The Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 25
Sr. Joan Chittister writes in her commentary on Chapter 25 that our betrayal of community can come to a point when
Benedict's rule calls for the group whose life we affect to say, "Enough," to quit bearing us up on the litter of community, to quit rewarding our selfish and surly behavior with security and affirmation and a patina of holiness. Excommunication, for all practical purposes, says "You want to be a world unto yourself? Fine. be one."
Sometimes it takes drastic measures for us to recognize the extent to which our life depends upon community. We take for granted the benefits that community affords, and it isn't until those benefits are removed that we are made to face the implications of our behavior. Our Father Benedict instructs that the excommunicated work alone and prohibits the customary blessing exchanged between monks in passing as well as the common blessing of the food because these things bring into sharp relief the reality of life outside of community. I hear an implied question: "Is life outside really what you desire?"
The profession rite for The Community of St. Mary of the Annunciation begins with the question, "What is it that you desire?" to which the candidate replies, "To dedicate my life to Holy God through the vows of Stability in this community of canons, Conversion through the monastic way of life, and Obedience according to the Rule of our Holy Father Benedict." There is nothing in the rite about this way of living being the only true path to God. But it is the path we have stood up and declared as our own, and we have taken vows that place our feet firmly upon it. In the context of a vowed life, it is not with vengeance or a spirit of retribution that the rule makes provision for dealing with those who wander from the path. It is to bring us back to the first question we answered when we approached our path in the first place.