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Today’s Reading from the Rule of Benedict

March 9, 2010


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.

The cellarer gets a lesson from Benedict that we all need to learn sometime in life: we have a responsibility to serve others “without any pride or delay, lest they be led astray.” It is not right, in other words, to tax other people’s nervous systems, to try other people’s virtues, to burden other people’s already weary lives in order to satisfy our own need to be important. We don’t have to lead them into anger and anxiety, frustration and despair. We don’t need to keep them waiting; we don’t need to argue their requests; we don’t need to count out every weight to the ounce, every bag to the gram, every dollar to the penny. We can give freedom and joy with every gift we give or we can give guilt and frugality.

+ Joan Chittister, The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages

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