Chapter 70: The Presumption of Striking Another Monk at Will

1 In the monastery every occasion for presumption is to be avoided, 2 and so we decree that no one has the authority to excommunicate or strike any of his brothers unless he has been given this power by the abbot. 3 Those who sin should be reprimanded in the presence of all, that the rest may fear (1 Tim 5:20). 4 Boys up to the age of fifteen should, however, be carefully controlled and supervised by everyone, 5 provided that this too is done with moderation and common sense. 6 If a brother, without the abbot’s command, assumes any power over those older or, even in regard to boys, flares up and treats them unreasonably, he is to be subjected to the discipline of the rule. 7 After all, it is written: Never do to another what you do not want done to yourself (Tob 4:16).

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

This is a Chapter that can bring smiles to our faces today. We cannot imagine such a society where the abbot might allow one brother to hit another! Nor can we imagine the abbot hitting one of the brothers. So we can see the immense change in culture from the time of Saint Benedict to our own.

On the other hand, we can also recognize that sometimes brothers do cut other brothers out of their lives, thereby effectively excommunicating them. Saint Benedict does not allow this unless the abbot has given permission. Again, it is difficult to imagine an abbot giving permission to one brother to excommunicate another in this way. This is not quite as unimaginable as the previous situation.

What is important in the community is that each brother know how to relate to each other brother. We have to be careful never to allow a brother to become completely detached from the other brothers. Each of us has an obligation to look out for the good of each other brother. This does not come naturally to us. Most of us find that we like some brothers and like others less–or even dislike this or that brother.

Saint Benedict invites us to live by our faith and accept each brother as he is, with all of his defects and virtues, with his likeableness or un-likeableness. We must learn to follow the Gospel and love each brother as our self. May the Lord give us strength, courage and wisdom.