The goods of the monastery, that is, its tools, clothing, or anything else, should be entrusted to members whom the prioress or abbot appoints and in whose manner of life they have confidence. The abbot or prioress will, as they see fit, issue to them the various articles to be cared for and collected after use. The prioress and abbot will maintain a list of these, so that when the members succeed one another in their assigned tasks, they may be aware of what they hand out and what they receive back.
Whoever fails to keep the things belonging to the monastery clean or treats them carelessly should be reproved. If they do not amend, let them be subject to the discipline of the rule.
One could look at chapter’s 31 to 34 as the Rule’s guidance on how to approach the stuff of life. This is important because, as chapter 31 shows us, the way we are with things can reflect our inner life and can affect our inner life.
What might be happening in us, and what might be the nature of our commitment to each other, if we are not looking after those things that we commonly use and are commonly available? Perhaps a lack of concern is revealing a wish to be somewhere else, whether temporarily or permanently.
What is being invited here is a change in the way we attend to things. For example, it is better to wash, wipe, and put away the frying pan straight after use. To not do so means someone else who wants to use it will get stuck with cleaning it. How we treat what we use together can reveal just how aware we are of others, how loving we are, and how our actions affect others’ daily life and tasks.
Where might our attention be when we drop a bowl or make a loud noise with the cutlery? Maybe we are thinking of the day just past, or the rest of the day ahead. The present moment is lost to us. Carelessness in the treatment of things can be a call back to the now of life. When carelessness is constant there is awareness to be learned and insight to be seen, perhaps even healing waiting to happen. The discipline of the Rule, its worldview and practice, is there for all this to happen. In choosing again this discipline we can discover the many subtle ways we walk through the world care-less.
The stuff we care for as we use them are all a part of the embodiment that is Creation. Everything and everyone have their origin in God and are a part of the lifelong adventure back into the fullness of God. Knowing this engenders reverence.
This chapter also highlights something of the role of the community leader in the maintenance of communal tools and goods. Their role is significant and important because of this inner-outer dynamic that we have with things. So, in choosing people to care for communal things (people like the Cellarer) it is good to choose those whose manner of life is established enough in the Rule’s loving discipline, and so can handle the community’s outer tools and goods respectfully. In keeping a master list of these things, the community leader maintains the integrity of the list as community members move in and out of roles; and wise community leadership can see this list as another way to inform their safeguarding of the health of all.
God would not be so unjust as to forget all you have done, the love that you have for his name or the services you have done, and are still doing, for the holy people of God. Our desire is that every one of you should go on showing the same enthusiasm till the ultimate fulfilment of your hope, never growing careless, but taking as your model those who by their faith and perseverance are heirs of the promises. (Heb 6:10-12, NJB)