How do superiors in the convent deal with the religious who are selective in the choice of food?

For example, if a religious refuses to eat certain foods prepared for him?

  • 1
    You were asking more than one question. The ones I removed were about gluttony or ingratitude. Open another question if you want to ask more about that.
    – Geremia
    Commented Mar 24, 2020 at 15:32
  • What Order do you have in mind?
    – zippy2006
    Commented Mar 24, 2020 at 15:43
  • @zippy2006 Not any, in particular, my question was rather general just to see general attitude.
    – Thom
    Commented Mar 24, 2020 at 15:45
  • 1
    I have found great flexibility in this area due to the various dietary restrictions that many experience, but there may be some stricter Orders too.
    – zippy2006
    Commented Mar 24, 2020 at 16:06

2 Answers 2


How do superiors in a convent deal with the religious who are selective in the choice of food?

Generally speaking religious superiors let the cooks choose what they desire to serve as long as it follows what is written down in the constitutions of a particular Religious Order.

The rules for the various Religious Orders vary considerable.

For example, the Carthusians fast year round and never eat meat. They do however drink wine once and awhile I personally know a Carthusian at the Grande Chartreuse located in the Chartreuse Mountains, north of the city of Grenoble, in the commune of Saint-Pierre-de-Chartreuse (Isère), France.

Having been a Internal Benedictine Oblate for many years, I can say this all surety, that with 21 different Benedictine Congregations and a few independent Benedictine Monasteries subject directly to Rome, there are at least 21 different interpretations to the Rule of St. Benedict worldwide, concerning what Benedictines eat and in what proportions are permitted. Once again the cooks simply follow what the norms of the that particular Congregation. On feast days, those preparing the meals, occasionally will ask a superior if it would be permitted to buy some more expensive foods for a particular liturgical Feast. For example, Salmon on Friday that happens to be a Feast Day.

Some Religious Houses will also eat traditional foods stuffs that are linked to specific feasts. For example I know some religious institutions that will eat lamb on Easter Sunday or Holy Innocents' Pabulum for novices on the Feast of the Holy Innocents. I could go on and on, but this suffices as an example.

Here is an example of some liturgical blessing for Easter foods.

Most Religious Orders generally have two many courses, served sometimes with some form of salad and often ended with some form of dessert, such as fruit or something simple.. Some serve wine at their meals, while others have tea or coffee. Some simply have only water!

Many religious will often abstain from some type of food stuff, but there is generally a reason for it. Some can not eat of one dish, because of some physical ailment. Many religious will not drink wine, when it is served! No one questions another’s motives, because under normal circumstances the superior is aware of the dispositions of the members of his or her community. It also happens, the some religious in the community will be privately fasting with the permission of the superior. Religious are taught not to be too curious in this domain and simply accept what is placed before them. In some monasteries, one is obliged not to make any personal reflections about how they liked or disliked a particular meal. To do so would be a fault of chapter (of faults).

I know of no religious superior that would insist that one would be obliged to drink coffee, tea of wine at mealtime. Many will simply opt to drink water.

So many of us, are in awe of what truly passes behind the walls of a monastery or convent. That is the way they prefer it to remain. They live a life impregnated with mystery.


St. Benedict's Rule ch. 39 says that two options should be given:

Of the Quantity of Food

Making allowance for the infirmities of different persons, we believe that for the daily meal, both at the sixth and the ninth hour, two kinds of cooked food are sufficient at all meals; so that he who perchance cannot eat of one, may make his meal of the other. Let two kinds of cooked food, therefore, be sufficient for all the brethren. And if there be fruit or fresh vegetables, a third may be added. Let a pound of bread be sufficient for the day, whether there be only one meal or both dinner and supper. If they are to eat supper, let a third part of the pound be reserved by the Cellarer and be given at supper.

cf. Dom Delatte, O.S.B.'s commentary pp. 270-4

  • 2
    "But let all except the very weak and the sick abstain altogether from eating the flesh of four-footed animals." That's most meat. Are Benedictines vegetarians? Commented Mar 24, 2020 at 20:15
  • 1
    Yeah, interpretations of the 1500 year-old Rule vary considerably from monastery to monastery, and there are very few who maintain a strict observance of the letter of the Rule. This would have been a good answer if we were living in 516.
    – zippy2006
    Commented Mar 25, 2020 at 3:33

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .