The author was born of noble parents: the duke of Transjura and the matron Flavia. He was educated at Luxeuil and baptised by Columbanus himself. After the saint’s expulsion from Frankland, Donatus established his own community secretly observing the Columbanian rule. Donatus died in 624. Later the community adopted the rule of the Canons’ Regular and continued in Burgundy until modern times.
After her husband’s death, Flavia built a convent in Besançon called Jussanensis which she entered with her younger daughter Siruda. Flavia, like many Merovingian widows who founded convents preferred to live privately in the congregation and appointed Gauthstruda as its first abbess. The rule is addressed to her. After Gauthstruda’s death, Flavia nominated her daughter Siruda as next abbess. The convent flourished for several centuries before being converted into a house of Friars Minor who continued the cult of saints Flavia and Siruda.
As Donatus states in his Introduction, the rule is derived from those of Caesarius of Arles, Benedict and Columbanus consisting of the precepts chosen as most suitable to the sex, region and condition of the monastery. It is composed of seventy–seven chapters, the majority reflecting the Benedictine Rule. The student who cares to examine these rules will note, however, that Donatus has supplied a number of variations which must reflect actual practices in his mother’s monastery. Among these, it is particularly notable that this congregation had objected to Caesarius’ rule that nuns must be wholly cloistered, the most controversial condition that distinguished the lives of nuns throughout the Middle Ages.
Regula ad Virgines
To the holy virgins of Christ whom I venerate most highly, Gauthstruda and all her flock whom God’s handmaid Flavia gathered into a community, greetings from Donatus, least little servant of all God’s bondsmen and women.
Though I am eminently aware, most precious vessel of Christ, that you live daily by the norms of the rule, nevertheless you have always wished to inquire with wise intention how you may excel yet more. For this reason, you have often urged me that, having explored the rule of the holy Caesarius, bishop of Arles, which was especially devoted to Christ’s virgins, along with those of the most blessed Benedict and the Abbot Columbanus, I might cull the choicest blooms, gathering them, as I might say, into a bouquet or an Enchiridion, collecting and promulgating all that is proper for the special observance of the female sex. For you say that, since the rules of the aforesaid fathers were written for men and not for women, they are less suited to you. And though holy Caesarius dedicated his own rule to virgins of Christ, like yourselves, their enclosure of place is not in the least suitable to your circumstances. At last, after long and hard resistance, I am ready to do your will. It was not a matter of stubborn resolve but constant awareness of the impossibility [of success]. For less in this matter stems from inherent necessity than from local conditions and I fear the judgement of many intelligent persons who may heedlessly blame me for daring to excerpt or change the institutes of so many fathers. Still, I am compelled to go against this devotion because I desire the salvation of your souls so eagerly. Thus, at length, your sedulous prayers break my silence and even my resolve to keep silence. So far as my weakness can overcome my idleness I make haste with all good will. But I fear that I shall not be as efficacious as I am willing. I am constrained on the other side as well, for I feel myself unequal to researching the admonitions of the aforesaid Fathers while the clamor of the world distracts me daily. But charity conquers all. With brotherly affection and as much assiduity as Divine Piety gives my physical weakness and senses clouded by darkness permit, [guided by] what pleases your good wishes and what your whole holy community joined within the walls of this monastery suggested, I have chosen a few among the many rules to the right road to Christ which are suitable for you and right for this place and physically bearable and in agreement with the right teachings of the rule, to which you and those who come after you should hold yourselves bound, with the help of Christ. So the schedule which you requested has been collated briefly and succinctly, determined or dispensed according to the condition of the monastery and the cases of the rule, one by one. These have been laid out under enlightening titles so that what is needed may easily be found, first by chapter, and then in the designated contents of each chapter. These chapters follow this apology for my meanness. Before Almighty God with spiritual love, I must entreat of your holy souls and minds given to God that you will take care to keep each of these statutes you asked for, without resistance for all time, with tireless study and wise minds. Bend the young and the negligent to the tenor of this rule. Read it often to the whole congregation so that none may have the excuse of ignorance. Correct the juniors; entreat the elders. Obey your prioress in everything and lay bare your negligence to her incessantly. Bear one another’s burdens. Love one another with a pure and chaste love that when the Lord Jesus Christ, your spouse, comes, you may meet him with lamps lit and filled with oil and each can say, dancing, “I have found him whom my soul has sought” (Song 3:4). Therefore, last of all, relying on your humble kindness, I pray specially that for me, who have attempted this at your request working day and night to order it with colon and comma, you will pour out frequent prayer in your daily as in your nocturnal offices while I abide in this vile body, and afterwards when at the Lord’s bidding I migrate, you will make holy offerings to the Lord for me so that, when you are granted the blessed palm of virginity in the choir of worshippers and holy virgins, I will at least be granted forgiveness for my sins and offenses.
The quality of the abbess.
The mother of the monastery, who will be first in dignity among the congregation, must always be mindful of the burden she has taken up and of Him to Whom she must give account of her stewardship. She should know better how to subordinate herself than to rule. Therefore, she must be instructed in divine law that she may know whence to bring forth both new things and old. Chaste, sober, merciful, she will often place mercy above justice so that the same will be done for her. Let her hate vice and love her sisters. Let her act prudently and not be excessive in correcting them, lest in trying to scrape out the rust she destroy the vessel. Let her always be distrustful of her own fragility and remember that the bruised reed must not be crushed. By that we do not mean that she should permit vice to flourish but that she should cut it out prudently and charitably so that she sees what may be of help and, as we say, study more to be loved than to be feared. Let her not be turbulent and anxious, neither excessive nor obstinate, neither jealous nor overly suspicious so that she never rests. Let her orders be prudent and considerate and let her distinguish whether the work she assigns is according to God or to the world and temper it accordingly. Let nothing contrary to her teaching be seen in her deeds nor anything blameworthy be found in her preaching lest God say to her error, “What hast thou to do, to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldst take my covenant in thy mouth? Seeing thou hatest instruction and castest out my words behind thee?” (Ps 50:16-17). She must make no distinction of persons in the monastery and not love one more than another, except for what she finds better in good actions or obedience. She must not put a free-born person ahead of one who was once servile unless some reasonable cause demands it. For the Apostle says, “neither bond nor free, all are one in Christ,” (Gal 3:28) and “Under one Lord we bear equally our militia service and there is no respect of persons with God” (Rm 2:11) Moreover, thus she may temper and distinguish all things according to God and on the Judgement Day she may take her profit from the talents lent to her. And if she keep the present rule in all things then, having served well, she will deserve to hear from the Lord what the good servant deserved to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
On summoning the sisters to counsel.
