St. Benedict’s Twelve Degrees of Humility: The Eighth Degree


Benedict's 12 Degrees of Humility featuredNow we must be moving into sainthood.  The Eighth Degree of Humility in St. Benedict’s Rule truly moves us into humbles realms even as we live in the day to day world.

This degree states:

The eighth degree of humility is that a monk do nothing except what is commended by the common Rule of the monastery and the example of the elders.

In other words the level of humility we have reached is exemplified in how we act.  We are called to a certain place in life and are to find peace there.  In The Commentary for Benedictine Oblates, Canon G. A. Simon writes, “St. Benedict wants to indicate to us only that our exterior attitude and our ways of acting are but the expression of our interior attitude and our ways of thinking,” (p. 149).  Father Dwight Longenecker explains this degree of humility even more succinctly by saying, “So humility comes through fitting in, not by sticking out,” (Listen My Son, St. Benedict for Fathers, p. 87).  So often we want to be the one who solves the problem, the one who has the best remedy, the one who knows the most.  But where is the humility in that?  This degree basically shuts us down.  It asks us to remain in the background rather than being at the forefront leading the pack.  It reminds us that “the first shall be last, and the last first,” (Matthew 20:16).  If you, like me, have a personality to lead, to direct, to get things done, this degree stops us in our tracks.  It says to keep our mouths shut unless asked and to allow others to step up and take the reins.   St. Benedict is trying to help us overcome the temptation of pride, the desire to be exalted above others.  Brother Victor-Antonie d’Avila-Latourrette shared in his book A Rhythm of Life: The Monastic Way this warning, “Pride and self-love are such strong powers in all of us that Saint Francis of Sales indicates they die in us only fifteen minutes after our own death.” The desire to be extolled, honored, praised, preferred to others, consulted, approved, etc. is exactly what this degree of humility addresses.  You may have recognized some of these “desires”.  They are found in The Litany of Humility (  When I read the Eighth Degree of Humility this litany jumped right up in my face.  Take a look at it.  It is a difficult one to pray.  But oh so beneficial.  Maybe consider praying this litany every day until next month when we look at the Ninth Degree of Humility.  Then hopefully we will be ready to take on another degree of humility as we learn from St. Benedict.

God’s blessings!

Copyright 2014 Diane Schwind


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