(1045-ca. 1050 on Monastic Observance
in his monastery


The Fathers of The Church, Medieval Continuation, The Letters of Peter Damian, vol. 1,  1-30.  tr. O.J Blum, Cath. U. A Press, Washington DC, 1989, pp. 159-170. Petrus Damiani c. 1007 - 1072 Epistulae CLXXX - s. 11 p.c. MGH, Briefe, IV, Teil 1-4 (K. Reindel, 1983 - 1993), pp. 168-180.




(1) As I carefully note  the fervor of your way of life, dear brothers, I attribute it to no amount of human effort, but rather I give thanks to him, who for his own loving purpose, “provides both the will and the action within you.” He, indeed, is the source and origin of virtue, it is he who inspires good will. And who should wonder that he gives strength to the frail vessels of your bodies that you might bravely carry the cross after him, since it is he who wondrously balances the contents of all the world’s granaries in fragile ears or stalks? See how mighty buildings made of weighty stone often fall to the ground, and yet the winged sheaths that hold each grain, supported on their fine stems, do not succumb. Why should we marvel, I say, that he gives stamina to the limbs of his servants, since it is he who suspends the wines of every region in the world within the thin skin of grapes? And that which often overflows after much hard labor had confined it in casks, is held without loss in a very thin membrane like some trustworthy container. And what is more, the juice that often escapes drop by drop from the cask is preserved in the grape and does not diminish, but rather increases through daily growth.

18 Cum fervorem sanctae conversationis vestrae, fratres karissimi, diligenter attendo, nullis hoc humanis viribus deputo, sed illi pocius, qui operatur in vobis, et velle et perficere, pro bona voluntate gratias ago. Ille enim fons est et origo virtutis, ille bonae inspirator est voluntatis. Et quid mirum, si fragilia corporum vestrorum vascula ad portandam post se crucem fortiter roborat, qui cuncta mundi horrea in levibus culmorum aristis mirabiliter librat? Et quorum pondere lapidea sepe aedificia corruunt, ad haec ferenda volatiles spicarum thecae tenuibus innixae paleis non succumbunt. Quid, inquam, mirum, si debilibus servorum suorum membris vires attribuit, qui in tenuissimis uvarum folliculis omnium ubique regionum vina suspendit? Et quod ex tunnis operose et cum magno labore compactis sepius effluit, hoc perexilis stemphia quasi quaedam fidelis depositaria sine diminutione custodit? Immo quod illinc vel guttatim frequenter effunditur, hic non minuendo sed augendo pocius per cotidiana incrementa servatur.



(2) Who can properly describe the greatness of God’s work, when in both a stand of grain and a cluster of grapes he seems to hide the granaries of the great and the storehouses of kings? Notice the leaf on the tree, trembling in the winter cold, and having consumed all the green it once had during the fine days of autumn, is now about to fall . It is scarcely attached to the branch on which it hangs and shows all the signs of its gentle downfall. The winds howl, gusting this way and that, and the winter cold grows deeper under the pres­sure of the dense air. And to add to our wonder, the ground is strewn with all the other fallen leaves, and the tree, having lost its foliage, stands shorn of its beauty. But this leaf alone remains with all its companions gone, and like a last heir suc­ceeds to the fraternal inheritance. What are we to understand from this meditation, but that not even a leaf on a tree dares fall to the ground but that God wills it so?

Quis autem divini operis magnitudinem narrare sufficiat, cum sive in palearum culmis, sive in uvarum botris recondi videat cellaria potentum, prumtuaria regum? Videamus in arbore folium sub ipsis pruinis hyemalibus lapsabundum et consumpto autumpnalis clementiae virore iamiam pene casurum, ita ut vix ramusculo, cui dependet, inhaereat, sed apertissima levis ruinae signa praetendat. Inhorrescunt flabra, venti furentes hinc inde concutiunt, brumalis horror crassi aeris rigore densatur, atque, ut magis stupeas, defluentibus reliquis undique foliis terra sternitur et depositis comis suo arbor decore nudatur, cum illud solum nullo manente permaneat et velut cohaeredum superstes in fraternae possessionis iura succedat. Quid autem nobis intellegendum in huius rei consideratione relinquitur, nisi quia nec arboris folium preter divinum cadere praesumat imperium?



