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Benedictine Monasticism: The Abbot PDF Print E-mail

In the monastery authority lies with the Abbot, who represents Christ. This means three things.

  • The Abbot must govern with the utmost care.
  • The Abbot is responsible for souls.
  • The monks are to obey the Abbot.

The Abbot or "father" shepherds the monks along the path of Divine life. He is to ensure that they keep the Rule, and grow in holiness and virtue. He does this by word and example. Being a man of prayer, he is to feed his sheep with knowledge and the wisdom of God. Being faithful to monastic discipline, he is to show his sheep a good example. If a monk strays, the Abbot is to correct him in an appropriate manner. Depending upon the temperament of the brother and the severity of the fault, the abbot must strike a balance between firmness and compassion, justice and mercy. Above all, though, love and kindness for the brother must prevail.

Holding such authority, the Abbot is responsible for souls. He must be ever mindful that he will have to answer to God for how well or how poorly he has executed his office. If he does poorly, he will be culpable for not only his own faults but also those of his charges. The Abbot must be ever dependent upon the grace of God to execute his grave responsibility.

Finally, the monks are to obey the Abbot in all humility and truth. God expresses His will for the monk through his Abbot. To obey the Abbot is to obey Christ Himself. Regardless of the command, if it is legitimate, the obedience is to be whole-hearted.