judgment, and all submit to whatever he shall decide for their welfare.
However, just as it is proper for the disciples to obey their master, so also it is his function to dispose all things with prudence and justice.
In all things, therefore, let all follow the Rule as guide, and let no one be so rash as to deviate from it. Let no one in the monastery follow his own heart's fancy; and let no one presume to contend with his Father General in an insolent way or even outside of the monastery. But if anyone should presume to do so, let him undergo the discipline of the Rule. At the same time, the Father General himself should do all things in the fear of God and in observance of the Rule, knowing that beyond a doubt he will have to render an account of all his decisions to God, the most just Judge.
But if the business to be done in the interests of the monastery be of lesser importance, let him take counsel with the seniors only. It is written, "Do everything with counsel, and you will not repent when you have done it" (Eccles. 32:24).
1. In the first place, to love the Lord God with the whole heart, the whole soul, the whole strength.
2. Then, one's neighbor as oneself.
3. Then not to murder
4. Not to commit adultery.
5. Not to steal.
6. Not to covet.
7. Not to bear false witness.
8. To honor all (1 Peter 2:17).
9. And not to do to another what one would not have done to oneself.
10. To deny oneself in order to follow Christ.
11. To chastise the body.
12. Not to become attached to pleasures.
13. To love fasting.
14. To relieve the poor.
15. To clothe the naked.
16. To visit the sick.
17. To bury the dead.
18. To help in trouble.
19. To console the sorrowing.
20. To become a stranger to the world's ways.
21. To prefer nothing to the love of Christ.
22. Not to give way to anger.
23. Not to nurse a grudge.
24. Not to entertain deceit in one's heart.
25. Not to give a false peace.
26. Not to forsake charity.
27. Not to swear, for fear of perjuring oneself.
28. To utter truth from heart and mouth.
29. Not to return evil for evil.
30. To do no wrong to anyone, and to bear patiently wrongs done to oneself.
31. To love one's enemies.
32. Not to curse those who curse us, but rather to bless them.
33. To bear persecution for justice's sake.
34. Not to be proud.
35. Not addicted to wine.
36. Not a great eater.
37. Not drowsy.
38. Not lazy.
39. Not a grumbler.
40. Not a detractor.
41. To put one's hope in God.
42. To attribute to God, and not to self, whatever good one sees in oneself.
43. But to recognize always that the evil is one's own doing, and to impute it to oneself.
44. To fear the Day of Judgment.
45. To be in dread of hell.
46. To desire eternal life with all the passion of the spirit.
47. To keep death daily before one's eyes.
48. To keep constant guard over the actions of one's life.
49. To know for certain that God sees one everywhere.
50. When evil thoughts come into one's heart, to dash them against Christ immediately.
51. And to manifest them to one's spiritual mother.
52. To guard one's tongue against evil and depraved speech.
53. Not to love much talking.
54. Not to speak useless words or words that move to laughter.
55. Not to love much or boisterous laughter.
56. To listen willingly to holy reading.
57. To devote oneself frequently to prayer.
58. Daily in one's prayers, with tears and sighs, to confess one's past sins to God, and to amend them for the future.
59. Not to fulfill the desires of the flesh; to hate one's own will.
60. To obey in all things the commands of the Mother General, even though she herself (which God forbid) should act otherwise, mindful of the Lord's precept, "Do what they say, but not what they do."
61. Not to wish to be called holy before one is holy; but first to be holy, that one may be truly so called.
62. To fulfill God's commandments daily in one's deeds.
63. To love chastity.
64. To hate no one.
65. Not to be jealous, not to harbor envy.
66. Not to love contention.
67. To beware of haughtiness.
68. And to respect the seniors.
69. To love the juniors.
70. To pray for one's enemies in the love of Christ.
71. To make peace with one's adversary before the sun sets.
72. And never to despair of God's mercy.
These, then, are the tools of the spiritual craft. If we employ them unceasingly day and night, and return them on the Day of Judgment, our compensation from the Lord will be that wage He has promised: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, what God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Cor. 2:9).
Now the workshop in which we shall diligently execute all these tasks is the enclosure of the monastery and stability in the community.
The enclosure of the monastery is a place within. We are called to be “in the World, not of the World.” And by our example, show forth Christ.
The first degree of humility is obedience without delay. This is the virtue
of those who hold nothing dearer to them than Christ; who, because of the holy
service they have professed, and the fear of hell, and the glory of life
everlasting, as soon as anything has been ordered by the
Such as these, therefore, immediately leaving their own affairs and forsaking their own will, dropping the work they were engaged on and leaving it unfinished, with the ready step of obedience follow up with their deeds the voice of him who commands. And so as it were at the same moment the master's command is given and the disciple's work is completed, the two things being speedily accomplished together in the swiftness of the fear of God by those who are moved with the desire of attaining life everlasting. That desire is their motive for choosing the narrow way, of which the Lord says, "Narrow is the way that leads to life" (Matt. 7:14), so that, not living according to their own choice nor obeying their own desires and pleasures but walking by another's judgment and command, they dwell in monasteries and desire to have a Superior over them. Assuredly such as these are living up to that maxim of the Lord in which He says, "I have come not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me" (John 6:38).
But this very obedience will be acceptable to God and pleasing to all only if what is commanded is done without hesitation, delay, lukewarmness, grumbling, or objection. For the obedience given to Superiors is given to God, since He Himself has said, "He who hears you, hears Me" (Luke 10:16). And the disciples should offer their obedience with a good will, for "God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7). For if the disciple obeys with an ill will and murmurs, not necessarily with his lips but simply in his heart, then even though he fulfill the command yet his work will not be acceptable to God, who sees that his heart is murmuring. And, far from gaining a reward for such work as this, he will incur the punishment due to murmurers, unless he amend and make satisfaction.
Let us do what the Prophet says: "I said, 'I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue. I have set a guard to my mouth.' I was mute and was humbled, and kept silence even from good things" (Ps. 38:2-3). Here the Prophet shows that if the spirit of silence ought to lead us at times to refrain even from good speech, so much the more ought the punishment for sin make us avoid evil words.
Therefore, since the spirit of silence is so important, permission to speak should rarely be granted even to perfect disciples, even though it be for good, holy edifying conversation; for it is written, "In much speaking you will not escape sin" (Prov. 10:19), and in another place, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Prov. 18:21).
For speaking and teaching belong to the mistress; the disciple's part is to
be silent and to listen. And for that reason if anything has to be asked of the
But as for coarse jests and idle words, these we condemn everywhere with a perpetual ban, and for such conversation we do not permit a disciple to open her mouth.
