Monday, September 3, 2007

Ora et Labora

I heard a funny story on the radio yesterday. A union worker was bemoaning the fact that the real meaning of Labor Day has been lost and that it has become just another day off from school and work. He had also read that a third grader, when asked what Labor Day was about, had answered, "It's a day when we think about all the women who have had children."

Work has an important place in the Rule of Benedict and one of the popular Benedictine mottoes is "Ora et Labora." Terrence Kardong, OSB, an excellent commentator on the Rule, has a good, short essay on Ora et Labora. Here's an excerpt:

"It cannot be denied, of course, that the Benedictines themselves have cheerfully plastered this motto on everything from their napkins to the carving above the front gate. So our friends (or enemies) can hardly be blamed for assuming that the slogan expresses something important about our monks and our monasteries. If the monks themselves have clasped this euphonious moniker to their bosoms, it must have a basis in reality. What is it? St. Benedict does indeed make some comments about work in his Chapter 48. The text begins with another pithy saying: 'Idleness is the devil's workshop.' In this chapter he sets up a rather precise daily schedule that includes time every day for manual labor. Some commentators have claimed that this is in fact the first time in history that a precise work schedule was set up, and they add that this is the real beginning of the history of the modernization of work. Without regular hours, not much gets accomplished."

Today we have a day off of ministry/work, of course, and this year, before our annual Labor Day picnic, a dozen of us are going downtown to the last baseball game of the season for our Erie Seawolves. They are a Double A farm team of the Detroit Tigers and can clinch first place in their division with a win today! Go Seawolves!