The word ‘monk’ comes from the Greek words ‘monachos’, which means ‘solitary’ and the word ‘monos’, which means ‘alone’. This means that a monk is usually someone who lives in poverty for God, promises obedience and pureness. Monks live in abies or monasteries where they have a special dayly routine that is devoted to prayer and contemplation. The Christian monasteries are developed out of the hermites who settled in the Egyptian desert around Wadi Natroen in the second and third century. They tried to escape the persecutions that often took place in the Roman Empire at the time.
They found out that silence, lonelyness and moderate food, drink and sleep, were a good base for prayer. In the era after the persecutions, it became possible to live this life in the open, under the leadership of an abbot. The Rule of St. Benedict De Regula Benedicti (the Rule of St. Benedict) is a book, written by St. Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century, for communal living monks (Oxtoby). In the Middle Ages it was the most famous and most influential rule for all monks. In the seventh century, it is also adopted by communities of women.
It became a guidebook for all Western Christianity, Orthodox, Catholics, Anglicans and Protestants. According to Benedict, the monks had to declare three oaths; poverty, obedience and chastity. The monks had to focus on ‘ora et labora’, pray and work. Finally, the monks had to be involved in the ‘lectio divina’, the meditative reading of the Bibel (Oxtoby). The Rule of St. Benedict is a rhythm of eight hours praying, eight hours work and eight hours rest. The Rule became widely spread across Europe and got introduced into the already existing monasteries.
This way, Benedict became one of the patron saints of Europe (Walsh). The Prayer of St. Francis St. Francis was born in 1182 in Assisi, Italy. After a good childhood he decided to distance himself from all his possessions and be devoted to God. He preferred a life in poverty where praying had a dominant place. He made a rule of life, the Rule of St. Francis, for his followers, the Order of Friars Minor, or simply called Franciscans. St. Frances was the image of a new personal devoutness within Christianity, where the development of the individual and its personal expenses were very important.
St. Francis died on October 3rd 1226 (Walsh). The prayer of St. Francis is attributed to St. Francis. It can only be traced back to 1912, where the prayer was published in a spiritual magazine, La Clochette, in France. The prayer is about love and peace, faith, hope and understanding, obtained through praying and believing in the goodness of God (Oxtoby). St. Benedict and St. Francis in the Christian Monastic Tradition Both St. Benedict and St. Francis made rules, guidebooks, for living a pure life with God. They both believed in poverty, chastity and seclusion as means to obtain this.
The follower should be a servant for God, be pure and live in a monastery. The Rules were not only for the practical life in a monastery, but give evidence of a deep insight in human psyche and social connections. It’s not only about the soul of the individual believer, but also about the health of the community. These old rules are not only useful or practical, but gave the human an important orientation in his live and work. The modern human derives his identity for a great deal from his work, and this work can’t go without (spiritual) inspiration.