Benedict’s Rule: The Cellarer….The What?

Given the detail that the Rule goes into in the second main section, I have had some difficulty knowing how to write these posts.  But I could not resist writing about the Cellarer—if for no other reason than that we almost never use the word today.

But it would be a mistake to omit this element from the Rule in particular, or from the spiritual life in general.  So, we turn to Chapter 31 of the Rule.

The Cellarer was the monk appointed to supervise the kitchen, keeping track of the ordering and preparing of the food, the purchase and maintenance of the right cooking utensils, being sure there was enough wood to cook the meals, and the distribution of leftover food to the poor.

After learning what the Cellarer was, I wonder if it is the role Brother Lawrence played in his monastery in Paris.  He called himself “the lord of pots and pans,” and I’ve always thought that was just a clever way to describe his humble role.  Now, I wonder, if it might also refer to his ministry within the monastery.

The point of today’s post is simply that there is no spirituality apart from “tending to details.”  Ask the captain of any navy ship, and he will tell you that the mess hall is one of the most important places on the ship.

I like the way that the Rule of St. Benedict—which can so easily seem to be “far removed” from the way we live our lives today—is actually part and parcel of any authentic spirituality.

We have messed things up so badly today.  We create a “celebrity spirituality” which gives the false impression that only the bold, bright, and beautiful are really valuable.  Then, we pile on top of it a hierarchial mentality which divides the clergy and laity into the false airline categories of “first class” and “coach.”

Benedict would smile, if not laugh, at us.  Just let the “kitchen crew” fall down on its job and see how quickly “the holy city” caves in.  Take away the Cellarers (the ones who tend to business) and see how fast everything falls apart.

Next time we hand out the “Person of the Year” award, let’s consider giving it to the one who engraved the plaque.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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