Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

Benedictine Values: Good Work

by Fr. Adrian Burke, OSB


The love of Christ must come before all else." 
Rule of St. Benedict 4:21

Chapter 4 of the  Rule of St. Benedict  is called "The Tools for Good Works." This would suggest that for St. Benedict, the monastery is more than a "school for the Lord's service." It is also a workshop. The whole of this chapter is a list of implements that the monk is to use for the spiritual labor of reshaping one's life to conform more to Christ, to be more  like Christ.

Spiritual work is really the principal work of the monk, and every kind of relationship is the "place" for it. As  consecrated religious, monks give their lives over to becoming what  everyone  in the church is called to by means of their specific vocation. So we are  all  called to be holy - to be  other Christs, and the grace of Baptism aids us in doing this "good work."

If you are a lay Christian, living and working in the world, an important way you do this is by means of your home life, specifically your vocation as spouse, as parent, or if you live alone, simply ordering your home life and your  home  as a place where Christ is welcome, and where prayer happens naturally and regularly.

For many lay Christians, a lot of time is spent each week in the workplace, so it too is a place where your Christian vocation must be "worked out" (Phil 2:12-13). Our working relationships must  conform to the Gospel  in terms of being open and genuine, characterized by charity and mercy. And we must strive to be transparent and honest with others. For the Christian, the workplace is regarded as an important "venue" for  experiencing  and for  expressing  the presence of Christ - a place where we strive to  embody Christ  for others.

The list of implements for doing this "good work" is long - Chapter 4 consists of 72 items - and perhaps chief among them is the one I quote above. To love Christ above all things, more than our projects, other priorities, other needs, in short, everything other than God, becomes a single thread woven through all our tasks and projects, all our concerns and especially our relationships.

If love for Christ somehow "informs" all these other things, then they will have their proper dignity and be ordered according to God's will. Thus, our lives in every aspect (home, work, family, friendships, working/professional relationships) will harmonize with the religious dimension of our lives - our  church life  as expressed in worship and prayer.

Then our  whole lives  will be endowed with charity - love for God - and thus more  holy, more truly "hid with Christ in God," (Col. 3:2-4), and more  spiritual, too, because, for the dedicated Christian,  spiritual life  just is LIFE,  all of life!

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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.