For anything unusual that must be done in the monastery, the abbess should convoke the whole congregation daily and explain whence she would act. Hearing the sisters’ counsel, she should draw from it what seems sound to her. We say, moreover, that all are to be called to counsel, for often the Lord reveals what is best to the younger. The sisters must give counsel in all subjection of humility and not shamelessly presume to defend what has been shown to them. Rather they must rely on the abbess’s will and they must all obey when she decides what is salubrious. Therefore, all are to make the Rule their mistress in all things and not rashly deviate from it in any way. None in the monastery should follow her own heart’s desire. No one at all should presume impudently to contend with the abbess. Whoever so presumes must be subjected to the regular discipline, that is, be sequestered in her cell while she is humbled with penance. Therefore the abbess must do all in fear of God and observance of the Rule, knowing that undoubtedly for all her judgements, she must give account of her reasons to God’s most equitable judgement. For minor acts useful to the monastery, she may take counsel with the seniors only, for thus it is written, “Do all with counsel and you will not repent hereafter.”
The tools of good works.
First, love the Lord thy God with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole strength and your neighbour as yourself. Then, do not kill or commit adultery or steal or covet, or bear false witness but respect all people. None should do to another what one does not wish done to oneself. Deny oneself to follow Christ, punishing the body rather than surrounding it with delicacy. Love fasting; feed the poor; dress the naked; visit the sick; bury the dead; help those in trouble and console the sorrowful; withdraw from worldly acts and prefer nothing to the love of Christ. Do not cherish wrath nor lay up anger nor hold grudges in your heart making peace hypocritically while withholding charity. Do not swear lest you commit perjury; speak the truth from heart and mouth and never return evil for evil. Do no injury but patiently suffer all. Love your enemies and do not curse them who curse you but bless them, bearing persecution for the sake of justice. Be not proud. Be not a winebibber, or a great glutton or lazy or a sluggard or a grumbler or backbiter. Place all your hope in God. Give God and not yourself credit for any good you see in yourself and always blame yourself, recognising any evil to come from within you. Fear the judgement day and dread Gehenna. Lust after eternal life with all spiritual desire. Keep fearful death daily before your eyes, and keep watch over every act of your life at all hours, knowing God sees you in every place. Strike evil thoughts from your heart dashing them against Christ and reveal them to older spirituals.49 Keep your mouth from evil and bad speech and do not love much talk; do not speak vain or silly words or love laughing or noise. Listen often to holy reading and prostrate yourself often in prayer. Confess your past sins to God daily moaning with tears, and amend all evil not cherishing carnality. Hate your own will; obey the precepts of the abbess in all things and even (far be it from us!) if she herself acts contrary to them, be mindful of the Lord’s precepts, “Whatsoever they bid you, do but do not follow after their works” (Mt 23:3). Do not seek to be called holy before you are holy but try to be the first who is said truly to fulfill the Lord’s precepts in her daily acts. Love chastity and hate none and have no jealousy or envy. Love no contention and flee haughtiness. Venerate your elders and love your juniors for the love of Christ. Pray for your enemies and pacify all discord before the sun sets and never despair of God’s mercy. Behold, these are the tools of the spiritual crafts. If you use them tirelessly day and night, you will be rewarded on the judgement day, for in His mercy, the Lord will recompense us as He has promised, “What eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9). Verily, the workshops where these works are done with all diligence are the monastery cloisters, stable in congregation.
How the abbess ought to behave.
With great benevolence, you should love the mother, who has every care for you and obey the prioress without a murmur lest she be grieved in her charity. For they preside over you with charity and true piety and strive to preserve discretion as well as the rule. They correct the restless and console the faint-hearted and sustain the sick, always thinking about how to render an account to God for you. Whence by holy obedience, you should take more pity on them than on yourselves; for the more superior in their order some among you are seen to be, the more serious are the perils they face. For that reason, you are to obey not only the mother but also the prioress, the chancelloress, or the formariae, with humble reverence.
Of the prioress of the monastery.
The prioress of the monastery is chosen by the spiritual mother of the congregation with the advice of the elders because she is more holy, wise, humble, and God-fearing than the rest and more devoutly in love with religion and knowledgeable in observance of the rule. The prioress should reverently do what the spiritual mother enjoins, never going against her will or order, because one who is put over the other sisters should be most solicitous to observe every precept of the rule. If anyone discovers the prioress to be vicious in any way or led astray by swelling pride, or if she proves disdainful of the rule, she must be admonished verbally as much as three times. If she will not then amend, the correction of the regular discipline must be imposed on her. If she does not then improve she must be deposed from the office of prioress and replaced by another who is worthy. And if she will not be quiet after that and obedient in the congregation, she must be expelled from the monastery or imprisoned in a cell for fitting penitence.
Those who come to conversion must not be received at once.
This rule must be kept first of all in your holy community: anyone who wishes by God’s inspiration to be converted should not be allowed to assume the religious habit until her resolve has already been proved in many tests, as the Apostle says, “Try the spirits whether they are of God” (1 Jn 4); and again, “Prove all things: hold fast that which is good” (1 Thes 5:21). Therefore, if she persevere in seeking admission, showing that she can bear difficulties and injuries done to her patiently and persist in her petition, she will be allowed to enter. And she will be placed in a cell where she will meditate and eat and sleep. An elder will be assigned to her to read the rule often and watch her carefully and be watchful whether she seeks God reverently and is prompt to God’s work and to obedience and in bearing blame. And they are to warn her that the road to God is hard and narrow; and if she promises perseverance in stability then after a year she may be introduced into the community and, promising obedience and stability, she will be associated with the congregation. Nor can small infants ever be received in the monastery, or only with great difficulty, but only girls from six or seven years who can learn letters and observe obedience.
Receiving women who leave their husbands to come to the monastery.
Women who are widowed or leave their husbands or change their clothes and come to the monastery should not be received unless they first make charters or donations or sales of their goods to whomever they like, so long as they reserve nothing in their own power which they are seen to ordain or possess privately, according to the precept of the Lord, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast” (Mt 19:21); and “He that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:33). Women who cannot dispose of their substance because their parents are still living or who are still of minor years, must be compelled to make charters controlling the parental goods when they come or when they attain legal age. We order this for your holy souls, fearing the example of Ananias and Sapphira, who said they had offered all to the apostles when they had offered only part and unfaithfully kept back part, which is clearly not fitting nor licit nor expedient. No one, not even the abbess, may have her own maid in her service: but if she needs work done she may, on the abbess’s orders, accept help from the younger sisters.
No one is to possess anything of her own.
This evil must be cut off at the root in the monastery, that none presume to have anything of their own, neither to give nor accept nor to keep without the mother’s order: nothing at all, neither tablets nor pens nor anything else. Indeed, she cannot even command her own body or will but must depend on the mother of the monastery for all her needs. Nor can she have anything that [the abbess] did not give her or allow her. Everything must be held in common by all, as it is written, “And they had all in common” (Act 4:32). Nor should anyone call anything her own or presume to assert a claim. If any woman is discovered to have succumbed to this most evil vice she must repent with three suppositions.
That none may make a private work without orders.
