Abbas, Dignus, Praeese, Maioris

Abbas qui praeesse dignus est monasterio semper meminere debet quod dicitur et nomen maioris factis implere.

– RB 2.1

Those who desire to live a common communal life following Christ and the teaching of Christ are bound to a rule and an abbot.  In RB 2 Benedict describes the qualities of a person who is fit to be abbot.

While the title itself (abbas) could be applied to any distinguished monk, in this case he is particularly referring to the fatherly and pastoral characteristics of one who oversees those who willfully desire to live the genuine Christian common communal life and who have placed themselves under this authority.

The worthiness (dignus) of the abbot arises from both having been elected by those living the common life, as well as designates one who carries within themselves the qualities that are necessary to give equitable final words that are required to maintain the gospel among those living the common life.

This word, ruling (praeese) finds its root in military vocabulary and invokes both the ability to command as well as that which is deserving of allegiance in the members.

And finally there is a play on words in this first line of chapter two, because the word superior (maioris) is not simply a title, but a description, pointing out that the one who is worthy of overseeing the affairs and people of the common life has a superior character as well.

It is humbling that one of the founders of the Catholic Worker Movement became an Oblate in the Order of St. Benedict in 1955; that the one most associated with the CWM would finally come to willfully placed herself in this formal relationship to both the Rule and a superior.