Above all, let the cellarer be humble. If goods are not available to meet a request, the cellarer will offer a kind word in reply, for it is written: “A kind word is better than the best gift” (Sir. 18:17). Cellarers should take care of all that the prioress or abbot entrusts to them, and not presume to do what they have forbidden. They will provide the members with their allotted amount of food without any pride or delay, lest they be led astray. For the cellarer must remember what the scripture says that person deserves “who leads one of the little ones astray” (Matt. 18:6).
If the community is rather large, the cellarer should be given helpers, so that with assistance it becomes possible to perform the duties of the office calmly. Necessary items are to be requested and given at the proper times, so that no one may be disquieted or distressed in the house of God.
Humility is the human and Christian virtue, and so is the quality most revered in a Benedictine spirituality. Humility saturates the Rule. The cellarer appreciates that both their role and person are part of the broader project that is community as a humble way of service into God. This is especially the case if helpers are needed. Delegation requires an acceptance of our own limitations. Over time, this humble acceptance becomes a lifestyle that includes the way we serve. We can then remain centred, calm, and present, expressing ourselves rather than being overly active and anxious. The cellarer is a model for us in what it is to be contemplative and active at the same time.
Today many seem to have forgotten the power of a kind word. We are caught in rush, caught in reaction, caught in unrealistic expectation. A kind word, given sincerely, can disarm the unawares and smooth the rough edge in an exchange; it can also reveal the proud and the careless to themselves. A purely kind word is not given to do these things, it is given because it exists on its own as a way of love. A kind word is something new and unexpected that any cellarer can draw from their storeroom, be it the shop assistant dealing with a difficult customer, or a friend experiencing another’s bad mood, or with our fellow humanity at the bus stop.
The giving of a kind word is affected by our internal state and where our attention is. Loving attention on whatever is next, be it saying the mantra or making a sandwich, all this affects the availability of a kind word.
To love practically is to have attention lovingly placed. In this way we can also be the cellarer of own internal states, living soulfully as we observe the rise and fall of thoughts, perhaps becoming conscious of what is underneath them, what energises them. This too is the cellarer bringing out the old and the new in the service of love.
The cellarer of the community provides the necessities of life so that all are free to seek and grow in God. They moderate between the common good and the human tendency to desire stuff. Too much beyond what is necessary is a distraction from what is important; life is about quality of relationship, not quantity of things. Benedict knew that attachment to the stuff of life undermines how we attend to others and weakens our consciousness of the depths of God. Today we have stuff, but does that stuff have us?
‘Have you understood all these?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ And he [Jesus] said to them, ‘Well then, every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of Heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom new things as well as old.’ When Jesus had finished these parables he left the district; and, coming to his home town, he taught the people in their synagogue in such a way that they were astonished and said, ‘Where did the man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? (Matt 13:51-54, NJB)