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.
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.