Holy Scripture, brethren, cries out to us, saying, "Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted" (Luke 14:11). In saying this it shows us that all exaltation is a kind of pride, against which the Prophet proves himself to be on guard when he says, "Lord, my heart is not exalted, nor are mine eyes lifted up; neither have I walked in great matters, nor in wonders above me." But how has he acted? "Rather have I been of humble mind than exalting myself; as a weaned child on its mother's breast, so You solace my soul" (Ps. 130:1-2).
Hence, brethren, if we wish to reach the very highest point of humility and to arrive speedily at that heavenly exaltation to which ascent is made through the humility of this present life, we must by our ascending actions erect the ladder Jacob saw in his dream, on which Angels appeared to him descending and ascending. By that descent and ascent we must surely understand nothing else than this, that we descend by self-exaltation and ascend by humility. And the ladder thus set up is our life in the world, which the Lord raises up to heaven if our heart is humbled. For we call our body and soul the sides of the ladder, and into these sides our divine vocation has inserted the different steps of humility and discipline we must climb.
The first degree of humility, then, is that a person keep the fear of God before his eyes and beware of ever forgetting it. Let him be ever mindful of all that God has commanded; let his thoughts constantly recur to the hell-fire which will burn for their sins those who despise God, and to the life everlasting which is prepared for those who fear Him. Let him keep himself at every moment from sins and vices, whether of the mind, the tongue, the hands, the feet, or the self-will, and check also the desires of the flesh.
Let a man consider that God is always looking at him from heaven, that his actions are everywhere visible to the divine eyes and are constantly being reported to God by the Angels. This is what the Prophet shows us when he represents God as ever present within our thoughts, in the words "Searcher of minds and hearts is God" (Ps. 7:10) and again in the words "The Lord knows the thoughts of men" (Ps. 93:11). Again he says, "You have read my thoughts from afar" (Ps. 139:3) and "The thoughts of people will confess to You" (Ps. 75:11).
In order that he may be careful about his wrongful thoughts, therefore, let the faithful brother say constantly in his heart, "Then shall I be spotless before Him, if I have kept myself from my iniquity" (Ps. 17:24).
As for self-will, we are forbidden to do our own will by the Scripture, which says to us, "Turn away from your own will" (Eccles. 18:30), and likewise by the prayer in which we ask God that His will be done in us. And rightly are we taught not to do our own will when we take heed to the warning of Scripture: "There are ways which seem right, but the ends of them plunge into the depths of hell" (Prov. 16:25); and also when we tremble at what is said of the careless: "They are corrupt and have become abominable in their will."
And as for the desires of the flesh, let us believe with the Prophet that God is ever present to us, when he says to the Lord, "Every desire of mine is before You" (Ps. 37:10).
We must be on our guard, therefore, against evil desires, for death lies close by the gate of pleasure. Hence the Scripture gives this command: "Go not after your concupiscences" (Eccles. 18:30).
So therefore, since the eyes of the Lord observe the good and the evil (Prov. 15:3) and the Lord is always looking down from heaven on the children of earth "to see if there be anyone who understands and seeks God" (Ps. 13:2), and since our deeds are daily, day and night, reported to the Lord by the Angels assigned to us, we must constantly beware, brethren, as the Prophet says in the Psalm, lest at any time God see us falling into evil ways and becoming unprofitable (Ps. 13:3); and lest, having spared us for the present because in His kindness He awaits our reformation, He say to us in the future, "These things you did, and I held My peace" (Ps. 49:21).
The second degree of humility is that a person love not his own will nor take pleasure in satisfying his desires, but model his actions on the saying of the Lord, "I have come not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me" (John 6:38). It is written also, "Self-will has its punishment, but constraint wins a crown."
The third degree of humility is that a person for love of God submit himself
The fourth degree of humility is that he hold fast to patience with a silent mind when in this obedience he meets with difficulties and contradictions and even any kind of injustice, enduring all without growing weary or running away. For the Scripture says, "The one who perseveres to the end, is the one who shall be saved" (Matt. 10:22); and again "Let your heart take courage, and wait for the Lord" (Ps. 26:14)!
And to show how those who are faithful ought to endure all things, however contrary,
for the Lord, the Scripture says in the
person of the suffering, "For Your
sake we are put to death all the day long; we are considered as sheep marked for
slaughter" (Ps. 43:22; Rom. 8:36). Then, secure in their hope of a
divine recompense, they go on with joy
to declare, "But in all these
trials we conquer, through Him who has
granted us His love" (Rom. 8:37). Again,
in another place the Scripture says, "You
have tested us, O God; You have tried us
a silver is tried, by fire; You have
brought us into a snare; You have laid
afflictions on our back" (Matt. 5:39-41). And to show that we ought to be under a
Moreover, by their patience those faithful ones fulfill the Lord's command in adversities and injuries: when struck on one cheek, they offer the other; when deprived of their tunic, they surrender also their cloak; when forced to go a mile, they go two; with the Apostle Paul they bear with false brethren (2 Cor. 11:26) and bless those who curse them (1 Cor. 4:12).
The fifth degree of humility is that he hide from his Father General none of the evil thoughts that enter his heart or the sins committed in secret, but that he humbly confess them. The Scripture urges us to this when it says, "Reveal your way to the Lord and hope in Him" (Ps. 36:5) and again, "Confess to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever" (Ps. 105:1). And the Prophet likewise says, "My offense I have made known to You, and my iniquities I have not covered up. I said: 'I will declare against myself my iniquities to the Lord;' and 'You forgave the wickedness of my heart'" (Ps. 31:5).
The sixth degree of humility is that a monk be content with the poorest and worst of everything, and that in every occupation assigned him he consider himself a bad and worthless workman, saying with the Prophet, "I am brought to nothing and I am without understanding; I have become as a beast of burden before You, and I am always with You" (Ps:22-23).
The seventh degree of humility is
that he consider himself lower and of less account than anyone else, and this not only in verbal protestation but also with the most heartfelt inner
conviction, humbling himself and saying
with the Prophet, "But I am a worm
and no man, the scorn of men and the
outcast of the people" (Ps. 21:7). "After being exalted, I have
been humbled and covered with
The eighth degree of humility is that a monk do nothing except what is commended by the common Rule of the monastery and the example of the elders.
The ninth degree of humility is that a monk restrain his tongue and keep silence, not speaking until he is questioned. For the Scripture shows that "in much speaking there is no escape from sin" (Prov. 10:19) and that "the talkative man is not stable on the earth" (Ps. 139:12).
The tenth degree of humility is that he be not ready and quick to laugh, for it is written, "The fool lifts up his voice in laughter" (Eccles. 21:23).
