Benedict’s abbot as guide

Benedict’s abbot is a discerning man. Different means are to be employed with the undisciplined and the disciplined.  The undisciplined monks are to be reprimanded and taught by example, less by words. The disciplined, receptive to words, are to be entreated gently ‘to do better.’

Benedict’s abbot is self-integrated. His words converge with his deeds, his speech silent and limited, his examples embodying this way of life.

Benedict’s abbot is attuned to equality. Though he employs different means according to circumstance, case, and person, he treats each man with ‘equal love.’

An abbot must not favor any individual in the monastery. No one is to be loved more than another, unless he finds him better in good deeds or obedience. A free man is not to be preferred to one entering monastic life from servitude unless there is another good reason for it.

Equal love does not mean the same treatment. On the contrary, each man is to be taught in keeping with the particular set of virtues and vices he exhibits, so that each will require something different from him. The abbot, a moral particularist, reasons case by case, day by day.

Benedict’s abbot is continually humbled by the presence of what is higher. Each day and on the final day he must ‘render an account’ to God. He will be answerable for the life of each monk, including his own; for the robustness of his monastery; and for the abundance of his flock.