Reading 19: On the Abbot
The lord abbot shall have his own stall in the right part of the choir, in front of the rest. He shall perform no service in the church except on duplex feast days, when, if he is present, he shall sing the vespers during the evening, all hours during the day and the greater mass. He shall carry out the anointing of the dying and the funerals of the canons and the conversi. On double-anniversaries of the bishops or of our abbots, or also of those who lie in the chapter room, he shall sing (the service). On such anniversaries, the mass for the dead is the high mass or major mass, unless the time of fasting has come. On Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, on Good Friday, on Easter Sunday, and Pentecost Sunday, he will celebrate the sacraments. On Maundy Thursday, after the cleansing of the altars, the abbot shall perform the rite of the Maundy that happens before lunch, by washing the feet of paupers. [He shall perform this rite] for thirteen paupers; the congregation, for seventy-two. In the rite of the Maundy that takes place after lunch, he alone shall wash the feet of all the canons and brothers, and he shall pour water over the hands of each of them. On Good Friday in the third hour the abbot shall receive discipline from the prior, then he shall first give instruction to the prior, next to all the others in accordance with their rank. The abbot himself shall always lie down with the rest in the dormitory, eat in the refectory, unless he is detained by weariness from travel or other reasonable business, or unless the appearance of some person of high rank, from which he cannot hide, keeps him back. In order, however, that every occasion for discontent be removed, in connection with the things that are ordained regarding the necessities of the convent, whether in eating or in dress, the abbot should not take anything out, nor change anything, nor reduce anything without reasonable cause and necessity, and without the agreement of the senior part of the chapter. At least once in each year he shall hear the confessions of each of the brothers, both of the ones who are outside, and of those who are within, and no one in the cloister shall listen to the private confessions, unless he will have ordered [it] to them. Each year he shall visit each of our houses with two wise religious figures and after a diligent investigation into temporal as well as spiritual matters, he shall correct those things that need to be corrected.
The abbot should be especially careful not to usher in or have conversations in the cloister with people, by whom the community might be disturbed, either in the hour of speaking or in the hour of silence. Let the abbot see to it that his good behavior be an example of orderly conduct to all, that he not misuse the power he has received, but he should all the more restrain himself in all discipline, since he has no other above him by whom he may be restrained. For the abbot is not so exalted (above the rest) that he is not subject to the order maintained in the cloister, but he shall recognize himself as the teacher of the rest in such a way, that he ought to have the rule itself as his teacher. And so he should regard himself to be a father in giving assistance, a teacher in giving instruction, to be elected before the rest in such a way that by his actions he should always strive to show himself a fellow brother to the rest. In appearance and expense, in quantity of servers and companions he shall maintain a moderate standard. He shall be present at the canonical Hours, when he deems it useful.
Besides it must be known that the lord abbot ought to be especially honored in all places by all people, so that in whatever place he may be (with the exception of the dormitory), either standing or sitting, no one of the brothers shall dare pass before him without bowing to him. In whatever place some of the brothers may have been seated, if the lord abbot comes upon them, they ought to rise, (and they should) not sit down until he himself is seated or orders them to be seated. If, however, he goes past them, they ought to rise and bow and to remain standing until he has passed. Also all brothers ought to observe that they must keep themselves under control in all appearance and word and gesture especially in his presence. When the Abbot is about to leave for someplace and is to delay for a long time, he ought to entrust his powers to the prior or the Subprior regarding greater issues, also regarding those matters which seem to pertain only to his power, if need has appeared meanwhile, and it is not possible to await the return of the abbot without grave injury. If the abbot has been signalled for [doing] a thing, which it is not possible to tolerate or hide, he shall first be admonished in private by the more religious brothers, for his fault should not be readily be revealed nor should it be reported at the communal hearing in chapter. But if admonished once, and twice, and for the third time he is found to be incorrigible, the matter shall be taken to the hearing of the chapter.