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deign to give us the succor of his grace. Would we avoid the pains of hell and attain eternal lite while there is still time, while we are still in this mortal body, and while the light of this life is bes owed upon us for that purpose; let us run and st ive so as to reap an eternal reward.
We must, then, form a school of divine servitude, in which, we trust, nothing too heavy or rigorous will be established. But if, in conformity wiili right and jus, ice, we should exercise a little severity for the amendment of vices or the preservation of charity, beware of fleeing under the impulse of terror from the way of salvation which can not but have a hard beginn.ng When a man has walked for some time in obedience and faith, his heart will expand. and he will run with the unspeakable sweetness of love in the way of God's com. mandments. May he grant that never straying from the instruction of the Master, and persevering in his doctrine in the monastery until death, we may share by patience in the sufferings of Christ, and be worthy to share together his kiu_dom.
In this preamble Benedict insists on two principles, action or labor, and obedience, which underlie his entire superstructure, and give the clue to the seventy-two articles which compose the Rule of the Benedictine Order.
In order to banish indolence which he called the enemy of the soul, he regulated minutely every hour of the day according to the seasons, and ordained that after celebrating the praises of God seren times a day, seven hours should be given to manual labor, and two hours to reading. All must be done with moderation, having regard to the weak, and nothing must accrue to the individual profit or fame of the workman. All, the weak and the strong, the more and the less skillful, who do their best faithfully, must stand on a severe equality of self-negation.
Obedience was the most meritorious and essential spiritual discipline, by which the monk realized the sacrifice of self, and entered victor over earthly desires and passions into the liberty of the children of God. Submission must be prompt, perfect, and absolute. To be acceptable to God and easy to man, it must be practiced without reserve, without a murmur, calmly, and with good will. This passive and absolute obedience would have been intolerable, had it not been the result of a predetermination, after a sufficient trial of temper and strength, to accept its performance, and also sanctified and tempered by the nature and origin of the power. This power represented no selfish will. The abbot could not ordain any thing which is not in conformity to the law of God, and the authority which he exercised was limited by the necessity of consulting all the monks assembled in a council or chapter upon all important business; and even in small matters he can never act without the advice of the principal members. His permanent council is composed of deans, or elders chosen by the monks themselves, not by order of seniority, but for their merit, charged with assisting the abbot, by sharing with him the weight of government. IIe can, with their advice, designate a prior, or prorost, to act as his lieutenant. He is himself elected by all the monks of the monastery without any restriction on their choice among the members, whether old or new comers. Once elected, his authority ceases only with life, unless an evidently unworthy person receives the election, when the bishop of the diocese may intervene.
The absolute authority of the abbot, fixed in a rule which he can not modify or transgress, limited by the necessity of consulting either an elect number or the whole body of his subordinates upon all business, as well as by the mode of the election, in which the electors are all competent, all free, and all personally interested in the result-makes the chief in reality the servant of all those he commanded. In combination of authority, at once absolute, permanent, and elective, with the necessity of taking the advice of the whole community, and of acting solely in its interests, there was a principle, to which there was nothing analogous in past or existing legislation, which gave an irresistible force to the community, strong in the concentration of wills possessed by abnegation and concentrated towards one sole end, under a single hand, which was ruled and controlled in its turn by the spirit of self-sacrifice, already tested, and respected by a majority of the members, on whom and through him, that will was exerted.
The monastery, like a citadel always besieged, was to have within itself gardens, a mill, a bakery, and various workshops, in order that no necessity of material life should occasion the monks to leave its walls. A certain number of the Religious, whom the abbot judged worthy, might be raised to the priesthood for the spiritual service of the house, withont ceasing on that account, to be subject to ordinary discipline. By slow degrees all monks were, in the privileges accorded to their orders from Rome, elevated from the lay condition to the title and standing of the Regular Clergy, in opposition to the Secular Clergy.
