St. Benedict & Food

St. Benedict Malling Abbey England

The compassionate St. Benedict
Malling Abbey England

The photo to the left of a sculpture of St. Benedict at Malling Abbey encapsulates the understanding and compassion of St. Benedict that we find in the Rule.  His instructions regarding food and drink are no exception to this flexibility for our humanness.

With wisdom and understanding Benedict instructs that there be two kinds of cooked food on the table so that “the person who may not be able to eat one kind of cooked food may partake of the other.” RB 39.2   He follows this by saying that if fruit or fresh vegetables are available a third dish may be added and that a pound of bread be given to each for the day. RB 39.3-4

The monastics of Benedict’s day were vegetarians unless they were sick and very weak in which case they could have meat. RB 36.9   Once their health improved, however, they would return to the vegetarian diet.  (As a vegetarian I firmly believe that one can get plenty of protein in a diet without meat.)

Benedict also instructs that when work is more difficult additional food may be granted, understanding that the body needs sufficient fuel for the work. RB 39.6   He follows this with a caution against overindulgence, citing it as promoting indigestion and, more importantly, as being inconsistent with the life of a Christian.

“Our Lord says:  Take care that your hearts are not weighed down with overindulgence    (Luke 21:34 and RB 39. 9)

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