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BENEDICTINE


459


BENEDICTINE


The example of Cluny produced imitators and many new unions of monasteries subject to a central abbey resulted. The Lateran Council of 1215, per- ceiving the good points of the system as well as its dangers, set itself to strike the mean between the two. The risks of an ever-widening breach between those which adhered to Benedictine tradition and those which had adopted the Chmiac ideas, were to be minimized, wliilst at the same time uniformity of observance and the mutual strength resulting there- from, were to be fostered. The council decreed that the monasteries of each countrj' should be banded together into a congregation; periodical representa- tive chapters were to ensure systematic government after one pattern; the appointment of definitors and visitors was to secure uniformity and cohesion; and at the same time the independence of the abbots and the autonomy of the individual monasteries were to be preserved. The plan promised well, but Eng- land alone seems to have given it a fair trial. In some of the countries it was not imtil the issue of the Bull "Benedictina" in 1336, or even the Triden- tine decrees of two centuries later, that any serious attempt was made towards carrying out the pro- posals of 1215. Meanwliile certain Itahan reforms had produced a number of independent congrega- tions outside the order, differing from each other in organization and spirit, and in each of which the departure from Benedictine principles was carried a stage further. Even in the Cluniac congregation the power of the Abbot of Climy was, after the twelfth centurj', somewhat curtailed by the institution of chapters and definitors. The Sylvestrines (1231) preserved the perpetuity of superiors and recognized the advantages of a representative chapter, though its chief superior was sometliing more than a mere primus inter pares. The Celestines (1274) adopted a somewhat similar system of centralized authority, but differed from it in that their superior was elected triennially. The Olivetans (1319) marked the fur- thest point of development by instituting an abbot- general with jurisdiction over all the other abbots as well as their communities. The general chapter nominated the officials of all the houses; the monks belonged to no one monastery in particular, but to the whole congregation; and by thus destroying all community rights, and placing all power in the hands of a small committee, the OUvetan congregation approximated nearest to the later orders like the Dominicans and Jesuits, with their highly centraUzed systems of government. The congregation of St. Justina of Padua was modelled on similar lines, though afterwards considerably modified, and some centuries later St.-Vannes and St.-Maur followed in its wake. The Spanish congregation of ^'alladolid, too, with its abbot-general, and with superiors who were not perpetual and chosen by the general chap- ter, must be classed with those that represent the line of departure from earlier Benedictine tradition; as must also the resuscitated English congregation of the seventeenth century, which inherited its con- stitution from that of Spain. In these two latter congregations, however, there were some modifica- tions, wliich made their dissent from the original ideal less marked than in those previously enumer- ated. On the other side, as representing those that preserved the traditional autonomy and family spirit in the individual houses, we have the Bursfeld Union winch, in the fifteenth centurj', made an honest attempt to carrj' out the Lateran decrees and the provisions of the Bull "Benedictina". The Austrian, Bavarian, and Swi.ss congregations of the same period followed out the same idea, as do also almost all of the more modem congregations, and by the legislation of Leo XIII the traditional principles of government liave been revived in the English con- gregation. In this way the true Benedictine ideal


was restored, whilst by means of general chapters, at wliich every monastery of the congregation was represented, and by the periodical visitations made by the presidents or others elected for that duty, uniform observance and regular discipline were preserved. The presidents were elected by the other abbots composing the chapter and their "office was merely presidential, not that of a superior general or abbas abbaium.

Present System of Government. — All the congrega- tions of more recent formation have been constituted, with sUght variations, on the same plan, which repre- .sents the normal and traditional form of government in the order. L'niformity in the various congrega- tions is further secured by what are called Constitu- tions. These are a series of declarations on the holy Rule, defining its interpretation and apphcation. to which are added other regulations on points of dis- ciphue and practice not provided for oy St. Bene- dict. The constitutions must be approved at Rome, after wliich they have binding force upon the con- gregation for which they are intended. The eapitula of Aachen and the Concordia Regularis were the earhest examples of such constitutions. Amongst others may be mentioned the "Statutes" of Lan- franc, the "DiscipUne of Farfa", the "Ordo"' of Bernard of Cluny, and the "Constitutions" of St. William of Hirschau. (The three latter are printed by Herrgott in "Vetus Disciphna Monastica", Paris, 1726.) Since the thirteenth centurj' every congre- gation has had its own set of constitutions, in which the principles of the Rule are adapted to the particu- lar work of the congregation to wliich they apply. Each congregation is composed of a certain number of monasteries, the abbots of which, with other officials and elected representatives, form the general chapter, which exercises legislative and executive authority over the whole body. The power pos- sessed by it is strictly hmited and defined in the constitutions. The meetings of the chapter are held usually every two, three, or four j-ears and are presided over by one of the members elected to that office by the rest. Whilst the office of abbot is usuallj' for Ufe, that of the president is generally only for a term of j'ears and the person holding it is not in all cases eUgible for continuous re-election. Each president, either by himself or in conjunction with one or more speciallj' elected ^^sitors. holds canonical \'isitations of all the houses of his congregation, and by tills means the chapter is kept informed of the spiritual and temporal condition of each monastery, and discipHne is maintained according to the con- stitutions.

The Abbot Primate. — In order the better to bind together the various congregations that constitute the order at the present daj'. Pope Leo XIII, in 1893, appointed a nominal head over the whole federation, with the title of Abbot Primate. The traditional autonomy of each congregation, and still further of each house, is interfered with in the least possible degree bj- this appointment, for, as the title itself indicates, the office is in its nature different from that of the general of an order. Apart from matters e.xplicitlj- defined, the abbot primate's posi- tion with regard to the other abbots is to be imder- stooil rather from the analogy of a primate in a hierarchy than from that of the general of an order like the Dominicans or Jesuits.

Methods of Recruiting. — The recruiting of the various monasteries of the order differs according to the nature and scope of the influence exerted by each individual house. Those that have schools attached to them naturally draw their members more or less from these schools. The English congregation is recruited verj' largelj' from the schools attached to its monasteries; and other congregations arc simi- larly recruited. Some educate and train in theii