To understand a Benedictine monastery fully, one can read St. Benedict's Rule. Written by St. Benedict in the 6th century, it describes every aspect of monastic life: organization, daily routines and duties (including prayer schedule, the Divine Office, canonical hours, the Lectio Divina), property ownership and gift giving, disciplinary actions of monastery members, electing superiors, protocol and procedures for receiving visitors, how to care for the sick, and many other regulations and guidelines concerning numerous other topics.

 

 

A Benedictine monastery is a community of cenobites, living together under a superior by the Rule of St. Benedict. A cenobite is monk or nun who lives under a superior, generally an abbot, in a community such as a monastery. This is to be compared with an eremite, who are devoutly religious individuals that choose to live in isolation rather than in a community, similar to St. Benedict's earlier spiritual life in Subiaco.

Cenobites live a highly structured routine of prayer, work, and study. The abbot has his own guidelines and duties: "He is believed to hold the place of Christ in the monastery[...] Anyone who receives the name of abbot is to lead his disciples by a twofold teaching: he must point out to them all that is good and holy more by example than by words, proposing the commandments of the Lord to receptive disciples with words, but demonstrating God's instructions to the stubborn and the dull by a living example." (Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 2). Oblates, those living outside of the monastery walls, also have very specific spiritual instructions and responsibilities. They are extremely involved and active members of the sacred community, keeping close contact with an abbot or an Oblate Director.

At the heart of every monastery is a perfectly balanced design of togetherness, of hard work, community, of peace and cooperation, understanding and obedience, and of everyone walking together down the same sacred spiritual path. Cenobites and oblates alike are urged to "[never] pursue what he judges useful for himself, but rather what he judges better for others;" and reminded that "One loves all of his fellow monks as brothers; They fear God in their love; They love their abbot, with sincerity and humble charity. They prefer absolutely nothing but Christ". (Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 72)