(3) So why should we marvel that while most of the monastic order is decaying, Almighty God, who fixes the leaves of his choice to the tree while others are falling, should strengthen some of his servants to bear the burden of various afflictions? And so blessed job, that observer of divine power, had every right to say: “His works are great, beyond all reck­oning, his marvels, past all counting.” Wherefore, I give boundless thanks to my Creator who wished me to have this office of unworthy service in a community small in number but one that counts good men . It is not necessary that I lead the way for such men in returning to our fatherland, but only to rejoice if I am able to keep up with the footsteps of my brethren. Thus does the fruit of a straitened abundance seem to repay me with a harvest that I could not gather anywhere else in this wide world.

Quid ergo mirum, si defluente iam ex maxima parte monachico ordine quosdam servos suos omnipotens Deus in perferendo diversarum temptationum labore corroborat, qui et quae vult in arboribus folia caeteris decidentibus ligat? Unde non inmerito scrutator ille divinae potentiae beatus Iob dicit: Qui facit, inquit, magna et incomprehensibilia et mirabilia, quorum non est numerus. Quapropter inmensas creatori meo gratias refero, qui me indignum locum ministerii habere voluit in conventu non multorum sed bonorum, quos michi non necesse sit ad patriam redeundo praecedere, sed gaudendum est, si fraterna possim vestigia parili conviatione tenere, ut fructum, qui nequaquam michi ex spatiosa terra colligitur, uberius videatur angustae fertilitatis recompensare proventus.



(4) But now, my brothers, I should like to relate briefly a few things about the type of life you lead, so that what one can now read in your living deeds may also be handed down in writing for the information of those who will come after us in this place. If it should not be that they will climb to higher things, they may at least learn the rule of life that you observed and may faithfully strive to follow it. Indeed, those who will come after us in this home of ours will also be heirs of our way of life. What a shame it would be if what they see written down in detail about the regular observance of their home should at some time be lost through their failure to imitate it. Now in this place that is called Hazelnut Spring, there are usually twenty of us monks, more or less,  dwelling in cells or in livings assigned to each, so that altogether, counting the lay brothers and servants,” the number comes to about thirty-five. The way of life in our time is the following.

Volo autem, fratres mei, de vestrae conversationis ordine hic pauca perstringere, ut quod in vestris nunc vivis operibus legitur, etiam apicibus traditum ad eorum, qui nobis in hoc loco successuri sunt, notitiam transferatur. Quatinus et si non contigerit eos ad altiora conscendere, eandem saltim vivendi regulam quam vos tenuisse didicerint et ipsi studeant fideliter observare, ut qui habitationis fuerint successores, sint nichilominus et conversationis heredes, et quod de regulari observantia sui loci viderint specialiter scriptum, pudeat, si de sua fuerit aliquando imitatione deletum. In hoc nempe loco, qui fons Avellani dicitur, plerumque viginti plus minus monachi per cellulas, sive in assignata cuique oboedientia degimus, ut omnes simul cum conversis et famulis tricenarium quinarium numerum aut vix aut breviter excedamus. Vivendi autem regula hoc nostro tempore talis est.





(5) From the octave of Easter until Pentecost you fast four days a week, except Sunday, about whose dignity no one doubts, and Tuesday and Thursday, when two meals a day are taken. As you know, at that time monks are not forbidden to fast by authority of the sacred canons. From the octave of Pentecost to the feast of St. John,” the fast is observed on five days with this arrangement: on Tuesdays at 3:00 P.M. you have a warm meal, and on Thursdays you take a second meal. But from the feast of St. John to  September two meals a day are had on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but on the other four days the fast is observed in the usual way. From the middle of September, however, until Easter the fast is observed five days a week without interruption, except that, when necessary, compassionate relief is always provided for brothers who are sick and suffer from irregular humors. No one should rashly accuse me of lying, for he should bear in mind that I am not speaking to strangers, but relate these things to those who are present and know the facts first-hand. I would certainly be properly ashamed were I, with their knowledge, devoted to the fabrication of deceit in the midst of the disciples of truth.

Ab octavis nempe dominicae resurrectionis usque ad diem sanctum pentecostes quattuor dies per ebdomadam ieiunatis. Preter dominicum vero diem, de cuius reverentia nullus addubitat, tercia feria et quinta feria bis in die reficitis. Illo enim tempore, ut nostis, non prohibentur monachi auctoritate sacrorum canonum ieiunare. Ab octava autem pentecostes usque ad festivitatem sancti Iohannis quinque diebus observatur sub hac discretione ieiunium, ut tercia feria ad horam nonam pulmentum habeatis, quinta vero feria secunda vice reficitis. A festivitate vero sancti Iohannis usque ad idus Septembris tertia et quinta feria tenetur bina in die refectio, reliquis vero quattuor diebus servatur solito more ieiunium. Ab idibus vero Septembris usque ad pascha Domini quinque diebus ieiunium sine intermissione tenetur, salvo eo, quod semper infirmioribus fratribus humorum que inaequalitatem patientibus prout necesse fuerit, misericorditer subvenitur. Nemo autem me mendacii temerarius arguat, dum me non extraneis loqui, sed his, qui rem perite noverunt, praesentibus haec narrare considerat, et certe non inmerito erubescerem, si inter discipulos veritatis ipsis scientibus commento fallatiae deservirem.



