How does one begin a Benedictine lifestyle?


The Benedictine spirituality is summed up as work and prayer.

I have a copy of the rule in a collection of early monastic writings.

So my question is how do you the rule?

Do you as much as you can in each sitting or a chapter or rule a day?

Would love to know?


Contact a Benedictine Monastery or Seminary. You will receive excellent advice there.


Do you mean how do you read the Rule? There’s no rules about reading it. Do it in one sitting if you like, or break it up over a period of days.

The Rule was written for monastic communities. It has regulations about what is expected of the abbot and other members of the community, their general prayer schedule, etc. It is not practical for a layperson to follow, and even modern Benedictine monastic communities do not follow it to the letter, but they do read it and regard it in high esteem.

If you are interested in Benedictine spirituality a layperson can follow, there is the practice of lectio divina, which is a way of reading Scripture by placing yourself in the presence of God and listening to His Word. Here is an explanation of what it is and how to practice it:


The essence of Benedictine spirituality is balance. In the rule, there is instruction toward setting aside specific time for prayer, work, spiritual reading, meditation and fellowship with others. I would first suggest setting up time for morning prayer and evening prayer. Next, depending on your state in life, when heading to work or beginning a task, ask God to guide you and bring to fulfillment all that you begin this day. Remember to make time for meditation and recreation, many folks begin the contemplative life with much zeal but are often straying because it is unbalanced. The focus of or lives is that in all thing God may be glorified. Charity is also a huge deal. Try to grow in love toward those you may find it difficult to be around. Be charitable and gracious with your time and attention toward others. As for the reading of the Rule, take a chapter at a time and meditate on that throughout the day. Also make time to read the Bible as often as you can. This schedule will depend on your state in life, remember: balance. I pray this helps.
Pax Christi!


@OraLabora always has good advice on the Benedictine life.


@Obl_OSB has given a wonderful answer. Live the Rule as well as you can and strive for that balance in life.

There is actually a schedule for reading the Rule and if you follow it, you will read it through several times a year. The advantage to that is that it becomes a part of you and part of your way of life. Googel Br. Jerome Leo at St. Mary’s Monastery. He sends out the daily excerpt from the Rule along with a commentary on it.

Prayer is a major part of the Benedictine life. Starting to pray the Liturgy of the Hours if you don’t already do so will help you establish a prayerful rhythm to your life.


In the monastery (Abbey of St Walburga in Colorado) we used to say “everything in moderation, including moderation.” :smile:

@governator Read one chapter, or even a part of chapter a day. Reflect throughout the day on how what you’ve read applies to your state in life as a husband and a dad, and in your work.

Hospitality to guests is a really big deal in the Benedictine lifestyle. As a single mom, I cannot be opening my home to strangers. But I can apply this aspect of Benedictine spirituality in my classroom, in the choir loft at church, and in my attitude towards strangers in the store or the gym.

Anyway, God bless your efforts, Gov!


@gertabelle I totally agree about hospitality. I often consider the person who stops by my office, calls, or emails me and how I respond. Am I short with them, making it clear that they are interrupting my schedule, or do I honestly treat them like Christ doing the same thing.


I think you should look for a good spiritual director. The Benedictine rule is so flexible that it is used in contemplative communities such as the Camaldolese and the Trappists and it is also used in much more active communities.


You have to get yourself into a good ‘Habit’ first…


I feel a bit like the seer that Saul consulted in yesterday’s Vigil reading :-/

Here goes. There is a pattern for reading the Rule; visit which has the chapters arranged by daily reading. The monastic practice, and what I do as oblate as well, is to read through the entire Rule three times per year, I read a copy of the Rule with commentary, an excellent dog-eared book I have, by a Trappist abbot, Alas it is in French only. In monasteries, usually the abbot or prior will comment on each chapter read “in chapter”, the meeting (often daily, though not always these days) of the entire community that gets its name because the Rule is read at those meetings, which also discuss other house matters.

To become oblate, I underwent a 1-year formation program under the oblate director, where I studied the Rule and was given a series of exercises to complete each month.

