Some people think that monks who live in monastic communities,
such as Saint Meinrad Archabbey, spend the whole day praying in
church or in their cells (rooms). However, just like most everyone
else today, monks are very busy people doing their assigned and
chosen work for a normal eight-hour workday.
Monks today work in a variety of jobs that are also found
outside the monastery. These include being professors, writers,
editors, artists, musicians, psychologists, printing press and
business office managers and workers, computer experts in the IT
department, delivering mail and attending classes. They also
minister to guests, are pastors in local parishes, and minister to
the poor and incarcerated in nearby communities.
This work is important in a Benedictine community, such as Saint
Meinrad Archabbey, along, of course, with prayer. The basis of
Benedictine spirituality is a balance between prayer and work,
termed ora et labora, with prayer coming first.
It is practiced all over the world by Benedictine monks and lay
members of Benedictine communities called "oblates." Oblates
include lay women and men, diocesan priests and a few seminary and
theology students, who live their normal, daily lives in the
secular world rather than in a monastery.
Oblates attempt to pray at least the morning and evening Divine
Office, also called Liturgy of the Hours, which is a reading of
psalms slated for that day, generally in private. They also read
from the Rule, compiled by St. Benedict, the sixth-century monk who
founded the Benedictine order. This Rule is a blueprint for living
a God-centered and balanced life. However, one does not need to be
a monk or nun, or even an oblate of a community, to pray the psalms
or read from the Rule.
In the Archabbey Church, the daily Office, or prayer cycle,
includes early morning prayer (Vigils and Lauds) before breakfast,
noon prayer before lunch, Vespers (evening prayer) before dinner,
and Compline before bed. Oblates in the world generally do not have
the luxury of time for all of these daily prayer times.
The monks, however, embrace this cycle of prayer along with
their work and recreation. Yes, the monks have fun and do a variety
of recreational activities, just like people in the outside world.
They work out to keep fit, play cards and other games, read, play
golf, keep bees and hobby flower and vegetable gardens, do art and
craft work, and watch sports on TV. They also have vacation time,
when they often travel or visit family.
Another aspect of Benedictine spirituality is hospitality. That
is why Benedictine monastic communities are friendly and guests are
always welcome to visit. The Benedictine oblate also attempts to
live his or her life by being friendly and respectful of all people
they encounter. As the old saying goes, "You can catch more flies
with honey than with vinegar." Prayer, work and hospitality go a
long way to help live a balanced life, which many people report
gives them purpose and meaning in today's harried and stressful