Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER II: WHAT KIND OF MAN AN ABBOT OUGHT TO BE - The Rule of St. Benedict
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CHAPTER II: WHAT KIND OF MAN AN ABBOT OUGHT TO BE - Saint Benedict, The Rule of St. Benedict 
The Rule of St. Benedict, translated into English. A Pax Book, preface by W.K. Lowther Clarke (London: S.P.C.K., 1931).
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WHAT KIND OF MAN AN ABBOT OUGHT TO BE
An abbot who is worthy to preside over a monastery ought always to remember what he is called and to justify his title by his deeds. For he is deemed in the monastery the representative of Christ, since it is by His title he is addressed, for the Apostle says: “Ye have received the Spirit of adoption of sons in which it is we cry out Abba, Father.” And so an abbot ought not to teach, establish, or order anything contrary to the spirit of the Lord’s revealed will, but let his commandments and teaching, as being the leaven of divine justice, sprinkle the minds of the disciples.
Let the abbot be always careful of his own teaching and of the obedience of his disciples, of both which matters examination will be made at the dreadful judgment of God; and let the abbot know that to the fault of the shepherd is accounted whatever the father of the family shall have found amiss in the sheep. Only so shall he be free of blame in proportion as the perfect diligence of a shepherd has been applied to the restless and disobedient flock and every careful attention has been manifested towards whatever was corrupt about them; and their shepherd, absolved at the judgment of the Lord, may with the prophet say to the Lord: “Thy justice have I not hidden away in my heart: Thy truth and Thy salvation I have told forth: but they have been despisers and spurned me.” And then at length let the punishment of the sheep who were disobedient in spite of his care be death itself prevailing over them.
Therefore when anyone receives the title of abbot he ought to preside over his disciples with twofold manner of teaching: that is, to show forth all that is good and holy by deeds even more than by words, so as by his words to set the commandment of the Lord before the more intelligent disciples: but to those hard of heart and to those of less capacity to show forth the divine precept by his deeds. And all things that he has taught the disciples are contrary to the divine precepts, let his own deeds indicate are things not to be done; lest preaching to others himself be found reprobate; and lest at any time God say to him in his sin: “Wherefore dost thou discourse of My justice and take My covenant upon thy lips, even thou who hatest discipline and hast cast My words behind thee?” And: “Thou who hast been in the habit of seeing a mote in thy brother’s eye, why hast thou not seen the beam in thine own?”
Let him show no favouritism in the monastery. Let not one be loved more than another, unless it be one whom he has found to excel in good deeds and obedience. Let not one of gentle birth be placed higher than one who was recently a serf, unless there be some other and reasonable cause. Let it be so however if it shall have seemed good to the abbot on just grounds; and so let him do concerning the place of anyone whomsoever: but otherwise let them keep their own places: for whether bondmen or freemen we are all one in Christ and under the one Lord bear equal rank of subjection, for there is no acceptation of persons with God. In His sight we are differentiated one from the other in respect to this only, namely, if we be found humble and to excel others in good deeds. Therefore let him have an equal love towards all; let one and the same discipline be meted out to all according to their merits.
For in his teaching the abbot ought always to keep to that apostolic formula in which it is said: “Convince, entreat, rebuke”: that is to say, mingling according to circumstances gentleness with severity, let him show the sternness of a master, the affection of a father: that is to say, he ought to convince the undisciplined and restless almost harshly: but to entreat the obedient, the meek and the patient, that they progress still better. But the negligent and the haughty we admonish him to rebuke and correct. And let him not close his eyes to the sins of those who do amiss, but almost as soon as they begin to appear let him cut them off at the roots and master them, mindful of the judgment against Eli the priest in Silo. The more dignified and the intellectually minded let him correct by word at their first and second admonition; but the froward, the hard, the proud and the disobedient, let him coerce at the very first offence by the stripes of corporal punishment, knowing it is written: “A fool is not corrected by words”; and again: “Strike thy son with the rod and thou wilt free his soul from death.”
The abbot ought always to remember what he is, to remember what he is styled and to know that to whom more is committed from him is more required; and let him know how difficult and arduous a matter he has undertaken, namely, to govern souls and to adapt himself to many dispositions. One with gentleness, another with rebukes, another with persuasion, so let him, according to the character and intelligence of each, mould and adapt himself, that not only may no injury accrue to the flock entrusted to him, but that he may actually have occasion to rejoice in the increase of his flock’s welfare.
Above all, let him not be too solicitous about things transitory, things earthly, things perishable, closing his eyes to, or too little weighing the salvation of, the souls committed to his care; but let him always have in mind that because he has undertaken to govern souls, he must one day render an account of them.
And that he may not complain of having too little worldly substance, as may hap, let him remember the Scripture: “First seek the kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” And again: “Nothing is wanting to them that fear Him.” And let him know that he who has undertaken the government of souls must prepare himself for rendering an account. And however great the number of brethren he knows he has under his care, let him recognize for certain that he will have to account to the Lord for all their souls in the day of judgment and without doubt for his own soul in addition. And so, always duly fearful of the Chief Pastor’s future examination into the state of the sheep entrusted to him, while careful on others’ account he becomes solicitous on his own; and while by his admonitions he affords correction to others, he is also himself freed from his faults.