The Rule of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist


We Brothers welcome you to a share one of our daily practices: listening to and reflecting on a chapter of our Rule of Life.

In addition the Brothers have a series of other resources that we hope might be helpful to you in exploring living with a Rule.

Living Intentionally: Creating a Rule of Life

We invite you to download our Living Intentionally Workbook for Creating a Personal Rule of Life. Walk with Br. David Vryhof step-by-step through the process of writing your own Rule.

A Framework for Freedom:

We invite you to discover the freedom that comes from living by a rule of life, by journeying through “A Framework for Freedom,” a 7-week self-guided video course to help you say “Yes” to your life.  Watch the series now.  Subscribe to a daily email.

In Lent 2012, we preached a series on the challenges and rewards of living by a rule of life. Drawing on chapters from SSJE’s Rule. Read and listen to the sermons.

A Living Tradition:

Each day of Lent 2011, we posted a short “living commentary” on our Rule, with a Brother or two offering his unique perspective on the document which shapes and forms our prayer and practice more than any other apart from Scripture and The Book of Common PrayerTo read that conversation, click here.



A rule, from the Latin regula, suggests not so much a code of legislation but a means of regulating and regularizing.  A monastic rule sustains identity by mandating the rhythms of worship, spiritual discipline, prayer and rest, work and ministry.  It sets the patterns by which authority is distributed and where accountability is expected.  It delineates the bounds of the community and describes the processes of initiation.  And it connects the ideals of the particular community or order with the gospel and the Christian mystery.

Our Rule is a contemporary one, created by the Society of Saint John the Evangelist over a period of eight years and formally adopted in September 1996.  It replaces the original Rule, written by our founder in the 19th century.  While it draws on the teaching of Richard Benson and other early members, the new rule addresses a whole host of issues that we knew to be vital for the health and faithfulness of a community making the transition into the third millennium.  It is an authentic expression of our life for today, both who we are and who we hope to be.

Our sole motive in creating a new Rule of life was to strengthen our own community and our awareness of the particular vocation that God has given us; in other words, we produced it specifically for ourselves.  Friends urged us to publish it for those who know us and who are seeking a deeper understanding of a way of life to which they feel attuned. And we offer it for those who do not know us yet, but who, in this time of widespread spiritual hunger when the monastic way is exerting a considerable pull on people’s imagination and interest, seek a window into the life of a contemporary religious community.

The response to its publication has been overwhelmingly positive. Roman Catholic and Anglican religious communities on both sides of the Atlantic have welcomed it, in some instances using it to enhance the teaching of their own Rules.  And large numbers of men and women of a variety of faith communities in their daily meditations have drawn strength and renewal from its teachings.

01: The Call of the Society

Br. Curtis Almquist

Read by Br. Curtis Almquist

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, the eternal Word by whom all things were created, to become flesh and live among us.  In all the signs that he did and the teaching that he gave, he made known to us the grace and truth of the eternal Father.  When his hour came the Son consummated his obedience to the Father, and expressed his love for us to the uttermost, by offering himself on the cross.  He was lifted up from the earth in his crucifixion and resurrection from the dead in order to draw all people to himself.

We whom God calls into this Society have been drawn into union with Christ by the power of his cross and resurrection; we have been reborn in him by water and the Spirit.  God chooses us from varied places and backgrounds to become a company of friends, spending our whole life abiding in him and giving ourselves up to the attraction of his glory.  Our community was called into being by God so that we may be entirely consecrated to him and through our common experience of the glory of the Father and the Son begin to attain even now the unity that God desires for all humankind.  “The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one.  I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

Our mission is inseparable from our call to live in union with God in prayer, worship and mutual love.  Christ breathes his Spirit into us to be the one source of our own conversion and of our witness and mission to others; “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  We are sent to be servants of God’s children and ministers of the reconciliation which the Lamb of God has accomplished.  Our own unity is given to be a sign that will draw others to have faith in him.  Christ has entrusted to us the same word that the Father gave to him, so that those who hear it from our lips and perceive it in our lives may receive the light and through believing have life in his name.

By giving us the grace and courage to make lifelong vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience in an enduring fellowship, God makes us a sign of his eternal faithfulness.  A community of men who pledge to stay together until death is a powerful sign to the world of the grace that enables those who love Christ to abide until he comes.

The divine Wind that blows where it chooses has not restricted our Society to a few ministries.  Varied gifts within our brotherhood bear witness to the living power of Christ and extend his salvation.  Though our gifts differ we share one call to be consecrated in truth, through the power of God’s word and the grace renewed by feeding on Christ and drinking his life-blood in the Eucharist.  As a sign of our identity God gives us all an affinity with the witness of the beloved disciple embodied in the Gospel of John.  We bear the name of St John the Evangelist to show the Church what is the source of our inspiration and our joy.

02: Our Dedication to the Disciple whom Jesus loved

Read by Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Read by Br. Geoffrey Tristram

We hear God’s living word in all the Scriptures but the testimony of the disciple whom Jesus loved has special power for those whom God calls into this Society.  It gives us joy to know that Jesus drew this man John to himself in order to enjoy the blessings of close friendship.  We believe that through our religious vocation Jesus is drawing us also into the deepest intimacy with himself.  We find a profound significance for our own lives in what the fourth gospel tells us of the beloved disciple’s friendship with Jesus and his call to be a witness to the mystery of the incarnation.

This is the man whom Jesus wanted to have closest to his heart at the last supper.  The image of the trusted friend lying close to the breast of Jesus is an icon of the relationship we enjoy with the Son of God through prayer.  It is by being close to him that we are reunited with the Father, for Jesus is “God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart.”  And contemplating the closeness of the disciple to Jesus at the supper can deepen our awareness that the communion we have with Christ in the Eucharist is no mere abstract idea but a real and growing bond of personal love.

