The Abbot is the spiritual father of a community of monks. Though St. Benedict says he must consult the brothers when ever an important decision has to be made, the Abbot exercises the highest authority and he makes the final decision. His title comes from the name that Jesus used to call his father: “Abba”. This is an Aramaic word, the language that Jesus spoke when he was on earth, and its meaning might be expressed with the English word: “Da-da” or “Daddy”. In other words, and “Abba” or “Abbot” is a most beloved, father – gentle in manner, firm in truth. But the role of the Abbot is different than that of our earthly father. St. Paul said: “You have received the spirit of adoption of sons by which we exclaim: 'Abba – Father.” (Romans 8:15). To say that we are adopted children of God in the spirit, is like saying that, when we met Christ and gave our life to him, we were born again as children of God. The role of the Abbot is to be the visible face and voice of God our Father who has adopted us as His own children and desires us to live with Him forever. Actually, Benedict says that the Abbot “holds the place of Christ” Himself in the monastery.
On the day when a Trappist community elects one of their members to be the very special dignity of the Abbot is observed in a ritual. Each monk comes forward and kneels before the Abbot who encloses the monks' two hands within his own outstretched hands and the monk says to him: “I promise you obedience according to the Rule of St. Benedict.” From then on, each time the monk obeys the Abbot, he is offering a gift of love to God whose presence is made visible in the spiritual father of the community. An Abbot can be elected for a term of six years or he can be elected “for life”, which means until he turns 75. When an Abbot retires from office, he goes back to living the ordinary monastic life along side the other brothers, following the Rule of St. Benedict and obeying the new Abbot just as he himself was obeyed.