Idleness is an enemy of the soul. Therefore the brothers should be employed at certain times in working with their hands, and at other fixed times in holy reading. Therefore we think that both these occasions may be well ordered in this way: from Easter until the first of October, let them, ongoing forth from Prime, work at whatever they are required until about the fourth hour. From the fourth, until close upon the sixth hour, let them be employed in reading. On rising from table after the sixth hour, let them rest on their beds with all silence, or if anyone desires to read, let him read in such a way as not to disturb anyone else. None should be said seasonable, at about the middle of the eighth hour, and after that let them work at what they have to do until the evening. If the situation of the place, or their poverty requires them to work by reaping their corn, they should not be saddened, for then are they Monks in very deed, when they live by the works of their hands, as our Fathers and the Apostles did before us. Yet, all things should be done with moderation for the sake of the fainthearted.
But in Lent they should read from morning until the third hour complete, then let them work until the end of the tenth hour at what is assigned to them. In these days of Lent, each one should have a book from the Library, and read it all through in order. The books must be given at the beginning of Lent. One or two Seniors should be specially appointed to go about the Monastery at the hours in which the Brothers are employed in reading, and see that no one is slothful or gives himself up to idleness or foolish talk and neglects his reading, being thus not only unprofitable to himself, but also a hindrance to others. If such a person is found— God forbid—let him be reprehended once or twice, and if he does not amend, let him be so severely corrected, that others may take warning by it. Furthermore, no brother should with another at inappropriate times.
On Sunday all should devote themselves to reading, except those that are assigned various offices. But if anyone is negligent and slothful as to be either unwilling or unable to meditate or read, let him have some work imposed upon him which he can do, and thus not be idle. To the Brothers who are of weak constitution or in delicate health, such work or art should be given as will keep them from idleness, and yet not oppress them with so much work as to drive them away. Their weakness must be taken into consideration by the Abbot.
This article is taken from a chapter in the book The Rule by St. Benedict which is available from TAN Books.