One monk was charged under the title of cellarer, with the administration of all the goods of the monastery, the distribution of food, the care of the hospital, and all the details of material life. To the poor and the stranger the most generous hospitality was enjoined and were exercised without disturbing the solitude of the monks, or the silence of their cloisters. “Let every stranger be received," says the rule, “as if he were Christ himself; for it is Christ himself who shall one day say to us, “I was a stranger, and ye took me not in.'"
There was no individual property in any member of the community, as well as no individual will, different from and independent of the whole. In the reciprocal tie of all its members by the solemn engagements of the vow, he forever relinquished all his possessions, either to his own family, or to the poor, or to the monastery itself —reserving nothing to himself, possessing nothing of his own, not even tablets, or a pen for writing.
The rule regulates the admission, tries the vocation, and binds the consciences of those who came to sacrifice their will and patrimony to God. It recognizes two classes of candidates—(1) Children confided in their youth by their parents to the monastery, or received by the charity of the mouks, whose, education is prescribed with minute solicitude. (2) Young men, and adults who came out of the world to enter the cloister. These were not admitted at once—the rules ordaining that they should be left out for four or five days to try their perseverance. If they persevered, they were introduced into the guest chamber, and at the end of several days into the novitiate. Here the novice was intrusted to the care of an old monk, who was charged faithfully to report the difficulties, humiliations, and discomforts in the bard path of monastic obedience, and if, at the end of two months, he was inclined to persevere, the entire rule was read to him, concluding in these words: • Behold the law under which thou wouldst fight; if thou canst observe it enter; if thou canst not, depart in freedom ? Three times during the year of novitiate this trial was renewed, and when the year was expired, if the novice persevered, he was warned that shortly the power of leaving the monastery would be lost, and the rule which he had only accepted thus far after mature deliberation, would become binding. If he still adlıered to his original purpose, he was introduced into the oratory in presence of all the community, where, before God and his saints, he promised stability, or perpetual residence, and also reformation of his morals, and obedience, under pains of eternal damnation. With a declaration of this written with his own hand, and placed upon the altar, he threw himself at the feet of each of the brethren, begging theni to pray for him; and he was henceforth considered a member of the community.
Such was the general spirit and foundation of the rule of St. Benedict. The rule itself is composed of seventy three chapters :nine touch on the general duties of the abbot and the monks ; thirteen upon worship and the divine services ; twenty-nine upon discipline, faults, and penalties; ten upon internal administration of
the monastery ; twelve upon various subjects, such as the reception of guests, the conduct of the brethren while traveling. Montalembert closes his notice of the Rule as follows:
Thirteen hundred years have passed since the hand of Benedict traced all those minute regulations, and nothing has been found more tit to strengthen the religious spirit and monastic life. The most admired and ettectual reforms have scarcely had any other aim than to lead back the regular clergy to a code of which time has only confirmed the wisdom and increased the authority.
Among all these details of the rule, the scrupulous care which the legislator has taken to bind the Religious to the careful celebration of divine worship, according to the liturgical u-age of the Roman church, is specially remarkable. They were to give themselves to prayer, chanted aloud by the community, first in the night, at vigils, which began about two in the moruing and continned until dawn; then six times during the day-at prime, tierce, sexte, nones, vespers, and compline. The hundred and titty psalms of David were divided among these seren services in such a manner that the whole psalter should be chanted every week; and this prayer in common was not to interrupt mental devotion, wbich, during the rem.iining time, was to be short and simple.
Then comes these noble rules of sobrieiy, which, as Bossuet says, take every thing superfluous from nature, and spare her all anxiety in respct to that which is necessary, and which are but a reproduetion of the cu toms of the first Christians. To serve each other by turns in cooking and at the table; to eat, in silence, listening to the reading of some pious book, of two cooked dishes and one uncooked, with a pound of bread and a hemine of wine, whether they made two meals in the day or only one; to abstain from all flesh of quadrupeds; and to increase the number and severity of the fasts appointed by the Church. To have for clothing only a tunic, with a cowl for the choir, and a scupulary for work: this was nothing else than the hooded frock of the plow. min and shepherds, borrowed from that of the slaves of pagan times, such as Columella has described. To sleep in one general dormitory; to sleep but little, and always in their clothes and shoes; and finally, to keep an almost continual silence during the whole day. Such were the minute and salutary regulations wbich authorized Benedict to declare that the life of a mouk ouglit to be a perpetual Lent.