None may choose to make any work or artifact by her own will without an order but she should do as the community does with the same holy care and fervent alacrity as she would do it for herself. And she should present what she does to the mother and to her who assigned the work. Moreover if anyone remains contumacious, she will be deprived of what she did and do penance with a hundred blows. Anyone who had anything in the world must offer it humbly to the mother on entering the monastery for the future use of the community. Nor let any seek in the monastery for what they did not have in the world.
That none may despise her sister.
Women known to have had something in the world are not to spurn or despise their sisters who come to the holy society from poverty. Nor should any take pride in the wealth they brought to the monastery from what they commanded in the world. What is the use of dispersing and giving [your goods] to the poor in order to become poor, if diabolical pride infects your miserable mind? Therefore, live in all unanimity and concord and mutually honour God, Whose temple you have deserved to be, in yourselves. Anyone found to have fallen into this crime we have discussed must make a supposition with silence.
None are allowed to have separate establishments.
No one is allowed to choose a separate establishment or have a bedroom or cupboard or anything private which can be closed with a key, but all shall lie in separate beds under the same roof. Any woman who has presumed to act or have things otherwise must sustain a supposition. Old and infirm women must also comply. It is ordered that none shall have a separate cell but all are to be sheltered in one place and should remain there to be cared for. None who are there should speak in a loud voice that can be heard outside, as with the rest of the congregation. If they do, let them suffer a supposition of silence or fifty blows.
How the old and infirm are to be governed.
Above all, I admonish the holy mother and the venerable woman who is prioress, and she to whom they commit the care of the infirm, and the chancelloress and formarian, that they must, I contend, watch most vigilantly to see if any sisters need to be more carefully nourished or if any suffer frequently from stomach ailments and cannot abstain like the rest or fast without great suffering. If, because of embarrassment, they do not presume to ask, you must order the cellaress to give them what they need. And they must accept what you have ordained. And they may have the utmost confidence that they are receiving Christ in whatever refreshment is dispensed and ordered by a senior, at whatever hour they get it. As we have said above, the care of the infirm comes ahead of everything. They should be served as you reverence Christ because He said, “I was sick and ye visited me,” (Mt 25:40) and “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” But these infirm sisters must understand that they are being served for the love of God and not burden the serving sisters with superfluous complaints: she who bears up most patiently will gain more copious merits. Therefore let it be the mother’s greatest care that no one suffer from neglect. A cell apart shall be deputed to the infirm and those who serve them should be solicitous and God-fearing. Daily baths, which are only reluctantly conceded to the young, need to be allowed to the sick for health’s sake. Also, by the abbess’s order and providence, desperately ill persons may receive meat, which otherwise is never to be eaten at meals. And when she returns to pristine health, she may return to the more blessed custom of abstinence. And if it is needed, and the mother of the monastery deems it just, the sick may have their own cellar and kitchen in common.
How all should hurry to divine office.
At the hour of the divine office, as soon as the signal is heard, everyone should hurry with utmost haste, leaving whatever they have in hand, but of course with gravity so as to enkindle no scurrility. For nothing can take precedence over the work of God. Any woman who does not arrive at nocturnal vigil for the gloria of the first psalm may not stand in her usual place in the choir but must take the last place or a place apart as the senior determines for such negligence so that all may see her doing penance to the public satisfaction until the work of God is completed. Indeed, as we have said above, the observance of the daily hours must be respected.
Of women who come late to the work of God or to table.
She who comes late, the signal having been given, to the work of God or to any other work will, as is fitting, submit to a scolding. If she does not seek to improve after two or three admonitions, she must submit to the regular discipline. Similarly, any woman who is not at table for the first chapter of prayers and is not occupied with something she was ordered to do, will not be permitted to sit and participate at the common table but will be sequestered from all the company and fed alone, deprived of her share of the wine. She who is not present for the verse said after the meals will suffer the same.
On signalling the hours for the work of God.
It is the abbess’s responsibility to see that the hours for the work of God are announced day and night. Either she ought to announce them or carefully assign another sister to the responsibility so that all the hours are properly completed. Those whom she appoints must impose the order of the psalms or antiphons after the abbess’s order. Nor should she presume to sing or read anything except to fulfill the office for the edification of the listeners. For what the abbess orders should be done with humility, gravity and awe.
Of the monastery’s oratory.
The place called the oratory should be used for no other activity or work except the work of God. All should leave it in deepest silence and show reverence for God so that, when a sister wishes strongly to pray privately, she will not be disturbed by another’s unseemliness. But if someone wishes to pray most privately she may simply enter and pray, not in a clamorous voice but with the tears of an intent heart. Therefore, she who is not engaged in similar work is not permitted to remain when the work of God is finished, as we have said, so that others will suffer no impediment.
Of the discipline of chanting psalms in the oratory.
We believe the Divine to be present everywhere, and that the Lord’s eyes contemplate the good and the bad. But undoubtedly we think he is most present when we assist at divine office. So we keep ever in mind what the Prophet said, “Serve the Lord with fear” (Ps 2:11); and again, “Sing ye praises with understanding” (Ps 47:7) and, “I will sing praise unto thee before the angels” (Ps 138:1). Therefore let us consider how we should behave in the presence of Divinity and of the angels. We stand up for psalm-singing to harmonise our minds with our voices. While chanting in the oratory, no one is allowed to gossip. Indeed, when the psalms and hymns have been given up to God, what the voice proclaimed should be considered in the heart. To any woman who giggles in the course of the prayers, six blows; and if she breaks from the tone into a laugh, she must bear a supposition.
Of reverence in prayer.
If we wish to suggest anything to powerful men, we do not presume except with humility and reverence. How much more should we not make supplication to the Lord God of the universe with all humility and purity of devotion? Not in a torrent of words do we hope to be heard, but in purity of heart and tearful compunction. And so prayers should be brief and pure unless they are stretched out under strong inspirational affect from Divine Grace. In the community, therefore, let all pray briefly and arise together when the prioress makes a sign.
How the sisters should strive for silence.
At all times and places, handmaids of Christ should strive for silence, particularly in the nocturnal hours. Thus, leaving compline together, none should exercise the license of speaking to another before daybreak following the second celebration in convent. Then, asking pardon in place and each making confession of carnal thoughts and sins or nocturnal visions, let them say while the others pray, “Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in you” (Ps 32:22). And then each in turn may say to the senior, “Permit me to change garments and what work there is, shall be done.”
When they have leisure for reading.
