1 Brothers who work so far away that they cannot return to the oratory at the proper time– 2 and the abbot determines that is the case — 3 are to perform the Work of God where they are, and kneel out of reverence for God. 4 So too, those who have been sent on a journey are not to omit the prescribed hours but to observe them as best they can, not neglecting their measure of service.
Commentary by Philip Lawrence, OSB, Abbot of Christ in the Desert
With this very short Chapter we return again to the importance of praying. Monks may be away from the Church, may not be able to attend the common prayer, may have to stay at work where they are for some reason–but they are asked to pray at the same time as the community, kneeling where they are.
We have here a wonderful sense of belonging to the community. It is not so much that I pray on my own–and thus I pray whenever I want to pray or when I can fit my prayers in. No, I pray with the community even if I don’t have all the words by memory and perhaps can’t even sing! But I kneel where I am and join with the community.
Two things are important here: the monk, whether nearby by unable to come or away on a journey, is expected to pray and, if possible, pray with his community. Today we can understand that if the monk is in the same time zone (not a concern for Saint Benedict), he can pray with his community and not omit the Divine Office. This prayer united the monk both to God and to His community. It means that the monk has in his heart and in his mind his own monastic community.
We also recognize today that when a monk has changed times zones, or several time zones, then probably this is not going to work. But the monk should nevertheless remember his community.
Today, in spite of the encouragement of the Church, many monks simply do not pray when they are away. This practice begins to take away the strength of prayer and the strength of community.
Each of us can remember to take with him a Breviary, even the Roman Breviary, so that when we are away, we can pray the Divine Office. It is important to sanctify the day and to keep our hearts and our minds set on the Lord and doing His will.