1. The Kinds of Monks

It is clear that there are four kinds of monks.

2 The first are the cenobites, that is, those who live in a monastery serving under a rule and an abbot.

3 The second kind are the anchorites, that is, the hermits. These monks are not in the first fervor of conversatio but have been tested at length in the monastery. Supported and taught by many, they have long since learned to fight against the devil. 5 Well-trained, they go forth from the battle ranks of their brothers to the single-handed combat of the desert. Fearless, even without the mutual support of another, they with the help of God have within themselves the strength to fight bare-handed against the evil ways of flesh and thoughts.

6 The third is truly a most detestable kind of monk, the Sarabaïtes. Unlike gold tried in a furnace, they have been tried by no rule and have had no experience to teach them; rather, they are by nature soft as lead. 7 By their works, they keep faith with the world, and by their tonsure, they are known to lie to God. In twos or threes, or even alone without a shepherd, they shut themselves up in their own sheepfolds, not in the Lord’s. For their law, they take what their desires want. Whatever they think and choose, they call holy, and whatever they do not want, they consider unlawful.

10 The fourth kind of monks, called gyrovagues, spend their whole life staying three or four days as a guest in one monastery and then in another throughout the various provinces. 11 Always roaming about with no fixed abode and serving their own passions and gluttonous impulses, they are worse in every way than the Sarabaïtes.

12 It is better to keep silent about all of these monks and their most wretched conversatio. 13 Setting these people aside, let us proceed, with the Lord’s help, to set up a structure for the strongest kind, the cenobites.


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The Rule of Benedict by Saint Meinrad Archabbey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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