Chapter 26: Unauthorized Association with the Excommunicated

1 If a brother, acting without an order from the abbot, presumes to associate in any way with an excommunicated brother, to converse with him or to send him a message, 2 he should receive a like punishment of excommunication.

Commentary by Philip Lawrence, OSB, Abbot of Christ in the Desert

This is a very short but fairly sharp Chapter of the Rule of Benedict. It serves to reinforce the authority of the abbot and to avoid confusion of authority within the community.

How easy it is for a monk to say: that brother really doesn’t deserve the rough time that that Abbot (or the Prior or the Subprior or the Novice Master…) is giving him, so I will tell him that and bring him some comfort! Saint Benedict is so totally against that way of doing things. Any brother who tries to do that should also be excommunicated!

There are other actions that can fall under this chapter as well. What about the brother who continually breaks the night silence and causes others to do so? What about the brother who continually wastes time during work period and causes others to do so? What about the brother who always give bad example by coming late to choir and encourages others to do so by his example? These are the same kinds of actions as the one described here, except that the brother is not already under excommunication.

One of the great challenges in any monastery is to live a strong monastic life no matter how anyone else may be living it. We want the good example and the encouragement of the brothers, but we ourselves have to give good example and encouragement to live a good monastic life.

May God help us so that we are not the cause of our brother failing to live a good monastic life!