Laboring with Benedict

It is hard to believe Labor Day is upon us and, by the time this is posted, over! For years I celebrated Labor Day as any American and appreciated a free day off work. In the Monastery it was a day for ‘breakfast on the patio,’ with eggs hot off the grill, followed by burgers and hot dogs later in the day. When I worked in the kitchen, I so enjoyed summer holidays and outdoor cookin’!

As a Benedictine this idea of celebrating ‘labor’ takes on a deeper meaning, though. Benedict is quite clear in his Rule that labor and prayer must maintain a balance. He set this as a central theme of monastic life. He assigned time for monks to work in the fields or in the monastery along with times for communal prayer and private prayer. Every day reflected the Glory of God, as our daily schedule still does. The centrality of work and prayer, or ‘ora et labora,’ still regulates our lives.

Today we have a few more complications to add to the mix. Sisters working outside the Monastery or in full-time ministries face challenges to that balance of work and prayer. The daily reality is that life can be unbalanced at times. Nevertheless, we are remarkable in how we learn to maneuver these tensions. There is very little absence from communal prayer and almost none from community events. Rather amazing in such a fast-paced world!

Benedict’s monks and this community share a common goal, despite the 1500 years between us. Our goal is to lead an integrated life. One of deep, rich prayer and nourishing, valuable work. Both share a common purpose of laboring for the good of God’s world and God’s people. May we all work our way to God.

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