The Role of the Abbot

The Role of the Abbot

On January 11 the monastic community had the joy of re-electing our abbot, Fr. Paul Mark Schwan for his third term of six-years.  In preparation for the election, Fr. Placid had given the community a talk on the Role of an Abbot according to the Rule of St. Benedict.  We share a portion of that talk here:

“If the abbot learns how to really grow into the grace of the position, it is through trials.  These trials are through the interpersonal clashes that can happen in community. The Latin word is opprobrium. This could be translated as opposition or

contention.  Through the chapters on Excommunication (RB 23-30), the abbot is to be like a wise physician, an intrepid shepherd, and one rooted in his prayer.  These qualities are essential for dealing with a brother who is actually blocking his own growth, the community’s and even the abbot’s growth into being like Christ.  These are also the same qualities involved when the abbot appoints deans, priors, the other officials (Cellarer, Infirmarian, Guest Master, etc.) or when he has to remove them because they are full of faults.  These are appointments need to be discerned deftly and prayerfully.  The same with taking the brother out of the position, particularly when the reasons for the move could be contentious for the brother and the abbot.  Perhaps this might be a lens into RB 68 on Impossible Assignments, and how to obey in Love.  

The same could be said for assigning brothers to the various services at the Divine Office, the Kitchen and the crafts. He needs to have the awareness of who could read well and do it humbly. Or who could do jobs without getting ahead of themselves, or becoming prideful. Also making sure that the food and drink at the table is sufficient and keeping the brothers content without justifiable grumbling. No small feat is that. Being at the service of community, means that the abbot has all the brothers needs in mind and making sure that they do not evolve into sniping at each other out envy or jealousy.  This is part of keeping the community disciplined and working towards good zeal, both corporately and personally. This is reflected in making sure brothers have items needed, clothes that fit, and being able to work at their assignments with peace and charity while maintaining good discipline.”

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Prayer

Cistercian monastic life gives primary place of chanting the Opus Dei or Divine Office in community as well as personal time spent in sacred reading which fulfill the monk's sacred duty of seeking God.

Hospitality

Cistercian monastic life allows rooms for guests because all guests are to be received as Christ.  We never know if we have entertained angels.

Life in Common

Cistercian monastic life is communal:  We share all things in common as did the early Christian community so as to live in greater charity and union with Christ.