Saturday, 1 October 2005

The Tyranny of the Benedictines


Benedict - the founder of the Benedictines

In around 500 AD a Roman noble called Benedict, decided he'd had enough of food, sex, drink and everything the good life in the city had to offer, took one of his servants with him and settled in the countryside. There he started to develop a reputation for mending broken pottery, which inevitable attracted many visitors to him and forced him to seek his solitude in a remote cave, up a cliff face. Every day someone would lower a basket a food to him. Benedict believed it was pretty much a sin to enjoy yourself, so he made sure his meal was very plain. Too much enjoyment he thought, was distracting us from thanking god for the gift of life. Soon, Benedict's views started to appeal to others who sought to follow his example. He therefore set up his own monastery where he wrote the famous Rule, his set of regulations for monastic life. The Benedictines had arrived in the world!
Benedict's community consisted of men who worked hard and prayed for the service of the Lord. His Rule states: 'We hope to introduce nothing harsh or burdensome.' This was really a major understatement, as Benedict was a firm believer of unquestioning obedience. He says: 'For if the disciple obeys with an ill will and murmurs, not necessarily with his lips but simply in his heart, then even though he fulfil the command yet his work will not be acceptable to God, who sees that his heart is murmuring. And, far from gaining a reward for such wokr as this, he will incur the punishment due to murmurers..."
Benedict obviously didn't approve of murmuring, and he dissaproved of laughter so much that he had it banned. Furthermore, his monks were not allowed to speak unless they were given to permission to do so by their superior and were not alloweed to have any private possessions. Beds were regularly examined by abbots, to make sure nothing had been hidden. All aspects of everyday life for the Benedictine monks were strictly controlled, even down to what they should eat and when, what time they should sleep and how, what they should and should not wear etc. The Rule even stated that if a monk were to go on a trip outside of the monastery, he should under no circumstances relate what he has seen or heard in the outside world.

5 comments:

Light said...

Heh. You should see the places St Cuthbert called home; Lindisfarne is bad enough, but the Farne Islands is hell on earth...and the man used to submerge himself in the North Sea for hours at a time.

If either of those chaps were alive today, they'd be keeping S&M dungeons in business...

Alterior said...

Heh heh, religious BDSM you see ! ;-)

Anonymous said...

I went to a school run by Benedictine monks. When did Benedict say paedophilia was in keeping with his teachings? Luckily for me I was awkward and gangily looking enough to get away from being interfered with, others weren't so lucky. Thankfully the school was a terribel one, although fee paying, and it has now closed down.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering some rude thoughts about our saint, so I googled to get some information.

This order spread all over Western Europe, and worked to turn the tribal people of 800 AD into the sophisticates of the 1200's. It largely set up and staffed the first administrative structures in France, Germany, Britain, and even wider.

When they established a new monastary, they brought agriculture with them. The newer, more distant monestaries were the 'factory farms' of their day. The older ones, in settled towns, were centres of learning, cultivation, and government. They began to serve kings as administrators.

This is the basic religious system that Christianized Western Europe. I hope they weren't crazy!

Ken (school nickname) said...

I think I might have gone to the same school as anonymous! Fits the description of mine quite nicely anyway.

What particularly exercises my mind about the place (apart from the paedophilia) is the splendour and luxury these 'monks' lived in - some constantly pissed, all living a pretty cushy life and eating good food (much better than the boys who's parents paid good wonga for the priveledge) the hardships endured were indeed hard to spot. Never experienced any of them practice enforced silences, though I wish they would most of the time.

The results were untrained god-botherers trying to teach the kids - and screwing that up a treat.

Luckily for me, I was a gangly and awkward looking teenager, so never got interfered with.