This concluding passage in the chapter on the qualities of the religious superior brings into clear focus the priority of values that Benedictine leadership is to hold. Never are the material needs of the community to outweigh the cuna animarum, the cure, or care, of souls in the regard of the superior. Our Father Benedict wants there to be no mistaking that a Benedictine community is to be an environment wherein nothing supplants spiritual formation as the primary undertaking.
This priority of values is to exist especially within the leader herself, whom St. Benedict reminds to take care of her own soul as she assumes the role of caring for others. For an insight into some of the context behind this chapter, I turn to my friend, Ruth Lindsay, who commented on this blog in 2011. She writes,
A role imposes order, discipline, and expectations upon us in order to transform us into something better. This is the classical/medieval concept of prudence, which basically referred to the process of intellection that helps us discern proper actions in light of our circumstances. Prudent behavior has the potential not only to change us as individuals, but the world we occupy. Through prudence we are empowered to bring about accord between heaven and earth.
It is the virtue of prudence, the queen of all virtues, as St. Thomas Aquinas calls her, that our Father Benedict seeks to instill in each Benedictine. Each member of the community, especially the leader, is tasked with the responsibility to act under the direction of prudence in all things. When prudence is seated on her throne, all our actions are themselves transformed into virtues. Heaven is brought to earth.