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St Benedict: the father of Western monasticism

To examine the idea of a ‘rule of life’ for ourselves.

by Ronni Lamont

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To examine the idea of a ‘rule of life’ for ourselves.

Preparation and materials

  • You need to brief the participants. The ‘student’ sections are suggestions – you may wish to insert others or real heroes of your school in their own fields.


  1. A student dribbles a football across the space, and then picks up the ball.

    Student: I play for the (name of school/local club) football team. We train every week, and I practise at home too. (Name of local football star) is my football hero – I’d love to be as good as he is.
  2. Another student skateboards across the space, then picks up their skateboard.

    Student: I’ve been skateboarding for ____ years. Me and my mates practise in the park most days.
  3. Another student walks across the space with a snooker cue.

    Student: I play snooker whenever I have time. Ronnie O’Sullivan is my hero.
  4. Two students cross the space speaking French.

    Student: If you don’t practise your languages, you’re never confident enough to speak to a foreign national. I want to go to Paris in the holidays and be able to order food in French.
  5. Finally a student crosses the space, reading from the Bible. (If your school is predominantly another faith, use that faith’s holy book and adapt the words accordingly.)

    Student: I’m a Christian. I read my Bible most days, so that I can know how God wants me to live my life.
  6. If you want to be good at something, we all know you have to practise. You develop what’s called a ‘rule of life’, which helps you to do that in a managed and sensible manner.
  7. Benedict was a Roman, born about the year AD 480. When he grew up he was appalled at the life that most Romans were leading, so he left the city and ended up living in a cave for three years while he prayed and thought about his life.

    When the abbot of the local monastery died, the monks came and persuaded Benedict to be their new abbot. But things went so badly wrong that the monks tried to get rid of him by poisoning, so he left. He eventually set up 12 religious communities in Italy, and in each the monks followed the same guidelines that Benedict had devised and lived by.
  8. Benedict wrote a book of rules for his followers to live by, and we now know that as the ‘Rule of St Benedict’. Many monasteries, including the one that was in a recent BBC series, live by the same rule that Benedict wrote.

    The rule has a unique balance of spirit, moderation and reasonableness. Many communities, nuns as well as monks, that were founded in the Middle Ages, decided to follow Benedict’s rule.

Time for reflection


Benedict’s rule ensures that those who follow it have a good balance of exercise, prayer and study, as well as work.

How could you make a rule of life that would ensure a good balance of all the elements that you enjoy and know that you need?

A balance of food, exercise, work, leisure. Sharing your money with those who have less than you do, being helpful to those in need?

Take a few moments to think about the areas of your life that you give too much time to, and those that maybe need a little more.


Help me to bring a healthy balance to the activities and the leisure in my life.

May I always find time for other people, and time for myself.



‘Take this moment’ (Hymns Old and New, 607)

‘Turn turn’ by The Byrds (1960s hit single – if you can find it)

Publication date: July 2008   (Vol.10 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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