Purpose and Basis of Common Life
Before all else,
dear brothers, love God and then your neighbor, because these are the
chief commandments given to us.
1. The following are the precepts we order you living in the monastery
2. The main purpose for you having come together is to live
harmoniously in your house, intent upon God in oneness of mind and
3. Call nothing your own, but let everything be yours in common. Food
and clothing shall be distributed to each of you by your superior, not
equally to all, for all do not enjoy equal health, but rather according
to each one's need. For so you read in the Acts of the Apostles that
they had all things in common and distribution was made to each one
according to each one's need (Acts 4:32, 35).
4. Those who owned something in the world should be careful in wanting
to share it in common once they have entered the monastery.
5. But they who owned nothing should not look for those things in the
monastery that they were unable to have in the world. Nevertheless,
they are to be given all that their health requires even if, during
their time in the world, poverty made it impossible for them to find
the very necessities of life. And those should not consider themselves
fortunate because they have found the kind of food and clothing which
they were unable to find in the world.
6. And let them not hold their heads high, because they associate with
people whom they did not dare to approach in the world, but let them
rather lift up their hearts and not seek after what is vain and
earthly. Otherwise, monasteries will come to serve a useful purpose for
the rich and not the poor, if the rich are made humble there and the
poor are puffed up with pride.
7. The rich, for their part, who seemed important in the world, must
not look down upon their brothers who have come into this holy
brotherhood from a condition of poverty. They should seek to glory in
the fellowship of poor brothers rather than in the reputation of rich
relatives. They should neither be elated if they have contributed a
part of their wealth to the common life, nor take more pride in sharing
their riches with the monastery than if they were to enjoy them in the
world. Indeed, every other kind of sin has to do with the commission of
evil deeds, whereas pride lurks even in good works in order to destroy
them.And what good is it to scatter one's weath abroad by giving to the
poor, even to become poor oneself, when the unhappy soul is thereby
more given to pride in despising riches than it had been in possessing
8. Let all of you then live together in oneness of mind and heart,
mutually honoring God in yourselves, whose temples you have become.
1. Be assiduous
in prayer (Colossians 4:2), at the hours and times appointed.
2. In the Oratory no one should do anything other than that for which
was intended and from which it also takes its name. Consequently, if
there are some who might wish to pray there during their free time,
even outside the hours appointed, they should not be hindered by those
who think something else must be done there.
3. When you pray to God in Psalms and hymns, think over in your hearts
the words that come from your lips.
4. Chant only what is prescribed for chant; moreover, let nothing be
chanted unless it is so prescribed.
Moderation and Self-Denial
1. Subdue the
flesh, so far as your health permits, by fasting and abstinence from
food and drink. However, when someone is unable to fast, he should
still take no food outside mealtimes unless he is ill.
2. When you come to table, listen until you leave to what is the custom
to read, without disturbance or strife. Let not your mouths alone take
nourishment but let your hearts too hunger for the words of God.
3. If those in more delicate health from their former way of life are
treated differently in the matter of food, this should not be a source
of annoyance to the others or appear unjust in the eyes of those who
owe their stronger health to different habits of life. Nor should the
healthier brothers deem them more fortunate for having food which they
do not have, but rather consider themselves fortunate for having the
good health which the others do not enjoy.
4. And if something in the way of food, clothing, and bedding is given
to those coming to the monastery from a more genteel way of life, which
is not given to those who are stronger, and therefore happier, then
these latter ought to consider how far these others have come in
passing from their life in the world down to this life of ours, though
they have been unable to reach the level of frugality common to the
stronger brothers. Nor should all want to receive what they see given
in larger measure to the few, not as a token of honor, but as a help to
support them in their weakness. This would give rise to a deplorable
disorder - that in the monastery, where the rich are coming to bear as
much hardship as they can, the poor are turning to a more genteel way
5. And just as the sick must take less food to avoid discomfort, so
too, after their illness, they are to receive the kind of treatment
that will quickly restore their strength, even though they come from a
life of extreme poverty. Their more recent illness has, as it were,
afforded them what accrued to the rich as part of their former way of
life. But when they have recovered their former strength, they should
go back to their happier way of life which, because their needs are
fewer, is all the more in keeping with God's servants. Once in good
health, they must not become slaves to the enjoyment of food which was
necessary to sustain them in their illness. For it is better to suffer
a little want than to have too much.
Safeguarding Chastity, and Fraternal Correction
1. There should
be nothing about your clothing to attract attention. Besides, you
should not seek to please by your apparel, but by a good life.
2. Whenever you go out, walk together, and when you reach your
destination, stay together.
3. In your walk, deportment, and in all actions, let nothing occur to
give offense to anyone who sees you, but only what becomes your holy
state of life.
