The Rule of Life
Canons of the Order of Saint Benedict
1. Canons will keep choir service by daily reading of the Divine Office in a form approved by the Prior.
a. Some suggested forms are:
i. The Liturgy of the Hours
ii. Benedictine Daily Prayer
iii. The Book of Common Prayer
iv. The Prayer Book Office (Galley)
v. The Saint Helena Breviary
b. The Psalter should be read in its entirety each month.
2. Canons will participate in the Holy Eucharist daily if possible, and weekly at a minimum.
3. Canons will engage in Lectio Divina daily, at the advice of the Prior.
4. Canons will read a segment of The Rule of Saint Benedict each day and study how it may be applied to the canon’s life.
5. Canons will pray for the other canons daily.
6. Canons will attend Chapter Meetings.
7. Canons make temporary or life profession before the prior or superior and other canons.
a. The Benedictine Vows of Stability, Obedience and Conversion of Life are lived according to the Rule of Saint Benedict.
b. Canons live in their own residences and are expected to observe chaste relationships, obedience to the prior, and modesty in lifestyle.
8. Canons give the superior or prior honor by conceding him/her first place, and assisting him/her as he/she wishes.
9. Canons will normally wear a Benedictine habit in church or on church property or when engaged in functions of the Chapter.
a. The habit is not normally worn in public. If it is, it is with the prior’s permission which must be obtained before wearing the habit.
b. The form of the habit is determined by the community.
c. The medal, in a form approved by the prior, may be worn in place of the habit.
Aspirants are persons interested in joining a Canon Community. The interest is shown in their attendance at liturgies and gatherings of the Community.
Postulants are those who have formally expressed the desire to unite with the Community, have completed the necessary application and have submitted the documents required to the Prior. Postulancy is normally six months but may be extended by the Prior or Community.
Novices are those who have been chosen by the Community to continue the process. This decision is made in Chapter by vowed members of the Community. The Novitiate usually encompasses one year of training in the Rule of Saint Benedict.
No formal vows are made by the Aspirant, the Postulant or the Novice. If they or the Community decide to leave, they may disassociate at any time.
After the Novitiate (which may be extended by the Chapter and Prior) and election by the Chapter, the Novice proceeds to make First or Simple Vows. These Vows are for a period of three years. Simple Vows require the signing of a document containing the vows during the ceremony of investiture. These vows may be renewed up to three times (nine years).
Solemn Vows are professed after the period in Simple Vows, election by the Chapter and Prior and with the consent of the Prior General. These Vows are for life. The document containing the vows is signed at the liturgy during which the vows are professed.
To be dispensed from First or Simple vows before the three year time period is completed, one must make application to the Prior who consults with the Prior General and other Priors. Upon agreement the person may be dispensed from his/her vows. At the end of the three year period, the vows are no longer in effect and the person may leave the Community.
There are times in one's lifetime when one may make Solemn Vows. One of these is to enter into Holy Matrimony wherein a couple solemnly vow to one another their love and faithfulness. Another is at Ordination when the candidate solemnly promises to the bishop obedience and adherence to the doctrine and discipline of the church by signing a document and verbally promising to keep the vow. Solemn Monastic Vows are equivalent to these vows. Therefore, dispensation from these vows is a more involved process.
Dispensation from Solemn Vows
- The one seeking dispensation must request it in writing, specifically stating the reason(s) for the request. This is addressed to the Priors' Council and given to the Prior of his/her Community.
- The Prior of the Community then forwards the request to the Priors, attaching any comments the Prior wishes to share.
- Each Prior considers the request and states, in writing, his/her agreement/disagreement concerning the request. The original request and the Priors' replies are to be sent to the Prior General who will make the final decision taking into consideration the documents presented.
- The Prior General then forwards copies of the request and the Priors' comments to the diocesan bishop asking for his/her approval of the decision. The bishop is the "protector" of the local community.
- The one seeking the dispensation would then be informed of the decision of the Priors and Bishop Protector.
If the dispensation is granted, the person dispensed must return all items belonging to the Community that he/she might have in possession. This includes the monastic habit, specifically the scapular. If the habit had been purchased by the one being dispensed, it should be considered a parting gift to the Community. The Prior disposes of the habit as the Prior wishes. Under no circumstances whatsoever may the one dispensed wear the habit. Wearing the habit has legal and liability implications for the Community and the Diocese, hence it is strictly forbidden.
Communications outlined above may be sent by email, fax, or other method to the Priors. The Prior of the Community will keep the originals and attach all the original documents to the document signed at the profession of vows and keep same in the Community. All documents will also be transmitted electronically to the central data storage of the Canons.