The beloved disciple did not hide from the suffering of Christ at Golgotha but took his stand there with Mary.  By being steadfast together at the cross, enduring all that others found unbearable, they remained in Jesus’ love.  If we abide in that perfect love shown on the cross we will receive the grace to face together all that we are tempted to run from in fear.  Christ’s gift of enduring love will be the heart of our life as a community, as it was in the new family which he called into being from the cross when he gave Mary and John to one another as mother and son.

Only love can understand what God gives and reveals through Jesus.  The beloved disciple understood that the pouring out of water and blood from Jesus’ side signified the giving of the Spirit.  Love will open our eyes to the Spirit’s power in the sacraments, in prayer, in action and service.  He went into the empty tomb, and believed at once in the mystery of the resurrection.  Love will make us men of faith who know God’s power to bring life out of death.  The beloved disciple recognized the Lord in the stranger by the shore.  Love will expand our ability to know him in all persons, in all things and in all places.

The beloved disciple lived on, faithful to Christ’s call to “remain until I come.”  The years spent exploring the depths of the revelation in which he had taken part bore fruit in the great gospel which bears the name of John.  We have taken this name to show that we too are Christ’s friends and witnesses.  Through us also many come to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and through believing have life in his name.

03: Our Founders and the Grace of Tradition

Read by Br. Keith Nelson

Just as we believe that our Society had its origin in the response to God’s creative call of our founders Richard Meux Benson, Charles Chapman Grafton and Simeon Wilberforce O’Neill, so we believe that it is sustained through our own obedience to the voice of God continually calling us on.God speaks to us in many ways to maintain and renew the vocation of the Society.God speaks to us through the Scriptures and the Christian tradition, through men and women of the Spirit of different ages and cultures, through our own experience and through contemporary voices that engage us with the challenges of our own time.Among the many voices that mediate God’s call to us, the witness of our founders and predecessors in the Society has a special importance.

God calls us to remember them and to value their testimony.Reflection on our community’s own tradition, and a dialogue between our contemporary experience and that of our predecessors, helps us to sustain our identity as we strive to rise up to the demands of the present.As we explore the spiritual legacy of our forbears we remember that they are not dead figures from the past.Risen in Christ, they belong to the great cloud of witnesses who spur us on by their prayers to change and mature in response to the Holy Spirit who makes all things new.

Faithfulness to tradition does not mean mere perpetuation or copying of ways from the past but a creative recovery of the past as a source of inspiration and guidance in our faithfulness to God’s future, the coming reign of God.As we meditate on the grace of tradition each of us will hear the call to become, in Father Benson’s words, “a man – not simply of the day, but a man of the moment, a man precisely up to the mark of the times.This makes the religious – so far from being the tradi­tional imitator of bygone days – most especially a man of the present moment and its life.”

Our Society was the first religious community of men to be firmly established in the Anglican Church since the Reformation and embraced from the beginning both the contemplative and active dimensions of the religious vocation.As we struggle with God’s call to us today to be active in ministry, prophecy, teaching and service, and to have a deep life of prayer and worship, we shall find encouragement in remembering the example of our forbears in their dedication to the mystical and apostolic aspects of our calling.

There are many aspects to the witness of those who formed our Society’s tradition.Their lives inspire us to be indifferent to celebrity and success and to trust the power of hidden prayer. They stir us to be prophetic critics of Christendom and its compromises and to be dedicated to the renewal of the Church.They summon us to have a world-wide vision of mission, to be adaptable to a wide variety of settings, to be available in ministry to all classes of people.They teach us to integrate the catholic and evangelical traditions and dedicate ourselves to the ministry of reconcil­iation and unity.

Inevitably, the Society’s past is also marred by many failures.God will have much to teach us through them, as long as we humbly keep in mind our own biases and shortcomings.

04. The Witness of Life in Community

Br. Nicholas Bartoli

Read by Br. Nicholas Bartoli

God has called us into being as a community and our life as a community, though fraught with struggles and failures, is a powerful act of revelation, testimony and service.

In community we bear witness to the social nature of human life as willed by our Creator. Human beings bear the image of the triune God and are not meant to be separate and isolated.  All of us are called by God to belong to communities of personal cooperation and interdependence which strive to nurture and use the gifts of each and to see that our basic needs are met. Jesus called his disciples to be the light of the world, a city set on a hill, which cannot be hid; through the vitality of our life as a community we are meant to help people remember their own calling to form community.  In an era of fragmentation and the breakdown of family and community, our Society, though small, can be a beacon drawing people to live in communion.

One of the ways in which we promote community is by being the nucleus for a wider fellowship.  This is formed through the relationships we establish in our varied ministries, especially the hospitality of our houses; through the Fellowship of Saint John, whose members keep a rule of life in harmony with ours; by the participation of our personal friends and families and by our neigh­bors regularly joining us in worship.  Our proclamation of the good news is also an invitation to be in communion with us.  “We declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us.”  This wider family is a true expression of community sustained by many energies of mutual service.  We not only serve our brothers and sisters by acting as a spiritual center and home and ministering to them; they support us in innumerable ways in prayer, through their gifts and voluntary labors, by teaching and inspiring us and by working together with us in Christ.  Some who find themselves relegated by neglect and prejudice to the margins of society will find a special grace in participating in this wider fellowship around our community.