At the second hour even to the third, if there is nothing else that must be done, they are free to read; indeed space should be left in the day for that activity and not occupied with gossip but, like the Apostle, “Study to be quiet” (1 Thes 4:11). “In the multitude of words, there wanteth not sin” (Prv 10:19). And so all of you must say things which pertain to the utility and edification of your souls. Moreover, you will speak [only] when the needs of your work require it. Indeed, one of the seniors shall read to the rest while they work and they will meditate incessantly on God’s word in their hearts. If, as we say, necessity compels anyone to bring this work to an end, it will be done without a murmur at the mother’s will. And whatever work you may be doing, when the reader is not reading, always ruminate on divine scripture. No one should grumble lest she should fail at the judgement for it. As the Apostle says, “Do all things without murmuring” (Phlm 2:14). Always be humble with one another, not only to seniors but to co-equals and juniors for God halts the proud, lest they become too inflated to travel the narrow road. Accept whatever a senior orders, as if it came from the mouth of God in heaven. Blame nothing; despise none; presume to mutter no complaint. For you have come to serve in a monastery, not to rule; to obey, not to command. Consider every order given you or others as holy: all just, all useful.
That all may receive what is needed equally.
It is written, “Distribution was made unto every man according as he had need,” (Act 4:34). We do not say (far be it from us!) that there should be consideration of any persons, except in consideration of the sick. She who needs the least should give thanks to God and not be depressed. Indeed, she who needs more should be ashamed of her weakness and not take pride in the kindness. Thus there will be peace among all members. Above all, lest any evil of grumbling appear, for any reason, in anyone’s speech or gesture, she who is caught behaving so reprehensibly must be subjected to the strictest discipline.
How a handmaid of God should behave when punished.
She who is admonished, castigated or corrected for any fault, should not presume to argue. If she does so, she should be subjected to regular discipline. Anyone who does not do as she is ordered will be sequestered from common prayers or table according to the nature of her crime.
How they should come to confession daily.
Among other observances of the rule, we advise both junior and senior sisters that they make the strongest effort assiduously and industriously to strive to surrender even idle words or deeds and the smallest disturbance of the spirit in confession at all days at all hours and at every moment. Nothing shall be hidden from the spiritual mother because the holy fathers ordain that confession should be made before meals or before going to bed or whenever it will be convenient because confession frees us from the pain of death. Therefore, do not neglect the merest thought in confession, for it is written, “He that contemneth small things shall fall little by little” (Sir 19:1).
Of women who presume to hide things in their beds.
Any sister who presumes to hide anything to eat or drink in her bed is to be exposed to all publicly and then publicly rebuked before everyone and then forced to bear a supposition.
Of those who do not maintain benediction at table and such things.
To anyone who eats or drinks without asking a blessing and answering Amen, six blows; and six to her who does not make the sign of the cross over the spoon which she licks; and to her who talks needlessly to the other sisters while eating; or sticks her knife into the table, six; or to one who says anything is her own, six blows.
Of the woman who pours anything away in the kitchen.
The sister to whom the responsibility of cooking or serving is committed must afterwards expiate whatever she threw out in prayer after the completion of the office so that her sisters may pray for her improvement. Likewise she who has been careless in the cursus must repent by humbling herself at the psalm-singing, that is, she must make a humiliation at the end of each psalm. In the same way, anyone who loses grain is obliged to be improved through prayer in church. The penance for this will be small if only a little was thrown out but if she repeatedly loses liquids as well as dry foods through negligence or forgetfulness or transgression of security, she will be punished in church while they chant the twelve psalms at compline by a long prostration in prayer without moving a muscle. And she who does not maintain order at the Sacrifice will be improved by six blows.
Of women who go out of the house without a prayer.
To her who does not bow down in prayer on going out of the house and does not sign herself after a welcome and does not go to the cross, twelve blows. And twelve to her who forgets to pray before work or after. And she who does not take care to make a prayer on returning to the house, within the house, will be improved by twelve blows. Likewise she who makes unnecessary excursions will be improved by twelve blows.
She who passes along idle gossip and excuses herself and speaks counsel against counsel.
It is enough to pardon one who passes idle gossip along and immediately blames herself but if she does not blame herself she will draw a supposition of silence upon herself or repent with fifty blows. And also fifty blows for her who proffers excuses with simplicity in discussion with another and does not immediately say, asking pardon, mea culpa, punish me. Also fifty blows for producing counsel against counsel with simplicity.
Of her who criticises the work of others.
She who criticises or detracts from the work of another sister, offering correction against correction, which is punishing the punisher, will repent with three suppositions. To the sister who hides another sister’s crime until she is corrected for some other vice or for the same one, and then proffers the first against her sister, three suppositions. The same to her who blames another sister or detracts from her or listens without objection to the detraction of another. And she who makes contradiction or complaint will also repent with three suppositions. Anyone who does not wish to indict another for criticising the prioress, will receive similar punishment as the senior mother proclaims. The sister who blames another or complains of service or grumbles and says, “I won’t do it unless the senior or her deputy orders me,” three suppositions likewise. And to one who teaches her consanguine some decent art when the senior has imposed another, saying she could demonstrate better, three suppositions.
Of her who contends proudly with the prioress.
Any woman who dares to say to the prioress, You shall not judge my case, but our senior, or other sisters, will be punished for forty days unless she humbly says, “Punish me for what I said.”
Of one corrected who does not ask pardon, etc.
To a woman who does not ask for pardon when corrected, a supposition; she who visits others in their cells without asking shall repent in the same way; and a supposition for those who return to the kitchen after nones. Those who go outside the palisade or walls of the monastery without asking shall repent with a supposition.
That none take the hand of another or call one another “little girl.”
It is forbidden that any take the hand of another for affection whether they stand or walk around or sit together. She who does so, will be improved with twelve blows. And any who is called “little girl” or who call one another “little girl,” forty blows if they so transgress.
That they keep silent sitting at table.
Sitting at table you are to be silent and give your minds up to the reading. Moreover, when the reader stops, do not cease holy meditation in your heart. So indeed should other work be done: she who supervises meals should manage carefully so that only a nod rather than the voice is needed to request anything. They should not take food only in their jaws but receive the word of God in their ears at the same time. Anyone who presumes to speak should receive twenty or thirty blows, small penances near the table if the prioress imposes them at table. No more than twenty five blows should be given at one time.
How and when to genuflect.
Penitent sisters and those who need penitential psalms, that is, who must chant the psalms because of nocturnal visions or illusions of the devil should chant twenty-six or fifteen or twelve psalms in order according to the type of vision and they should genuflect that often on Sunday night and in Quinquegesima. Moreover, all sisters should pray together every day and night in common, genuflecting in prayer at the end of each psalm if not too infirm of body and even they should bend the knee moderately saying in silence, “Be pleased, O lord, to deliver me: O Lord, make haste to help me” (Ps 40:13). Those who have afterward chanted the verses in silent prayer, will likewise rise from kneeling at prayer except on the Lord’s day from the first holy day of Easter through the Quinquegesima during which fixed time, they do not kneel at the humiliation of the psalms. And when they come to the communion of the altar, they humble themselves three times.
None are allowed to swear.
Strive to flee and avoid swearing or malediction as indulgence of the devil. And she who does it must repent with two suppositions of silence and one hundred blows punishment.
Observance of Lent.
