The Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter Thirty-Two, Who Gets to Keep Track of a Monastery’s Tools

Chapter Thirty-Two of The Rule of Saint Benedict is another shorter chapter. It’s only one paragraph long and it’s titled “Of the Iron Tools, and Property of the Monastery” (pg. 49). As you can probably guess, this chapter is about the monastery’s property. To be more specific, it is about how monks are to treat the tools they use.

 

Harley MS 5431 f.59v
The Beginning of Chapter Thirty-Two in a Medieval Manuscript | BL Harley MS 5431 f.59v | Source: The British Library

 

It starts off with Saint Benedict instructing the abbot how to choose the monks “to the charge of the iron tools, clothes, and other property of the Monastery” (pg. 49). These monks are to be men “on whose manner of life and character he [the abbot] can rely” (pg. 49). They must be dependable. Not only are these monks to make sure the tools are kept in good working order, but they also have to keep track of where the tools are as they are being used. Saint Benedict explicitly says that “the things [are] to be kept and collected after use” (pg. 49).

Furthermore, it’s an abbot’s duty to “keep a list” (pg. 49) of the property. Monks are given different chores to do at different times. A monk working in the kitchen and a monk working in the fields aren’t going to use the same tools. A list will help the abbot “know what he giveth and receiveth back” (pg. 49).

Finally, the chapter ends with what should be done with the monks who “treat the property…in a slovenly or negligent manner” (pg. 49). At first, they are to “be corrected” but “if he do not amend” then the monk should “be subjected to the discipline of the Rule” (pg. 49). (And if you are curious about what exactly this discipline is, I’ve gone into detail about that here.)

This chapter has the same theme as other chapters concerning running a monastery. That theme being important jobs should only go to those responsible enough to handle them. If you’ve ever done yardwork or what have you, you know that high-quality tools can be expensive. And even if you only own a $15 rake, it’s still very annoying to have to go out and buy a new one if it accidentally breaks. It’s even more annoying when something breaks because you left it outside or the person using it wasn’t careful or you misplaced it.

Now imagine that instead of driving down to the hardware store (or buying a tool online and waiting a few days for it to be delivered) you have to make it all from scratch. It’s no wonder that Saint Benedict wants only responsible monks to keep track of everything!

 

Main Source:

The Rule of Saint Benedict, With Explanatory Notes. Ichthus Publications.

(I bought my copy of The Rule of Saint Benedict on Amazon. You can purchase my edition of it here.)

Other Sources:

Wikipedia’s overview of The Rule of Saint Benedict to double-check my interpretations of the text. Link to that article here.

Solesme Abbey’s translation of The Rule of Saint Benedict can be found here as a PDF. I used this to cross-check my translation.

Christian Classics Ethereal Library’s translation of The Rule of Saint Benedict can be found here as a PDF. I used this to cross-check my translation. (You have to scroll down to see the text.)

EDIT: In case you can’t access the Christian Classics Ethereal Library’s translation, the Wayback Machine has a screenshot of the PDF I used. That PDF can be accessed here.