Chapter 60: The Admission of Priests to the Monastery

1 If any ordained priest asks to be received into the monastery, do not agree too quickly. 2 However, if he is fully persistent in his request, he must recognize that he will have to observe the full discipline of the rule 3 without any mitigation, knowing that it is written: Friend, what have you come for 4 He should, however, be allowed to stand next to the abbot, to give blessings and to celebrate Mass, provided that the abbot bids him. 5 Otherwise, he must recognize that he is subject to the discipline of the rule, and not make any exceptions for himself, but rather give everyone an example of humility. 6 Whenever there is question of an appointment or of any other business in the monastery, 7 he takes the place that corresponds to the date of his entry into the community, and not that granted him out of respect for his priesthood. 8 Any clerics who similarly wish to join the community should be ranked somewhere in the middle, 9 but only if they, too, promise to keep the rule and observe stability. (Matt 26:50)?

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

Now we come to one of the sensitive topics of the Rule of Benedict: Should those who are already priests be admitted to the monastery? The general answer, even in our own time, is that quite often it does not work out. On the other hand, Saint Benedict is willing to give it a try. He doesn’t want the abbot to do it very easily or very quickly.

The real challenge for one who is already a priest is that the identity of the monk is in being a monk, not in being a priest. That does not rule out that a monk can be a priest, but his primary identity remains as a monk. Priests in parishes can be treated almost like gods! Parish priests can be so valued by their parishioners that the parishioners spoil them. In the monastery, the priest-monk is just another monk and is no one special.

Saint Benedict is absolutely clear: if it is a matter that relates to the sacraments, the abbot MAY allow him to preside at various things. But even here, the priest-monk does not have the rights that one associates with the priesthood outside of a monastery. Instead, the priest should be allowed to do these things, but only if the abbot asks him.

The priest should expect no mitigation of the monastic life for him. Instead the priest should give an even stronger example to the other monks of what it means to be a monk: more obedient, more humble, asking for less: always completely a monk!

Saint Benedict is really tough in this regard but it is a wisdom that comes from experience. The monastery is a place for true monks! May all of us be true monks!