4. Although your eyes may chance to rest upon some woman or other, you
must not fix your gaze upon any woman. Seeing women when you go out is
not forbidden, but it is sinful to desire them or to wish them to
desire you, for it is not by tough or passionate feeling alone but by
one's gaze also that lustful desires mutually arise. And do not say
that your hearts are pure if there is immodesty of the eye, because the
unchaste eye carries the message of an impure heart. And when such
hearts disclose their unchaste desires in a mutual gaze, even without
saying a word, then it is that chastity suddenly goes out of their
life, even though their bodies remain unsullied by unchaste acts.
5. And whoever fixes his gaze upon a woman and likes to have hers fixed
upon him must not suppose that others do not see what he is doing. He
is very much seen, even by those he thinks do not see him. But suppose
all this escapes the notice of man - what will he do about God who sees
from on high and from whom nothing is hidden? Or are we to imagine that
he does not see because he sees with a patience as great as his wisdom?
Let the religious man then have such fear of God that he will not want
to be an occasion of sinful pleasure to a woman. Ever mindful that God
sees all things, let him not desire to look at a woman lustfully. For
it is on this point that fear of the Lord is recommended, where it is
written: An abomination to the Lord is he who fixes his gaze (Proverbs
6. So when you are together in church and anywhere else where women are
present, exercise a mutual care over purity of life. Thus, by mutual
vigilance over one another will God, who dwells in you, grant you his
7. If you notice in someone of your brothers this wantonness of the
eye, of which I am speaking, admonish him at once so that the beginning
of evil will not grow more serious but will be promptly corrected.
8. But if you see him doing the same thing again on some other day,
even after your admonition, then whoever had occasion to discover this
must report him as he would a wounded man in need of treatment. But let
the offense first be pointed out to two or three so that he can be
proven guilty on the testimony of these two or three and be punished
with due severity. And do not charge yourselves with ill-will when you
bring this offense to light. Indeed, yours in the greater blame if you
allow your brothers to be lost through your silence when you are able
to bring about their correction by your disclosure. If you brother, for
example, were suffering a bodily wound that he wanted to hide for fear
of undergoing treatment, would it not be cruel of you to remain silent
and a mercy on your part to make this known? How much greater then is
your obligation to make his condition known lest he continue to suffer
a more deadly wound of the soul.
9. But if he fails to correct the fault despite this admonition, he
should first be brought to the attention of the superior before the
offense is made known to the others who will have to prove his guilt,
in the event he denies the charge. Thus, corrected in private, his
fault can perhaps be kept from the others. But should he feign
ignorance, the others are to be summoned so that in the presence of all
he can be proven guilty, rather than stand accused on the word of one
alone. Once proven guilty, he must undergo salutary punishment
according to the judgment of the superior or priest having the proper
authority. If he refuses to submit to punishment, he shall be expelled
from your brotherhood even if he does not withdraw of his own accord.
For this too is not done out of cruelty, but from a sense of compassion
so that many others may not be lost through his bad example.
10. And let everything I have said about not fixing one's gaze be also
observed carefully and faithfully with regard to other offenses: to
find them out, to ward them off, to make them known, to prove and
punish them - all out of love for man and a hatred of sin.
11. But if anyone should go so far in wrongdoing as to receive letters
in secret from any woman, or small gifts of any kind, you ought to show
mercy and pray for him if he confesses this of his own accord. But if
the offense is detected and he is found guilty, he must be more
severely chastised according to the judgment of the priest or superior.
The Care of Community Goods and Treatment of the Sick
1. Keep your
clothing in one place in charge of one or two, or of as many as are
needed to care for them and to prevent damage from moths. And just as
you have your food from the one pantry, so, too, you are to receive
your clothing from a single wardrobe. If possible, do not be concerned
about what you are given to wear at the change of seasons, whether each
of you gets back what he had put away or something different, providing
no one is denied what he needs. If, however, disputes and murmuring
arise on this account because someone complains that he received poorer
clothing than he had before, and thinks it is beneath him to wear the
kind of clothing worn by another, you may judge from this how lacking
you are in that holy and inner garment of the heart when you quarrel
over garments for the body. But if allowance is made for your weakness
and you do receive the same clothing you had put away, you must still
keep it in one place under the common charge.
2. In this way, no one shall perform any task for his own benefit but
all your work shall be done for the common good, with greater zeal and
more dispatch than if each one of you were to work for yourself alone.
For charity, as it is written, is not self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13:5)
meaning that it places the common good before its own, not its own
before the common good. So whenever you show greater concern for the
common good than for your own, you may know that you are growing in
charity. Thus, let the abiding virtue of charity prevail in all things
that minister to the fleeting necessities of life.
