Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Rule of St Benedict Reading for July 8, 2009

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 quard 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.

Some thoughts

It is with great relief that I see we have finished with the disciplinary bits and turn to a chapter which is perhaps not so controversial.

On Google books I found a very nice explanation of what a cellarer is and does:

On Wikipedia it says: The cellarer, or bursar, who acted as chief purveyor of all foodstuffs to the monastery and as general steward. In recent times the name procurator is often found used for this official. He had as assistants:
the subcellarer;
the "granatorius". Chapter xxxi ofSt. Benedict's Rule tells "What kind of man the Cellarer ought to be"; in practice this position is the most responsible one after that of abbot or superior
The thing I find interesting about Benedict's list of requirements is that they are exactly the same as anything we've read about the description of a good monk. In addition, the cellarer would need to have what we today would call good business skills, management potential coupled with some pastoral skills.

For me the important point is the pastoral skills, which I define as the ability to give people what they need in a way they can receive. I can give you an example, one of hundreds I have witnessed in parishes over the years.

I know of a woman who was going through considerable sturm und drang with family health crises, one on top on top on top of one right after the other with no respite. stress was poisoning her, it was so constant without let up. She was seldom able to make it to church on Sunday or to the mid-week Eucharist during this time. Desperately needing some pastoral care, this woman would email her rector when she had the chance, usually after getting home from the ER at 3AM or so. The rector never responded in any way.

When she wrote an email saying, please, have you nothing of comfort to say to me, she finally received and email back. The rector in question said he hated to use email (despite his reputation as a verbosian on a certain email list) and that he hated to use the telephone, probably because his heritage is Norwegian and how much he upsets his wife as he doesn't want to chat with her about day to day trivialities on the phone. But if this parishioner wanted to come to the office, he would be happy to sit and chat with her about all that was going on. Needless to say, this woman did not do that for the very simple reason that she was unable to spare the time from care-giving to suit the rector's convenience.

This is what I mean about the ability to give people what they need in a way they can receive. This woman needed pastoral care. She wasn't making an impossible demand, just asking for what she thought she had every right to from her priest. I am very happy to report that she was able to receive Christian consolation, support and pastoral care from an email pen pal who lives thousands of miles from her. It made all the difference on a number of occasions, helping this woman gain the strength to continue to face the health care crises. Especially since the rector involved has yet to voluntarily offer any consolation via email, telephone or in person when the woman is able to make it to church.

Now, I know we all may want to focus on this anecdote and lambaste the priest. That will not do any of us any good. But will do us good is self-examination. Are we willing, if we haven't already, to learn the ability to give people what they need in a way they can receive? Of course, people need to be able to receive but their ability to do or not is really none of our business. Our business is to learn to offer people what they need in a way that they can receive it, even if it inconveniences us.

I would really love to know what you think.

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