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Pachomius, who, about the same time, founded his first coenobium , or conventual monastery, at Tabennae in the far south of Egypt. Monastic communities were first organized in Egypt at the beginning of the fourth century. Anthony introduced one form of community life the eremitical when, about the year A. 305, he undertook the direction and organization of the multitude of hermits who had gathered about him in the Thebaid ; a second -- the coenobitical, or conventual, type of monachism -- was instituted by St.From the East the word passed over to the West, and here it was soon received into general use to designate the superior of an abbey or a monastery. Cassian, who at the beginning of the fifth century had transplanted Egyptian monachism to Gaul, was addressed as Abbas , Pater , and Dominus ; he himself termed the superior of the monastery Praepositus . Benedict of Nursia, gave it the definite form and constitution which ultimately assured its triumph in the West.
Anselm, Rome, and the Primate, who takes precedence of all other Abbots, is empowered to pronounce on all doubtful matters of discipline, to settle difficulties arising between monasteries to hold a canonical visitation, if necessary, in any congregation of the order, and to exercise a general supervision for the regular observance of monastic discipline.Within the limits of his territory such an Abbot has, with few exceptions, the rights and privileges of a bishop, and assumes all a bishop's obligations.Abbots of the second grade, however, whose authority (though quasi-episcopal) is intra-territorial, cannot be considered ordinaries, nor can they lay any claim to the rights and privileges of bishops, excepting those, of course, which have been especially granted them by the Holy See.The word praepositus , in the signification of a monastic ruler, appears also in Roman Africa and elsewhere in the West, but towards the close of the fifth century it had been almost entirely supplanted by the term abbas . Benedict, in his Rule, written about 529, assigned a subordinate position in the community to the praepositus , and restricted the use of the title abbas to the superior of the monastery.Through the Rule of the great Patriarch of Western Monachism the application of the title abbas was definitely fixed, and its use made general in the West. Benedict's conception of a monastic community was distinctly that of a spiritual family.
His will is supreme in all things; yet, as the Rule says, nothing is to be taught, commanded, or ordered beyond the precepts of the Lord.