3. It follows, therefore, that if anyone brings something for their
sons or other relatives living in the monastery, whether a garment or
anything else they think is needed, this must not be accepted secretly
as one's own but must be placed at the disposal of the superior so
that, as common property, it can be given to whoever needs it. But if
someone secretly keeps something given to him, he shall be judged
guilty of theft.
4. Your clothing should be cleaned either by yourselves or by those who
perform this service, as the superior shall determine, so that too
great a desire for clean clothing may not be the source of interior
stains on the soul.
5. As for bodily cleanliness too, a brother must never deny himself the
use of the bath when his health requires it. But this should be done on
medical advice, without complaining, so that even though unwilling, he
shall do what has to be done for his health when the superior orders
it. However, if the brother wishes it, when it might not be good for
him, you must not comply with his desire, for sometimes we think
something is beneficial for the pleasure it gives, even though it may
6. Finally, if the cause of a brother's bodily pain is not apparent,
you make take the word of God's servant when he indicates what is
giving him pain. But if it remains uncertain whether the remedy he
likes is good for him, a doctor should be consulted.
7. When there is need to frequent the public baths or any other place,
no fewer than two or three should go together, and whoever has to go
somewhere must not go with those of his own choice but with those
designated by the superior.
8. The care of the sick, whether those in convalescence or others
suffering from some indisposition, even though free of fever, shall be
assigned to a brother who can personally obtain from the pantry
whatever he sees is necessary for each one.
9. Those in charge of the pantry, or of clothing and books, should
render cheerful service to their brothers.
10. Books are to be requested at a fixed hour each day, and anyone
coming outside that hour is not to receive them.
11. But as for clothing and shoes, those in charge shall not delay the
giving of them whenever they are required by those in need of them.
Asking Pardon and Forgiving Offenses
either avoid quarrels altogether or else put an end to them as quickly
as possible; otherwise, anger may grow into hatred, making a plank out
of a splinter, and turn the soul into a murderer. For so you read:
Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer (1 John 3:15).
2. Whoever has injured another by open insult, or by abusive or even
incriminating language, must remember to repair the injury as quickly
as possible by an apology, and he who suffered the injury must also
forgive, without further wrangling. But if they have offended one
another, they must forgive one another's trespasses for the sake of
your prayers which should be recited with greater sincerity each time
you repeat them. Although a brother is often tempted to anger, yet
prompt to ask pardon from one he admits to having offended, such a one
is better than another who, though less given to anger, finds it too
hard to ask forgiveness. But a brother who is never willing to ask
pardon, or does not do so from his heart, has no reason to be in the
monastery, even if he is not expelled. You must then avoid being too
harsh in your words, and should they escape your lips, let those same
lips not be ashamed to heal the wounds they have caused.
3. But whenever the good of discipline requires you to speak harshly in
correcting your subjects, then, even if you think you have been unduly
harsh in your language, you are not required to ask forgiveness lest,
by practicing too great humility toward those who should be your
subjects, the authority to rule is undermined. But you should still ask
forgiveness from the Lord of all who knows with what deep affection you
love even those whom you might happen to correct with undue severity.
Besides, you are to love another with a spiritual rather than an
Governance and Obedience
1. The superior
should be obeyed as a father with the respect due him so as not to
offend God in his person, and, even more so, the priest who bears
responsibility for you all.
2. But it shall pertain chiefly to the superior to see that these
precepts are all observed and, if any point has been neglected, to take
care that the transgression is not carelessly overlooked but is
punished and corrected. In doing so, he must refer whatever exceeds the
limit and power of his office, to the priest who enjoys greater
authority among you.
3. The superior, for his part, must not think himself fortunate in his
exercise of authority but in his role as one serving you in love. In
your eyes he shall hold the first place among you by the dignity of his
office, but in fear before God he shall be as the least among you. He
must show himself as an example of good works toward all. Let him
admonish the unruly, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, and be
patient toward all (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Let him uphold discipline
while instilling fear. And though both are necessary, he should strive
to be loved by you rather than feared, ever mindful that he must give
an account of you to God.
4. It is by being more obedient, therefore, that you show mercy not
only toward yourselves but also toward the superior whose higher rank
among you exposes him all the more to greater peril.
Observance of the Rule
1. The Lord
grant that you may observe all these precepts in a spirit of charity as
lovers of spiritual beauty, giving forth the good odor of Christ in the
holiness of your lives: not as slaves living under the law but as men
living in freedom under grace.
2. And that you may see yourselves in this little book, as in a mirror,
have it read to you once a week so as to neglect no point through
forgetfulness. When you find that you are doing all that has been
written, give thanks to the Lord, the Giver of every good. But when one
of you finds that he has failed on any point, let him be sorry for the
past, be on his guard for the future, praying that he will be forgiven
his fault and not be led into temptation.