Lent in the Rule of Benedict
As Benedictine sisters, we follow the Rule of St. Benedict, which provides the foundation for our living monastic life. In his Rule, St. Benedict devoted an entire chapter describing how we should live Lent in the monastery.
RB Chapter 49: The Observance of Lent
The life of a monastic ought to be a continuous Lent. Since few, however, have the strength for this, we urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and to wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times. This we can do in a fitting manner by refusing to indulge evil habits and by devoting ourselves to prayer with tears, to reading, to compunction of heart and self-denial. During these days, therefore, we will add to the usual measure of our service something by way of private prayer and abstinence from food or drink, so that each of us will have something above the assigned measure to offer God of our own will with the joy of the Holy Spirit (1 Thes 1:6). In other words, let each one deny herself/himself some food, drink, sleep, needless talking an idle jesting, and look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing.
Everyone should, however, make known to the prioress/abbot what s/he intends to do, since it ought to be done with her/his prayer and approval. Whatever is undertaken without the permission of the prioress/abbot will be reckoned as presumption and vainglory, not deserving a reward. Therefore, everything must be done with her/his approval.
In addition, Chapter 48: The Daily Manual Labor, St. Benedict prescribes specified times for manual labor and for prayerful reading throughout each day. He increases the amount of prayerful reading throughout the season of Lent. In RB Chapter 48: 14-16 Benedict states:
RB Chapter 48:14-16
During the days of Lent, they should be free in the morning to read until the third hour, after which they will work at their assigned tasks until the end of the tenth hour. During this time of Lent each one is to receive a book from the library, and is to read the whole of it straight through. These books are to be distributed at the beginning of Lent.
We use these teachings from St. Benedict’s Rule to guide our discernment of our individual Bona Opera (Lenten practices) and Lent book.
Translation: A Reader’s Version of the Rule of Saint in Inclusive Language, edited and adapted by: Sr. Marilyn Schauble, O.S.B. and Sr. Barbara Wojciak, O.S.B. Erie, PA: Mount Saint Benedict Monastery, 1981.