Our human vocation to live in communion and mutuality is rooted in our creation in God’s image and likeness.  The very being of God is community; the Father, Son and Spirit are One in reciprocal self-giving and love.  The mystery of God as Trinity is one that only those living in personal communion can understand by experience.  Through our common life we can begin to grasp that there is a transcendent unity that allows mutual affirmation of our distinctness as persons. Through prayer we can see that this flows from the triune life of God.  If we are true to our calling as a community, our Society will be a revelation of God.

Our life as a community should also be a sign to the Church to rise up to its true calling as a communion of the Holy Spirit, the Body of Christ and the company of Christ’s friends.  We are not called to be a separate elite, but to exemplify the life of the Body of Christ in which every member has a particular gift of the Spirit for ministry and shares an equal dignity.  Fr. Benson taught that “there are special gifts of God indeed to the Society, but only as it is a society within the Church.  The small body is to realize and intensify the gifts, to realize the energies, belonging to the whole Church.”  Our witness and ministry is not merely to separate individuals; it is for strengthening the common life in the Body of Christ.

05. The Challenges of Life in Community

Read by Br. Robert L’Esperance

Every Christian is called to live in community as a member of the Church. Christ in his wisdom draws each disciple into that particular expression of community which will be the best means of his or her conversion. Our way of life in this religious community is one of many expres­sions of the common life in the Body of Christ. We can be confident that Christ has called us into our Society because he knows that the challenges and the gifts it offers are the very ones we need for the working out of our salvation.

The first challenge of community life is to accept whole-heartedly the authority of Christ to call whom he will. Our community is not formed by the natural attraction of like-minded people. We are given to one another by Christ and he calls us to accept one another as we are. By abiding in him we can unite in a mutual love that goes deeper than personal attraction. Mutual acceptance and love call us to value our differences of background, temperament, gifts, personality and style. Only when we recognize them as sources of vitality are we able to let go of competitiveness and jealousy. As we actively seek to grow, and discern which men are being called into our Society, we must ardently seek for signs that God desires to increase our diversity in culture and race.

We are also called to accept with compassion and humility the particular fragility, complexity and incompleteness of each brother. Our diversity and our brokenness mean that tensions and friction are inevitably woven into the fabric of everyday life. They are not to be regarded as signs of failure. Christ uses them for our conversion as we grow in mutual forbearance and learn to let go of the pride that drives us to control and reform our brothers on our own terms.

The Society’s dedication to the fourth gospel draws us to see reflected in it certain values which we especially take to heart as we live in community. In John’s gospel the community of disciples is portrayed as a circle of Christ’s friends, abiding in him in obedience and love, and depending on the Advocate who leads them together into the truth. In this portrait we recognize an implicit critique of the tendency for communities to harden into institutions, and for officialdom to replace the spontaneity of mutual service. Our faithfulness to our calling will be seen in the ways in which we fearlessly subject our life to hard questions in the light of the gospel, resist inertia and rigidity, minister to one another generously as equals, and stay open to the fresh inspiration of the Spirit.

Because community life provides so completely for all our basic needs we must rise to the challenge of making sure that our sense of personal responsibility stays strong. Community life is arduous, and not an escape from the toil of earning a living. It is essential that work is distributed in such a way that each brother shares in its demands to the full extent of his ability. We are called to maintain an ethos that stimulates each of us to learn new skills by which he can serve the brotherhood and develop his ministry to others.

06. The Spirit of Poverty

Read by Br. Mark Brown

Read by Br. Mark Brown

The poverty we embrace through our vow has its source, supreme example and eternal home in the being of God, who is a Trinity of Persons.  In the Godhead there is no possessiveness, no holding back of self.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are One in mutual self-giving and receiving.  Faith sees the cross of suffering and self-giving love planted in the very being of the God revealed to us in Jesus.  When God made room for the existence of space and time and shaped a world filled with glory, this act of creation was one of pure self-emptying.

But God broke all the limits of generosity in the incarnation of the Son for our sake, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.”  By the vow of poverty we bind ourselves to have the same mind . . . that was in Christ Jesus.”

The poverty that comes from God is not a barren emptiness.  Christ “became poor that by his poverty [we] might become rich.”  It is only because we are being “filled with all the fullness of God” that we can pledge together in this shared vow to give ourselves away in a common life of worship, hospitality, evangelism and service.  “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”

By this vow we renounce personal ownership.  We are to be of one heart and soul, holding all things in common.  By sharing everything we will be in harmony with the very being of God whose Triune life is boundless sharing.  We will have a foretaste of the life of the communion of saints.  We will recognize that the concern with individualistic fulfillment and private security that prevails in our culture is a trap from which we are being set free.  More and more we will come to know that we were all baptized into Christ to be set free from self-centeredness.  Our fulfillment comes together as members of one Body, and the Spirit will summon us again and again to surrender individual desires for the sake of our brotherhood and our mission.

If our religious poverty is to be authentic we must stay soberly aware of the essential differ­ence between the deprivation of those whose poverty is forced upon them, and the way of life we choose by vow.  We continue to be privileged by our education, our access to power and our material security.  Nevertheless, the Spirit has many ways of making us poor and we are in no doubt that they will be costly to accept.  In particular we can be sure that the Society’s life will be marked by fragility and many frustrating limitations.  The resources to meet the demands made on us will seem inadequate, and our numbers too few.  Our energies will seem insufficient for the claims made on them, and the task of balancing our life and husbanding our strengths too difficult.  Even some of our ideals and dreams will need to be surrendered; the way God actually calls us to live may seem less appealing or less heroic than other forms of the religious life.  God will give us our poverty. Every day we will be called to grow in reliance on grace alone and to surrender those inner and outer riches that hold us back from risking all for Christ, who risked and gave all for us.

