Chapter 62: The Priests of the Monastery

1 Any abbot who asks to have priest or deacon ordained should choose from his monks one worthy to exercise the priesthood. 2 The monk so ordained must be on guard against conceit or pride, 3 must not presume to do anything except what the abbot commands him, and must recognize that now he will have to subject himself all the more to the discipline of the rule. 4 Just because he is a priest, he may not therefore forget the obedience and discipline of the rule, but must make more and more progress toward God. 5 He will always take the place that corresponds to the date of his entry into the monastery, 6 except in his duties at the altar, or unless the whole community chooses and the abbot wishes to give him a higher place for the goodness of his life. 7 Yet, he must know how to keep the rule established for deans and priors; 8 should he presume to act otherwise, he must be regarded as a rebel, not as a priest. 9 If after many warnings he does not improve, let the bishop too be brought in as a witness. 10 Should he not amend even then, and his faults become notorious, he is to be dismissed from the monastery, 11but only if he is so arrogant that he will not submit or obey the rule.

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

Now we turn out attention to the priests of the monastery. There is always some controversy among scholars of the Rule about whether Saint Benedict had daily Mass in the monastery. Many support the idea that he did not have daily Mass. But we simply do not know for sure. On the other hand, we do know for sure that he makes provisions both for ordaining priests and also for receiving diocesan priests into the community.

It is also clear that Saint Benedict is quite aware that priests can use their ordination as a way of trying to live a special kind of monastic life which is different from the non-priest monks of the community. So Saint Benedict makes clear here that any priest in the community is not only subject to the Holy Rule, but in some sense, even more subject to it than the non-priest monk. The priest takes his seniority just like any other monk unless he is officiating at the altar.

There is reference here to the rule established for priors and deans. That Rule is very simply: Only do what the abbot asks you to do! Nothing more and nothing less!

If for any reason a priest begins to create problems in the community, he must be dealt with and warned and even have the bishop involved. This is very strong medicine indeed. But the monk who is a priest must never think that he can do just what he wants because he is a priest or that he can make his own decisions because he is a priest, etc.

Let us pray for holy priests in our communities and ask that they may truly inspire us to holiness as monks.