March 18, July 18, November 17
Chapter 39: On the Measure of Food
We think it sufficient for the daily dinner,
whether at the sixth or the ninth hour,
that every table have two cooked dishes
on account of individual infirmities,
so that he who for some reason cannot eat of the one
may make his meal of the other
Therefore let two cooked dishes suffice for all the brethren;
and if any fruit or fresh vegetables are available,
let a third dish be added.
Let a good pound weight of bread suffice for the day,
whether there be only one meal or both dinner and supper.
If they are to have supper,
the cellarer shall reserve a third of that pound,
to be given them at supper.
But if it happens that the work was heavier,
it shall lie within the Abbot's discretion and power,
should it be expedient,
to add something to the fare.
Above all things, however,
over-indulgence must be avoided
and a monk must never be overtaken by indigestion;
for there is nothing so opposed to the Christian character
according to Our Lord's words,
"See to it that your hearts be not burdened
with over-indulgence" (Luke 21:34).
shall not receive the same amount of food as their elders,
and frugality shall be observed in all circumstances.
Except the sick who are very weak,
let all abstain entirely
from eating the flesh of four-footed animals.
If you are the only Oblate in the family, do NOT try to introduce
your non-Benedictine children or spouse to the full rigors of this
chapter. Don't go there... Very bad idea!
However, there are all kinds of creative ways that you
can "monasticize" your diet while leaving the family happy!
If you work outside the home, or most of your family is at work or
school and you stay home, look at your lunch, or whatever meal you
eat on your own. That's the place to make changes. You can change the
amount you eat, maybe even make the time a bit later. Most
workplaces, struggling to cover all the slots at lunch hour, might be
glad if you wanted to eat lunch when the others had finished. Check
If you pack and carry your own lunch, you can often find a GREAT
monastic discipline in making it plain and less often varied. Try
peanut butter and jelly for a while. Great source of protein and
antioxidants. Try taking just fruit. Three of the nurses I've worked
with- and none of the for monastic reasons- ate the same lunch every
single day. Two of them used to always eat saltines and peanut
butter, the other ALWAYS ate one can of sardines with crackers.
Always. Nobody died, but the lounge used to smell awful after Rosa
dined on her sardines in that small room! Rosa's sardine idea might
not be fine daily for you, but what about once a week, on Fridays,
say. One can of sardines and some fat-free saltines. Lunch for under
a dollar. Great source of fish oil, omega-3 and all that. Also, these
days, about the only fish one can afford is canned. Sigh... Docs
recommend three servings a week for cardiac health. That might be a
lunch idea you can live with!
What ever you do (and peanut butter and jelly, alas, is not a high
scorer in this field,) try to make changes in your own diet with an
eye to health and the ecology. If you are careful not to make a big
deal of it and to serve really good-tasting food, you can even employ
these principles to some degree with your family, if you are the
cook! Lots of meat-stretching dishes over noodles or rice will never
be thought of as penitential. Some really good beans as a side dish
are great fiber, great protein, possibly fat-free and CHEAP! Red
beans (or black beans,) over rice are traditionally ethnic and
Try to add healthy elements that will go unnoticed, too. A Franciscan
hermit who made a retreat here turned me onto a great idea: soy
powder. She used it for milk shakes, which never quite caught on with
me. The taste was not great (to me, at least,) and I HATE to clean a
blender every day. On the other hand, there is about 24 grams of
protein in 1/3 cup of that stuff, about 33% of your daily
requirement. Dump a half cup into a bread pudding and it will never
be noticed. Surely there are other things you can find to sneak it
into as well!
I'll just use bread pudding as an example, but you can have a lot of
fun experimenting with other stuff, too. When I make bread pudding, I
substitute orange juice for some of the milk.
Less fat, more vitamin C, and the soy powder more than makes up for
the bit of protein lost. Tons of fat-free things that don't taste fat-
free at all can be made with apple sauce. Trust me, I HATE things
that taste fat-free, so if I like them, your kids will never know.
Always remember, the best penances are those we do not choose. For
many of us, that could be as simple as following one's doctor's
orders on diet carefully. So many things are diet-related and those
habits are so hard to break. Let you doctor be your abbess in this
respect and you will not only get healthier in body, but in spirit as
Love and prayers,