March 9, July 9, November 8
Chapter 31: What Kind of Man the Cellarer of the Monastery Should Be
Above all things let him have humility;
and if he has nothing else to give
let him give a good word in answer
for it is written,
"A good word is above the best gift" (Eccles. 18:17).
Let him have under his care
all that the Abbot has assigned to him,
but not presume to deal with what he has forbidden him.
Let him give the brethren their appointed allowance of food
without any arrogance or delay,
that they may not be scandalized,
mindful of the Word of God as to what he deserves
"who shall scandalize one of the little ones" (Matt 18:6).
If the community is a large one,
let helpers be given him,
that by their assistance
he may fulfill with a quiet mind the office committed to him.
The proper times should be observed
in giving the things that have to be given
and asking for the things that have to be asked for,
that no one may be troubled or vexed in the house of God.
"A good word is above the best gift." This applies to us all and it
is so very true. I know we have bad days, I know that sometimes
emotions can all but overpower us, but for the most part, the self-
discipline to say something nice, or at least to refrain from saying
anything harsh, is available and ought to be employed. One word, one
phrase, for good or ill, can change a person's whole day, whole
outlook on a given matter. One word can be remembered for years,
decades, a lifetime. Unfortunately, this is equally true if the word
The power of the tongue, an awesome, wondrous power to foster growth
or stunt it, to expand or contract the heart of the hearer, this
power is not the cellarer's alone, it belongs to us all. The tongue
can figuratively kill, it can distance others from us, leaving us
finally alone with the predictable isolation of our crankiness. It
can ruin lives, others and our own. Very often the harsh word is the
one never forgotten, the word whose hurt will surface years and years
after its speaker is off the scene. Think carefully of the harsh
words you recall being said to you, then think with double caution
about joining those "unforgettable" ranks by saying such hurtful
things to others.
How many times are we surprised at what another remembers us having
said (even good stuff!) or the details about a shared day that stand
out in one mind and not in another? Be very, very careful of the
memories we give to others. Those memories will live in their minds,
continuing to potentially cause good or evil, long after we are gone.
Not for nothing did St. James assert that if we have religion and
bridle not our tongues, our "religion is in vain." Truly,
truly, "death and life are in the power of the tongue."
Love and prayers,
Jerome, OSB jeromeleo@... St. Mary's Monastery