Pretty much everything we know about the Rule of St. Benedict originates from St. Gregory the Great’s famous “Dialogues.” In Gregory the Great’s writing, he says that Benedict is a “man of God.” And that he wrote amazing rules for the Benedictine monks, ‘that is remarkable for its discretion and clarity of language…’
Although the original text and writings of the rule have been since lost, the well known Codex San Gallensis 914, written in time in the early ninth century, is usually taken as authoritative and legitimate.
Now, about the actual Rule (or set of rules, if you will), is a great and important witness to the personal life of St. Benedict. It gives life to Benedict’s character and illuminates his thoughts. Throughout the rules, Benedict can be seen as gentle, knowledgeable, and virtuous. The rules are also very based off of actual scripture. Sometimes, Benedict can be seen as a very ‘English’ writer — his expertise for an organization, his funny glints of humor, and his over-all hints of placidness serve for this. This could be the reason why that for both women and men, the life of Benedictine monasticism became such a large part of England catholicism, just before the great (and infamous) Protestant Reformation.
Now, in contrast with other previous writers that shared the monastic lifestyle, Benedict is far more moderate and less demanding in his rules and ‘guidelines.’ In Benedict’s ideal life, monks and nuns are given plenty of moderation, but not to an extreme extent like other orders. The way of life that he idealizes lets monks and nuns receive sleep, food, and drink without letting too much luxury, temptation, or indulgence spread rampantly in their lives. Lots of prayers, writing, reading, studying, and especially work, typically make up the majority of a monk or nuns day.
Of course, Benedict was aware that his Rules would, of course, have to be set accordingly in different scenarios and places. Within the text, much discretionary power is given to the abbot, or, ‘superior.’ Benedict is pretty reasonable, of course. Benedict realizes and understands that in, for example, a region that is colder, more clothing will be necessary. Benedict is not stingy in this way or unreasonable.
Fortunately enough for us, Benedicts Rule is actually somewhat short, and can even be read through in its entirety in just one small hour. Alongside all of the technical aspects and specifics of life as a Benedictine Monk, or Nun, there’s quite a lot of teaching, the inner, spiritual kind. Since the monk or nun is a disciple, and always ‘ready’ for the voice of God, so to speak, they should be alert, meek, humble, and readily attentive.
Nowadays, the famous rule of St. Benedict is widely followed and accepted by thousands of Monks and Nuns across the entire world. Not only are there already thousands of followers of the Rule, but it is still further spreading across the globe. Even people who do not wish to enter a religious order seeking to follow the Rule — as a way of keeping a healthy, minimal, and balanced life-style.