Although at all times, nuns should observe a lenten life, yet because this is a virtue of the few, we try to keep these forty days of Lent in total purity of life. At this holy time, we try to wash away every dirty spot and sloppiness from other times. For then, it is fitting that we abstain from every vice, praying with groans, pains and compunction of the heart or give works of abstinence. Therefore on these days we add private prayers, abstinence from food and drink, and anything above the indicated measure to our customary burden of servitude and offer it voluntarily and joyfully to God through the Holy Spirit. That is, we take food and drink and sleep from the body, turning from loquacity and scurrility and await the holy joy of Easter with spiritual desire. Each one indicates to the abbess what she will offer and follows her advice with prayer and good will. She should do nothing without the permission of the spiritual mother lest she be considered vainglorious and presumptuous and therefore should not be rewarded.
What are the grades of humility.
The first grade of humility is unhesitating obedience. This is fitting for one who holds nothing dearer than Christ for she has professed His holy service. For fear of Gehenna or for the glory of eternal life, as soon as any order is given by a superior, and thus from Divinity, she brooks no delay in carrying it out. Of such as these, the Lord said, “As they hear of me, they shall obey me” (Ps 18-44). And also He said to the doctors, “He that heareth you, heareth me” (Lk 10:16). Thus, by immediately relinquishing what is theirs, bowing their own wills, giving up what has been occupying their hands unfinished, and likewise obeying with their feet, they fulfill the word given, undertaking nothing contrary to the order of a senior. Thus they say of suffering, “For thy sake we are killed all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered” (Ps 44:22). And, secure in hope of divine retribution, she follows rejoicing and saying, “In all these things we are conquerors, through him that loved us” (Romans 8). And elsewhere scripture says “For thou, O God, hast proved us, thou hast tried us as silver is tried. Thou broughtest us into the net; thou laidst affliction upon our loins” (Ps 66:10-11). And to show that we ought to be under the prioress the saying follows, “Thou hast placed men over our heads.” Thus may they take the narrow way, whence the Lord says “narrow is the way that leadeth to life” (Mt 7:14). In order not to live by their own will or obey their own desires and pleasures but so as to walk in the judgement and power of others, they who live in community need an elder to preside over them. Without doubt, they should imitate the Lord’s sentence which says, “I seek not my own will but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (Jn 5:30). This obedience will be acceptable to God and sweet to man if orders are not carried out anxiously or tardily or with grumbling or unwilling response because obedience to superiors is given to God. Thus He said “he that heareth you, heareth me” (Lk 10:16). For if obedience is not like that it will not be acceptable to God Who said, “He that taketh not his cross and followeth after me, is not worthy of me” (Mt 10:38) And again He says of the worthy disciple, “Where I am there shall also my servant be with me” (Jn 12:26).
The second grade of humility.
The second grade of humility is that one shall not love her own will nor fulfill her own desires. But the voice of the Lord is to be imitated saying “I have not come to do my own will but the will of him who sent me” (Jn 6:38). And again, Scripture says, “The will is punished and constraint provides the crown.”
The third grade of humility.
The third grade of humility is that she submit herself in obedience to all superiors for the love of God imitating the Lord as the Apostle says, “He became obedient unto death” (Phlm 2:3).
The fourth grade of humility.
The fourth grade of humility is that if obedience entails hard and repugnant things which might even cause injury, still the silent conscience will embrace them as a penance and not weary or depart from sustaining it, saying with Holy Scripture, “He that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Mt 10:22) and again, “He shall strengthen thine heart: wait on the Lord” (Ps 27:14).
The fifth grade of humility.
The fifth grade of humility is that she not conceal any evil thought which enters into her heart or any evil deeds committed in secret but humbly confess them to the seniors. Warning of this, Scripture says, “Commit thy way unto the Lord: trust also in Him” (Ps 37:5). And again it says, “O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever” (Ps 107:1). And again the Prophet, “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sins” (Ps 32:5).
The sixth grade of humility.
The sixth grade of humility is that a monacha must be content with all useful and even extreme tasks assigned to her and judge herself to be a bad and unworthy workwoman, saying with the Prophet, “so foolish was I and ignorant; I was as a beast before thee. Nevertheless, I am continually with you” (Ps 73:22-23).
The seventh grade of humility.
The seventh grade of humility is that one should not only pronounce with the tongue but believe with the whole heart that she is meaner and inferior to everyone and humiliate herself saying with the Prophet, “I am a worm and not a man, a reproach of men and despised of the people” (Ps 22:6). “Being exalted, I am humiliated and confused” (Ps 87:15). And again, “it is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes” (Ps 119-71).
The eighth grade of humility.
The eighth grade of humility is when the monacha does nothing except by the rule of the community and inspired by the example of the elders.
The ninth grade of humility.
The ninth grade of humility is that the monacha should prohibit her tongue from chattering and, having taciturnity, does not even speak until interrogated, as Scripture says, “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin” (Prv 10:19). And again, “Let not an evil speaker be established on earth” (Prv 140:11).
The tenth grade of humility.
The tenth grade of humility is not to be quick and easy in laughing for it is written, “A fool lifteth up his voice with laughter” (Eccl 21:20).
The eleventh grade of humility.
The eleventh grade of humility is when a monacha speaks deliberately and without laughter, humbly and with gravity, rationally with few words and not in clamorous voice, as it is written, “the wise man is known by few words.”
The twelfth grade of humility.
The twelfth grade of humility is when a monacha shows herself always humble not only in heart but in her physical appearance, i.e. at work, in the oratory, in the monastery, in the garden, in the road, or wherever she is sitting, standing, walking, she always keeps her head lowered, eyes fixed on the ground, contemplating all her faults at all hours and presenting herself trembling to God’s judgement, saying always to Him in her heart what the publican said in the Gospel with eyes turned to the ground, “Lord, I am not worthy, a sinner, to raise my eyes to heaven” (Lk 18:13). And again with the Prophet, “I am both bent down and humbled everywhere.” So ascending through all these grades of humility the monacha brings herself to God’s charity which is perfect and casts out fear (1 Jn 4:15). Thus she will come to keep without labour as a natural habit all that at first she observed with dread, not from fear of hell but for the love of Christ and that good custom and love of virtue which now the Lord displays as worthy to the Holy Spirit in His servant clean of vice and sin.
