1 Brothers sent on a journey will ask the abbot and community to pray for them. 2 All absent brothers should always be remembered at the closing prayer of the Work of God. 3 When they come back from a journey, they should, on the very day of their return, lie face down on the floor of the oratory at the conclusion of each of the customary hours of the Work of God. 4 They ask the prayers of all for their faults, in ease they may have been caught off guard on the way by seeing some evil thing or hearing some idle talk. 5 No one should presume to relate to anyone else what he saw or heard outside the monastery, because that causes the greatest harm. 6 If anyone does so presume, he shall be subjected to the punishment of the rule. 7 So too shall anyone who presumes to leave the enclosure of the monastery, or go anywhere, or do anything at all, however small, without the abbot’s order.
Commentary by Philip Lawrence, OSB, Abbot of Christ in the Desert
Many people think of monks as only in their monasteries. Always throughout history monks have also gone out of the monastery for various reasons. There are several important points to be noted about such journeys.
First, no monk should ever leave the cloister without proper permissions. To leave the cloister is seen as something that is really done only from a necessity. The monk should be happy to remain in the cloister because it is there that the monk can concentrate on seeking God.
Secondly, when a monk is outside of the cloister, there are many temptations and possibilities by which the monk can be lead astray. A monk can begin to live a truly “un-monastic” life outside and not even be very aware of it. The awareness comes when the monk has to return to the cloister and no longer finds his interest in the cloister and in seeking God within the cloister.
Thirdly, Saint Benedict does not want the monks talking about what has happened to them outside of the monastery. In our own time and in the practice of this house, a monk usually gives an official report to the community about what has happened outside. There is a different sense of what should be done after going outside of the cloister in the present age.
Fourthly, the monk who is outside needs special prayers because he no longer has the help and the strength of the community in the same way. This is really important. And when the monk returns, he must ask prayers for his purification.
So if we look at the spirituality of this Chapter, we see clearly that the monk should be developing his spirituality and personality within the monastic cloister. This is the normal way of living for the monk. If for any necessity, the monk has to go out of the monastery, then he must be stronger and must have the help of the love and prayers of his brothers in the community.