07. Poverty and Stewardship in Practice

Read by Br. Jonathan Maury

Read by Br. Jonathan Maury

As we come to enter more completely into the offering of the Eucharist we learn more and more to offer thanks at all times and in all places.  This gift of overflowing gratitude to God, who supplies all our needs, enables us to let go of dependence on possessions and all that is superfluous. In the sacrifice of thanksgiving lies the secret of simplicity of life to which we bind ourselves in the vow of poverty.

This simplicity of life finds expression in the way we enjoy and value the goodness of ordinary things and the beauty of creation.  As we cherish the essential gifts of life, we grow in freedom from the compulsion to accumulate things, and cease to long for wealth.  The movement towards simplicity puts us at odds with our culture, which defines human beings primarily as consumers, and gives prestige to those who have the power to indulge themselves in luxury and waste.  As a community and as individuals we shall have to struggle continually to resist the pressure to conform.  Our vow of poverty inevitably commits us to conscientious participation in the movement to establish just stewardship of the environment and earth’s resources.

Our personal responsibility in this vow means taking care to gather around ourselves only what is appropriate and necessary.  We must always seek the permission of the Superior to keep any gifts offered to us.  We shall readily share among ourselves the things we have for our use, and give away whatever we cease to need.  Whenever we have reason to buy anything for our own use we are to be watchful for temptations to be irresponsible.  Our collective responsibility involves us all in the careful stewardship of our resources, especially in the policies which govern the use of our endowment and properties.  Those who have responsibility for using funds allocated by the com­munity need to guard against the temptation to misuse this power by spending thoughtlessly or failing to involve others in significant decisions.

The security we enjoy as a community makes us strangers to the precariousness and destitu­tion that are the lot of the poor.  Therefore we come to the poor in need of their witness to what it means to be powerless and to put one’s trust entirely in God.  As a community we must continually watch for signs that God is calling us to live and work with those who endure the hardships of material poverty.  Even when our work among God’s poor is limited in scope we should be their allies in every way.  Our vow binds us to ruthless self-examination as to our real solidarity with the poor.  In our education, preaching and political lives we are committed to advocacy for the poor, and the struggle to restore to them their just share of power and the bounty of God.

08. Engaging with Poverty

Read by Br. David Vryhof

Read by Br. David Vryhof

The vow of poverty is a commitment of faithfulness to the gospel itself, which summons us to a new vision and way of life that reverses the values of the world.  The beatitudes of Jesus call us to trust the promise of divine fulfillment hidden in things that the world counts as barren and negative.  By our vow we reaffirm our baptismal renunciations and pledge ourselves to seek out the mystery of divine grace present in places and experiences that seem insignificant, dark or empty.

By our vow of poverty we recognize that in our own spiritual lives there will be seasons in the shadow, experiences of dryness, waiting, obscurity and the seeming absence of God.  In the light of the gospel we know that these are necessary, and that some of them yield more blessings than times when we are filled with devotion and confidence.  “Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.”  Our whole spirituality should bear the mark of our vow, showing that God is freeing us from dependence on feelings of success and happiness.

Poverty involves radical truthfulness about our own persons and the community itself, grounded in the knowledge of our fallibility and brokenness.  Popularity and acclaim are dangerous, as they can lure us away from the sober awareness of our spiritual poverty that compels us to confess that “this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.”  The knowledge and acceptance of our fragility preserves us from complacency and illusion, continually throwing us back on the mercy and compassion of God.

In the great prayer of Jesus in the fourth gospel he says of his disciples, “They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.”  The vow of poverty is one of the chief ways in which we affirm our separation in Christ from everything in the world that opposes God’s way of self-spending love.  It sets us in opposition to the way of coercion, violence and militarism.  It commits us to reject in Christ’s name every manifestation of exploitation, prejudice and oppression.  It calls us to dissociate ourselves from structures of privilege and wealth.  By this vow we confess the rule of the cross:  “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are.”  Through the vow of poverty we pledge ourselves to look for the signs of God’s activity and glory, especially in the lives of those who are strangers to success and power as the world defines them.

One of the signs that our poverty is authentic will be the readiness of others to confide in us their own experiences of suffering, grief and loss.  If we are evading the mystery of poverty in our own lives, we will shut ourselves off from the pain and weakness in the lives of our brothers and sisters.  If we are living our vow, they will find in our company a holy place of acceptance and under­standing where they can wait for God to bring strength out of weakness and resurrection from death.

09. The Vow of Celibacy

Read by Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Read by Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Through our vow of celibacy we offer ourselves as members of a community to be com­pletely available to Christ.  We commit ourselves to remaining single forever, instead of united to another in marriage or partnership.  We pledge to forgo the expression of love through sex, which God has blessed as the means for human partners to become one.

It is our desire to make a vow of celibacy that is the deepest possible expression of trust in Christ who has chosen us to follow this path.  Christ is the creative Wisdom through whom the Father created all things; he is the light who lightens all who come into the world.  Our sexuality, our power to love, our creative energy for relationship and union are of his making.  They reflect the mystery of the triune life and mirror God’s passionate love for all creation.  In our vow we offer these gifts that belong to the heart of our humanity to Christ, trusting that he will bless, shape and use them.  Our faith in Christ as creator also expresses itself by revering our manhood itself as sacred.  If we foster a climate of celibacy in which this faith and reverence flourish, each brother, whatever his sexual orientation, can come to accept fully the particular way the mystery of sexuality has been woven into the texture of his humanity.

Our vow is also a response to Jesus’ own way of life.  His own freedom from ties of family and home, in order to be completely available in the Spirit for the proclamation of the good news, attracted others to choose the same path.  They trusted in his promise that their choice, though full of painful losses and risks, would bring the reward of an abundance of new relationships among those who were awakening to the joy of the Kingdom:  “a hundredfold now in this age – houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children . . . and in the age to come eternal life.”  When we make our vow we affirm our own confidence in this promise.

