1 The reason we have written this rule is that, by observing it in monasteries, we can show that we have some degree of virtue and the beginnings of monastic life. 2 But for anyone hastening on to the perfection of monastic life, there are the teachings of the holy Fathers, the observance of which will lead him to the very heights of perfection. 3 What page, what passage of the inspired books of the Old and New Testaments is not the truest of guides for human life? 4 What book of the holy catholic Fathers does not resoundingly summon us along the true way to reach the Creator? 5 Then, besides the Conferences of the Fathers, their Institutes and their Lives, there is also the rule of our holy father Basil. 6 For observant and obedient monks, all these are nothing less than tools for the cultivation of virtues; 7 but as for us, they make us blush for shame at being so slothful, so unobservant, so negligent. 8 Are you hastening toward your heavenly home? Then with Christ’s help, keep this little rule that we have written for beginners. 9 After that, you can set out for the loftier summits of the teaching and virtues we mentioned above, and under God’s protection you will reach them. Amen.
Commentary by Philip Lawrence, OSB, Abbot of Christ in the Desert
We come to the end of the Rule. If we can live by the Rule, then Saint Benedict thinks that we have at least some degree of virtue and the beginning of a monastic life. He is very much aware that his Rule is just a beginner’s Rule. For most of us, it is enough. For others, there are other teaching and observances which Saint Benedict recommends: the fathers of the Church, the Old and New Testaments, the Conferences, the Institutes and the lives of the fathers and the Rule of Saint Basil.
We might wonder if Saint Benedict is simply in the line of many early monks and making these suggestions out of humility about his own Rule. It could be that he really saw his Rule as a Rule for beginners and even hoped that monks would pursue a stronger form of monasticism.
For our own day, the Rule of Benedict is more than enough. We rarely find monks looking for something stronger. Sure, at times there are those who will want the Trappist form of monastic life or the Camaldolese form or even the Carthusian form. The Trappist and the Camaldolese forms are not that different from our own form of life. The Carthusians, specifically as hermits, are quite different.
The challenge in this last Chapter is clear: live this form first and see if you can do it. If you can, then move on and take a stronger form.
May our Lord help each of us live this “little Rule for beginners” and strengthen us in love and mercy.