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 parent to the whole community. The cellarer will take care of everything, but will do nothing without an order from the prioress or abbot. Let the cellarer keep to those orders.

The cellarer should not annoy the members. If anyone happens to make an unreasonable demand, the cellarer should not reject that person with distain and cause distress, but reasonably and humbly deny the improper request. Let cellarers keep watch over their own souls, ever mindful of that saying of the apostle: “They who serve well secure a good standing for themselves” (1 Tim. 3:13). The cellarer must show every care and concern for the sick, young, guests, and the poor, knowing for certain that they will be held accountable for all of them on the day of judgement. The cellarer 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 order of the prioress or abbot.   

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’ and ‘treasurer’ as well as ‘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. The Rule makes it clear here that because the role is so central to community life, it is important that the cellarer not hold the rest of the communal leadership at a distance. While mature, the cellarer is also human. We all need the checking and balancing of others if we are to keep on deepening into who we are and so continue to serve faithfully.

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 pray 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.

But if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for the church of God? He must not be a recent convert or he may become arrogant and fall into the punishment that the devil will exact. And he must be well thought of by those outside the faith, so that he may not fall into disgrace and be caught by the devil’s trap. (1 Timothy 3:5-7, NET) 


[1] “The functions of the cellarer (a distinctively monastic term derived from the Latin cellarium, meaning ‘storeroom’) include, in secular terminology, those of ‘business manager’, ‘treasurer’, ‘bursar’.” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict: In Latin and English With Notes, Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1980)