The eleventh degree of humility is that when a monk speaks he do so gently, humbly and seriously, in few and sensible words, and that he be not noisy in his speech. It is written, "A wise man is known by the fewness of his words" (Sextus, Enchidirion, 134 or 145).
The twelfth degree of humility is that a monk not only have humility in his heart but also by his very appearance make it always manifest to those who see him. That is to say that whether he is at the Work of God, in the oratory, in the monastery, in the garden, on the road, in the fields or anywhere else, and whether sitting, walking or standing, he should always have his head bowed and his eyes toward the ground. Feeling the guilt of his sins at every moment, he should consider himself already present at the dread Judgment and constantly say in his heart what the publican in the Gospel said with his eyes fixed on the earth: "Lord, I am a sinner and not worthy to lift up my eyes to heaven" (Luke 18:13; Matt. 8:8); and again with the Prophet: "I am bowed down and humbled everywhere" (Ps. 37:7,9; 118:107).
Having climbed all these steps of humility, therefore, the monk will presently come to that perfect love of God which casts out fear. And all those precepts which formerly he had not observed without fear, he will now begin to keep by reason of that love, without any effort, as though naturally and by habit. No longer will his motive be the fear of hell, but rather the love of Christ, good habit and delight in the virtues which the Lord will deign to show forth by the Holy Spirit in His servant now cleansed from vice and sin.
When we wish to suggest our wants to persons of high station, we do not presume to do so except with humility and reverence. How much the more, then, are complete humility and pure devotion
necessary in supplication of the Lord
who is God of the universe! And let us be
assured that it is not in saying a great
deal that we shall be heard (Matt 6:7), but in purity of heart and in tears of
compunction. Our prayer, therefore,
ought to be short and pure, unless it
happens to be prolonged by an
inspiration of divine grace. In
community, however, let prayer be very short, and when the
If the community is a large one, let there be chosen out of it brethren of good repute and holy life, and let them be appointed deans. These shall take charge of their deaneries in all things, observing the commandments of God and the instructions of their Father General.
Let men of such character be chosen deans that the Father General may with confidence share his burdens among them. Let them be chosen not by rank but according to their worthiness of life and the wisdom of their doctrine.
If any of these deans should become inflated with pride and found deserving of censure, let him be corrected once, and again, and a third time. If he will not amend, then let him be deposed and another be put in his place who is worthy of it.
And we order the same to be done in the case of the
If a brother is found to be obstinate, or disobedient, or proud, or murmuring, or habitually transgressing the Holy Rule in any point and contemptuous of the orders of his seniors, the latter shall admonish him secretly a first and a second time, as Our Lord commands (Matt. 18:15). If he fails to amend, let him be given a public rebuke in front of the whole community. But if even then he does not reform, let him be placed under excommunication, provided that he understands the seriousness of that penalty; if he is perverse, however, let him undergo corporal punishment.
The measure of excommunication or of chastisement should correspond to the degree of fault, which degree is estimated by the judgment of the Mother General.
If a sister is found guilty of lighter faults, let her be excluded from the common table. Now the program for one deprived of the company of the table shall be as follows: In the oratory she shall intone neither Psalm nor antiphon nor shall she recite a lesson until she has made satisfaction; in the refectory she shall take her food alone after the community meal, so that if they eat at the sixth hour, for instance, that sister shall eat at the ninth, while if they eat at the ninth hour she shall eat in the evening, until by a suitable satisfaction she obtains pardon.
Let the brother who is guilty of a weightier fault be excluded both from the table and from the oratory. Let none of the brethren join him either for company or for conversation. Let him be alone at the work assigned him, abiding in penitential sorrow and pondering that terrible sentence of the Apostle where he says that a man of that kind is handed over for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord (1 Cor. 5:5). Let him take his meals alone in the measure and at the hour which the Father General shall consider suitable for him. He shall not be blessed by those who pass by, nor shall the food that is given him be blessed.
If any sister presumes without an order from the Mother General to associate in any way with an excommunicated sister, or to speak with her, or to send her a message, let her incur a similar punishment of excommunication.
Let the Father General be most solicitous in his concern for delinquent brethren, for "it is not the healthy but the sick who need a physician" (Matt 9:12) And therefore he ought to use every means that a wise physician would use. Let him send senpectae, that is, brethren of mature years and wisdom, who may as it were secretly console the wavering brother and induce him to make humble satisfaction; comforting him that he may not "be overwhelmed by excessive grief" (2 Cor. 2:7), but that, as the Apostle says, charity may be strengthened in him (2 Cor. 2:8). And let everyone pray for him.
For the Father General must have the utmost solicitude and exercise all prudence and diligence lest he lose any of the sheep entrusted to him. Let him know that what he has undertaken is the care of weak souls and not a tyranny over strong ones; and let him fear the Prophet's warning through which God says, "What you saw to be fat you took to yourselves, and what was feeble you cast away" (Ezec. 34:3,4). Let him rather imitate the loving example of the Good Shepherd who left the ninety-nine sheep in the mountains and went to look for the one sheep that had gone astray, on whose weakness He had such compassion that He deigned to place it on His own sacred shoulders and thus carry it back to the flock (Luke 15:4-5).
If a sister who has been frequently corrected for some fault, and even excommunicated, does not amend, let a harsher correction be applied,
But if she still does not reform or perhaps (which God forbid) even rises up in pride and wants to defend her conduct, then let the Mother General do what a wise physician would do. Having used applications, the ointments of exhortation, the medicines of the Holy Scriptures, finally the cautery of excommunication if she sees that her efforts are of no avail, let her apply a still greater remedy, her own prayers and those of all the others, that the Lord, who can do all things may restore health to the sister who is sick.
But if she is not healed even in this way, then let the Mother General use the knife of amputation, according to the Apostle's words, "Expel the evil one from your midst" (1 Cor. 5:13), and again, "If the faithless one departs, let her depart" (1 Cor. 7:15) lest one diseased sheep contaminate the whole flock.
If a brother who through his own fault leaves the monastery should wish to return, let him first promise full reparation for his having gone away; and then let him be received in the lowest place, as a test of his humility. And if he should leave again, let him be taken back again, and so a third time; but he should understand that after this all way of return is denied him.
As cellarer of the monastery let there be chosen from the community one who is wise, of mature character, sober, not a great eater, not haughty, not excitable, not offensive, not slow, not wasteful, but a God-fearing man who may be like a father to the whole community.
Let him have charge of everything. He shall do nothing without the Father General's orders, but keep to his instructions. Let him not vex the brethren. If any brother happens to make some unreasonable demand of him, instead of vexing the brother with a contemptuous refusal he should humbly give the reason for denying the improper request.
