Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume III/Moral Treatises of St. Augustin/Of the Work of Monks/Section 33

33. Wherefore even they which having relinquished or distributed their former, whether ample or in any sort opulent, means, have chosen with pious and wholesome humility to be numbered among the poor of Christ; if they be so strong in body and free from ecclesiastical occupations, (albeit, bringing as they do so great a proof of their purpose, and conferring from their former havings, either very much, or not a little, upon the indigence of the same society, the common fund itself and brotherly charity owes them in return a sustenance of their life,) yet if they too work with their hands, that they may take away all excuse from lazy brethren who come from a more humble condition in life, and therefore one more used to toil; therein they act far more mercifully than when they divided all their goods to the needy. If indeed they be unwilling to do this, who can venture to compel them? Yet then there ought to be found for them works in the monastery, which if more free from bodily exercise, require to be looked unto with vigilant administration, that not even they may eat their bread for nought, because it is now become the common property. Nor is it to be regarded in what monasteries, or in what place, any man may have bestowed his former having upon his indigent brethren. For all Christians make one commonwealth. And for that cause whoso shall have, no matter in what place, expended upon Christians the things they needed, in what place soever he also receiveth what himself hath need of, from Christ’s goods[1] he doth receive it. Because in what place soever himself has given to such, who but Christ received it? But, as for them who before they entered this holy society got their living by labor of the body, of which sort are the more part of them which come into monasteries, because of mankind also the more part are such; if they will not work, neither let them eat. For not to that end are the rich, in this Christian warfare, brought low unto piety, that the poor may be lifted up unto pride. As indeed it is by no means seemly that in that mode of life where senators become men of toil, there common workmen should become men of leisure; and whereunto there come, relinquishing their dainties, men who had been masters of houses and lands, there common peasants should be dainty.


  1. De Christi