Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

If I Could be a Porter

by Ron Beathard


If I could live my life over, I wouldn't want to be a best-selling author, Oscar winner or president of anything. I would be a porter in an ancient Benedictine monastery. The Rule of St. Benedict is the only book I know of that gives instructions on how to answer a door.

St. Benedict wrote the job description that fits my age, fancies and temperament.

He wants a "wise old man" placed at the gate of the monastery whose "maturity will prevent him from straying about." I am a 72-year old man, and wise because I don't stray about.

"This porter should have a room near the gate" so that visitors may always have someone to receive them. I would be the only monk in the monastery with a private office! "Should the porter need help, let him have one of the younger brethren." I would be a supervisor!

When a visitor knocks at the gate, I answer with a hearty "Thanks be to God" or "A Blessing," I would receive a blessing in return, knowing that the stranger has something to give to me. I would show the visitor around the monastery. This is not my duty. This is my privilege and a blessed one it is.

Benedictine monasteries never close; Benedictine porters never sleep. Like Christ's love, Benedictine hospitality is always there.

St. Benedict wants a monastery that is self-contained; water, garden and workshops are behind stone walls so that monks rarely have to leave. It is a secret garden and I am inviting you to share its abundant love with me.

I can be a porter in my hometown, treating the people I meet as Christ would treat me. But it wouldn't be as much fun. I couldn't wear sandals.

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Echoes from the Bell Tower is a blog devoted to observations on Christian faith, spirituality and everyday events, by authors with a connection to the Benedictine values found at Saint Meinrad Archabbey and its Seminary and School of Theology. Contributors include students, permanent deacons, Benedictine oblates and Saint Meinrad monks. Their stories, thoughts and ideas highlight the mission and vision that ring out from the bell towers on this Hill in southern Indiana.