Let him keep guard over his own soul, mindful always of the Apostle's saying that "he who has ministered well will acquire for himself a good standing" (1 Tim. 3:13).
Let him take the greatest care of the sick, of children, of guests and of the poor, knowing without doubt that he will have to render an account for all these on the Day of Judgment.
Let him regard all the utensils of the monastery and its whole property as if they were the sacred vessels of the altar. Let him not think that he may neglect anything. He should be neither a miser nor a prodigal and squanderer of the monastery's substance, but should do all things with measure and in accordance with the Father General's instructions.
Above all things let him have humility; and if he has nothing else to give let him give a good word in answer for it is written, "A good word is above the best gift" (Eccles. 18:17).
Let him have under his care all that the Father General has assigned to him, but not presume to deal with what he has forbidden him.
Let him give the brethren their appointed allowance of food without any arrogance or delay, that they may not be scandalized, mindful of the Word of God as to what he deserves "who shall scandalize one of the little ones" (Matt 18:6).
If the community is a large one, let helpers be given him, that by their assistance he may fulfill with a quiet mind the office committed to him. The proper times should be observed in giving the things that have to be given and asking for the things that have to be asked for, that no one may be troubled or vexed in the house of God.
For the care of the monastery's property in tools, clothing and other articles let the Mother General appoint sisters on whose manner of life and character she can rely; and let her, as she shall judge to be expedient, consign the various articles to them, to be looked after and to be collected again. The Mother General shall keep a list of these articles, so that as the sisters succeed one another in their assignments she may know what she gives and what she receives back.
If anyone treats the monastery's property in a slovenly or careless way, let her be corrected. If she fails to amend, let her undergo the discipline of the Rule.
This vice especially is to be cut out of the monastery by the roots. Let no one presume to give or receive anything without the Father General's leave, or to have anything as his own-- anything whatever, whether book or tablets or pen or whatever it may be-- since they are not permitted to have even their bodies or wills at their own disposal; but for all their necessities let them look to the Father of the monastery. And let it be unlawful to have anything which the Father General has not given or allowed. Let all things be common to all, as it is written (Acts 4:32), and let no one say or assume that anything is his own.
But if anyone is caught indulging in this most wicked vice, let him be admonished once and a second time. If he fails to amend, let him undergo punishment.
Let us follow the Scripture, "Distribution was made to each according as anyone had need" (Acts 4:35). By this we do not mean that there should be respecting of persons (which God forbid), but consideration for infirmities. She who needs less should thank God and not be discontented; but she who needs more should be humbled by the thought of her infirmity rather than feeling important on account of the kindness shown her. Thus all the members will be at peace.
Above all, let not the evil of murmuring appear for any reason whatsoever in the least word or sign. If anyone is caught at it, let her be placed under very severe discipline.
Let the brethren serve one another, and let no one be excused from the kitchen service except by reason of sickness or occupation in some important work. For this service brings increase of reward and of charity. But let helpers be provided for the weak ones, that they may not be distressed by this work; and indeed let everyone have help, as required by the size of the community or the circumstances of the locality. If the community is a large one, the cellarer shall be excused from the kitchen service; and so also those whose occupations are of greater utility, as we said above. Let the rest serve one another in charity.
He shall return the utensils of his office to the cellarer clean and in good condition, and the cellarer in turn shall consign them to the incoming server, in order that he may know what he gives out and what he receives back.
An hour before the meal let the
weekly servers each receive a drink and some bread over and above the appointed allowance, in order that at the meal time they may serve
their brethren without murmuring and
without excessive fatigue. On solemn
days, however, let them wait until after
Immediately after the Morning Office on Sunday, the incoming and outgoing servers shall prostrate themselves before all the brethren in the oratory and ask their prayers. Let the server who is ending his week say this verse: "Blessed are You, O Lord God, who have helped me and consoled me." When this has been said three times and the outgoing server has received his blessing, then let the incoming server follow and say, "Incline unto my aid, O God; O Lord, make haste to help me." Let this also be repeated three times by all, and having received his blessing let him enter his service.
Before all things and above all things, care must be taken of the sick, so that they will be served as if they were Christ in person; for He Himself said, "I was sick, and you visited Me" (Matt 25:36), and, "What you did for one of these least ones, you did for Me" (Matt. 25:40). But let the sick on their part consider that they are being served for the honor of God, and let them not annoy their sisters who are serving them by their unnecessary demands. Yet they should be patiently borne with, because from such as these is gained a more abundant reward. Therefore the Mother General shall take the greatest care that they suffer no neglect.
For these sick let there be assigned a special room and an attendant who is God-fearing, diligent and solicitous. Let the use of baths be afforded the sick as often as may be expedient; but to the healthy, and especially to the young, let them be granted more rarely. Moreover, The Mother General shall take the greatest care that the sick be not neglected by the cellarers or the attendants; for she also is responsible for what is done wrongly by her disciples.
Although human nature itself is drawn to special kindness towards these times of life, that is towards the old and children, still the authority of the Rule should also provide for them.
Let their weakness be always taken into account, and let them by no means be held to the rigor of the Rule with regard to food. On the contrary, let a kind consideration be shown to them, and let them eat before the regular hours.
The meals of the sisters should not be without reading. Nor should the reader be anyone who happens to take up the book; but there should be a reader for the whole week, entering that office on Sunday. Let this incoming reader, after Mass and Communion, ask all to pray for her that God may keep her from the spirit of pride And let her intone the following verse, which shall be said three times by all in the oratory: "O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare Your praise." Then, having received a blessing, let her enter on the reading.
And let absolute silence be kept at table, so that no whispering may be heard nor any voice
except the reader's. As to the things they need while they eat and drink, let the sisters pass them to one another so that no one need ask for anything. If
anything is needed, however, let it be asked for by means of some audible sign rather
than by speech. Nor shall anyone at table presume to ask questions about the
reading or anything else, lest that give
occasion for talking; except that the
The sister who is reader for the week shall take a little ablution before she begins to read, on account of the Holy Communion and lest perhaps the fast be hard for her to bear. She shall take her meal afterwards with the kitchen and table servers of the week.
The sisters are not to read or chant in order, but only those who edify their hearers.
We think it sufficient for the daily dinner, whether at the sixth or the ninth hour, that every table have two cooked dishes on account of individual infirmities, so that he who for some reason cannot eat of the one may make his meal of the other Therefore let two cooked dishes suffice for all the brethren; and if any fruit or fresh vegetables are available, let a third dish be added.
