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.
The Abbot is father to the family, in all respects. Some of those,
however, are delegated to others, so that no one, not even the Abbot,
may be overburdened. In one sense, the Abbot may be said to be the
father in things spiritual and the cellarer in things material. It is
interesting that St. Benedict requires very similar qualities in both.
What lies beneath that requirement is the Benedictine view of
property, of goods, of the earth itself. We scorn excess, in either
direction, but we do not scorn the material world, we reverence it as
if it were one of the vessels of the altar! This is very different
from a Buddhist or Hindu view, where all creation might be looked
upon as "maya," illusion. We see creation for what it truly is: a
stupendous and free gift of God to all.
While we always place people before things, we demand that both
people and things be the objects of downright exquisite care. We love
both because they ARE God's gifts, because they are both the means of
sustaining our lives for God's ends. As such, the Holy Rule's view
does not permit that things be loved in and of themselves, for
themselves alone. That's an attachment we have to be careful to
avoid. That false love, however, can lead to all kinds of erroneous
ideas about the good we administer: stinginess, hoarding,
All of these traits translate very easily into the family sphere.
Parents need to achieve a sane balance in regards to material things.
They need not to be career-driven workaholics, but they must also
avoid being poor providers through lack of concern. The key to the
middle way is love, as usual. Love the family members more than
anything worldly and the rest falls more or less into place. If
children know that they come before things, they have learned a
lesson that they will pass on for the rest of their lives.
Face it, many a rich, spoiled child, immersed in privilege, feels
unloved. Things are never an adequate substitute for our HEARTS,
which is what God, St. Benedict and the Holy Rule ask us to give
without reserve. It is the love, the genuine love, that a child (or
anyone else, for that matter!) will remember. All the rest is dust
Love and prayers,