Prayers, please, for Dave, very widespread cancer, and for Susan,
doing well post-op. Thanks so much! God's will be done. NRN JL
April 10, August 10, December 10
Chapter 57: On the Artisans of the Monastery
If there are artisans in the monastery,
let them practice their crafts with all humility,
provided the Abbot has given permission.
But if any one of them becomes conceited
over his skill in his craft,
because he seems to be conferring a benefit on the monastery,
let him be taken from his craft
and no longer exercise it unless,
after he has humbled himself,
the Abbot again gives him permission.
If any of the work of the craftsmen is to be sold,
those responsible for the sale
must not dare to practice any fraud.
Let them always remember Ananias and Saphira,
who incurred bodily death (Acts 5:1-11),
lest they and all who perpetrate fraud
in monastery affairs
suffer spiritual death.
And in the prices let not the sin of avarice creep in,
but let the goods always be sold a little cheaper
than they can be sold by people in the world,
"that in all things God may be glorified" (1 Peter 4:11).
Monasteries, even up until the late 20th century, were marvelous
examples of self-sufficiency, provided they were in areas where farms
could be had, and most of them were. St. Leo is the only place in the
world I where I have ever tasted raw milk. When I was a boy, they had
their own dairy farm, citrus packing plant, beef cattle ranch, hay
operation, carpentry shop, garage, upholstery shop, printing press,
and probably even more that I've forgotten. They milled their own
cedar to roof the Abbey Church. There was a paint shop and artists'
studios for painting, ceramics and stained glass, with a stab at
sculpture, too. Well before my time, the old German brothers made the
monks' shoes and butchered their own livestock to feed monks and
Granted, the people who know how to do these things are largely dying
off, and they were usually lay brothers, a now defunct category, but
how I would love to see some of that return in my lifetime. One felt
different in such a place, safer somehow. There was no need to go out
or buy, we had own our and it was even better. We were enslaved to
less things outside of our lives.
Now, even monasteries, with fewer members than in those days, cannot
do many of these things anymore, much less many Oblates in the world.
I would, however, stress that there is a very, very deep
connectedness to homegrown and handmade things. It verges on the
liturgical, and surely enhances same. It is, in a very lower case
sense, truly sacramental. These things are NOT good because they are
cheaper, though they often are, but because they connect and involve
us in our own survival and life. They enrich us, this is "soul food"
in the most literal sense!!
Do whatever you can to break even the tiniest area of dependency and
see how good it feels. One herb in one pot on a sunny window or fire
escape might be enough to start a healthy addiction. Can't grow
things? (Start with chives or oregano. Both are perennial, both will
die of nothing but thirst. Fresh chives are so good and so different
in taste that you will never used freeze-dried again. Never.) Try any
useful craft. The first time I made my own habit I felt like a
million dollars, even if I didn't look QUITE that good... Check out
the first used bread machine you can find (they are pricey, alas...)
set the timer and you can have bread ready when you get home from
work in 10-20 minutes of prep time. (If you don't have ten minutes,
freeze batches of measured dry ingredients when you DO have a minute.
Then just add liquids and yeast in the morning. Less time than making
coffee.) You will never walk down the bread aisle (read "airy sponge
aisle",) in a store the same way again!
Crock pots are always available very cheap at used stores and tag
sales. Get one. While you work, as any single person who's used one
can tell you, dinner will be ready. It will smell and taste a LOT
better than microwaved frozen food, too. If the pot has a removable
crock, you can even prepare the raw ingredients the night before and
Anything, anything you can do or learn to do to set yourself the
least bit free, to connect yourself more, will be on the side of the
angels! Why on earth do you think that modern English uses the
word "crafty" to refer to someone very, very cleverly smart? Language
is no accident.
Love and prayers,
St. Mary's Monastery Petersham, MA