Rule of Life
A Biblical Vision of the Christian Life
An Introduction to the Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict
This booklet presents the Prologue to the 1500 year old “Rule of St. Benedict” in ten short segments followed by reflections for discussion and meditation. The hope is that groups will find the vision St. Benedict provides as a kind of ‘Rule of Life’ suited to the needs of lay people in the 21st Century. Although it is actually the introduction to St. Benedict’s Rule, it is, in some respects, a summary of the essence of Christian spirituality, and as such, is a short literary work in its own right. It has enormous value for us in our times of major transition and sweeping changes.
This is intended for Traditional Catholics, by which we mean Catholics loyal to the Magisterium of the Church, in whichever of the ancient or modern liturgical traditions they worship. It is for Catholics who are grateful to be inheritors of the Catholic Faith, who treasure its commission from the Lord, and wish to see it flourish again in our society.
‘The Benedictine concept of a rule retains the original meaning of the term. The Latin term for a ‘rule’ (regula) indicates that this document was composed as a guide — something to help us move in a straight line to ensure we get where we want to go. In the original use of the term, it referred to a straight length or plank, as well as a ruler which children still use in school. In due course it came to mean a pattern, a model, and a rule. In our times, we tend to think of rules as a type of law, but that is only true when we view the Laws of God as His way of guiding us to our true home with Him. The Rule of St. Benedict is therefore a document which presents a Biblical pattern, a model for consecrated Christians to follow, and a guide to keep one moving along a line to reach one’s desired end: union with God. In this respect it echoes, exceptionally clearly at times, the strong influence in the first few centuries of the Jewish-Christian love of the Word: the Word proclaimed, and the Word made flesh. In this Prologue there is strong evidence of that same tradition captured by St. Benedict (and the writers of the documents from whose works he quoted) as he presents Christ the Word in the age of fulfilment.
The Prologue to this great Rule, and its examination piece by piece, has been chosen to guide us in our unsettling times towards a Biblical vision of the ideal Christian life as it has been understood for two millennia. The hope is that the reader will find it a helpful guide to maintaining a sound Christian vision despite the disintegration, decay, confusion and despair which we meet so frequently in our contemporary society: a society not unlike that faced by St. Benedict and his supporters, with the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th Century. They witnessed unprecedented and endless conflicts, raging violence, asset grabbing, inflation and confusion of values all of which, together, became unstoppable. We are entering a similar phase.
With the help of the Holy Spirit we can do for our society what St. Benedict did for his. We can support one another in our Christian life as well as in our outreach to our contemporaries. The unique nature and construction of the Rule of Sr. Benedict preclude a presentation of neat sets of discussion points in a standard format for each of the ten Sections. Instead we have ten Sections of very unequal volume with varying amounts of supplementary material, much of which is included to assist the general reader with essential background information. The booklet is therefore not intended to be read cover to cover; rather, to be discussed and meditated upon, portion by portion. It is left to the individual reader or group to choose how much or how little will be the focus on any occasion, depending on time availability and circumstances.
We wish the reader every good blessing in reflecting on St. Benedict’s Rule, and close with his final admonition:
“Are you hastening towards your heavenly home? Then with Christ’s help, keep this little rule that we have written for beginners. After that, you can set out for the loftier summits of the teaching and virtues we mentioned above, and under God’s protection you will reach them. Amen.”