St Benedict: Is Your Wardrobe Superfluous?

Feast of St Titus the Apostle of the 70

Benedict_Square.jpgCLOTHING IS to be given to the brothers according to the nature of the place where they live and according to its climate; for in cold regions more is required and in warm regions less. This therefore is for the abbot to consider. We believe, however, that in temperate places a cowl and a tunic will suffice for each monk, the cowl to be of shaggy wool in winter, but in summer thin or worn; also a scapular for work, and to cover their feet stockings and shoes.

Concerning the color or coarseness of all these things the monks should not complain; rather, whatever can be easily obtained in the province where they live or can be bought cheaply they should use. The abbot is to see to the measurements, so that these garments are not too short for those who use them, but rather are properly measured.

On receiving new clothes the old should always be returned at once, to be stored in the wardrobe for the poor. For it is sufficient for a monk to have two tunics and two cowls, on account of night wear and on account of laundering these items; anything beyond this is superfluous and is to be cut off. And stockings and whatever else is old are to be returned when they receive new things.

Underclothing for those who are sent on a journey is to be received from the wardrobe, which those who return are to wash and replace. Their cowls and tunics should also be somewhat better than their usual wear: those leaving on a journey are to receive these from the wardrobe and those returning are to replace them.

For bedding a mat, a heavy and a light blanket, and a pillow suffice. These beds are to be frequently inspected by the abbot so that personal possessions are not found there; and if anyone is found with something he has not received from the abbot, he is to be subjected to the most severe discipline. And so as to cut out this vice of personal ownership at the roots, the abbot is to give out everything that is necessary: that is, cowl, tunic, stockings, shoes, belt, knife, stylus, needle, handkerchief, and writing tablets; so that every excuse based on necessity is removed. However the abbot must always take into consideration this sentence from the Acts of the Apostles: “They gave to each one according to his need” (Acts 4.35). Therefore the abbot is also to take into consideration the weaknesses of those in need, not the ill-will of the envious: nevertheless, in all his decisions he is to ponder the retribution of God.

—St Benedict, The Rule of Benedict

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