Benedict & Ownership, Part 1
Benedict’s short, direct and pithy chapter on Monks and Private Ownership encompasses ideas that have variously filled the pages of dissertations, started revolutions, and inspired countless people to saintly humility and holiness.
The heart of the chapter is here: that, without the abbot’s permission, “no one may presume to give, receive, or retain anything as his own—nothing at all…especially since monks may not have the free disposal even of their own bodies and wills.”
This is a direct appeal to our condition as those vowed to the monastic way, which in turn rests on our condition as persons baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ. Thus we are brought face to face not with mere stuff, but with our identity in the person of Jesus himself. Though he was in the form of God, he freely emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, following in all things not his own will but that of his Father in heaven.
Especially in modern American culture, this chapter tests and examines us in the most exacting ways, asking hard questions: where is our security, whom do we trust? what or whom do we love, what are our deepest fears? What do we want, and why do we want it?