(6) For even though I must tell the whole story and not cheat those who will later hear of these things, I would rather, with due regard for the truth, leave them an account of what actually is, than boast with idle persuasion about things non­existent. So now, regarding the two 40 day fasts that precede both the birthday of the Lord and the holy feast of Easter, even though I say nothing about them, you know, however, that there are some here who, except on Sundays, are accustomed to pass the period of these two Lents in total fast, excluding the three solemnities, namely, of St. Andrew, (30 November) St. Benedict, (21 March) and the Annunciation of the Lord. (25 March) On other feasts, however, that are great but are not so important, whether they occur in Lent or during the rest of the year, the cellarer may, with some discretion and the approval of the prior, dispense extra food to those who live near the church, on feasts that have twelve lessons. Otherwise, those who live in cells and recite only three lessons, since they never go out, observe the usual fast.

Etsi enim eos, qui postmodum audituri sunt, huius rei plenitudine fraudare non debeam, malo tamen ex eo quod est, salva veritate relinquere, quam id, quod non est, vana persuasione iactare. Ecce enim de duabus illis quadragesimis, quae vel natale Domini vel sanctum pascha praecedunt, licet ego taceam, vos tamen scitis, quia nonnulli hic sunt, qui absque diebus dominicis duplex illud quadragesimale spacium totum ieiunando transcurrere soleant, exceptis tribus solempnitatibus sancti videlicet Andreae et sancti Benedicti et annuntiatione dominica. Alias autem festivitates, quae magnae quidem sed non adeo sunt praecipuae, sive in quadragesimali tempore, sive per tocius anni circulum, cellararius cum his, qui iuxta aecclesiam commorantur, cum duodecim celebrant lectionibus, atque si priori videtur, aliqua illis misericordia refectionis impenditur. Caeterum hii, qui sunt per cellulas constituti, trina lectione contenti, dum foras minime prodeant, ieiunium suum ex more conservant.



(7) We consider those to be fasting who take bread with salt and water; when something beside these is added, the fast is not thought to be complete. Formerly there were some here who would not eat a warm meal even on Sundays during both Lents, but out of reverence for the holy day I decided to forbid this practice. The servants who live with us, how­ever, usually observe the fast three days a week throughout the year. But during the two Lents they normally fast on four days, except for those who are sent on rather long trips. As you know, for some time we abstained from wine, so that neither the lay brothers nor those who came here as guests drank anything but water, even on Easter. We had wine here only for Mass. But when those who were here began to grow weak from illness and some who wished to enter the hermitage were wholly deterred by this rigorous practice, I agreed to yield and granted relief to the brothers, or to be more truthful, to our common weakness, and allowed wine to be drunk here in moderation. Thus, since we could not totally abstain along with John, we might at least strive with Paul’s disciple Timothy to minister soberly and humbly to a sick stomach; (Cf. Lk 1.15; 1 Tim 5.23) and since we are unable to practice total absti­nence, we should at least try to be sober. Still, during the two Lents I mentioned it remained the custom that neither monks nor lay brothers are permitted to drink wine or eat fish. During these same Lents, moreover, only one warm meal is allowed, excepting these four feasts, that is, St. An­drew’s and St. Benedict’s Day, Palm Sunday, and Maundy Thursday, on which sacred days fish and wine are gratefully taken.

