Chapter 65 of the Rule deals with the prior, what we would today call the “second in command” in a community. Interestingly, there is more space spent to the problems of having such a leader than to the person’s actual role and function.
We have to ponder that noticeable reality. But it soon becomes evident that anyone who attempts to “lead from the second chair” (today’s term for this position) is caught between a rock and a hard place. And when that’s the case, problems can abound.
The prior may begin his ministry with jealousy that he was not chosen as abbot. This is especially true, the Rule says, when the Bishop appoints both the abbot and prior. A “why not me?” root of bitterness can spring up when you come in second. To eliminate this possibility, the Rule states that the prior should never be the one who came in second in a two-man race, but rather should be chosen by the abbot in a one-after-the-other fashion.
The prior may also begin his ministry with pride. The air gets thinner the higher you go, and this is true in terms of leadership as well. The Rule implies that the monastery should operate through multiple deans rather than one prior, but when it is necessary to have a prior, it is equally necessary to be sure a person is appointed who will not let power and control go to his head.
Chapter 65 continues the same spirit and principle that runs through the entire Rule; namely, that humility and submission must characterize anyone who is considered for leadership. For the plain truth is that once a person is chosen to lead, he or she will bear the fruit of the underlying attitude. Manipulators will manipulate. Controlers will control.
But in life together, leaders must be servants who serve. If they do not, Chapter 64 says they must be warned, disciplined, and perhaps even removed.