We make our vow also trusting in the healing power of Christ, the redeemer of human brokenness.  Our capacity for intimacy, our sexual desires, our readiness to be faithful, are all damaged by the confusions and wounds of our fallen human condition.  For us celibacy is a path of healing and redemption, as the vocation of marriage and partnership is for others.  As we make our vow we acknowledge humbly our need for grace to give us that unity and integrity of heart which we can never attain by our own power.  We set out on the celibate way as a path of salvation that gives us the hope of attaining maturity as loving, disciplined and free men.

Our vow flows also from the experience of Christ ascended and glorified dwelling in our own hearts.  Though we have surrendered the fulfillment we may have found in marriage or partnership, the mystery of union and mutual love is truly given to us.  In the emptiness and absence that celibacy opens up in our hearts, Christ waits to make known to us the infinite strength and tenderness of his love.  The exploration of our sexual solitude through prayer will reveal the depth of Christ’s desire to be the one joy of our hearts.  We can find the joy of celibacy only by entering into the mystery of our union with him and returning his love.

10. Celibate Life

Read by Br. David Allen

Read by Br. David Allen

Each of us will pass through different phases in our lives of celibate chastity.  At times we will be glad of our inner solitude, which fosters prayer, and the diversity of relationships we enjoy in community and with friends; at other times we will feel loneliness.  While others are enjoying the consolations of community life, some brothers may be missing the solace of partnership, the joys of sex and the satisfaction of having a home of their own.  There will be seasons of contentment in our singleness; there may be days of testing and confusion if we fall in love, or become strongly attracted to another.

Struggles will come at different stages as we break through to new levels of integration; the challenges faced by young religious will not be the same as those that come with the onset of middle age.  Old age may bring its own trials of doubt.  Only if we share these different experiences in candor and trust can we offer one another genuine support.

At times many of us will miss having fathered children.  We shall need to open the poignancy of this loss to Christ in prayer.  He will show us that in union with him our lives have been far from barren.  As we nurture others in Christ, and bring them to maturity, we shall discover that fatherhood has found expression in our lives.  In prayer, meditation, our thought, our work and our friendships, we are called to fulfill our deep human urge to be creators with God of new life, and to bear fruit that lasts.

The disciplines that let chastity take root in our lives are not mere curbs.  Their purpose is to help us live with vitality and spirit.  When we meditate we should truly pray with our bodies, and dwell on the glory with which the indwelling Spirit endows them.  We are to reverence our bodies and do justice to their need for regular exercise and adequate sleep.  Physical sloth and stress from overwork are equally liable to make sexual tension worse.  Lethargy makes us more susceptible to the escapism of fantasy.

The disciplines that foster celibacy include those which prevent our spirits from becoming solemn and heavy.  We can all contribute to the sanity and balance of our life together by allowing playfulness and humor to keep us in touch with our humanity and to release tension.

Jesus taught chastity of the heart, not merely of outward behavior.  The conversion of our imaginations continues all our lives as we seek to make his integrity our own.  We shall need to examine our hearts often to test the degree of our emotional honesty in our relations with others, and our faithfulness in honoring our personal boundaries.  Whenever we are in perplexity or temptation it is essential to open our hearts to our spiritual directors or confessors; secrecy makes us more likely to deceive ourselves.

It is through friendship that we will be of most support to one another.  Celibacy could be unbearably lonely unless we uphold one another with affection.  Our friendship with one another does not draw us away from the centrality of the love of Christ in the heart, for that is the very thing we all have in common.

11. The Witness of Celibacy

Read by Br. David Vryhof

Read by Br. David Vryhof

Our lives of committed celibacy can act as a powerful sign of the reality of God’s grace.   As we grow in our understanding of the meaning of our vow we are called to become more aware of our role as witnesses.  The celibate life is a risky one.  If it is lived as a cowardly way of avoiding intimacy and commitment, it can wither the soul.  But if as celibates we embrace our sexuality as a divine gift, and draw upon it as a source of energy and creativity, we can bring hope and encourage­ment to many who meet us.

Our singleness of life awakens the need to discover within our own selves the mystery of the male and female dimensions of the divine image.  If we are courageous in this exploration, and cooperate with the converting power of the Spirit, we can bear a significant witness to both men and women.  Women will find encouragement if they encounter in us not only the security that comes with deep respect, but also empathy of soul.  Men will find encouragement if they encounter in us confident forms of masculine identity that do not depend for their vigor on force or competition.

Our fidelity to this vow can be an encouragement to those who are united in the sacrament of Marriage; like them we depend on divine grace to help us remain steadfastly together until death through all the changes and trials of life.  Some partners of the same sex who have made a covenant of faithfulness in Christ may find inspiration in our loyalty and perseverance.

We are also witnesses to those who for many reasons live single lives.  Much of the con­fusion and pain in fallen humanity’s struggle with sexuality stems from the illusions that sexual activity is essential to wholeness, and that other forms of intimacy are inferior to the sexual bond. We can help people by the example of our lives to honor the depth and fullness to be found in the intimacy of friendship.  We can bring inspiration and support to the struggles of those who seek to find meaning and purpose in their singleness.  In our ministries, especially of hospitality, our celibacy gives us a special freedom to provide a setting in which single people of all ages and walks of life find respect, welcome and affirmation.