But if it happens that the work was heavier, it shall lie within the Father General's discretion and power, should it be expedient, to add something to the fare. Above all things, however, over-indulgence must be avoided and a monk must never be overtaken by indigestion; for there is nothing so opposed to the Christian character as over-indulgence according to Our Lord's words, "See to it that your hearts be not burdened with over-indulgence" (Luke 21:34).
"Everyone has her own gift from God, one in this way and another in that" (1 Cor. 7:7). It is therefore with some misgiving that we regulate the measure of others' sustenance. Nevertheless, keeping in view the needs of the weak, we believe that a bottle of wine a day is sufficient for each. But those to whom God gives the strength to abstain should know that they will receive a special reward.
If the circumstances of the place, or the work or the heat of summer require a greater measure, the superior shall use her judgment in the matter, taking care always that there be no occasion for surfeit or drunkenness. We read it is true, that wine is by no means a drink for monastics; but since the monastics of our day cannot be persuaded of this let us at least agree to drink sparingly and not to satiety, because "wine makes even the wise fall away" (Eccles. 19:2).
But where the circumstances of the place are such that not even the measure prescribed above can be supplied, but much less or none at all, let those who live there bless God and not murmur. Above all things do we give this admonition, that they abstain from murmuring.
Monastics ought to be zealous for silence at all times, but especially during the hours of the night.
When all are gathered together, let them say Compline; and when they come out from Compline, no one shall be allowed to say anything from that time on. And if anyone should be found evading this rule of silence, let her undergo severe punishment. An exception shall be made if the need of speaking to guests should arise or if the Mother General should give someone an order. But even this should be done with the utmost gravity and the most becoming restraint.
At the hour for the Divine Office, as soon as the signal is heard, let them abandon whatever they may have in hand and hasten with the greatest speed, yet with seriousness, so that there is no excuse for levity. Let nothing, therefore, be put before the Work of God.
If at the Night Office anyone arrives after the "Glory be to the Father" of Psalm 94-- which Psalm for this reason we wish to be said very slowly and protractedly-- let him not stand in his usual place in the choir; but let him stand last of all, or in a place set aside by the Father General for such negligent ones in order that they may be seen by him and by all. He shall remain there until the Work of God has been completed, and then do penance by a public satisfaction. the reason why we have judged it fitting for them so stand in the last place or in a place apart is that, being seen by all, they may amend for very shame. For if they remain outside of the oratory, there will perhaps be someone who will go back to bed and sleep or at least seat himself outside and indulge in idle talk, and thus an occasion will be provided for the evil one. But let them go inside, that they many not lose the whole Office, and may amend for the future.
At the day Hours anyone who does not arrive at the Work of God until after the verse and the "Glory be to the Father" for the first Psalm following it shall stand in the last place, according to our ruling above. Nor shall he presume to join the choir in their chanting until he has made satisfaction, unless the Father General should pardon him and give him permission; but even then the offender must make satisfaction for his fault.
Anyone who does not come to table before the verse, so that all together may say the verse and the oration and all sit down to table at the same time-- anyone who through his own carelessness or bad habit does not come on time shall be corrected for this up to the second time. If then he does not amend, he shall not be allowed to share in the common table, but shall be separated from the company of all and made to eat alone, and his portion of wine shall be taken away from him, until he has made satisfaction and has amended. And let him suffer a like penalty who is not present at the verse said after the meal. But if anyone is offered something by the Superior and refuses to take it, then when the time comes that he desires what he formerly refused or something else, let him receive nothing whatever until he has made proper satisfaction.
One who for serious faults is excommunicated from oratory and table shall make satisfaction as follows. At the hour when the celebration of the Work of God is concluded in the oratory, let her lie prostrate before the door of the oratory, saying nothing, but only lying prone with her face to the ground at the feet of all as they come out of the oratory. And let her continue to do this until the Mother Superior judges that satisfaction has been made. Then, when she has come at the Mother General's bidding, let her cast herself first at the Mother General's feet and then at the feet of all, that they may pray for her.
And next, if the Mother General so orders, let her be received into the choir, to the place which the Mother General appoints, but with the provision that she shall not presume to intone Psalm or lesson or anything else in the oratory without a further order from the Mother General.
Moreover, at every Hour, when the Work of God is ended, let her cast herself on the ground in the place where she stands. And let her continue to satisfy in this way until the Mother General again orders her finally to cease from this satisfaction.
But those who for slight faults are excommunicated only from table shall make satisfaction in the oratory, and continue in it till an order from the Mother General, until she blesses them and says, "It is enough."
When anyone has made a mistake while reciting a Psalm, a responsory, an antiphon or a lesson, if he does not humble himself there before all by making a satisfaction, let him undergo a greater punishment because he would not correct by humility what he did wrong through carelessness.
When anyone is engaged in any sort of work, whether in the kitchen, in the cellar, in a shop, in the bakery, in the garden, while working at some craft, or in any other place, and she commits some fault, or breaks something, or loses something, or transgresses in any other way whatsoever, if she does not come immediately before the Mother General and the community of her own accord to make satisfaction and confess her fault, then when it becomes known through another, let her be subjected to a more severe correction.
But if the sin-sickness of the soul is a hidden one, let her reveal it only to the Mother General or to a spiritual mother, who knows how to cure her own and others' wounds without exposing them and making them public.
The indicating of the hour for the Work of God by day and by night shall devolve upon the Father General either to give the signal himself or to assign this duty to such a careful brother that everything will take place at the proper hours.
Let the Psalms and the antiphons be intoned by those who are appointed for it, in their order after the Father General. And no one shall presume to sing or read unless he can fulfill that office in such a way as to edify the hearers. Let this function be performed with humility, gravity and reverence, and by him whom the Father General has appointed.
Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore the sisters should be occupied at certain times in labor, and again at fixed hours in sacred reading, each determined by her occupation.
Although the life of a monk ought to have about it at all times the character of a Lenten observance, yet since few have the virtue for that, we therefore urge that during the actual days of Lent the brethren keep their lives most pure and at the same time wash away during these holy days all the negligences of other times. And this will be worthily done if we restrain ourselves from all vices and give ourselves up to prayer with tears, to reading, to compunction of heart and to abstinence.
During these days, therefore, let us increase somewhat the usual burden of our service, as by private prayers and by abstinence in food and drink. Thus everyone of his own will may offer God "with joy of the Holy Spirit" (1 Thess. 1:6) something above the measure required of him. From his body, that is he may withhold some food, drink, sleep, talking and jesting; and with the joy of spiritual desire he may look forward to holy Easter.
