Fridays with Benedict: Chapter 31, Qualifications of the Monastery Cellarer

You might think a chapter in The Rule of St. Benedict entitled "Qualifications of the Monastery Cellarer " would be pretty uninteresting. But I really like this chapter and think it has wide practical value for just about everyone.

The monastery cellarer was someone appointed by the abbot to be in charge of the monastery foodstuffs and function as a general steward. As you might imagine, being put in charge of the food would give you a great deal of power. More, it would expose you to a variety of personal temptations. We can imagine cellarers becoming petty tyrants or acting self-indulgently, availing themselves of the best food in the monastery--good cheese, wine, beer, etc.

I don't think this is much different from what most of us encounter in the workplace. People put in charge, given a little bit of power, become petty tyrants and self-indulgent.

That's easy to point out. What is harder is when we act this way when we are put in charge. So I think this chapter is helpful as it can can be used as a measure of our own behavior in positions of power and authority. 

From The Rule:
Chapter 31
6[The Cellarer] should not annoy the brothers. 7If any brother happens to make an unreasonable demand of him, he should not reject him with disdain and cause him distress, but reasonably and humbly deny the improper request. 8Let him keep watch over his own soul, ever mindful of that saying of the Apostle: "He who serves well secures a good standing for himself" (1 Tim. 3:13). 9He must show every care and concern for the sick, children, guests and the poor, knowing for certain that he will be held accountable for all of them on the day of judgment. 10He will regard all utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar, 11aware that nothing is to be neglected. 12He should not be prone to greed, nor be wasteful and extravagant with the goods of the monastery, but should do everything with moderation and according to the abbot's orders.

13Above all, let him be humble. If goods are not available to meet a request, he will offer a kind word in reply...16He will provide the brothers their allotted amount of food without any pride or delay...
Some general rules here to measure ourselves by:

  1. Treat even improper or inappropriate requests with kindness and humility. Say no, but be respectful and kind.
  2. Pay attention to the weakest ones under your care or influence.
  3. Treat the things of your workplace with care, as if they were your own belongings.
  4. Don't use your position to be self-indulgent (e.g., don't grant yourself favors, allowances, or shortcuts you don't allow others to take).
  5. Don't act like legitimate requests are a hassle or like you are doing people favors. Don't be a petty tyrant.

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2 thoughts on “Fridays with Benedict: Chapter 31, Qualifications of the Monastery Cellarer ”

  1. qb needs this, of applies to all of us whose work involves stewardship of people or of things FOR people.

    It also applies to the &$^@#! TSA agents at Austin-Bergstrom Airport. In SPADES.

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