. And there were other rules still better adapted to root out from the hearts of the Religious even the last allurements of pride, voluptuousness, and avarice. They could not receive either letter or present, even from their nearest relatives, without the permission of the abbot. In accepting the rule, they pledged themselves beforehand to bear patiently public and humiliating pen. ances for the smallest faults, and even corporeal punishment, in case of murmuring or repetition of the offense, and this while still subjekt to temporary excommunication and final exclusion. But mercy appeared by the side of severity: the excluded brother who desired to return, promising amendment, was to be received anew, and three times in succession, before he was banished forever from the community.
However, in going back to the austerity of the ancient Fathers of the desert Bened.ct does not hesitate to say, in the preamble of his rule, as has been seen, that he believed he had ordained nothing too hard or too difficult to be followed; and he ends by declaring that it was only a little beginning, a modest introduction to Christian perfection.
Such are the most remarkable features of this famous code, which has ruled so many souls for so many ages, and which although it has lost almost all its subjects, remains, notwithstanding, one of the most imposing monuments of Christian genius. Compared to the previous Oriental rules, its bears that seal of Roman wisdom, and that adaptation to Western customs, which has made it, according to the idea of Gregory the Great, a masterpiece of clearness and discretion, in which judges who are above all suspicion have not hesitated to recognize a character of good sense and gentleness, humanity and moderation, superior to every thing that could be found up to that time in either Roman or Barbarian laws, or in the babits of civil society.
When we reflect that all the other monastic systems, not only of the past, but even of the present day, are but modifications of this same rule, and that it emanated from the brain, and is the embodiment of the genius of the solitary hermit of Monte Cassino, we are lost in astonishinent at the magnitude of the results which have sprung from so simple an origin. That St. Benedict had any presentiment of the future glory of his order, there is no sign in his rule or his life. He was a great and good man, and he produced that comprehensive rule simply for the guidance of his own immediate followers, without a thought beyond. But it was blessed, and grew, and prospered, mightily in the world. Ile has been called the Moses of a favored people; and the comparison is not inapt, for he led his order on up to the very borders of the promised country, and after his death, which, like that of Moses, took place within sight of their goal, they fought their way through the hostile wilds of barbarism, until those men who had conquered the ancient civilizations of Europe lay at their feet, bound in the fetters of spiritual subjection to the cross of Christ. The wild races of Scandinavia came pouring down upon Southern Europe in one vast march of extermination, slaying and destroying as they advanced, sending before them the terror of that doom which might be seen in the desolation which lay behind them; but they fell, vanquished by the power of the army of God, who sallied forth in turn to reconquer the world, and fighting not with the weapons of fire and sword, but, like Christian soldiers, girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness, they subdued these wild races, who had crushed the conquerors of the earth, and rested not until they had stormed the stronghold, and planted the cross triumphantly upon the citadel of an ancient paganism. Tiine rolled on, and the gloom of a long age of darkness fell upon a world whose glory lay buried under Roman ruins. Science had gone, literature had vanished, art had flown, and men groped abont in vain in that dense darkness for one ray of hope to cheer them in their sorrow. The castle of the powerful baron rose gloomily above them, and with spacious moat, dense walls, and battlemevted towers, frowned ominously upon the world which lay abject at its feet. In slavery men were born, and in slavery they lived. They pandered to the licentiousness and violence of him who held their lives in his hands, and fed them only to fight and fall at his bidding. But far away from the castle there arose another building, massive, solid, and strong, not frowning with baitlemented towers, nor isolated by broad moats; but with open gates, and a hearty welcome to all