A reflection on chapter 31 of the Rule of St. Benedict
“Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.” -Acts 4:32
One of the chapters within the Rule of St. Benedict is found in chapters 31 (pp.54-55). It details the rules surrounding the treatment of the tools of the monastery. We aren’t just talking of the sacred vessels of the altar, but tables, chairs, forks and spoons… in other words, everything they use to perform their work.
How do you treat the tools you use for you work? Do you treat your work computer worse than your home computer? I’ve seen people literally beat their work computer and when they are confronted about their behaviour, they reply “what? it’s not mine” (one of those “remind me not to lend you anything” moments).
St. Benedict reminds us to view all the tools of our work as sacred: “regard all utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar, . . .[be] aware that nothing is to be neglected”.
Do you give a second thought to the tools you use everyday? Do you think of the people that made the fork you use to feed yourself? Do you think of the developer that designed the computer software you use (whether you like it or not)? Above all, do you thank God for the tools you have that allow you to do your job and thus earn an income?
We often you words such as “mine” and “yours” to identify to whom a certain possession belongs, “that’s my purse”, “that’s your car”. It is necessary to use this language because it is how we relate to our world and each other, but we must ask, can we overuse such language?
Ultimately, it is not correct to say it is “mine”, or “theirs”. “It” belongs to God and God alone. Whatever we have we have because God allows us to have it, and for that we should be constantly grateful.
So, the next time you pick up that 99cent pen, remember who gave it to you and remember that without it, some aspect of your life would a little more difficult.