On the care of tools and other things

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CHAPTER XXXII. Of the Iron Tools and Property of the Monastery

10 Mar. 10 July. 9 Nov.
Let the Abbot appoint brethren, on whose manner of life and character he can rely, to the charge of the iron tools, clothes, and other property of the Monastery; and let him consign to their care, as he shall think fit, the things to be kept and collected after use. Of these let the Abbot keep a list, so that as the brethren in turn succeed to different employments, he may know what he giveth and receiveth back. If any one treat the property of the Monastery in a slovenly or negligent manner, let him be corrected; and if he do not amend, let him be subjected to the discipline of the Rule.

The Tranquility of Order

Saint Benedict sees the real value of tools and of other equipment. He eschews the dreamy-eyed, romantic notion that monks can get by without working. For Saint Benedict, things are important. Monks require clothing, shoes, and bedding. Work requires tools. Study requires books. Whenever men begin to live together, they need tools, clothes, and other property. The care and good order of these things becomes a task of primary importance. When everyone is assumed to be responsible for the care and good order of things, in the end, no one is responsible. Then disorder sets in, and things become misplaced, broken, and neglected.

A Place for Everything

The old domestic adage, "A place for every thing, and every thing in its place," sums up an indispensable principle of life together. This principle applies to every thing in the monastery, beginning in each monk's cell and work space, and extending to the kitchen, refectory, library, sacristy, storage rooms, linen closets, guesthouse, bookshop, laundry, and toilets. This of course is an ideal that one cannot achieve overnight in a newly founded monastery such as ours.


The organisation of a new monastery will take time and much patience. Organisation is, in itself, a gift not given to all. For this reason the Abbot shall appoint brethren "on whose manner of life and character he can rely, to the charge of the iron tools, clothes, and other property of the monastery."


The observance of six practical precepts can, however, facilitate the achievement of good order, efficiency, and responsible stewardship:

1. If you borrow something, return it.
2. If you open something, close it.
3. If you take something, put it back.
4. If you soil something, clean it.
5. If you break or lose something, own up to it.
6. If you need something, ask for it, in the proper way and at the suitable time.

All of this being said, good organisation begins in one's own cell and work area. It is good to sort through one's things regularly and eliminate all that is superfluous: weekly, monthly, and in a major way at the Embertides.

In Our Constitutions

The Constitutions of Silverstream Priory contain the following declarations on Chapter XXXII of the Holy Rule:

131. The monastery and all it possesses and contains is the patrimony of Jesus Christ, by which He sustains those who have left all things to follow Him, and to pour out their lives, in adoration before Him, like an ointment of great price.
132. Every member of the community, therefore, is responsible before God and his brethren for the respect and care of the fabric of the monastery; of its land, forest, streams, and other natural resources; and of its furnishings, machinery, and tools.
133. Each monk will cultivate a personal sense of responsibility for the cleanliness, good order, and beauty of the natural and material environment of the monastery.
134. The rapid development of new technologies obliges even monks to participate to some degree in the larger digital world. It is necessary, then, that, from the time of their initial monastic formation, they learn how to use these technologies in a competent and appropriate way, shaped by the unchanging ascetical principles of separation from the world, silence, and the love of truth.


Dear Dom Mark, Please pray that my family and I, with God's Grace, will break our bad habits of disorder and will live by your precepts so our overcrowded, small home can obtain the desperately desired Tranquility of Order.

(Years ago when I was praying for order, a friend told me I had to be specific: God did answer my prayer and blessed us with two sets of children - 2 girls 3 years apart, 5 years later, 2 boys, 3 years apart - all within ten days of one another!)

Finally, He leads me to Specifications!

God bless you and all your good work - as always!

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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