The Community

Pax symbol from stained glass window

     Like prayer, work and lectio, community life is an essential element for the Benedictine style of life. There can be no Benedictine life without community - these are the "strong ones..   who belong to a monastery, where they serve under a rule and an abbot", says St. Benedict in his rule.

Monks in chapter
Community in chapter
(Photo Theo Robinson OSB)

     A Benedictine community is more that organisation, discipline, personal restraint, live and let live philosophy. As for St. Paul's image of the body, each member has a specific role for the good of the whole, so it is with Benedict's community. While contributing to the good of the whole, the monk perfects himself. The personality of the monk develops but it matures further through interaction with the community.

Monks in Refectory
The Community Refectory
(Photo David Orr OSB)

The monk learns that he is loved by Christ, and so learns to love others. As he is welcomed in Christ, so he can welcome his brothers. This acceptance is not simply enduring or tolerating others. It is a matter of care and concern and a willingness to be involved with others - Benedict invites his follower to mutual obedience, "not only to the abbot, but also to one another as brothers".

Communion to the sick
Communion to the sick
(Photo Theo Robinson OSB)

     Benedict urges his monks to "bear with weakness, whether of body or character, with great patience" - not just an endurance but a healing experience.

Cooking tea
Preparing the meal
(Photo Theo Robinson OSB)

     The driving force of Benedictine life is love - love of God, and love of others. The monk must be involved with the brethren to discover God and to discover himself. He must be able to give and receive love in the community. The monk grows to know his unique contribution to the community and experiences that he is loved, accepted and forgiven by others. Such is only achieved over time - hence Benedict "established this school for the Lord's service": not just to learn about love, but to grow in love through the instruments of good works. Thus the monk commits himself to the community by his promise of stability until death.

Monks at Chapter 1996
Community in Chapter 1999
(Photo monastery archive)

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