Voices from the monastery: Benedictines in higher education reflect on the Rule of St. Benedict

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Falkenberg, Anna Woytek

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This study explores the Rule of St. Benedict as a guide for creating a sense of community particularly in Benedictine institutions of higher education. It is a two-phase study to determine congruence between participants’ experience of the Rule and its actual implementation on campus. While focusing on voices from the monastery, in particular those voices of contemporary Benedictine monastics who serve in higher education, other voices include those of lay faculty and students at a Benedictine institution sharing their collective wisdom in interpreting the Rule of St. Benedict for building community on any campus. Five guiding questions were posed: which chapters of the Rule of St. Benedict are considered most essential for application in higher education communities, how are the essential chapters of the Rule ranked, to what extent are practices in Benedictine higher education institutions perceived to be congruent with the Rule, have the respondents experienced success in implementing principles derived from the Rule and, the overriding question, is the monastery as cultural model and Benedict’s Rule for monasteries applicable in higher education institutions today? There were discernible patterns indicating that those chapters from the Rule deemed most important today are: Good Zeal of Monks, Qualities of the Abbot, Reception of Guests, Mutual Obedience, Summoning the Brothers for Counsel, Humility, the Prologue and This Rule only a Beginning of Perfection. There was consensus that the Rule of St. Benedict is applicable to American Benedictine institutions of higher education today and belief that it is more broadly applicable to building community in other colleges and university settings as well.