The rule of silence is singled out for careful observance because it is written, “the effect of righteousness is quietness and assurance” (Is 32:17). And lest one may be overcome with the fault of verbosity, all work should be done in silence except for what is useful and necessary. Because, according to Scripture, “in the multitude of words there wanteth not sin,” (Prv 10:19). And another says, “I will keep my mouth with a bridle... I was dumb with silence, I held my peace” (Ps 39:3). Thus the Prophet shows that, if one ought sometimes to refrain from good speech for the sake of taciturnity, she should all the more desist from bad words which cause pain. Therefore, there must be silence and speech must be cautious and reasoned lest backbiting and tumid argumentation erupt in vicious and superfluous words. Thus, although license is occasionally granted for good speech and holy edification, the perfect sister in Christ will speak but rarely for the sake of grave taciturnity because as we said above, “in the multitude of words there wanteth not sin,” (Ps 10:19) and “Death and Life are in the power of the tongue” (Prv 18:21). And if you presume to raise your voice, you will repent with two suppositions of silence or fifty blows. And who presumes a repetition, a hundred blows. Indeed, we will condemn scurrility or idle words and disruptive laughter with eternal claustration in all places and will never permit the handmaid of Christ to open her mouth for such speech.
Of guarding the eyes.
Let none of that concupiscence of the eyes arise in you with which the devil tempts men. For, if you have shameless eyes, you will be said to have a shameful mind since shameless eyes are the messengers of a shameless heart. Nor should she, who simply did not turn her face from a man, suppose that no one noticed what she did. For all will mark it whom she would not wish herself to be noticed. And even if she conceals it and no man sees, what can she do about that Overseer from whom nothing can be hidden? Therefore, must she fear to displease God and think not of pleasing man. If you are present when the provisioner enters the monastery or any other man with him, keep guard likewise on your modesty. For in this fashion God, who lives in you, will guard you. Do not be conspicuous in your dress nor affect to please with your costume, but only by the manners which become you.
The sins of another are not to be concealed.
If you see anyone acting more freely than she should, you must bring it to the mother’s attention. Nor should you judge it to be ill will when you expose this with a holy mind; for you are no more innocent and you make yourself a participant in her sin, if you permit your sister to perish by silence when you should have asked for her correction through castigation. If she had a wound in her body, or had been bitten by a snake, and wished to hide it for fear of the opening cut, would you cruelly keep silent or get help for her? How much more, therefore, should you expose the wickedness of the devil, lest the harmful wound of sin grow worse in her heart and the evil of concupiscence be lodged longer in her breast? And you must do this for love of your sister and hatred of vice.
They are not to quarrel with one another or hurl insults.
Although it is hardly to be imagined nor should people believe that holy virgins would rend one another with hard words and insults, still if anyone, through human fragility, dared to harm one of her sisters, bursting forth at the instigation of the devil or acting in secret to lay hands on one another, it is just that they who violated the established rules receive legitimate discipline. For it is necessary that what the Holy Spirit foretold through Solomon about indisciplined children be fulfilled in them, “He that loveth his son, causeth him oft to feel the rod” (Eccl 30:1). And again, “Thou shalt beat him with the rod and shalt deliver his soul from hell” (Prv 23:14). They should receive discipline in the presence of the community as from the Apostle, “Them that sin rebuke before all” (1 Tm 5:20). You will have no struggles according to that Apostle, “The servants of the Lord must not strive” (2 Tm 2:24). If the servants of God are not to quarrel, how much more unbecoming is it to the handmaids of God? The more modest sex should be the more bashful. But, if something happens, then it must be ended as swiftly as possible lest wrath grow into hatred as the shoot becomes a tree and effect the murder of the soul. For thus it is read, “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer,” (1 Jn 3:15). And, “lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting” (1 Tm 2:8). Whoever injures her sister by insult or curse or even a criminal object must be sure to purge the crime by satisfaction. She who presumes to repeat this vice will be more severely restricted and make the satisfaction she deserves. Juniors must quickly defer to seniors. But as is the custom, those who hurt one another at the devil’s instigation, must ask pardon of one another and ought to forgive the debt as quickly and purely as the Prayer says they should. And if any does not wish to forgive her sister who pleas for pardon, let her be separated from the community for fear that “if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly father forgive your trespasses” (Mt 6:14). And one who never wishes to ask pardon or does not ask from her soul, or who does not grant it when she is asked, has no right to be in the monastery. Until she does satisfactory penance and forgives her sisters she can never associate with the congregation. Therefore, abstain from hard words. But if they were hurled, none should hesitate to give the medicine from the same mouth whence came the hurt. And if disciplinary needs compel the prioress to speak hard words to correct bad behaviour but she feels that she was excessive in the matter, she is not required to ask pardon lest her ruling authority over those who must submit to her be broken, for they must maintain the utmost humility. But pardon should be sought from the God of all, for He knows that the more justly you chide, the more benevolently you love.
None should take anything from her family without orders.
Sisters are allowed to receive nothing from their parents or any other man and in turn they may not receive or send letters, eulogies, or other tokens without orders from the abbess. If something should be sent to a woman by her parents she must not take it without the abbess’s knowledge. And if she orders that it be accepted, she has the power to order that it be given to her or to someone else. And if anyone is so far gone in evil—may God not suffer it!—that she receives letters or gifts from anyone in secret, she will receive pardon only if she freely confesses and prays for herself. But if the deceit is betrayed or convicted, she will be improved by the rule of the monastery. Likewise, she must submit to restraint if she dares to presume the sacrilege of transmitting letters or gifts. If someone wants to send letters or blessed bread out of parental affection, she should suggest it to the mother. If she permits it, they will give it to the portress addressed with the name of the intended recipient. But she should presume neither to give nor take anything from anyone without the [knowledge of the] prioress or the portress. And if anyone so presumes, she will repent with three suppositions.
None shall take the daughter of another in baptism.
None should presume to take up a girl in baptism whether rich or poor. Nor should noble girls or poor ones be received for nurture or education except those who will persevere in the monastery like the rest in a religious habit.
How suppliers to the monastery and other men may enter into the monastery.
Above all, for the sake of your reputation, let no man enter into the secret parts of the monastery or the oratory, except the bishop, the suppliers and the priest, deacon and one or two aged lectors of praiseworthy life who are needed for saying the mass. Artisans and their assistants may come in with the suppliers when they are needed to build or repair the roof, or the gate or the windows, or make any other repairs, but not without the knowledge or permission of the mother. Indeed, the supplier is not to go into any part of the monastery except for necessity, as we said above, and never, for any problem or reason, without the abbess or another most honest witness in order to keep the secret sanctum of the nuns private, as is right and necessary.
No secular matrons or maidens should be permitted entry.
Secular matrons or maidens or men in secular habit, noble or ignoble, may come to the monastery for parental visits or prayer or by invitation but they should not be allowed to enter into the interior except with those known to be religious and God-fearing whom the mother of the monastery judges of worthy life. And when they have gone where she directs, either to the reception room or returning to the gate, if the abbess sees fit, they may accept presents or relics or eulogies, if she likes, or they may determine what else to offer. But they should presume to accept nothing from those who serve anywhere else except in the refectory where it is decreed.
How the abbess should give greetings in the reception room and how other handmaids of the lord should greet their parents.
