Benedict’s rule has endured for many centuries since the first time it was written. It’s simplicity and practicality is amazing. The rule of Benedict is replete with instructions and advice about hospitality. It contains within it, regulations that have stood the test of time. Right from its beginning, the concern is that the rule should help those abiding by it to leave harmoniously and for the greater Glory of God. In the prologue, Benedict writes: “For we must always so serve Him with the good things He has given us, that He will never as an angry Father disinherit His children.” Benedict’s candidly instructs on how to welcome guests, stranger monks and even those who have strayed from the community.
A solemn description is provided in the Rule on how a guest should be welcomed as one would welcome Christ Himself. (Rule of Benedict LIII). In fact, it goes as far as suggesting that for the sake of the guest, a fast can be broken so as to satisfy the needs of the guest. In a gesture of great hospitality, the Abbot and the brothers in the community are required to wash the hands and the feet of the guest. This is a radical example that Jesus left for the disciples and ordered them to do the same for all whom they minister.
The spirit of welcoming guests who are Monks from far distant isles is also encouraged. About this issue, the rule says: “But if he hath not been such as deserveth to be cast forth, he should not only be admitted to join the brotherhood, if he apply, but he should even be urged to remain, that others may be taught by his example, because we serve one Lord and fight under one King everywhere. If the Abbot recognizes him to be such a one he may also place him in a somewhat higher rank.” (LXI) This element of trusting those who come among us and even honoring them for the sake of everyone’s else’s good is fundamental in community life. It can be said that if God were to look at our inadequacies before intervening or accepting us to appear before him, then no one would be worthy of salvation. It is therefore imperative that that we follow in this example of Benedict’s rule and welcome strangers with love.
Another area that the spirit of brotherhood and tolerance is exhibited in Benedicts rule is on welcoming back of a brother monk who for one reason or another chose to leave the monastery. This is very touching given the fact that once in a while, a monk can be tempted either to take time out or to go out into the world and try something else. Under such circumstances, there is a stipulation of what should transpire thereafter:
If a brother, who through his own fault leaveth the monastery or is expelled, desireth to return, let him first promise full amendment of the fault for which he left; and thus let him be received in the last place, that by this means his humility may be tried. If he should leave again, let him be received even a third time, knowing that after this every means of return will be denied him. (XXIX)
As indicated in this chapter, it is a wonderful thing to be given a second chance and even a third one. However, like with anything else in life, limits are important so as to safeguard the good not only of the individual but also to maintain an atmosphere sobriety in a community. Tough love must be practiced as well. At the background of all this hospitable behavior, Benedict’s rule once in a while makes it clear that there should be no entertainment of mediocrity; be it from the guest or from the brother monk. Hence, should there be an overt show of disrespect and belligerent attitude from the guest, the rule does not hesitate that such a one should be requested to take a walk.
In General, Benedict’s rule provides sufficient parameters on how people should treat each other not only within the monastic environment but also in the wider society. That the rule has endured so many centuries of constant flux in behavior and social upheavals is a testimony of its indispensability as a sapiential tool. Consequently, the contemporary society can borrow a leaf from this rule as it tackles insurmountable challenges most of which pertain to moral degradation.