V 38. In the course of history, visitations of monastic houses have been conducted principally by local bishops and by monastic officials from other monasteries. Because the monastic way of life differs notably from the way of life of lay persons and diocesan clergy, and because autonomous monastic houses enjoy a measure of exemption from episcopal jurisdiction, monastic communities have generally found it more profitable to be examined by monks. These examiners are ordinarily drawn from other monasteries of the same congregations to which the monasteries to be visited also belong. Monastic congregations may reasonably be expected to have available, to a greater degree than would episcopal visitators, the resources of monastic ideals and experience necessary to assist their individual houses.
D 128.1. 1. Any capitular of a monastery of the Congregation may be appointed as visitator. The President is to develop a roster of potential visitators from recommendations made by capitulars of the general chapter and from other sources.
D 128.1. 2. In the case of an ordinary visitation, the team of visitators is to consist of at least two members, one of whom is to be an abbot. A single visitator is to be assigned only in exceptional cases.
Section A: The Qualifications of Visitators
V 39. The careful selection of competent visitators contributes to the success of visitations. The choice of persons for this task should be made upon the basis of their ability as well as upon their freedom and willingness to perform this service to the communities of the Congregation, rather than upon the position that they occupy. A community should ponder the following considerations when requesting visitators/ and should specify any particular qualities and skills that they judge necessary for their visitation.
V 40. 1. Information
A visitator should be well-informed in those matters that it is his task to examine. He should have a clear comprehension of the elements of the religious and monastic life and of the context in which they have been lived in our monasteries. To this must be added, especially in times of rapid cultural and ecclesial changes, an acute awareness of the currents of thought and activity that influence our monasteries. An acquaintance with the general cultural conditions of the present day, with the movements that currently shape the life of the Church, and specifically with the ferment in contemporary religious and monastic life, is essential for making sound judgments about particular manifestations of these phenomena in the life of a specific community.
V 41. 2. Assimilation of Values
More decisive than purely conceptual knowledge is the personal assimilation of religious and monastic values that a visitator has acquired through actual experience (cf. RB 61). One who has personally lived the monastic life in a serious and dedicated fashion possesses a connatural understanding of it from within that enables him to approach the problems and challenges of others with sympathy and insight. The quality of practical wisdom derived from religious experience and serious reflection upon it is an indispensable prerequisite for an effective visitator.
V 42. 3. Qualities of Personality
In addition to these intellectual and spiritual qualifications, certain qualities of personality are eminently desirable in a visitator. Above all he should manifest a warmth, a patience, a willingness to listen and to learn, and an openness to legitimate diversity that will enable him to receive the monks who approach him with a genuine welcome and a radiant charity. While the prerequisite for this is an authentic humility, it also involves a question of style, a human quality of finesse that attracts rather than repels, that subtly communicates to others that they have been taken seriously even if their views or desires have not found acquiescence (cf. RB 31,13-14).
V 43. 4. Preparation
Those who are new to the task should show a willingness to prepare themselves for it through previous reflection, thorough assimilation of the material in this Guide for Visitations, and conferral with experienced visitators. It is to the advantage of the entire Congregation that its corps of visitators be continually renewed through the addition of new members. Those who have the requisite qualifications but lack experience should be assigned, at least the first time, together with one or more experienced monks or abbots, from whom they may learn much. Even those who have long experience, however, should keep an open mind so that each visitation may become for them an additional opportunity for learning.
V 44. 5. Special Qualifications
Particular circumstances in monasteries may require the choice of visitators with special qualifications. Monasteries located in other countries will usually require visitators who possess a fluent knowledge of the local language and culture. Larger, smaller, and very small communities have their own needs and problems, and ordinarily at least one of the team of visitators should be from a monastery of comparable size. Likewise, when particular apostolates have a strong influence upon the life of a community, it is desirable that one or more of the visitators should be from a monastery conducting a similar apostolate or at least should have had some background in this area. In the case of special visitations, it will often be desirable to include among the visitators one or more people with special expertise in the specific areas to be examined.
D 128.1. 3. The procedure for the selection of visitators shall be as follows:
1. The President, after consulting his council, is to assign a team of visitators for each monastery to be visited, taking into consideration the requests of the local community.
2. The names of the proposed visitators shall be communicated to the abbot of each respective monastery.
3. The abbot, after consulting his council, shall inform the President of his concurrence or shall make alternative suggestions.
4. The final decision is to be made by the President.
5. The President is to appoint one member of each team as chairman.
V45. 1. Eligibility
Any perpetually professed monk of a monastery of the Congregation may be appointed a visitator. In a special case, a perpetually professed monk of any monastery of the Benedictine Confederation may be appointed a visitator. The President and his council should develop a permanent roster of visitators with diverse qualifications. To assist them in identifying qualified visitators for addition to this roster, written recommendations should be sought from capitulars of the general chapter and from the councils of seniors of each local community. This provision does not preclude recommendations from other sources. The President and his council are under no obligation to assign every monk suggested, and those visitators who are found ineffective should be removed from the roster.
V 46. 2. The Process of Selection
The process of selecting visitators for a regular visitation ordinarily begins with the abbot of the monastery to be visited, who, after taking into consideration the requests of the local community, proposes to the President the names of potential visitators or the particular qualifications desired. After consideration of these proposals and of the particular needs of the monastery, the President, after consulting his council, then communicates to the abbot the names of those whom he wishes to appoint. If these are different than those proposed by the abbot or not entirely suitable to him, the latter, after again consulting his council, may submit further proposals. The President is encouraged to continue this dialogue so long as it helps to assure the selection of those visitators best suited for each particular community. The final decision, however, rests with the President, after consultation with his council.
V 47. 3. The Number of Visitators
For regular visitations, the team of visitators will ordinarily consist half of governing abbots and half of other monks. It is left to the President and his council to determine whether a member of the council should participate in each visitation. In order to insure adequate attention to each community and its situation, at least two visitators should be assigned to a community of average size, with four being provided for larger houses. A single visitator should be assigned only in exceptional cases, e.g., if the community is very small, the distance exceptionally great, or the language requirements such that another qualified visitator cannot easily be provided.
V 48. 4. The Role of the Senior Visitator
One member of the visitation team, who has had previous experience as a visitator, usually an abbot or a member of the council of the President, should be appointed by the President as senior visitator, responsible for coordinating the work of the visitation team. It is the responsibility of the senior visitator:
1. to communicate with the other visitators;
2. to communicate with the appropriate person at the monastery in regard to advance planning before the visitation;
3. to address the community at the opening of the visitation;
4. to arrange for meetings of the visitators among themselves and with monks of the monastery during the visitation;
5. to finalize the schedule of interviews;
6. to facilitate discussion of the report at the recessus, with the help of the other visitators;
7. to send the visitation reports to the President after the visitation and arrange for reimbursement of travel expenses for all the visitators.