St Benedict's genius was to take the very best of the ancient monastic tradition and draw up a short Rule offering practical and spiritual guidance for monks. Pope St Gregory the Great tells us that this Rule was known for its "discretion". Indeed what shines through is Benedict's real understanding of human beings, and what he offers is much wisdom and gentle encouragement to those seeking God in the monastic way of life.

Benedict began his own search for God by running away from human company and living as a hermit, but he soon came to see the value of community life. He came to realise that we come to God with and through other people: community is important. We need the encouragement and support of others. We need the guidance and experience of others to help us in our own search of God.


The monastic community is the place where we learn the practical business of loving. St Benedict describes it as a "School of the Lord's Service." We learn to serve Christ especially in those most in need: the old, the sick, the guests and pilgrims that come to the monastery.

Benedict set before his community a vision inspired by love: "This zeal, therefore monks must practise with fervent love: They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other, supporting with the greatest patience one another's weaknesses of body or behaviour, and earnestly competing in obedience to one another. Not one is to pursue what he judges better for himself, but instead what he judges better for someone else. To their fellow monks they must show the pure love of brothers; to God loving fear; to their abbot, unfeigned and humble love. Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life" (Ch 72)