Ieiunare autem illos dicimus, qui panem cum sale et aqua percipiunt, ubi autem praeter haec aliud quid additur, perfectum ieiunium non vocatur. Solebant autem hic quidam et dominicis diebus utriusque quadragesimae coctionibus abstinere, quod nos ob reverentiam sacrae diei prohibere curavimus. Famuli autem, qui nobis cum sunt, per totius anni curriculum tribus per ebdomadam diebus tenent ex more ieiunium. In illis autem duabus quadragesimis quattuor dies convenienter observant, exceptis his, qui in via longius diriguntur. A vino autem, ut nostis, aliquanto tempore continuimus, ita ut neque laici neque extrinsecus venientes vel etiam in pascha Domini aliquid hic praeter aquam biberent, neque vinum hic nisi pro sacrifitio haberetur. Sed quoniam et hic manentes coeperunt aegrotando deficere, et quidam ad heremum transire cupientes huius rigoris observantiam penitus abhorrere, fraternae, sive ut verius dicam, communi inbecillitati dispensatorie condescendentes indulsimus, ut vinum hic servato sobrietatis moderamine biberetur, ut quod cum Iohanne non possumus ex toto relinquere, saltim cum Timotheo Pauli discipulo studeamus infirmo stomacho sobrie et humiliter ministrare, et qui prorsus abstemii esse non possumus, esse saltim sobrii studeamus. Verumtamen in praedictis duabus quadragesimis consuetudo tenuit, ut neque monachis neque laicis vini vel etiam piscis perceptio concedatur. Pulmentum quoque in eisdem quadragesimis nunquam sit praeter unum, nisi his quattuor festivitatibus scilicet beati Andreae et sancti Benedicti et in dominica palmarum et coena Domini, quibus nimirum sacratissimis diebus pisces et vinum cum gratiarum actione percipiuntur.



(8) On Holy Saturday, however, and on the vigil of Christmas, that the burden of liturgical duties might be lightened, those who wish may eat the full measure of bread; (One pound, as noted in Benedicti regula, c. 39) but both lay brothers and monks abstain totally from all other food. Only three octaves in the year are celebrated during which no one is compelled to fast, namely, those of Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas. But some, since they are not accustomed to it and find it difficult to eat twice a day during the entire week, often humbly request and are granted permission to fast a little at their discretion. It is customary, however, for the brethren on all Sundays, except during the two Lents, to have two warm meals, but on other days only one. And now this will suffice on matters of fasting.

In sabbato autem sancto nec non et vigilia natalis Domini, ut labor aecclesiastici relevetur officii, totum panem, qui voluerint, comedunt, alium vero cibum sive laici sive monachi penitus non admittunt. Tres autem solummodo octavae per annum ita celebrantur, ut ieiunare hic nemo cogatur, id est dominicae resurrectionis et sancti pentecostes atque natalis Domini. Sed quibusdam, quia propter desuetudinem grave est totius ebdomadae binam continuare refectionem, quandoquidem hoc humiliter expetunt, ieiunare aliquantulum pro misericordia conceduntur. Consuetudo est autem fratribus in diebus dominicis omni tempore praeter quadragesimas duas duo habere pulmenta, in aliis vero diebus unum solummodo Et de ieiuniis quidem ista sufficiant..

Commutations of Penance into Spiritual Practices


(9) In the practice of other spiritual exercises, I fear to speak of the ever constant fervor, of the solicitude, and of the alert and laborious frequency, lest I appear irksome to those who, like me, are slothful and negligent, and incite them to some resentment against me. But this much I can say, that such diligence is displayed in genuflections, in blows with the discipline, and in other such practices, that when any penitent is enjoined out of fear of an untimely death to perform a given penance in this fashion, he finishes a long penance in a brief time with this customary proviso, that if he lives on for many years he is not to abandon the fast. For one year of penance we usually prescribe three thousand blows of the discipline, or twenty-five psalters, or twenty-five Masses.

In caeteris autem spiritalis exercitii studiis, quae sit continui fervoris instantia, quae sollicitudo, quam vigil et operosa frequentia, timeo dicere, ne michi similibus desidiosis videlicet et neglegentibus videar onerosus existere, atque eorum in me aliquatenus invidiam concitare. Hoc tantum michi dicere liceat, quia tanta est diligentia in flexionibus genuum, in disciplinis scoparum, et in caeteris huiusmodi, ut cum quilibet paenitens incertae mortis metu iniunctam paenitentiam per haec remedia implere precipitur, brevi tempore longa paenitentia consumetur, salva tamen consuetudine, ut si postmodum vita hominis in longum ducitur, ieiunium non relinquatur. Dantur autem ex more tria milia scoparum pro unius anni paenitentia sive viginti quinque psalteria aut viginti quinque missae.



(10) Concerning the recitation of psalms, it is the custom here that when two of the brethren live together in a cell, they recite two psalters daily, one for the living and the other for the dead. The psalter said for the living is accompanied by additional prayers which blessed Romuald prescribed; but that for the dead is recited together with nine lessons, namely, three for each fifty psalms. But when one lives alone, he daily recites the entire psalter for the living and a half or whole psalter for the dead as his strength will allow. The psalmody of the canonical hours is also recited here in its entirety just as in the monastery.

