A Singular Monk

A Singular Monk

Fr. Placid talks to us about a singular monk: “In Saint Bernard of Clairvaux's Steps of Humility and the Degrees of Pride, the fifth degree of Pride is called ‘singularity’. It is the opposite of the eighth step of Humility: "a monk does only what is endorsed by the common rule of the monastery and the example set by his superiors." (RB 7:45). He is presenting singularity as the opposite of this step. 
The word singularity comes from the Latin word ‘singularitas’, which Lewis and Short’s Latin Dictionary translates as: solitary, one in purpose or single-minded. In itself it may be a positive quality to have.  However here, Saint Bernard gives a negative twist to the word. Singularity might be praiseworthy, but it depends on the motives. Bernard says that when vanity creeps in, a Pharisaism upturns every motivation for virtuous actions. "I am not like the rest of men" (Luke 18:11) is in the background of his remarks, referring to the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican from the Gospel of Saint Luke. 
In a humorous and sarcastic way, Saint Bernard portrays the singular monk as wanting to be seen as holy. Whether he is or not is beside the point. Bernard views the singular monk as hoping to fast harder than others. This monk gets up too late for early morning community prayer because he is staying up late in the night for his personal prayer, and makes sure to groan his prayers loudly for others to hear when the common prayer is over. 
For Bernard, singularity makes us individualistic in our approach to living a Christian life. Striving for holiness needs to be more about how we relate well to those around us. Its remedy is Humility, accepting that we are like others who need God's mercy and others' help and love.”

Blessings from your brothers of New Clairvaux

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*photo courtesy of Frank Geiser*



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.


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.