12. The Spirit of Obedience

Read by Br. Robert L’Esperance

The Gospel of John will teach us to experience obedience as a growing freedom to love all that God desires and wills.  Jesus bears witness to this freedom, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise . . . my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.”  On our own we are powerless to act in selfless freedom in response to God’s desire. Obedience is only possible because Christ dwells in us and we dwell in him through Baptism.  His obedience is active within us, drawing us into his union with the Father.

By the vow of obedience we join together to make this loving consent to God’s will the corporate offering of a community. We learn together to listen intently to God, and we support each other in the struggle against all that resists God within and around us.

The vow has many facets.  It is a pledge to unite in a common response to God by embracing and fulfilling the Rule of the Society.  It is a promise to work together to discern God’s will as a body and act in concert to God’s glory.  The vow binds us to cooperate with the Superior in carrying out our mission.  It is a pledge to listen to the voice of the Spirit speaking within the heart and to respond to God’s invitations to self-surrender.

Resurrection into the freedom and constancy of Christ’s obedience can be attained only  through death and burial in union with him.  Our share in humanity’s sinfulness means that we are still hindered by fear of what God desires and resistance to what God ordains.  As a community bound together in obedience we support one another through the inevitable pain of dying to our old selves, and encourage one another to trust in the goodness of God’s will for us.  The community is a school of reconciliation, conversion and healing for sinners, in which we can grow in our capacity to give ourselves to God.

Obedience is also a path of detachment.  We have our own ideas of how best to serve God, our dreams of serving in particular ways.  God’s actual call will often be to follow in other ways; as our vocation unfolds we will find that obedience requires us to lay aside again and again the plans we had made for ourselves.  Monastic obedience gives us constant practice in letting go of attach­ment to our individual preferences and learning to trust in the wisdom of the community.  It trains us to be resilient and prompt in responding to the Lord in the here and now.

The vow of obedience is fraught with risks.  In the name of obedience human beings have gladly abdicated responsibility and taken refuge in passivity and conformity.  Unless our obedience is in the Spirit we could be tempted to use the life of the community as a shelter from claiming and using our own responsibility and power as sons of God.  The vow of obedience requires us to be constantly attentive to the voice of the Spirit within our hearts, endowing us with our own unique authority and gifts.  We are called to be obedient to our true selves as they are being formed in Christ.  Only where there is a growing respect for our true selves can there be authentic participation in the community’s common endeavor to discern and carry out God’s will.

13. Obedience in Practice

Read by Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Read by Br. Geoffrey Tristram

By the vow of obedience, each brother gives his complete allegiance to the community by accepting the Rule of Life as his own.  The Rule is the expression of our distinctive way of disciple­ship.  It embodies the values, disciplines and patterns of response that experience has shown to sustain our identity.  In the vow we promise to cherish the Rule as a gift, being attentive as we read it together and taking it to heart through meditation.

The vow is a pledge to put our whole heart into the community’s continuous quest to learn the will of God for us and to do it.  God has called us to be active co-creators in Christ, not passive recipients of external instructions.  Obedience calls us to pray, to search our hearts and minds to­gether, to consult and discuss with one another, to bring passion and commitment to our cooperation as brothers and ministers in the New Covenant.  Our hope is to reach a common mind in our discern­ment and decisions as often as we can.  When a brother disagrees with a decision that commends itself to most of us, the vow of obedience gives integrity to his subsequent support of the outcome.

Grace makes it possible for our obedience to one another to transcend mere acquiescence and to express instead the power of brotherly love and unity.  In our cooperation with the Superior we should arrive through discussion at a full understanding of the response or task that is being proposed and pledge ourselves to full accountability.  If difficulties occur in following through on any project we should promptly consult with him so that the goal can be realistically reset.  We should observe the same standard of cooperation and accountability in our response to any brother who has been given authority in any sphere.  In particular we are to give our full cooperation to the brother in charge of the house we live in.

We express our obedience also in the way we are receptive to the Superior’s teaching and pastoral ministry, and the openness we have to one another’s contributions to the common life.

The practice of obedience to our own interior wisdom as it is being inspired by the Spirit requires us to search our own desires and motives in prayer.  In any case where our conscience seems to be in conflict with something required of us in community, we should open our hearts to the Superior about it promptly.  The vow encourages us to listen to our own hearts so that we can take responsibility for setting our own goals in the unfolding of our development as men of God.  It requires us to be attentive to our own needs and gifts.  It spurs us to be imaginative and hopeful about ourselves as active contributors to our common life.

If we remain alert we will see the signs that reveal whether we are indeed being converted. Where obedience is still immature there will be passivity, complaining, resentment, reluctance to be held accountable, rigidity and lack of candor.  Where obedience is emerging from a growing freedom we will recognize the fruits of the Spirit in frankness, initiative, generosity and flexibility.  We need to pray for these fruits not merely for our own good but so that our community can be a sign in the Church of what it means to be a living branch of the true vine.

14. The Office of Superior

Read by Br. Jim Woodrum

Read by Br. Jim Woodrum

The professed brothers elect one of their number who they believe has the necessary gifts of the Spirit to lead the Society.  The community, faithful to our tradition and vocation that calls for strong leadership, entrusts authority to him which he exercises in these ways as the servant of all.

The Superior is empowered to distribute leadership and share administration throughout the community by choosing the officers and allocating specific areas of responsibility to the brothers.

All the brothers are accountable to him in the exercise of their responsibilities.  He coordinates the ministries of the community and no new work can be accepted without his permission.  The Superior is also the chief pastor of the brethren and has the ultimate responsibility in Christ for the well-being of all. Although the Superior never acts as confessor within the community, and must honor the boundaries of each brother’s inner life, if he is to serve and cherish the brothers he needs to know what is important in their lives.  By fulfilling his share of the responsibility for staying genuinely in touch, each brother helps make sure that the Superior’s ministry to him is timely and effective.