De psalmodia vero haec consuetudo est, ut cum duo fratres simul commorantur in cella, duo persolvant in die psalteria, unum pro vivis, alterum pro defunctis. Et illud quidem, quod est vivorum, cum illis dicitur additamentis, quae beatus Romualdus apposuit, quod vero pro defunctis cum novem lectionibus dicitur, tribus nimirum per quinquagenos psalmos. Qui autem solus moratur, psalterium quidem vivorum totum per singulos dies adimplet, defunctorum autem sive medium sive totum iuxta quod virium possibilitas amministrat. Horarum autem psalmodia canonica omnino, sicut fit in monasterio, ita hic per ordinem tota nichilominus adimpletur.



(11) Among other things, this should not be omitted: that it is our custom to observe continual silence in the cells just as in the chapel. Nor is anyone allowed to speak there, even for confession, except it seem good to the prior, that the novices and their directors be allowed some little time for talk. But if the monks need to speak, they can make known their necessity on the way to the church.

Hoc autem inter caetera praetermittendum non est, quia in cellulis continuum tenetur, sicut revera in oratorio, ex more silentium, nec permittitur, ut illic aliquis vel pro confessione loquatur, excepto si priori visum fuerit, ut noviciis eorum que institutoribus ad tempus aliquantulum loquendi licentia concedatur. Si quid autem loqui indigent, ad aecclesiam prodeuntes quaeque sunt necessaria manifestant.



(12) This too is a significant part of the penitential life: that all year round, both in summer and winter, neither shoes nor stockings are worn in the cells; but it is the custom to go with bare feet and legs, except for those who suffer from more serious illness.

Illud etiam non minima pars paenitentiae est, quia omni tempore, sive estate sive hieme, non calceis non ocreis utuntur in cellulis, sed nudis semper cruribus et pedibus consuetudo est permanere, exceptis his, qui graviori molestia infirmitatis urgentur.



(13) In the monasteries it is the rule that those who are commissioned to travel do not eat on the way if they hope to return the same day. To this observance we have added the following: if one should be out for one or two days, he is always to return fasting to the hermitage.

Regulare autem est monasteriis, ut hii, qui in via diriguntur foris non comedant, si eo die sperant reverti. Cui videlicet observantiae illud etiam apud nos additur, ut sive ipso sive alio die fuerit quis egressus, ieiunus semper ad heremum revertatur.



(14) In regard to other monastic practices, however, whatever is done in monasteries of strict and regular observance is also observed with careful attention and facility here: namely, the promptest obedience, that whatever is commanded is done most eagerly; of not giving or receiving anything without permission of the prior; not owning personal property; that when they are in the cloister near the church the monks observe silence, both on feast days and at all unsuitable hours; that in the chapter room, in the chapel, and in the refectory they should not neglect regular custom; that they not speak with guests; that when going or coming from their cells to the church they do not violate the rule of silence; and many other such items which I omit lest I bore you with redundant detail. I will, moreover, pass over in silence the voluntary poverty, the rough clothing, the rigorous austerity of the cells, the strict rule of silence, and the love of perpetual claustration.

De caeteris vero monachicae institutionis observationibus quicquid in regulari et districto monasterio tenetur, idem etiam hic caute et sollerter nichilominus custoditur, videlicet de promtissima oboedientia, ut quodcumque praecipitur, ferventissime peragatur, de non dando vel accipiendo sine iussione prioris, de proprio non habendo, ut dum sunt in claustro, quod est iuxta aecclesiam, sive in festivis diebus, sive omnibus incompetentibus horis silentium teneant, ut in capitulo, in oratorio, in refectorio regularem consuetudinem non postponant, ut cum hospitibus non loquantur atque ideo a cellulis usque ad aecclesiam sive venientes sive redeuntes a censura silencii non recedunt et multa id genus, quae nimirum nos idcirco enumerare postponimus, quia laciniosi stili fastidium devitamus. Taceo de vilitate spontanea et asperitate vestium, de duricia et austeritate cubilium, de districta censura silencii, de amore perpetuae inclusionis.



(15) One item that seems to exceed all the rest, one thing that may be said to surpass all the virtues of those who live here in holiness, is that there is such love among the brethren, such unanimity of will forged by the fire of mutual charity, that everyone considers himself born to serve all and not himself. What another has, is his possession; and what is his, he lovingly shares with all. This too, my brothers, is the source of no little joy for me, that if one of you appears to be ill, all will at once inquire about his condition so that he will not delay giving up his accustomed rigor, not only prompt in furnishing all his necessities, but also taking joy in offering yourselves as willing nurses.