This is to be observed lest the abbess injure her honour by welcoming visitors in the reception room. That is, she should go there accompanied by two or three senior sisters. Nor should the rest of the sisters proceed to greet parents or other religious without two or three witnesses whom the abbess shall appoint. Nor are they permitted to speak even for a moment with any woman or any man alone nor take any of their clothes for washing or drying or storage or mending. If some one comes from another city asking for her daughter or to visit the monastery, and she is a religious, and the abbess sees fit, she may be asked to dinner but others hardly ever. For holy and devout virgins ought to spend time praying for all people rather than preparing convivial gatherings. If indeed someone wishes to see her sister or daughter or some other relative or her cognate in the presence of the prioress or other elder, she will not be refused the conversation. Bishops, abbots, or other religious men whose good lives commend them ought to enter for the sake of prayer, if they should ask. Care is to be taken that the gates of the monastery are open for reception at appropriate hours.
None should prepare banquets.
You should never prepare a banquet for any persons: bishops, abbots, monks, clerks, secular men, women in secular dress, relatives of the abbess or sanctimonials from the monastery or outside the monastery. Nor should you make a banquet for the bishop of the city nor even the supplier to this monastery, nor should the abbess or any other sister presume to go to a banquet with the bishop or parents or anyone else within or without the monastery. But if she wishes to prepare something for some close relatives or someone else, she may send as much as is fitting, prepared by the holy customs through the monastery portress.
The abbess should not eat outside the congregation.
The abbess, except for some accident or infirmity or compelling business, should not eat outside the confines of her congregation.
Who should be chosen portress.
A wise sister who knows how to receive and repeat messages, an elder, whose maturity does not encourage her to wander, should be stationed at the monastery gate. This portress should have a cell near the gate shared with two or three sisters who always accompany her when she is receiving messages. Thus they may observe everything the portress does and witness before God and His angels that nothing has been given away from within the monastery and nothing has been brought in from outside without the knowledge and advice of the abbess. If, as often happens, the abbess is occupied with guests, the portresses may show whatever arrives to the prioress. Any portresses who neglect to fulfill these orders or anyone who accepts things from them, will sustain the most grave penalties for transgression against the holy rule.
How the cellaress of the monastery ought to behave.
The cellaress is chosen from the wiser of the flock, of mature manners, sober, not greedy, not arrogant, not hurtful, not slow nor prodigal, but God-fearing: she should be as a mother to all the flock, taking care of everything and doing nothing but what the abbess orders. She should keep what has been ordered so that the sisters will suffer no discomfort. If a sister should ask for something unreasonable, she should not offend her in the refusal but deny the petition reasonably and with humility. She must keep her spirit, always remembering the Apostle, “They that have served well purchase to themselves a good degree,” (1 Tm 3:13). She will care for the sick and infants with all solicitude, knowing that she will surely have to render account for them on the day of judgement. She will care for all the monastery vessels and things of substance and also for the vessels consecrated to the altar. Nothing is to be neglected: neither will she be avaricious nor prodigal nor an extirpator of the monastery’s substance; but she should do all with measure and according to the orders of the abbess. She should above all be humble and extend kind words in answer to anyone who is not to be allotted part of the substance, for it is written, “Good words are the highest gift.” And she shall keep everything under her care as the abbess enjoins and not presume to do what she forbade her. She should offer the constituted annona to the sisters without any delay or pride, that none should be scandalised, mindful of the divine pronouncement against any who scandalises one of the little ones (Mt 8). If the flock is large, help should be given to her, and with her helper she should fulfill her office with equanimity. Thus, at the appropriate hours what should be given is given and what should be requested is requested so that none should be disturbed or discomforted in the house of God.
Of iron tools, clothing and other monastery goods.
The abbess shall entrust tools and clothing and other goods from the monastery’s substance to sisters in whose life and behaviour she has confidence and she will consign and recall things from each individual as she judges useful. The abbess may hold a note from each one so that as things are assigned in turn to the sisters she knows what she gave to each and what she received back. She who is assigned care of the cellar, or clothing or books, or the gate or the distribution of wool, should accept the keys on the Gospel and serve the others without grumbling. If she to whom vestments, footwear, utensils, are entrusted is negligent in their custody, she must be corrected severely as an embezzler of the monastic possessions. Indeed, when they receive new garments from her, they must return the old ones that they do not need to the abbess to be given to the poor or to young beginners.
Ornaments and various other things shall not be made in the monastery.
I warn you most particularly that clothing should be plain or milk-white, not bright with purple or bebrina. Feathered ornaments and damask are never to be made in the monastery. Nor is there to be any dyeing except black if needed, as the Apostle says, “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him that hath chosen him,” (2 Tm 2:4). Bedding is to be simple. For it is quite unseemly for the bed of a religious to have a worldly covering or glimmer with painted tapestry. You will not use silver except in the services of the oratory.
And the head will be bound up to a measure.
No head will be dressed higher than the measure we make in this place in ink.
How they ought to sleep.
Each woman should sleep in a separate bed and they should accept bedding as the mother directs the arrangements of the couches. If possible, all should sleep in one place but, if large numbers prevent this, they should rest by tens and twenties with the elders who have charge of them. Lights should burn in each chamber until daybreak. They should sleep clothed, their girdles bound with all gravity and modesty and always ready for divine service. And when the signal is given, they should hurry to get to the work of God with no delay, following one another. The younger sisters should not have their beds facing one another but mixed with the elders. Rising they should encourage each other to the work of God temperately resisting the excuses of the sleepy.
On the order of the congregation.
The order of precedence in the monastery is determined by the time of their conversion and the merit of their lives. The senior will not disturb the flock committed to her by arbitrarily using her power to place anyone unjustly remembering that she will render account of all her reasons to God’s judgement. Therefore, each sister will take her place in the established order to proceed to the kiss of peace, to communion or to the intonation of psalms and stand thus in the choir. And age will never in any place determine the order or be privileged, for Samuel and Daniel were judged priest when they were boys. Therefore, as we have said, except for those whom the mother has preferred by higher counsel or degraded for some reason, all shall be as they were converted. For example, she who came to the monastery in the second hour shall recognise herself to be junior to her who came in the first hour of the day, whatever her age and dignity. And the youngest are bound to all the rest in discipline. Therefore juniors shall love those who precede them. In address, none may call another simply by name: the first-comers will name their sisters junior and the juniors will address those before them as nuns to express their maternal reverence. Wherever sisters meet, the junior must ask a blessing from her who came first. The minor must rise when the major passes to give her a place to sit. Nor should the junior presume to sit with her unless the senior order her as it is written, “in honour, preferring one another” (Rm 12:10).
Of the weekly service in the kitchen.
The sisters will serve one another in turn. Each will take a turn at every corporal service in the kitchen as in other daily exercises, except the mother or the prioress. None is to be excused from kitchen duty except for sickness or when she is desperately needed elsewhere, for great rewards are garnered in this work. Let the weak ones be helped so that they need not suffer in their work but have all the help needed by the congregation’s habits or the disposition of the place. When she leaves the kitchen she consigns the vessels, cleaned and polished to the cellaress who then entrusts them to those coming in so that she always knows what she gave out and what she took back. The weekly workers will each take bread and drink an hour before the meal so that they will serve their sisters at mealtime without grumbling or hardship. And on solemn feasts, they will wait until after mass.