He is responsible for guiding the community as it makes plans and decisions.  He presides over meetings of the Chapter in which important decisions are made by vote, and makes sure that less formal decisions are made with appropriate discussion and consultation.  The Superior has the freedom to make various decisions about community policy on his own authority.  The limits of this freedom are defined by the Statutes and maintained by the collective wisdom of the community.  Once a year the community shall hold a discussion in which the Superior’s ministry of leadership is reviewed.

The Superior serves the community as chief interpreter of the Rule.  He is expected to enrich the community through his own spiritual teaching and by inviting men and women of the Spirit to give us guidance and inspiration.  The Superior also receives a mandate to lead the community as a prophet who looks to the future and fosters our collective vision.  This orientation towards God’s future finds a particular expression in the way the Superior cultivates gifts of leadership within the community and equips potential successors.  The Superior may not serve more than three consecu­tive terms of three years, to make sure that the gift of leadership is renewed.

The office of Superior needs outside resources of support.  In addition to a spiritual director, the Superior shall have regular recourse to a consultant of his choice who is qualified to help him monitor his ministry.

The benefits of endowing our leader with strong authority are great, but so are the demands. We need to be aware of both the negative and positive psychological forces that are inevitably brought into play wherever authority is strong.  The Superior can be overwhelmed by the number of expecta­tions placed upon him.  He will not be equally gifted in meeting them all and will fall short through his own weakness.  Only prayer and genuine love can sustain him in his office.  The brothers shall fre­quently call upon God to give our leader the graces needed for his ministry day by day, and to show them how to support and cherish him.

15. Outward Signs of Our Common Life

Read by Br. Luke Ditewig

Read by Br. Luke Ditewig

From the day of our clothing to the day of our burial, the habit acts as a powerful sign of our common life and identity that we should cherish.  It manifests not only our membership in this Society but our solidarity with men and women following the monastic way the world over.  It expresses a precious continuity linking us through the centuries to the beginning of the monastic movement in the Church of Christ.

This clothing, dense with meaning, is a source of joy.  We have put on Christ in Baptism and the habit can remind us of our present union with him.  The triple-cord round our waists is an ancient sign of readiness that can summon us to be prepared to meet Christ whenever he should come.  The knots tied in the cord at profession are signs to the hand and eye of the vows we have made to abide faithfully until he comes.

Each house of the Society shall have its own guidelines about when the habit will be worn at home.  Sometimes when we are away on mission wearing our habits may be a valuable witness to our calling, but whenever the habit is likely to be a barrier in our dealings with others we should wear ordinary clothing.  The habit loses its spiritual value if it is used for ostentation or to imply a false distinction between ourselves and other Christians.

The cross of the Society is an emblem of our common life to be worn with ordinary clothing whenever we choose.  It enables us to bear close to our heart a sign of the lifting up of Christ from the earth that he might draw all people to himself.

When we make our life profession, we are given as a further sign of our entire dedication to Christ a ring to be worn thereafter at all times.  This ring is a sign of our espousal as lovers of God. It shows our solidarity with those who have made vows to meet the demands of love and faithfulness in marriage and dedicated partnership.

It is a joyful thing to have our lives enriched by these and other symbols, but their power will fade if we fail to renew our appreciation of their depths.  The occasions when a brother is given the habit and cross, or puts on the ring, are opportunities when we can all re-experience the richness of these symbols, and from time to time we should meditate on them in our prayer.  Our hallowing of these outward signs involves taking care of them, particularly making sure that our habits are clean and in good repair.

16. Worship

Br. Jonathan Maury

Read by Br. Jonathan Maury

Human beings were created to bless and adore their Creator and in the offering of worship to experience their highest joy and their deepest communion with one another.  In our fallenness we continually turn in upon ourselves to seek fulfillment without self-offering.  We squander on lesser things the love that is due to the one source of all being.  But the Father never ceases from seeking true worshipers to worship him in spirit and truth.  God sent the Son into the world to heal and raise us up so that, empowered by the Spirit, we could surrender our whole selves in adoration and be reunited in the love of God.

God draws us into our Society so that our calling to be true worshipers can reach fulfillment in the offering of the continual sacrifice of praise.  In this life of worship to­gether we are transformed in body, soul and spirit.

We offer our worship in the Spirit as a community of the Church on behalf of the entire world.  Our life is ordered so that we can sustain the full expression of the Church’s worship in the constant offering of the Daily Office and the Eucharist.  We bear witness to the riches of the liturgy and its power to permeate life with the remembrance of God.  Our liturgical life is in itself a vital ministry.  We lift up the Church and world in prayer, and strengthen those whom we encourage to take full part in our worship.  We also influence the renewal of the Church’s worship by our example, and the value we place on beauty in music, dignity in ceremony and depth in the word.

If we become the true worshipers whom the Father seeks, no part of our life is untouched by our worship.  It makes our experience of time itself sacred.  The offices express the inmost meaning of the times of each day from dawn to nightfall.  The weeks are sanctified, beginning with the com­memoration of the resurrection on the first day.  The liturgical cycle of the year redeems the passage of time by making the months and seasons the means of appropriating again the creating and healing acts of God, reaching its climax in our renewed experience of the life-giving cross and resurrection in Holy Week, Easter and Pentecost.

Our worship will bind us in community with one another and with those for whom we inter­cede in the liturgy.  It unites us with our brothers who have gone before us and to the entire com­munion of saints.  In worship we are not bound to our own time and place; the commemoration of the saints links us with all the ages and every place where God has been glorified.  It reveals to us the great cloud of witnesses in the heavens, encouraging us on our straight course to God.