Illud sane cuncta haec videtur excedere, illud omnibus sancte viventium digne censetur virtutibus eminere, quod tanta est inter fratres karitas, tanta unitas voluntatum vicarii amoris igne conflata, ut unusquisque se non sibi sed omnibus natum credat, quod alienum est, ipse possideat, et quod suum est, extenso in omnes amore transfundat. Hoc michi etiam non mediocriter placet, fratres mei, quia si quis inter vos debilior apparuerit, mox omnes certatim quid patiatur inquiritis, ut se a solito rigore remittere non moretur, instatis et non solum necessaria quaeque suggerere, sed etiam vosmetipsos ad eius custodiam ultroneos gaudetis offerre.

Suffrages for the Dead


(16) This too I should not pass over in silence that when one of our brothers dies, everyone fasts seven days for him, takes the discipline seven times, each with a thousand blows, performs seven hundred prostrations, chants thirty psalters in the usual manner, and celebrates Mass for him in particular for thirty days running. This regulation of our hermitage is never subject to any suggested variation, and this custom for the dead is always strictly observed as something that cannot be changed. Moreover, if any novice is perhaps prevented by death from completing a penance howsoever enjoined, as soon as this comes to the attention of the brothers, with great fervor they accept the whole penance and equally divide it among themselves, and no matter how large it may be, gladly finish it in a short time, using various methods of mortifica­tion. Blessed, indeed, are the riches of charity which they freely offer not only for the living, but which they also expend for the dead. Blessed, I say, are the deeds by which we are here assisted through the bountiful generosity of others when our own efforts are insufficient; and when we are strictly required to discharge a debt without the means of doing so, the balance is paid from the abundance of fraternal charity.

Illud etiam silentio praeteriri dignum esse non ducimus, quia cum frater quispiam ex nostris obierit, unusquisque pro eo septem dies ieiunat, septem disciplinas cum millenis scoparum ictibus accipit, septingentas metaneas facit, triginta insuper psalteria ex more decantat, continuis quoque triginta pro eo diebus missarum solemnia specialiter celebrantur. Haec igitur huius loci regula nulla voti varietate postponitur, haec consuetudo circa defunctos districta prorsus et inviolabili semper observatione tenetur. Si autem quis fortasse novitius vel quolibet modo iniunctam paenitentiam morte praeventus consumare non potuit, mox ut ad fratrum notitiam res patefacta pervenerit, cum magno fervore tota paenitentia parili facta inter eos divisione suscipitur et quantalibet sit, brevi spatio per diversos afflictionis modos ovanter expletur. Felices nimirum divitiae karitatis, quae gratis se non modo viventibus ingerunt, sed et mortuos prosequuntur. Felices, inquam, quae illic nobis ex aliena bonae voluntatis ubertate succurrunt, ubi proprii operis supplementa deficiunt, et cum iam districte nobis non habentibus quicquid debemus, exigitur, ex fraternae karitatis abundantia debiti nostri libra completur.



(17) So let these few remarks suffice on the way of life that now prevails at this hermitage, so that one may gather from the things I have briefly discussed what should be thought of those that I passed over in silence. But now, my dear brothers, as I speak somewhat of your virtues while you are present, I am in fact fearful and at the same time I blush. I fear cer­tainly to offend you; I blush lest I seem to have engaged in flattery. But by my conscience, I was led to write these things with every good intention and out of loving concern for the welfare of my brethren, writing what I did not only out of regard for you, but that I might also provide beforehand for those who will come after you. It was done that when you read these remarks you might strive to persevere in the good work you once began, and that the latter might learn from my writing what they must retain in imitating your example. For since, unless Divine Providence should think otherwise, I do not hope to have a grave for long in this place, I am no less solicitous for the future religious life of this hermitage than I am concerned for those who live here now. Wherefore, O prior, however many there may be of you who succeed me in the governance of this house, with tears I beseech you, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the terror of divine judgment I beg you in the name of God’s majesty, that with those who are your subjects you do not deviate from the rule here now observed nor wander from the high road we now walk in this place. You should be ashamed to live degen­erate lives and depart from the nobility of those whose suc­cessors you have become in this hermitage. God forbid that the wealth of divine service which was formerly paid from the revenue of this place appear reduced in your time, for he who at the ancient rate of payment leases his land to new farmers will demand an equal amount of work as his due.

