Daily Reading from the Rule of Benedict

Yesterday's Reading

About the Rule of Benedict

Benedict of Nursia was born in the year 480. As a student in Rome, he tired of the decadent culture around him and left to live a simple spiritual life as a hermit in the countryside of Subiaco about thirty miles outside of the city. It wasn't long, however, before he was discovered both by the people of the area and disciples who were themselves looking for a more meaningful way of life. Out of these associations sprang the monastic life that would eventually cover Europe.

The Rule of Benedict is not a treatise in systematic theology. Its logic is the logic of daily life lived in Christ and lived well. This early monastic rule is part of the Wisdom tradition of Christianity and is rooted in the Bible for its inspiration and its end. It deals with the meaning and purpose of life. The positions taken in the Rule in the light of themes in the wisdom literature of other culture find Benedict of Nursia in the stream of thinkers who lived out of a single tradition but from the perspective of universal and fundamental insights into life.

Excerpted from The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages by Joan Chittister, OSB

February 7, 2023
Chapter 7

The tenth step of humility is that we are not given to ready laughter, for it is written:"Only fools raise their voices in laughter (Sir 21:23)."

Humor and laughter are not necessarily the same thing. Humor permits us to see into life from a fresh and gracious perspective. We learn to take ourselves more lightly in the presence of good humor. Humor gives us the strength to bear what cannot be changed, and the sight to see the human under the pompous. Laughter, on the other hand, is an expression of emotion commonly inveighed against in the best finishing schools and the upper classes of society for centuries. Laughter was considered vulgar, crude, cheap, a loud demonstration of a lack of self-control.

In the tenth degree of humility, Benedict does not forbid humor. On the contrary, Benedict is insisting that we take our humor very seriously. Everything we laugh at is not funny. Some things we laugh at are, in fact, tragic and need to be confronted. Ethnic jokes are not funny. Sexist jokes are not funny. The handicaps of suffering people are not funny. Pornography and pomposity and shrieking, mindless noise is not funny. Derision is not funny, sneers and sarcasm and snide remarks, no matter how witty, how pointed, how clever, how cutting, are not funny. They are cruel. The humble person never uses speech to grind another person to dust. The humble person cultivates a soul in which everyone is safe. A humble person handles the presence of the other with soft hands, a velvet heart and an unveiled mind.

The Rule of Benedict Insights for the Ages

Is there a great spiritual tradition that deals with the contemporary issues facing the human community? In her new introduction to the Rule, Joan Chittister boldly claims that Benedict’s sixth-century text is the only one of the great traditions that directly touches today’s issues: stewardship, conversion, communication, reflection, contemplation, humility and equality. Tracing Benedict’s original Rule paragraph by paragraph, the new book expands the principles of the Rule into the larger context of spiritual living in a secular world and makes the seemingly archaic instructions relevant for a contemporary audience. A new foreword, updated content, an appendix, a Gregorian Chant download and a recommended calendar for reading the entries and commentaries make this an invaluable resource for solitary or communal contemplation. (Crossroad; Paperback) Order here.