March 8, July 8, November 7

As cellarer of the monastery, there should be chosen from the community someone who is wise, mature in conduct, temperate, not an excessive eater, not proud, excitable, offensive, dilatory, or wasteful, but God-fearing, and like a father to the whole community. The cellarer will take care of everything, but will do nothing without an order from the abbot. Let the cellarer keep to those orders.

The cellarer should not annoy the monks. If anyone happens to make an unreasonable demand, the cellarer should not reject that person with distain and cause them distress, but reasonably and humbly deny the improper request. Let the cellarer keep watch over their own soul, ever mindful of that saying of the Apostle: “He who serve well secures a good standing for himself” (1 Tim. 3:13). The cellarer must show every care and concern for the sick, children, guests and the poor, knowing for certain that they will be held accountable for all of them on the day of judgement. They will regard all utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar, aware that nothing is to be neglected. Cellarers should not be prone to greed, not be wasteful and extravagant with the goods of the monastery, but should do everything with moderation and according to the abbot’s orders.

At first, perhaps we might think that the cellarer is only responsible for the food and wares of the monastery. This is certainly within their remit; however, it is not just this. The cellarer’s role is akin to one of ‘business manager’, ‘treasurer’ and ‘bursar’[1]. The cellarer, then, is responsible for all aspects of the practical sustainability of the monastery, from food supplies to money, garden supplies to clothing stores and much more. This makes the cellarer, in their role and person, central to the day to day life of the whole community. Who they are, then, in temperament and personality, will influence the way this role is lived, and so will affect the community every day. So, the cellarer is discrete, ready to reasonably provide rather than add to anyone’s frustration.   

The cellarer is someone established in the life of the Spirit; in this they are who they are, expressing Christ as themselves. They are a person of integrity, of humility, and gentleness. The cellarer is lovingly self-assured and so is no push over; like that teacher at school who could hold the class with her presence, who treated all students equally regardless of their ability and motivation.  

What they are most experienced in is the gentle refusal of an egocentric life. This is the practical heart of community and meditation. This has them growing in the art of the middle way. To be temperate, to be reasonable, not wasteful, or offensive; to be aware of the needs of those who may not be asking anything – all of this is someone not caught up in themselves. They do not manoeuvre, they serve; they are not fearful, they are kind. This is what it is to be a parent to the whole community.

Part of this moderation and forgetting is the awareness of the limits of a particular service. With humility we wisely know our place and welcome the roles of others. The cellarer is not the community leader. However, the rule makes it clear here that because the role is so central to community life, it is important that the cellarer not hold communal leadership at a distance.

The cellarer is not the sacristan, that is, they do not maintain an oratory or a meditation room. Yet they are asked to see all they handle and manage as if these things were for the altar. In this way, the cellarer models for others how things are to be treated. And they show us that sacredness does not start and stop at the prayer room door. Christian mindfulness is about the care we give to things as well as people. Things can only be of the moment, and so are sacred; care for them, be with them, and be anchored here and now by them.

…how can a man who does not understand how to manage his own household take care of the Church of God? He should not be a new convert, in case he should become puffed up with pride and incur the condemnation of the devil. It is also necessary that he be held in good repute by outsiders, so that he never falls into disrepute and into the devil’s trap. (1 Timothy 3:5b-7, RNJB) 

[1] RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict: In Latin and English With Notes, Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1980.