Prologue 1 – Listen!

Listen carefully, my child, to my instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from one who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice.   Prologue 1

Welcome to my favorite verse in the Rule – Prologue, Verse 1.  I’m Novice William.  It’s great to have you here to join my exploration of this key verse  in The Rule of St. Benedict.

Please read verse above slowly.  Then make a quick list of the action verbs used in the verse.

Love at the Center

Did you write down the verbs?  What I find cool is that the central verb is “love.”

Listen – Attend – Love – Welcome – Practice (Short for “faithfully put it into practice”)

Noted Feline Benedictine scholar Sr. Scholastica Muffin, OSB-F says that nothing happens by chance in the Rule.  Even the structure points to what is important.  Here, love is at the center.   “This Rule is not being written by a spiritual taskmaster who will bully us or beat us down in a counterfeit claim to growing us up but by someone who loves us and will, if we allow it, carry us along to fullness of life.” [1]

Knowing someone loves us does make it easier to be attentive to what the person or feline says, right?

Let’s take a look at what the whole verse says to us.


Listen and Attend to What You Hear

Benedict’s first word in the Rule announces what is important – Listen.  In her great book Why the Rule of St. Benedict is Not Just for Humans Sr. Scholastica Muffin explains the importance of listening.

“For Benedict, listening is the fundamental attitude from which all other attitudes flow.” [2]

Br. Ricky has explained to us novices that this listening is to be with all of our being.  Listening flows from the heart, the center of life where we touch God and where God’s love touches us.  I really like that I am to listen with the ear of my heart, using not just my ears but my mind, too.

We’re not only to listen.  We are to pay attention to what we hear.  In order to listen Benedict asks us to be silent, quieting our busy minds and furtive actions, and to be fully attentive listening to the Rule as a guide to action. [3]  “[Listening] presupposes that I am not filled to the brim with my own needs, desires, and activities, but rather have some empty space in me allowing myself to be surprised and startled.”  [4]

Canines tend to be attentive listeners.  Felines?
Well, it’s harder for them.

Our Cloister Abbess, Amma Jane writes about listening in her book The Rule of Benedict: Christian Monastic Wisdom for Daily Living.

 “Listening is one of the most difficult things to do.  When I’m listening to another person [Novice William includes “feline” here] I all too often catch myself thinking about what I’m going to say next or I’m judging the person because I don’t agree with what they are saying.  I might even be planning dinner.  This is not listening.  Benedict, the one who loves us, asks for our complete attention.” [5]

Listening can be a challenge even in the Feline Cloister where members and novices are committed to following The Rule of St. Benedict.  I snapped this picture during a Chapter meeting.

Sisters Espy and Nikki listening attentively to Amma’s lecture on obedience,
one of the three vows taken by a Benedictine monastic.
Br. Ricky dozing, the ear of his heart temporarily disabled


Not only are we to listen and to attend to what we hear with the ear of our heart, we are to welcome what we hear.  Now this can be tough.  There are parts of the Rule I find hard to welcome.  For example,

“”Refrain from too much eating or sleeping.  RB 4.36,37

What about this instruction?  In all honesty, do you always welcome this directive?

“No one is to pursue what he judges better for himself, but instead, what he judges better for someone else.  (RB 72.7)

When I came to the Cloister as a Novice I was used to have my humans catering to my every need.  When I heard this verse I wondered if I could ever put that into practice.  Old habits are difficult to change.

It takes real practice and openness to learn to welcome things that sound difficult or are not to our liking.  I think Benedict sees this as a way to grow.  When I welcome what I hear being said to me I am more open to learning something that could help me be a better novice and a better ambassador for Christ.

Doing what is better for another person – 
slow down and give compassionate help

Faithfully Put What We Hear and Attend to Into Practice

Faithfulness is a theme we encounter in the Rule.  It is an expression of stability, one of the Benedictine three vows I will promise to follow when I join the Feline Cloister as a brother.  We promise to be faithful to people and felines, to place, to the Rule and, of course, to God.

I think that takes a lot of humility, something Br. Ricky feels I could use more of.  When I get annoyed with someone or tired of the task I am doing, I just want to bag it and go find someone or something else more fun and interesting.  St. Benedict asks us to stay put – we just might learn something about ourselves!

What I like about St. Benedict is that he is real practical.  We see clearly in his Rule what we can do and who we can be to become followers of Jesus in the Gospels.

“Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set on this way, with the Gospel for our guide, that we may deserve to see him who has called us to his kingdom.   (Prologue 21)

What this verse means to me

When I read this verse I am both instructed and challenged.  I learn what I am to do – listen attentively to the Rule and to those around me.  Then I am to welcome what I hear and faithful in putting it into practice.  To know that the one to whom I listen loves me.

  I am challenged because I have a long way to go to do any of this.  When something is not to my liking I hiss or run away or even retreat into a corner by myself.


Novice William can be a tad self-focused

I made some careless mistakes in my definitions in the Benedictine Glossary on this website, blaming my errors on the computer spell checker.  When Br. Ricky pointed these out to me my fur started to bristle and my ears flattened.

Fortunately, a verse from the Rule came to mind – Prologue 1!  I quickly recalled those action verbs –

Listen – Attend – Love – Welcome – Faithfully Put Into Practice

This allowed me to cool my paws.  I was able to welcome Br. Ricky’s loving feedback and learn.  I think this is how that Rule can help us in our daily lives.

Thank you for reading my offering.  Stay well and God bless you.


Your Feline in Christ,

Novice William

Read about Novice William by clicking right here


[1]  Joan Chittister, OSB, The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century  (New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1992 & 2010), 5.
[2] Aquinata Böckmann, OSB,  A Listening Community: A Commentary on the Prologue and Chapters 1-3 of Benedict’s Rule (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2015), 6.  Sr. Aquinata is a member of the Tutzing Missionary Benedictine Sisters in Germany and is a well-known and scholarly monastic writer.
[3] Jane Tomaine, The Rule of Benedict: Christian Monastic Wisdom for Daily Living (Nashville, TN: Skylight Paths Publishing, 2017), 2.
[4] Chittister, 7.
[5] Tomaine, 2.


We listen to each other for God’s Word to us.
Oblates living into Prologue 1 at St. Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph, MN

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