Pauca haec de ea, quae nunc est, huius heremi conversatione suffitiant, ut per haec, quae breviter annotantur, valeat colligi, quid ex his, quae silentio praetermissa sunt, debeat estimari. Sed ecce, fratres karissimi, dum de virtutibus vestris aliquid vobis praesentibus refero, timeo certe simul et erubesco: timeo scilicet vos offendere, erubesco, ne videar assentationibus deservire. Sed ad hoc scribendum teste conscientia bonae me intentionis studium provocat, fraternae salutis amor instigat, quatinus non solum vobis talia scribendo consulere, sed et posteris vestris valeam longius providere. Nimirum ut et vos ista legentes studeatis ei, quod semel coepistis, bono operi perseveranter insistere et illi in his discant, quod de vestra debeant imitatione tenere. Quia enim in hoc loco, nisi divina providentia aliter senserit, non diu post me spero habiturum esse sepulchrum, non minus sum de futura huius loci religione sollicitus, quam his, quae sub praesentia versantur intentus. Unde te, o prior, quicunque michi quotuslibet in huius loci amministratione successeris, per adventum Domini nostri Iesu Christi, per terrorem divini iudicii te lacrimabiliter obsecro, per nomen te divinae maiestatis optestor, ut ab huius observantiae regula, cum his, qui tibi subditi fuerint, non declines a bono tramite, per quem in hoc loco nunc inceditur, non oberres. Pudeat vos ab illorum nobilitate fieri vivendo degeneres, quibus facti estis habitaculo successores. Absit, ut divini census obsequii vestro tempore videatur imminui, qui Deo ex huius loci redditu solebat ante persolvi, non inpar quippe pensum debiti muneris exigit, qui possessionem suam novis agricolis antiqua censita pensione locavit.

Superiority of the Eremitical Life


(18) Therefore, take no delight in following the wide and spacious road, since you were commanded to enter by the narrow gate that leads to life. (Cf. Mt 7.13) The way that leads to heaven is indeed confined, but broad the road that plunges into hell. Do not choose to sink from the strict eremitic life into the laxity of the monasteries, and abandoning the law of the spirit, give in to the enticements of bodily pleasure. The one, indeed, is good, but the other is better. To descend from better things to those that are good is to turn away from some­thing higher in favor of that which is lowly, to retreat from the right road, to cool down from the ardor of one’s spirit to a harmful tepidity, and thus little by little to fall from the heights into the depths of ruin.

Non igitur vos per spatiosae viae latitudinem delectet incedere, qui iubemini per angustam portam, quae ad vitam ducit, intrare. Stricta namque via est, quae ducit ad caelum, ampla autem est, quae mergit in tartarum. Non itaque ad monasterialem laxitudinem ab heremitica vos libeat districtione descendere et relicta lege spiritus carnalis illecebrae lenociniis consentire. Et quidem bona sunt illa, sed ista meliora. Et quid est aliud a melioribus ad bona descendere, nisi ab excelsis ad humilia declinare, a recto cursu post tergum redire, ab ardore spiritus in teporem noxium defervere atque sic paulatim a sublimibus in praecipitium ruere? 



(19) You who succeed me, should carefully inspect these few things that I have written here as a seal with which to stamp your manner of life and that of those that follow you. In your hands may its image never be defaced ‘ may its salutary form never wear away in your time from lack of care, lest, which God forbid, it issue in worthless counterfeit in place of proper coins. Certainly you are not unaware that a forging monnier, convicted of producing false coins, is usually sentenced in court to the amputation of his hand .

Haec igitur pauca quae scripsi, successor mi, sedulus inspice, atque ad imprimendam formam tuae tuorum que conversationi quasi quoddam signaculum tene. Nunquam apud te haec depravetur imago, nunquam tuo tempore haec salutaris forma per incuriam deterat, ne, quod absit, parakaraximus pro nummo moneta degenerante procedat. Et certe non ignoras, quia falsarius trapezita, qui monetam violasse convincitur, plerumque iudiciali calculo manus abscisione multatur.



(20) But that there be no opportunity for excuses? in not observing these rules, I attempted, in keeping with the nar­row limits of this little place, to acquire property that you  might be able to support the number of brothers I previously mentioned, unless you fail to care for its administration. I have also left behind a goodly number of books so that our brothers, who I hope will pray for me, will have ample matter for meditation. In some haste, and therefore not too exactly, I strove to correct for you all the books of the Old and New Testament. By God’s good pleasure and through our efforts there are many volumes for your free time, the Acts of the blessed martyrs, homilies of the holy Fathers, commentaries of those allegorically explaining passages of Sacred Scripture, namely, of Gregory, Ambrose, and Augustine, Jerome, Pros­per, and Bede, Remigius and Amalarius, Haimo and Pas­chasius, that your holy spirits may grow not only by prayer but may also be enriched by reading. I corrected a number of these codices, according to my capacity, that I might open up for you the way to an understanding of the study of sacred theology.