Let each one, however, suggest to his Father General what it is that he wants to offer, and let it be done with his blessing and approval. For anything done without the permission of the spiritual father will be imputed to presumption and vainglory and will merit no reward. Therefore let everything be done with the Father General's approval.
Those sisters who are working at a great distance and cannot get to the oratory at the proper time -- the Mother General judging that such is the case -- shall perform the Work of God in the place where they are working, bending their knees in reverence before God.
Likewise those who have been sent on a journey shall not let the appointed Hours pass by, but shall say the Office by themselves as well as they can and not neglect to render the task of their service.
A Brother who is sent out on some business and is expected to return to the monastery that same day shall not presume to eat while he is out, even if he is urgently requested to do so by any person whomsoever, unless he has permission from his Father General. And if he acts otherwise, let him be excommunicated.
Let the oratory be what it is called, a place of prayer; and let nothing else be done there or kept there. When the Work of God is ended, let all go out in perfect silence, and let reverence for God be observed, so that any sister who may wish to pray privately will not be hindered by another's misconduct. And at other times also, if anyone should want to pray by herself, let her go in simply and pray, not in a loud voice but with tears and fervor of heart. She who does not say her prayers in this way, therefore, shall not be permitted to remain in the oratory when the Work of God is ended, lest another be hindered, as we have said.
Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for He is going to say, "I came as a guest, and you received Me" (Matt. 25:35). And to all let due honor be shown, especially to the domestics of the faith and to pilgrims.
As soon as a guest is announced, therefore, let the
In the salutation of all guests, whether arriving or departing, let all humility be shown. Let the head be bowed or the whole body prostrated on the ground in adoration of Christ, who indeed is received in their persons.
After the guests have been received and taken to prayer, let the
In the reception of the poor and of pilgrims the greatest care and solicitude should be shown, because it is especially in them that Christ is received; for as far as the rich are concerned, the very fear which they inspire wins respect for them.
In all the offices of the monastery let this arrangement be observed, that when help is needed it be supplied, and again when the workers are unoccupied they do whatever they are bidden.
The guest house shall be assigned to a brother whose soul is possessed by the fear of God. Let there be a sufficient number of beds made up in it; and let the house of God be managed by prudent men and in a prudent manner.
On no account shall anyone who is not so ordered associate or converse with guests. But if he should meet them or see them, let him greet them humbly, as we have said, ask their blessing and pass on, saying that he is not allowed to converse with a guest.
On no account shall a monastic be allowed to receive letters, blessed tokens or any little gift whatsoever from parents or anyone else, or from her sisters, or to give the same, without the Mother General's permission. But if anything is sent her even by her parents, let her not presume to take it before it has been shown to the Mother General. And it shall be in the Mother General's power to decide to whom it shall be given, if she allows it to be received; and the sister to whom it was sent should not be grieved, lest occasion be given to the devil.
Should anyone presume to act otherwise, let her undergo the discipline of the Rule.
Let clothing be given to the brethren according to the nature of the place in which they dwell and its climate; for in cold regions more will be needed, and in warm regions less. This is to be taken into consideration, therefore, by the Father General.
The monks should not complain about the color or the coarseness of any of these things, but be content with what can be found in the district where they live and can be purchased cheaply.
The Father General shall see to the size of the garments, that they be not too short for those who wear them, but of the proper fit.
Let those who receive new clothes always give back the old ones at once, to be put away in the wardrobe for the poor. For it is sufficient if a monk has three habits, one for wear, one for washing, and one set aside as ‘dress’ more than that is superfluity and should be taken away. Let them return their stockings also and anything else that is old when they receive new ones.
Those who are sent on a journey may receive others from the wardrobe, according to the days of the journey which they shall wash and restore on their return. These they shall receive from the wardrobe when they set out on a journey, and restore when they return.
For bedding let this suffice: a mattress, a blanket, a coverlet and a pillow.
The beds, moreover, are to be examined frequently by the Father General, to see if any private property be found in them. If anyone should be found to have something that he did not receive from the Father General, let him undergo the most severe discipline.
And in order that this vice of private ownership may be cut out by the roots, the Father General should provide all the necessary articles: habits, needle, handkerchief, writing tablets; that all pretext of need may be taken away. Yet the Father General should always keep in mind the sentence from the Acts of the Apostles that "distribution was made to each according as anyone had need" (Acts 4:35). In this manner, therefore, let the Father General consider weaknesses of the needy and not the ill-will of the envious. But in all his decisions let him think about the retribution of God.
Let the Mother General's table always be with the guests and the pilgrims. But when there are no guests, let it be in her power to invite whom she will of the sisters. Yet one or two seniors must always be left with the others for the sake of discipline.
If there are artisans in the monastery, let them practice their crafts with all humility, provided the Father General has given permission. But if any one of them becomes conceited over his skill in his craft, because he seems to be conferring a benefit on the monastery, let him be taken from his craft and no longer exercise it unless, after he has humbled himself, the Father General again gives him permission.
If any of the work of the craftsmen is to be sold, those responsible for the sale must not dare to practice any fraud. Let them always remember Ananias and Saphira, who incurred bodily death (Acts 5:1-11), lest they and all who perpetrate fraud in monastery affairs suffer spiritual death. And in the prices let not the sin of avarice creep in, but let the goods always be sold a little cheaper than they can be sold by people in the world, "that in all things God may be glorified" (1 Peter 4:11).
When anyone is newly come for the reformation of her life, let her not be granted an easy entrance; but, as the Apostle says, "Test the spirits to see whether they are from God." If the newcomer, therefore, perseveres in her knocking, and if it is seen after four or five days that she bears patiently the harsh treatment offered her and the difficulty of admission, and that she persists in her petition, then let entrance be granted her, and let her stay in the house for some time.
After that let her live in the novitiate, where the novices study, eat and sleep. A senior shall be assigned to them who is skilled in winning souls, to watch over them with the utmost care. Let her examine whether the novice is truly seeking God, and whether she is zealous for the Work of God, for obedience and for trials. Let the novice be told all the hard and rugged ways by which the journey to God is made.
If she promises stability and perseverance, then at the end of two months let this rule be read through to her, and let her be addressed thus: "Here is the law under which you wish to fight. If you can observe it, enter; if you cannot, you are free to depart." If she still stands firm, let her be taken to the above-mentioned novitiate and again tested in all patience. And after the lapse of six months let the Rule be read to her, that she may know on what she is entering. And if she still remains firm, after four months let the same Rule be read to her again.
Then, having deliberated with herself, if she promises to keep it in its entirety and to observe everything that is commanded, let her be received into the community. But let her understand that, according to the law of the Rule, from that day forward she may not leave the monastery nor withdraw her neck from under the yoke of the Rule which she was free to refuse or to accept during that prolonged deliberation.
