Conversatio Morum

October 28, 2009


Every Benedictine makes a commitment to Conversatio Morum. To try and translate the latin term St Benedict uses is fighting talk! Indeed the Abbot who clothed me in the habit has his own understanding of it. At the very least Benedict is saying that we have to change, change constantly! Here are some thoughts from Richard Rohr OFM on change:

“The story of the rich young man (Mark 10:17-22) demonstrates that the change we usually need has to be concrete, immediate, and very practical. Otherwise it’s just a heady thing. Jesus asks the rich young man to move from here to there—and here he means economically.

For all of us this at least means turning to people who are different from us. This is the only thing that can liberate us from our egocentric attitude. Maybe it means that as younger men and women we go to the elderly, or maybe as healthy persons we go to the physically or mentally handicapped, or if we’re homophobic we work with a gay person with AIDS. But we all have to move out into a world in which we’re not the reference point, and where the others whom we meet are not just an expanded version of ourselves. What else would conversion (“turning around”) mean?”

For further details on Conversatio Morum please click here.


3 Responses to “Conversatio Morum”

  1. John said

    Yes, you are correct that the term includes the idea of change and conversion of life.

    The meaning of conversatio morum was not only hampered by its obscurity, but also because copyists of Benedict’s Rule misunderstood the term and changed the term to conversio morum. It was Cuthbert Butler in his 1912 edition of the Rule, Sancti Benedicti Regula Monachorum who first noticed the error and brought St. Benedict’s now famous phrase back from its 1,000 years being misquoted.

    I have linked to my page in which I collected a long list of definitions and examples of this very key Benedictine idea.

  2. Peter Fennell said

    I am surprised that english explorations don’t mention the word ‘habit’. It would be a natural translation given english usage of the nominative ‘mores’ well understood. Eastern traditions are explicit that habit forms character, the scratches that make the glass reflect darkly. And that transcending it is the work. The same is in Hamlet’s counsel of hope:
    Assume a virtue, if you have it not.
    That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat,
    Of habits devil, is angel yet in this,
    That to the use of actions fair and good
    He likewise gives a frock or livery,
    That aptly is put on.

    The monastic habit must be for such conversion.

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