Chapter 52: The Oratory of the Monastery

1 The oratory ought to be what it is called, and nothing else is to be done or stored there. 2 After the Work of God, all should leave in complete silence and with reverence for God, 3 so that a brother who may wish to pray alone will not be disturbed by the insensitivity of another. 4 Moreover, if at other times someone chooses to pray privately, he may simply go in and pray, not in a loud voice, but with tears and heartfelt devotion. 5 Accordingly, anyone who does not pray in this manner is not to remain in the oratory after the Work of God, as we have said; then he will not interfere with anyone else.

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

We have this truly wonderful Chapter on the Oratory of the monastery. Saint Benedict is very clear that his monks are not going to be like some of the desert monks, who used to work while they prayed. There is to be nothing else done in the Church other than prayer and nothing stored there.

We hear right away that the Church must be a place of silence. Many Churches have lost this sense of silence in our own time. Always we need to work to keep the Church silent and still so that anyone who comes in at anytime can pray in silence. We need to keep working on developing this atmosphere of silence and reverence for God throughout all of the monastery buildings, but especially in the Church of the monastery.

We also hear that brothers can go into the Church and pray with tears and heartfelt devotion–but not with a loud voice. Most monks today don’t have this gift of tears, unless they belong to the Charismatic Movement. On the other hand, all of us can strive to pray with our whole being, which means also with our emotions and feelings.

Someone who needs to pray in a loud voice must find another place to pray. Someone who needs to express his feelings so much that he disturbs others should find another place to pray.

Again, this common rule for the Church really is the common rule for all the public places of the monastery unless there is some special reason for speaking or making loud noise.

So we hear Saint Benedict invite to pray in silence as we live in silence. May we all be given this gift!