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.
Many would shrug at a chapter like this saying: "I'm not cellarer.
What has that to do with me?" Everything, everything. This chapter,
like those on the Abbot, is a masterful view of Benedictine authority
and stewardship in any capacity. We should never presume to usurp
roles that are not our own, but in covering those roles, the Holy
Rule again and again gives models to ALL.
I am guestmaster, not cellarer, but this chapter reminds me that no
job is an empire, a turf, a personal fiefdom that one administers
temperamentally and without love. Jobs, for Benedictines in world or
monastery, are stewardships, not power trips. (At least that OUGHT to
be true. God save us, it is often otherwise...) If people have to
become so careful of a given official, wearing kid gloves at every
possible turn, something is very, very wrong. Now the community is
reduced to serving the official, when it is supposed to be the other
Of course, the needs of those who come to us at work or at home can
be overwhelming, even oppressive at times, but we are told not to
react to those buttons pushed, but to react with love and humility.
Whatever your job is, the reality is that if there were none with
needs, you would likely be unemployed. Always remember that. We
serve, we do not rule. Our call is to forget ourselves in service,
not to present our intransigent selves to be served.
Our motto is Peace, because St. Benedict knew how completely
essential to a fruitful monastic life inner peace was and is. That's
why he gives this really rather astounding principle: "...no one may
be troubled or vexed in the house of God." It's God's house, not
ours. Wake up, folks, if the maid is giving orders tyrannically,
something's wrong at the manor! It's not her house. It's His.
A certain amount of vexation is inevitable, and part of the monastic
struggle and very useful. A chronic, ulcerating source of repeated
vexation is not. If that comes through an official, something must be
done. If the numbers are too few to remove the official, then that's
what the penal code chapters are all about. Cancers, real malignant
tumors on our peace are meant to be removed. If they are retained by
a superior's blindness, the superior becomes as harmful as the growth
itself. We may have to endure that, circumstances being what they may
be, but it is helpful to at least know it is toxic. To blame God's
will for all this stuff is lunacy. It's a charge He doesn't deserve.
Love and prayers,