Ut autem ad haec observanda nullus excusationi pateat locus, iuxta id quod exiguitati loci humilis competebat, studuimus eotenus possessiones acquirere, ut praedictum fratrum numerum possis, nisi exercendi cura defuerit, sustentare. Librorum quoque numerum non minimum dereliquimus, ut fratribus nostris, qui pro nobis orare dignentur, meditandi copiam praeberemus. Bibliothecam namque omnium veteris et novi testamenti voluminum licet cursim ac per hoc non exacte vobis emendare curavimus. Ex passionibus quoque beatorum martirum, ex homeliis sanctorum patrum, ex commentariis, allegoricas sacrae scripturae sententias exponentium, Gregorii scilicet, Ambrosii, Agustini, Ieronimi, Prosperi, Bedae, Remigii, etiam et Amelarii, insuper et Aimonis atque Pascasii, divina gratia nostris alubescente laboribus, plures libros habetis, quibus vacare potestis, ut sanctae animae vestrae non solum oratione crescant, sed etiam lectione pinguescant. Ex quibus nimirum codicibus nonnullos pro nostra possibilitate correximus, ut in sacrae disciplinae studiis intellegenciae vobis aditum panderemus.



(21) I also had a cloister built by the church with this purpose, that if anyone is still delighted with the deep-rooted customs of the monastic order, he might have a place for the usual solemn processions on the principal feasts; and I also obtained a fine silver cross for processions there. With the same idea in mind, bowing to the weakness of the frail, I acquired bells ‘ and lavers, and various utensils for the house of God. I provided you with two silver chalices, beautifully gilded, that when you wished to receive the sacred mysteries of the Lord’s body and blood it would never be necessary to put pewter or some baser metal to your lips. I also procured attractive coverings for the sacred altar  and precious vest­ments for celebrating solemn masses.

Claustrum quoque iuxta aecclesiam construi hac intentione censuimus, ut, si quem adhuc inholita monasterialis ordinis consuetudo delectat, habeat, ubi in precipuis festivitatibus solemniter ex more procedat, cui etiam processioni crucem argenteam satis idoneam procuravimus. Eiusdem quoque intentionis studio inbecillitati fragilium consulentes etiam tintinnabula atque bechinia diversa que divinae domus utensilia comparavimus. Calices quoque duos argenteos pulcherrime deauratos hac vobis ratione providimus, ut cum sacra dominici corporis et sanguinis misteria vultis accipere, stagnum vel vilius quodcumque metallum vestris labiis nequaquam necesse sit adhibere. Conspicua nichilominus sacrosancto altari tegmina et celebrandis missarum solemniis preciosa contulimus ornamenta.



(22) All of these things I sought, my brothers, not without some effort, that I might save you laborious exertion, and that your souls might be the freer to rise to greater heights, not burdened by a want of necessities and the need of provid­ing for lowly things. Thus it is, dear brothers, whoever you may be who succeed me in living in this holy place, that I implore you as one who has provided for you even before you gained entry to this way of life; that in loving exchange you also assist me with your prayers after I am dead; and as I prepared for you a place suited to the religious life, may you supply me with the means of obtaining generous forgiveness. See, my brothers, I was once what you are now; I have com­pleted the journey through which you are passing. What I have left behind is now at hand for you; you are now near to where I have come. Therefore, run through the short space of your mortal life, so that after frivolous things that are pass­ing have disappeared, you may arrive at the good that follows and will last forever.

Haec omnia, fratres, nos non sine labore quaesivimus, ut vobis laboris impendia tolleremus, tanto que liberius se vester animus ad alta sustolleret, quanto hunc ad providenda sibi infima rei familiaris inopia non gravaret. Unde rogo vos, fratres karissimi, quicumque michi estis in huius sacri loci habitaculo successuri, ut qui vobis ante consului, quam huius vitae haberetis ingressum. Vos etiam me pia vicissitudine vestris adiuvetis orationibus iam defunctum et qui vobis paravi locum religiose vivendi, vos michi copiam acquiratis indulgentiam promerendi. Ecce, fratres mei, fui quod estis, emensus sum, quod transitis. Presto vobis sunt, quae deserui, propinquum est, quo perveni. Sic ergo compendium vestrae mortalitatis excurrite, ut elapsis vanis quae temporaliter transeunt, ad bona perveniatis quae his perpetuo mansura succedunt.    



This Webpage was created for a workshop held at Saint Andrew's Abbey, Valyermo, California in 2006....x....  .