March 8, July 8, November 7
Chapter 31: What Kind of Man the Cellarer of the Monastery Should Be
As cellarer of the monastery
let there be chosen from the community
one who is wise, of mature character, sober,
not a great eater, not haughty, not excitable,
not offensive, not slow, not wasteful,
but a God-fearing man
who may be like a father to the whole community.
Let him have charge of everything.
He shall do nothing without the Abbot's orders,
but keep to his instructions.
Let him not vex the brethren.
If any brother
happens to make some unreasonable demand of him,
instead of vexing the brother with a contemptuous refusal
he should humbly give the reason
for denying the improper request.
Let him keep guard over his own soul,
mindful always of the Apostle's saying
that "he who has ministered well
will acquire for himself a good standing" (1 Tim. 3:13).
Let him take the greatest care
of the sick, of children, of guests and of the poor,
knowing without doubt
that he will have to render an account for all these
on the Day of Judgment.
Let him regard all the utensils of the monastery
and its whole property
as if they were the sacred vessels of the altar.
Let him not think that he may neglect anything.
He should be neither a miser
nor a prodigal and squanderer of the monastery's substance,
but should do all things with measure
and in accordance with the Abbot's instructions.
One could offer a very incomplete litany here and say: parent,
teacher, boss, all of you! Read this chapter. One could be more
complete and say that anyone who has any charge over things on which
others depend should read this. That would include, at one time or
another, all of us!
We do not realize how much like a cellarer we truly are: all of us
administer things we do not own outright. All property is held in
stewardship, all things are given by God for the commonwealth
(literally!) If we administer some of His wealth unjustly, it is Him
we offend. St. Thomas Aquinas was very clear in his teachings about
property rights and responsibilities. God made things- all of
creation- so that people could thrive. When we see to it that some
thrive frighteningly much more than others and others thrive not at
all, something is terribly amiss.
I am not cellarer, but I am guestmaster. We do receive our guests AS
Christ, but one soon learns that our guests are NOT Christ. Very
often the job of guestmaster is to protect the "Christs" (you should
pardon that usage, no insult to the Lord intended!) from each other.
Sometimes I have to protect myself from them and that is always hard,
too. Usually I ask myself: What would you do if this person were
doing this to another guest? If the answer is intervene, than I do so
far less if the question involves me rather than another guest. Make
no mistake, however, there are guests who have made me feel most
unwelcome, even loathsome in my own home. Sigh...
Just as there are limits to my own control, (this is my home, but it
is not my house,) there are limits to all of the things that all of
us own. No one, no one in Christendom owns outright. There is always
the responsibility for the good of others, for sharing, for kindness
Cling to the line about not vexing others. It is always very, very
cheap and easy to let others live. It usually "costs" us far less
than we are willing to admit on a bad day. As Father Damian of St.
Leo used to say: "If it gives him so much pleasure and me so little
pain, why not?" However, spare yourself a lot of pain and frustration
at the onset by realizing firmly that treating others that way will
in no way guarantee that they will return the compliment, often quite
the reverse. But that isn't the reason one does it. One does it for
Love and prayers,
Jerome, OSB jeromeleo@... St. Mary's Monastery