Chapter 45: Mistakes in the Oratory

1 Should anyone make a mistake in a psalm, responsory, refrain or reading, he must make satisfaction there before all. If he does not use this occasion to humble himself, he will be subjected to more severe punishment 2 for failing to correct by humility the wrong committed through negligence. 3 Children, however, are to be whipped for such a fault.

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

Now we come to a type of fault that Saint Benedict has not spoken about before. We have this very short Chapter on the mistakes that we make in Church. It is very straightforward, as we are accustomed to find in the Rule of Saint Benedict.

If you make a mistake in a psalm, a Responsory, a refrain or in the reading, then satisfaction must be made immediately.

In our community, we generally just strike the breast when we make such a mistake. But many brothers seem not to do anything. The Rule is clear: satisfaction must be made for making such mistakes. Saint Benedict then authorizes the superior to give a really tough sanction if a brother makes a simple fault but does not acknowledge it.

Always it is easier for the superior simply to ignore what the brothers are doing. In this way, the superior can maintain his peace and tranquility! But the Rule is just the opposite: the superior must remain aware and yet not lose his or her composure. This is not easy to do, especially if the matter seems more of less important or touching on the life of the person involved or on the lives of others.

We can all learn that it is valuable to acknowledge our faults and failures as soon as we know them. We know that all of us have different habits of living. Let us work together to be honest in our monastic life and honest in our relationships with one another.