Originally posted Sept. 2, 2013, at The Benedictine Lutheran. Republished with permission of the author.

Today is Labor Day — a secular American holiday, of course, but labor is at the very heart of Benedictine spirituality. The essence of the Rule of St. Benedict is described in the Latin phrase “ora et labora” (pray and work).

A recent survey of workers in the U.S. and Canada revealed that around two-thirds of workers felt unsatisfied at work. I suspect that part of the problem is that our society has reduced the concept of work to being a mechanism to receive a paycheck, as opposed to thinking of work as being a vocational calling from God.

The kind of work described in the Rule of St. Benedict is not glorious but a daily regimen of manual labor, combined with “lectio divina” (“divine reading”): “Idleness is the soul’s enemy, so therefore at determined times, the brothers ought to be organized with manual labor, and again at determined hours in ‘lectio divina.’ … If the necessities of the place or poverty demand that they themselves work at the harvest, they should not be sad. For if they live by the work of their hands, then they are true monks, as were our Fathers and the apostles.” — (Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 48).

There is no easy cure for the kind of widespread job dissatisfaction mentioned above. It might help, though, if Christians would follow the Benedictine model and carve out some time during each work day to stop, pray and give thanks to God for the work that has been given to us, which allows us to “live by the work of our hands.”

Jay Denne
Find a link to Jay Denne’s blog The Benedictine Lutheran at Lutheran Blogs.  

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