When she is to be received she promises before all in the oratory stability, fidelity to monastic life and obedience. This promise she shall make before God and His Saints, so that if she should ever act otherwise, she may know that she will be condemned by Him whom she mocks. Of this promise of hers let her draw up a document in the name of the Saints whose relics are there and of the Mother General who is present. Let her write this document with her own hand; or if she is illiterate, let another write it at her request, and let the novice put her mark to it. Then let her place it with her own hand upon the altar; and when she has placed it there, let the novice at once intone this verse: "Receive me, O Lord, according to Your word, and I shall live: and let me not be confounded in my hope" (Ps. 118:116). Let the whole community answer this verse three times and add the "Glory be to the Father." Then let the novice prostrate herself at each one's feet, that they may pray for her. And from that day forward let her be counted as one of the community.
If she has any property, let her either give it beforehand to the poor or by solemn donation bestow it on the monastery, reserving nothing at all for herself, as indeed she knows that from that day forward she will no longer have power even over her own body. At once, therefore, in the oratory, let her be divested of her own clothes which she is wearing and dressed in the clothes of the monastery. But let the clothes of which she was divested be put aside in the wardrobe and kept there. Then if she should ever listen to the persuasions of the devil and decide to leave the monastery (which God forbid), she may be divested of the monastic clothes and cast out. Her document, however, which the Mother General has taken from the altar, shall not be returned to her, but shall be kept in the monastery.
If any ordained priest should ask to be received into the monastery, permission shall not be granted too readily. But if he is quite persistent in his request, let him know that he will have to observe the whole discipline of the Rule and that nothing will be relaxed in his favor, that it may be as it is written: "Friend, for what have you come (Matt. 26:50)?"
It shall be granted him, however, to stand next after the Father General and to give blessings and to celebrate Mass, but only by order of the Father General. Without such order let him not make any exceptions for himself, knowing that he is subject to the discipline of the Rule; but rather let him give an example of humility to all.
If there happens to be question of an appointment or of some business in the monastery, let him expect the rank due him according to the date of his entrance into the monastery, and not the place granted him out of reverence for the priesthood.
If any clerics, moved by the same desire, should wish to join the monastery, let them be placed in a middle rank. But they too are to be admitted only if they promise observance of the Rule and stability.
If a pilgrim monastic coming from a distant region wants to live as a guest of the monastery, let her be received for as long a time as she desires, provided she is content with the customs of the place as she finds them and does not disturb the monastery by superfluous demands, but is simply content with what she finds. If, however, she censures or points out anything reasonably and with the humility of charity, let the Mother General consider prudently whether perhaps it was for that very purpose that the Lord sent her.
If afterwards she should want to bind herself to stability, her wish should not be denied her, especially since there has been opportunity during her stay as a guest to discover her character.
But if as a guest she was found exacting or prone to vice, not only should she be denied membership in the community, but she should even be politely requested to leave, lest others be corrupted by her evil life.
If, however, she has not proved to be the kind who deserves to be put out, she should not only on her own application be received as a member of the community, but she should even be persuaded to stay, that the others may be instructed by her example, and because in every place it is the same Lord who is served, the same King for whom the battle is fought.
Moreover, if the Mother General perceives that she is worthy, she may put her in a somewhat higher rank. [And not only with regard to a nun but also with regard to those in priestly or clerical orders previously mentioned,]* the Mother General may establish them in a higher rank than would be theirs by date of entrance if she perceives that their life is deserving.
Let the Mother General take care, however, never to receive a nun from another known monastery as a member of her community without the consent of her Mother General or a letter of recommendation; for it is written, "Do not to another what you would not want done to yourself" (Tob. 4:16).
If an Father General desire to have a priest or a deacon ordained for his monastery, let him choose one who is worthy to exercise the priestly office.
But let the one who is ordained beware of self-exaltation or pride; and let him not presume to do anything except what is commanded him by the Father General, knowing that he is so much the more subject to the discipline of the Rule. Nor should he by reason of his priesthood forget the obedience and the discipline required by the Rule, but make ever more and more progress towards God.
Let him always keep the place which he received on entering the monastery, except in his duties at the altar or in case the choice of the community and the will of the Father General should promote him for the worthiness of his life. Yet he must understand that he is to observe the rules laid down by deans and Superiors.
Should he presume to act otherwise, let him be judged not as a priest but as a rebel. And if he does not reform after repeated admonitions, let even the Bishop be brought in as a witness. If then he still fails to amend, and his offenses are notorious, let him be put out of the monastery, but only if his contumacy is such that he refuses to submit or to obey the Rule.
Let all keep their places in the monastery established by the time of their entrance, the merit of their lives and the decision of the Father General. Yet the Father General must not disturb the flock committed to him, nor by an arbitrary use of his power ordain anything unjustly; but let him always think of the account he will have to render to God for all his decisions and his deeds.
Therefore in that order which he has established or which they already had, let the brethren approach to receive the kiss of peace and Communion, intone the Psalms and stand in choir. And in no place whatever should age decide the order or be prejudicial to it; for Samuel and Daniel as mere boys judged priests.
Except for those already mentioned, therefore, whom the Father General has promoted by a special decision or demoted for definite reasons, all the rest shall take their order according to the time of their entrance. Thus, for example, he who came to the monastery at the second hour of the day, whatever be his age or his dignity, must know that he is junior to one who came at the first hour of the day. Boys, however, are to be kept under discipline in all matters and by everyone.
The juniors, therefore, should honor their seniors, and the seniors love their juniors.
In the very manner of address, let no one call another by the mere name; but let the seniors call their juniors Brothers, and the juniors call their seniors Fathers, by which is conveyed the reverence due to a father. But the Father General, since he is believed to represent Christ, shall be called Lord and Father General, not for any pretensions of his own but out of honor and love for Christ. Let the Father General himself reflect on this, and show himself worthy of such an honor.
And wherever the brethren meet one another the junior shall ask the senior for his blessing. When a senior passes by, a junior shall rise and give him a place to sit, nor shall the junior presume to sit with him unless his senior bid him, that it may be as was written, "In honor anticipating one another."
In the constituting of an Mother General let this plan always be followed, that the office be conferred on the one who is chosen either by the whole community unanimously in the fear of God or else by a part of the community, however small, if its counsel is more wholesome.
Merit of life and wisdom of doctrine should determine the choice of the one to be constituted, even if she be the last of the order of the community.