Worship sanctifies work, continually interrupting it so that we can offer it to God in thanks­giving.  Worship, like play, is free from the need to produce tangible gains, but it is work.  It takes skill to craft and carry out the “work of God,” as monastic tradition calls it.  Worship makes costly demands on our time and energies.  It calls us from the inertia of self-centeredness.  When we come to worship in dryness and fatigue, we learn to make the offering of sheer faith and allow ourselves to be borne along by the devotion of our brothers.

17. The Eucharist

Read by Br. David Vryhof

Read by Br. David Vryhof

Our worship of God finds its fullest expression in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.  It is the offering through which we return thanks for all that God has given us in creation, and in our redemption through the pouring out of Christ’s life-blood on the cross.  In this sacrifice of bread and wine all that we do and are is joined by the Holy Spirit to the eternal offering of Christ on behalf of the world.  It is the meal which intensifies our union with Christ, draws us together as a community, and nourishes us with the grace needed for our transformation and our mission.

It is the mystery through which we are caught up into the communion of saints on earth and in heaven, the mystical Body of Christ.  It is the gift through which we experience a foretaste of the life to come.

The celebration of the Eucharist on the first day of the week is our central act of worship as members of the people of God.  Our seeking to abide in Christ, and to feed on him constantly as our daily bread, moves us to celebrate the Eucharist also on other days of the week.  Although it is not our custom to offer the Eucharist on our day of rest, and there may be another day in the week at which participation is voluntary, the community will normally celebrate the Eucharist together day by day.  Reservation of the sacramental gifts enables the community not only to communicate the sick, but also to have a sign of Christ’s abiding presence in our midst.

John the Evangelist alludes to a profound dimension of the mystery of the Eucharist in the account of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples at the Last Supper.  The Eucharist is a means for Christ to serve us and to give us the love whereby we can serve and love one another.  Our celebra­tions of the Eucharist are occasions of spiritual hospitality, mutual service and witness.  Eucharistic hospitality is an important ministry to all those to whom we open our worship.  We should be sensi­tive to their needs and order the liturgy in a welcoming way that enables them to participate with us.  Through our celebrations we bear witness to our faith in the presence of the risen Christ in the living word of Scripture and preaching, in the assembled body, and in the sacramental Body and Blood of Communion.  Our eucharistic worship is a primary expression of our mission because it has the power to draw people into a living encounter with Christ, the living bread and true healer.

The frequent offering of the Eucharist is a privilege but it also brings challenges.  We need to work together to keep on revitalizing our eucharistic worship so that it does not become a repeti­tive routine.  Creative variations in our liturgies are important.  Frequent communion is a challenge to us also as individuals.  It is not possible for us to participate in the liturgy with intense devotion and awareness every time.  Often we must accept being borne along by the corporate devotion of the assembly, remembering that the power of the sacrament is not dependent on our mental clarity or warmth of feeling.  However each one of us will need to discover for himself ways of constantly renewing through meditation his self-offering and receptivity, so that we can come to Communion often “with that tender love which is due to Him with whom we are so mysteriously united,” as Father Benson urged us.

18. The Daily Office

Read by Br. James Koester

Read by Br. James Koester

Each eucharistic meal empowers us to approach God afresh in worship, united with Christ; Father Benson teaches us that “Just as in Holy Communion we receive His substance into our bodies, so in the saying of our offices we bring forth the power of that substance, so that it may rise up to God.”  The Daily Office is a sustained act of union with Christ by which we participate in his unceasing offering of love to the Father.  In reciting the psalms, singing canticles and hymns, pro­claiming the divine word in Scripture or lifting our voices in prayer, we are to enter more and more into the mind, heart and will of Christ, and be borne up by the Spirit in him to the Father.

Our praying of the psalter, which is the heart of the Daily Office, takes us ever deeper into the mystery of the Incarnation; the psalms give voice to the whole range of human experience which Christ has embraced and redeemed as the Savior of the world.  Although nothing essential is lacking when the office is said, we continue the tradition of our Society by singing whenever there are sufficient voices.  As we sing and chant deep levels of our being are involved; our hearts are lifted up in greater exultation.  And music enhances our worship with riches inherited from many ages.

This fellowship in praise at the heart of the Church continually deepens our integration as a community, making us one in Christ.  Our desire to experience this deepening communion will find expression in the care we give to the disciplines of choral prayer.  Among these disciplines are practice and preparation; the custom of taking our place in good time; stillness of posture; attentive­ness to the readings; sensitivity and responsiveness to one another so that we can sing and recite together.

The office will also nourish the inner life of each brother.  It is the means by which our hearts are constantly impregnated with the riches of the word of God in Scripture so that they bear fruit in our prayer and life.  When a brother’s heart is full of heaviness, praying the office can sustain him.  But for the office to be truly a means of our transfiguration we must cooperate by continually re­newing our inner attentiveness, laying aside again and again the preoccupations and daydreams that confuse and tie us down.  This effort to keep our hearts open to Christ will be needed all our lives; it is a hidden dying to self day by day.

The Daily Office offered by the Society shall be drawn from the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church or of its equivalent in the Anglican Church of Canada:  Morning Prayer, the Order of Service for Noonday, Evening Prayer and Compline.  Each house will establish a pattern in the recitation of the offices and the celebration of the Eucharist that best suits the local setting.

Each brother shall take part in every office unless he is permitted to be absent for reasons of infirmity or is prevented by some necessary work.  We shall recite Morning and Evening Prayer by ourselves if we are unable to join the community in choir and when we are away from the house.   In this way the community remains united in the common offering of praise even when we are separated.