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The Priests of The Monastery

Saturday, August 17, 2024

Any abbot of a male monastery who asks to have a priest or deacon ordained should choose from his monks one worthy to exercise the priesthood. the monk so ordained must be on guard against conceit or pride, must not presume to do anything except what the abbot commands him, and must recognize that now he will have to subject himself all the more to the discipline of the rule. Just because he is a priest, he may not therefore forget the obedience and discipline of the rule, but must make more and more progress toward God.

He will always take the place that corresponds to the date of his entry into the monastery, except in his duties at the altar, or unless the whole community chooses and the abbot wishes to give him a higher place for the goodness of his life. Yet, he must know how to keep the rule established for deans and priors; should he presume to act otherwise, he must be regarded as a rebel, not as a priest. If after many warnings he does not improve, let the bishop too be brought in as a witness. Should he not amend even then, and his faults become notorious, he is to be dismissed from the monastery, but only if he is so arrogant that he will not submit or obey the rule.

In Chapter 60 the rule makes it plain that monasticism, not clericalism, is the nature of the monastic life, that it demands an entirely different kind of formation and that simply coming to the monastery is not enough to claim conversion, even for priests. It is necessary as well to become a community person whose sanctification hinges on being open to being shaped by the word of God in the human community around us. The question in chapter 60 is, "Can the cleric take monasticism?" and the answer is "Probably." The question in chapter 62 is, "Can the community take clericalism?" and the answer is "No."

In this chapter, Benedict reminds those priests who have been ordained from the ranks of the community itself that they, too, are under the discipline of the rule and the abbot. Clearly, they are not, by virtue of their ordination, excused of their essential character as simple monk. In this chapter Benedict reminds us all to hold fast to our humanity, to make it our priority and to never let what we have become obscure what we are. It is so easy to take on a role in life with its trappings and privileges --doctor, judge, nun, monk, mother, teacher--and to lose, therefore, our own chance to be fully alive.