But if (which God forbid) the whole community should agree to choose a person who will acquiesce in their vices, and if those vices somehow become known to the Bishop to whose diocese the place belongs, or to the Father Generals, Mother Generals or the faithful of the vicinity, let them prevent the success of this conspiracy of the wicked, and set a worthy steward over the house of God. They may be sure that they will receive a good reward for this action if they do it with a pure intention and out of zeal for God; as, on the contrary, they will sin if they fail to do it.
Once she has been constituted, let the Mother General always bear in mind what a burden she has undertaken and to whom she will have to give an account of her stewardship, and let her know that her duty is rather to profit her sisters than to preside over them. She must therefore be learned in the divine law, that she may have a treasure of knowledge from which to bring forth new things and old. She must be chaste, sober and merciful. Let her exalt mercy above judgment, that she herself may obtain mercy. She should hate vices; she should love the sisterhood.
In administering correction she should act prudently and not go to excess, lest in seeking too eagerly to scrape off the rust she break the vessel. Let her keep her own frailty ever before her eyes and remember that the bruised reed must not be broken. By this we do not mean that she should allow vices to grow; on the contrary, as we have already said, she should eradicate them prudently and with charity, in the way which may seem best in each case. Let her study rather to be loved than to be feared.
Let her not be excitable and worried, nor exacting and headstrong, nor jealous and over-suspicious; for then she is never at rest.
In her commands let her be prudent and considerate; and whether the work which she enjoins concerns God or the world, let her be discreet and moderate, bearing in mind the discretion of holy Jacob, who said, "If I cause my flocks to be overdriven, they will all die in one day." Taking this, then, and other examples of discretion, the mother of virtues, let her so temper all things that the strong may have something to strive after, and the weak may not fall back in dismay.
And especially let her keep this Rule in all its details, so that after a good ministry she may hear from the Lord what the good servant heard who gave the fellow-servants wheat in due season: "Indeed, I tell you, he will set that one over all his goods" (Matt. 24:27).
It happens all too often that the constituting of a
To us, therefore, it seems expedient for the preservation of peace and charity that the Father General have in his hands the full administration of his monastery. And if possible let all the affairs of the monastery, as we have already arranged, be administered by deans according to the Father General's directions. Thus, with the duties being shared by several, no one person will become proud.
But if the circumstances of the place require it, or if the community asks for it with reason
and with humility, and the Father
General judges it to be expedient, let
the Father General himself constitute as his
If it should be found that the
At the gate of the monastery let there be placed a wise old woman, who knows how to receive and to give a message, and whose maturity will prevent her from straying about. This porter should have a room near the gate, so that those who come may always find someone at hand to attend to their business. And as soon as anyone knocks or a poor person hails her, let her answer "Thanks be to God" or "A blessing!" Then let her attend to them promptly, with all the meekness inspired by the fear of God and with the warmth of charity.
Should the porter need help, let her have one of the younger sisters.
If it can be done, the monastery should be so established that all the necessary things, such as water, mill, garden and various workshops, may be within the enclosure, so that there is no necessity for the sisters to go about outside of it, since that is not at all profitable for their souls.
We desire that this Rule be read often in the community, so that none of the sisters may excuse herself on the ground of ignorance.
Let the brethren who are sent on a journey commend themselves to the prayers of all the brethren and of the Father General; and always at the last prayer of the Work of God let a commemoration be made of all absent brethren.
When brethren return from a journey, at the end of each canonical Hour of the Work of God on the day they return, let them lie prostrate on the floor of the oratory and beg the prayers of all on account of any faults that may have surprised them on the road, through the seeing or hearing of something evil, or through idle talk. And let no one presume to tell another whatever he may have seen or heard outside of the monastery, because this causes very great harm. But if anyone presumes to do so, let him undergo the punishment of the Rule. And let him be punished likewise who would presume to leave the enclosure of the monastery and go anywhere or do anything, however small, without an order from the Father General.
If it happens that difficult or
impossible tasks are laid on a sister, let
her nevertheless receive the order of the one in authority with all meekness and obedience. But if she sees that the weight of the burden altogether exceeds the limit of her strength, let her submit the reasons for her inability to the one who is over her in a quiet way and at an opportune time, without pride, resistance, or contradiction. And if after these representations the
Care must be taken that no monk presume on any ground to defend another monk in the monastery, or as it were to take him under his protection, even though they be united by some tie of blood-relationship. Let not the monks dare to do this in any way whatsoever, because it may give rise to most serious scandals. But if anyone breaks this rule, let him be severely punished.
Every occasion of presumption shall be avoided in the monastery, and we decree that no one be allowed to excommunicate any of her sisters unless the Mother General has given her the authority. Those who offend in this matter shall be rebuked in the presence of all, that the rest may have fear.
Not only is the boon of obedience to
be shown by all to the Father General, but
the brethren are also to obey one another, knowing that by this road of obedience they
are going to God. Giving priority,
therefore, to the commands of the Father General and of the
And if any brother, for however small a cause, is corrected in any way by the Father General or by any of his Superiors, or if he faintly perceives that the mind of any Superior is angered or moved against him, however little, let him at once, without delay, prostrate himself on the ground at his feet and lie there making satisfaction until that emotion is quieted with a blessing. But if anyone should disdain to do this, let him undergo punishment or, if he is stubborn, let him be expelled from the monastery.
Just as there is an evil zeal of bitterness which separates from God and leads to hell, so there is a good zeal which separates from vices and leads to God and to life everlasting. This zeal, therefore, the sisters should practice with the most fervent love. Thus they should anticipate one another in honor (Rom. 12:10); most patiently endure one another's infirmities, whether of body or of character; vie in paying obedience one to another -- no one following what she considers useful for herself, but rather what benefits another -- ; tender the charity of sisterhood chastely; fear God in love; love their Mother General with a sincere and humble charity; prefer nothing whatever to Christ. And may He bring us all together to life everlasting!
Now we have written this Rule in order that by its observance in monasteries we may show that we have attained some degree of virtue and the rudiments of the religious life.
But for those who would hasten to the perfection of that life there are the teaching of the holy Fathers, the observance of which leads to the height of perfection. For what page or what utterance of the divinely inspired books of the Old and New Testaments is not a most unerring rule for human life? Or what book of the holy Catholic Fathers does not loudly proclaim how we may come by a straight course to our Creator? Then the Conferences and the Institutes and the Lives of the Fathers, what else are they but tools of virtue for right-living and obedient monks? But for us who are lazy and ill-living and negligent they are a source of shame and confusion.
Whoever you are, therefore, who are hastening to the heavenly homeland, fulfill with the help of Christ this minimum Rule which we have written for beginners; and then at length under God's protection you will attain to the loftier heights of doctrine and virtue which we have mentioned above.