Wake up…Kiss my spouse…Fight traffic….Go to work…Fight Traffic…Kiss my spouse….Pay the bills….Go to bed….Set alarm to repeat next day.
Sound like a familiar routine? The world today is fixated on the busyness of daily life. It sometimes seems that one’s time becomes dictated by a pre-set schedule. Day by day and week to week, there is a list of responsibilities to fulfill. Many times, getting work done becomes the focus of life, whether it is a career, chores at home, or struggles to get from activity to activity and event to event. It’s a difficult problem to find balance in life. The work which seems so necessary can also become one’s greatest problem. In many situations, especially in a fast-paced society, constant work is sadly needed to meet the necessities of life. Money may be tight, and people need that work to get necessary resources. Singles and families both feel the struggle to support themselves, and there are responsibilities outside of the ‘paying’ jobs: family events, car repairs, health emergencies, etc. Suddenly, the calendar is filled because of activity needed to support the household. For those who are perhaps struggling to find a balance between work, leisure, and family duties, there is need for a model to find peace and balance amidst a chaotic lifestyle.
For those who may not have the luxury in finding time for self-reflection and spiritual nourishment, St. Benedict of Nursia offers insight into how to integrate constant work with constant growth in the Lord. Benedict died in circa 580 A.D., but he wrote his Rule as a way of discipline and spiritual growth for his fellow brothers in the Monastery. The Rule has remained the central focus for Benedictine religious around the world, and the lessons for the religious can also be used by all people, from blue collar workers to fortune 500 executives.
The Benedictine spirituality emphasizes constant work and prayer. In Chapter 48 of The Rule, “The Daily Manual Labor”, Benedict integrates the intensity of spiritual exercise with demanding physical labor. Benedictine spirituality is an active lifestyle, in which a religious dedicates every hour of their day to either prayer for the work of God’s Kingdom or physical work to serve the monastery and the surrounding communities. He opens the chapter: “Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore, the brothers should have specified periods for manual as well as for prayerful reading.” Prayer and manual work are both recognized as vehicles through which God’s grace can enter into daily life.
Centered on love of others and love of God, the prayer of the religious men and women works for the intercession of the world, and the manual labors work for the care for the needs of surrounding communities including the monastery. Both prayer and work integrate Christ’s call to love one’s neighbor, caring for both physical and spiritual needs. “The monastic engages in creative work as a way to be responsible for the up building of the community….It is labor’s transfiguration of the commonplace, the transformation of the ordinary that makes cocreators of us all.” Any worker can examine their work in the same manner. Taking time to reflect on one’s conduct in the workplace can lead to a daily practice of dedicating one’s efforts toward the merciful works of Christ. One can approach their coworkers, their clients, their community with a mindset remain accountable to love as Christ loved. In the workplace, one can help those he or she sees everyday with service and care. Even what can be seen as the most mundane task at work can be changed into a work of service and discipline towards others with the personal commitment to love as Christ loved.
In order to transform one’s outer works, one also has to transform their inner works—the spiritual life. Benedict accounts for this in his Chapter 4 of his Rule, “The Tools for Good Works”. The chapter focuses on adhering to the Gospels and the need to discipline one’s self to Christ’s teachings in order to work outwardly in the world with charity. “Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way; the love of Christ must come before all else.” He lists vices that would deter one from growing closer to Christ; he lists the commandments and beatitudes God has given as the laws to follow in daily conduct; and he urges the followers of his Rule to form themselves both internally with prayer and outwardly with works of charity towards others.
Any person can form themselves to balance internal spirituality with external acts of charity to others. Benedict’s Rule was written at the time for his fellow religious, but the example of the monastic life he envisioned also holds subtle lessons for anyone dedicated to other forms of work. “The monastic heart is not just to be a good heart. It is to be engaged in the great Christian enterprise of acting for others in the place of God”. The heart of the monastic is also to be the heart of all people—a good heart formed to love others and further the works of Christ’s mercy.
The mind-numbing routine of the busy modern lifestyle can be countered with the lessons St. Benedict taught centuries ago. Daily tasks can be changed from meaningless routine to works of charity. By approaching daily labor as a work of service and charity for others, even the smallest act of kindness can subtlety bring Christ’s love and grace into the world. Following Benedict’s example of integrating work and prayer can fulfill even the hardest working individual’s need for individual growth, and that individual growth can be applied to the mission of Christ In the workplace, the home, the neighborhood, and the world.
**Image imported on September 15, 2015 from http://catholicsaints.info/saint-benedict-of-nursia/.
 The Rule of Saint Benedict in English, ed. Fry, Timothy., The Liturgical Press. Collegeville, MN: 1982., 69.
 Chittister, Joan O.S.B. The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century. The Crossroad Publishing Company. New York, NY: 2010., 211.
 The Rule of Saint Benedict, 27.
 Chittister O.S.B , The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, 57.
The opinions expressed by the DPS blog authors and those providing comments are theirs alone; they are not necessarily the expressions or beliefs of either the Dead Philosophers Society or Holy Apostles College & Seminary.