ANGLICANISM owes much to the Rule of St Benedict, with its tradition of the daily Office, the prayerful reading of scripture, leadership and decision-making, and the building of community. It provides a spiritual path that “the strong may still have something to strive towards and the weak nothing to run from.”
The Rule has much that can still inspire and teach us all today about the need to listen to God and one another, to grow in humility, and to embrace silence. It was, however, written in Latin, in the sixth century, for monks, and that in itself presents a problem, because the masculine language can sound inappropriate today, especially when the Rule is read by nuns, some of whom have chosen to change references to “monks” and “the abbot” by referring to “nuns” and “the abbess”.
Sister Judith Sutera, an American Roman Catholic Benedictine, has done a brilliant job in producing an inclusive translation that sounds both natural and beautiful. She has achieved not only a gender-inclusive translation, but also an inclusive translation in the literary sense, pleasing to both American and British ears. Sister Judith uses the term “monastics” to describe both monks and nuns and “superior” to describe abbots and abbesses. She also uses gender-neutral language for priests, recognising that there are Anglican nuns who are also priests. The spelling, however, is American.
The book is divided into small sections to provide daily readings throughout the year, and this translation is likely to find its way into many Benedictine choir stalls and chapter houses, so as to become the standard English translation of a spiritual classic that invites people to listen to God “and incline the ear of your heart”.
The Rt Revd Dominic Walker OGS is a former Bishop of Monmouth.
The Rule of St Benedict: An inclusive translation
Judith Sutera OSB
Canterbury Press £12.99
Church Times Bookshop £10.39