64. The Appointment of the Abbot

At the appointment of an abbot, always observe this principle: The person made abbot should be either the one elected according to the fear of God by the whole community with one heart, or elected by some part of the community with sounder judgment, however small. Now the one appointed should be chosen for the merit of his life and for his teaching and wisdom, even though he may be last in the seniority of the community.

If, God forbid, the whole community should conspire together and elect a person agreeing to their evil ways, and if these evil ways should somehow come to the attention of the bishop to whose diocese the place belongs or to the abbots or Christians in the neighborhood, let them take measures to prevent the plans of these wicked men from prevailing, and appoint a worthy steward over the house of God. Let them know that they will receive a good reward if they do this with integrity and with godly zeal; on the other hand, they will sin if they do not deal with this.

Once appointed, let the abbot always bear in mind what kind of burden he has accepted, and to whom he will have to “render an account of his stewardship” (Luke 16:2); and he should know that it is more important for him to be for others than to be over them.

He must, therefore, be learned in the Divine Law so that he knows how to “bring forth things new and old” (Matt 13:52). He is to be chaste, temperate, and merciful, 10 and he should always “exalt mercy over judgment” (Jas 2:13) so that he himself may find mercy.

11 Let him hate their evil ways and love the brothers. 12 Now, when making a correction, let him act prudently and not go to excess, lest in his excessive desire to scrape off the rust he breaks the pot. 13 Let him always keep his own fragility before his eyes, and let him remember that “the bruised reed must not be broken” (Isa 42:3). 14 By this, we are not saying that he should permit evil ways to grow up, but he should cut them off with prudence and love as he sees best for each person, just as we have already said.

15 Also, let him strive to be loved rather than feared.

16 He must not be stormy or anxious, not extreme, or headstrong, not jealous or ever suspicious; otherwise he will never have rest. 17 In his commands, whether they concern God or the world, he should have foresight and consideration, and he should be discerning and moderate in the work he assigns, 18 bearing in mind the discretion of Holy Jacob when he said:

If I drive my flocks too hard, they will all die in one day. (Gen 33:13)

19 Therefore, drawing on this and other witnesses to discretion, the mother of the virtues, let him so temper all things that both the strong have something to desire and the weak need not run away.

20 And above all, let him keep this present Rule in all things, 21 so that when he has served well, he may hear from the Lord what the good servant heard who gave his fellow servants their bread at the proper time. 22 As he said:

Amen, I say to you, he will set him over all his goods. (Matt 24:47)



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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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