If the sisters are ordered to do the impossible.
If any sister is ordered to do anything impossible or heavy, she should try to do what has been ordained with mildness and obedience. And if she sees that the weight of the burden exceeds all measure of her strength, she may patiently and opportunely explain why it is impossible to her superior, not proudly or rebelliously or contentiously. But if, after her suggestion, the first order is sustained, the junior knows she must expedite it, obeying from charity with confidence in the help of God.
How excommunication should be carried out.
Excommunication or discipline should be extended according to the manner of the crime. Judgment of the manner of the crime rests with the abbess. A sister who commits a lighter crime should be deprived of participation at table. She who is deprived of company at table, will also not recite psalms or antiphons in the oratory nor give readings until satisfaction is made. Moreover, she will take refreshment alone after her sisters are done, so that, for example, if her sisters dine at the sixth hour, she will do so at the ninth; and if the sisters at the ninth, she at vespers, even until pardon follows her due satisfaction.
Of graver faults.
If any sister is held guilty of a more serious crime she will also be suspended from the table and from the oratory and none of her sisters will consort with her or have speech with her in any way. She will carry on her work alone, persisting in tearful penitence, knowing that terrible sentence of the Apostle, “Deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved on the day of our Lord” (1 Cor 5). She will receive her food alone at the hour and in the measure prescribed by the abbess nor will she or the food given to her be blessed by any in passing.
Of those who join the excommunicate without orders.
If any sister presume to join herself with an excommunicated sister without the abbess’s orders, or to speak to her in any way, or give her a message, a like punishment of excommunication will fall on her.
How one should be solicitous of the excommunicated.
The mother should act with all care and solicitude toward the delinquent sisters for “they that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick” (Mt 9:12). And so she should act as a wise doctor, sending her almost secret consolations, that is, older and wiser sisters should privately console the wavering sister and inspire her to humility and satisfaction and comfort her lest she “be swallowed up with over much sorrow” but, as the Apostle says, “confirm your love” in her and let all pray for her (2 Cor 2:7).
Of those who do not improve though often corrected.
If any sister is often corrected for the same fault and does not even improve with excommunication, she must have sharper correction: that is, she must be punished with a whip. For if she is not so corrected but perchance left alone, she will become swollen with pride in her failing and even wish to defend her deed. Thus the mother, like a wise physician, must prescribe fomentations, the unguents of exhortation, the medicines of divine scripture, or the ultimate punishments of excommunication or beatings and if she still sees that her efforts do not prevail she must apply stronger ones, praying for her with all the sisters that the Lord Who is all powerful will work for the cure of the infirm sister. And if she cannot be cured in this way, they must cut her off with steel, as the Apostle says, “put away from among you that evil person” (I Cor 5:13). And elsewhere, “if the unbelieving depart, let him depart,” (1 Cor 7:15) that one sick sheep may not infect the flock. Thus she must be sequestered in her cell until she learns good will.
That none shall presume to defend another.
Let all be warned lest they presume to defend another sister of the monastery on any occasion as though to protect her, even if they are closely joined in consanguinity. No sister is to presume to act in this way because it would give occasion for scandal. So if any one transgresses in this way she is to repent by three suppositions.
On the order of singing the psalms.
Briefly, let us outline the synaxis, that is the course of psalms and prayers in the canonical mode according to the norms of our rule. From the octave of the calends of October, the course grows to the sum of twenty-five choruses all winter so that, beginning with the calends of November and ending with the calends of February, they will sing nocturnal vigils on Saturday night and Sunday as the fathers sanctioned. Through the winter, until the octave of the calends of April, twelve choruses are sung every night and, after winter, to the vigil of Holy Martyrs, fifteen choruses. Then it grows and decreases by five choruses. On the first Saturday, five choruses are added so that there are twenty and on Sundays, one chorus is added until the calends of November when the whole course is completed, that is twenty choruses of psalms. Thus, through the three months of winter, the number is completed on the aforesaid nights and, after that, it decreases on Saturdays, five choruses on the first Saturday and then one on alternate Saturdays, as it is a longer space to the end of winter, to the spring equinox, in the decreasing than in the increasing course, so on alternate Saturdays, the choruses fall away one by one until the octave of the calends of April. In the course of the holy nights, that is Saturday and Sunday, in summer time, twelve choruses are sung. Eight are sung on the other nights from the spring equinox to the equinox (sic ), that is for six months. From the spring to the autumn equinox, twenty four psalms are sung. And in every place and work, silence is vowed by the rule as far as human fragility is able. Thus may we be cleansed of the vice that usually runs out of the mouth and give edification to our neighbours both male and female for whom our Saviour Jesus Christ poured out his holy blood, rather than tearing the absent apart or exchanging idle gossip conceived in our breasts for which we will be given just retribution in the final reckoning.
At what hours the sisters will dine.
From holy Easter until Pentecost, the sisters will have refreshment at the sixth hour and dine in the evening. From Pentecost through the whole summer, if they are not doing heavy hand work or are not troubled by excessive summer heat, they fast on the fourth and sixth days (Wednesday and Friday) until the ninth hour (), eating at the sixth hour on other days. The abbess will use her judgement in deciding the amount of food to temper all and dispose all rationally and the sisters will accept it without grumbling. From the calends of February to the next calends of November, the second, fourth and sixth days are for fasting. From the calends of November to the birth of the Lord, except for feasts, all days are fast days. From Holy Epiphany to the beginning of Lent, the fourth and sixth days are fast days. From Lent to Easter, they eat at vespers and vespers will be fixed so that lamplight is not needed for eating but it can be done while still daylight.
Of the election of the abbess.
Once a holy abbess migrates to God, none should let carnal affection or advantages of birth, talent or connections guide her choice. But all, inspired by God, should unanimously choose one who is holy and spiritual, who can efficaciously keep the monastic rule and respond to circumstances with edification and compunction and render wise judgement with holy affection. Thus, anyone may turn to her for edification with great confidence and richly bless God and rejoice spiritually over your way of life and her whom you have chosen. If, which I do not believe, God in His mercy should suffer the abbess to relax or change the rule in any way, or if her relatives or the bishops of the city should wish her to do so for any condition of subjection or familiarity, it will in no way be permitted and she has our permission to resist with God’s inspiration, gravely and reverently. So we admonish you to do, holy and venerable mother of the monastery and you, prioress of the holy congregation, in the presence of God and His angels, and contend that no other, whether by threats or blame or blandishments, should bend your minds to diminish anything of the holy and spiritual institution of the rule. And I believe that from God’s mercy you will incur no fault from weakness but please God with holy obedience, and happily come to eternal beatitude. Amen.