Studying the Rule is a life-long project. The most important advice I can give is that we as oblates, and in fact even as monks in today’s world, are meant to be inspired by the Rule; we are by no means meant to live by the letter of the Rule. Remember the Rule was written for a particular place and time (6th Century Italy), so even the notion of “winter” and “summer” are different than in nordic nations (this comes up in the Rule when discussing how to organize the Office of Vigils for shorter summer nights). Moreover the schedule in the Rule was organized for natural time (i.e. position of the sun) rather than fixed time (the clock had not been invented yet).

As you read a chapter each day and reflect on it, it starts to impregnate your life. It takes time. Others have given excellent answers on the importance of balance.

Daily prayer is an essential component of being guided and inspired by the Rule. For me it is the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours); being retired I can do all of it on most days, but for others maybe the two main hours is the best they can offer and that’s OK.

As others have said too, radical hospitality is an essential part of any Benedictine lifestyle, and they have correctly pointed out that this applies not only to people who come to visit your home but to everyone you encounter every day. And it is not as easy as it seems as you will encounter daily people who will test your patience…

Lastly, as a husband do not fall into the trap of thinking the chapters on the Abbot necessarily apply directly to you, or your abbess might have something to say! (ask me how I know… :open_mouth: ). But you can be inspired by those chapters when it comes to dealing with and disciplining your children, remembering to keep in mind that hitting children in this age is never a good idea, it was different 1500 years ago. Use whatever counts as “severe” discipline these days for intractable situations, without resorting to violence.

Considerable discernment is required to use the Rule in modern lay society. I fear that for some CAF readers prone to scrupulosity and those who are the “letter of the law” types, the Rule might not be for them,


I have a small book - with the basics.
Really nothing new - from the teaching of our Jesus.

Rule 5 : 1
The basic road to progress - for the humble person -
is through - prompt obedience.

Prol 22
If we wish to dwell - in the tent of His kingdom -
we shall NOT arrive - unless we run there - by good deeds.


I would add that becoming an oblate also helps. Your spirituality will then be directed and supported with the help of the oblate director, the monastic community, and your brethren in the oblate community. Otherwise you are starting out as a hermit without direction, whereas in the Rule and monastic life, going it alone is the preserve of the experienced spiritual warriors.

My ability to pray Vigils at 5:30 every morning for instance, has been greatly inspired by monks who show up at 5 am every day, even some of the frail and elderly. Every time I do a retreat and attend Vigils with them, they are always there.


Very true, but there is a Benedictine way of doing it just as there’s is a Franciscan way, etc.


5:00 am? Slackers. :yum:

Our morning bell rang at 4:00 am (rung by the poor nun who had duty that week and had to rise at 3:45 am). And Matins began at 4:30 am.

Of course, there are still some communities that rise at midnight, pray Vigils, and then go back to sleep until it’s time to wake for Lauds. Now THAT is some serious commitment to prayer!

I’ve heard that @Governator has been known to pray on his overnight shift, so he’s already way ahead of most of us. :smiley:



The nuns near Montreal, of the same congregation (Solesmes) that the abbey I’m associated with belongs to, do Vigils in the evening, about 10 min. after Compline I am told by the chaplain (who is a monk of our abbey and a good friend).

I’ve tried doing like the nuns in order to “sleep in” until Lauds in the morning (which I pray at 6 am in summer, 7:30 the rest of the year), but I found that tougher than getting up at 5:15 like I normally do. At least at 5:15 I’ve had about 7 hours sleep (the norm for me), but at 8 pm when I pray Compline, I’m usually half-comatose already and even making it to Compline is tough many days! It wouldn’t be too bad if I used the Office of Readings in the LOTH, but nooo, I just “have” to do the same monastic Office as at the abbey…


How we suffer for our faith! :joy:

During the school year, the stress will sometimes cause me sleepless nights. Being wide awake in the middle of the night is a good time to pray the Office of Readings.


I have begun as an Oblate novice. The Benedictine lifestyle is not that hard. I strive for a balanced life of work, prayer and spiritual reading. I read parts of the Rule every day and not in a particular order.


Don’t forget exercise, rest, diet and recreation. All are vitally important!


You might enjoy this half hour video on Oblation as a vocation. Father Meinrad is the Oblate Director at St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana.

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