Born into a wealthy family in Nursia, Italy, Benedict (c. 480–543) left school as a teenager, renounced the world and around 500 retreated to a cave at Subiaco. After some years as a hermit, he formed a cloister with other monks. In 529, he founded a new order of monks at Monte Cassino, between Rome and Naples, drawing up a detailed set of rules for monastic life. Here, in part 33, is the Benedictine Rule’s teaching on personal possessions.


XXXIII. Whether the monks should have anything of their own. More than anything else is this vice of property to be cut off root and branch from the monastery. Let no one presume to give or receive anything without the leave of the abbot, or to retain anything as his own. He should have nothing at all; neither a book, nor tablets, nor a pen—nothing at all. For indeed it is not allowed to the monks to have bodies or wills in their own power. But for all things necessary they must look to the Father of the monastery; nor is it allowable to have anything which the abbot has not given or permitted. All things shall be common to all, as it is written: “Let not any man presume or call anything his own” [Acts 4:32]. But if anyone is found delighting in this most evil vice: being warned once and again, if he do not amend, let him be subjected to punishment.

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