The Basic Elements
Monastic life according to the Rule of St Benedict rests on a tripod of three activities: prayer, holy reading, and work. The monastic day moves back and forth between these activities.
We seek to pray constantly, whatever we are doing. Stopping work periodically to pray helps us remember what we are about; and stopping prayer to work is necessary to support ourselves, to help our prayer, and simply to participate in normal human life.
Christian prayer is unthinkable without time spent pondering the Word of God. Holy reading, or lectio divina, is a slow, contemplative way of reading that leads to prayer and begins to align our thoughts with the teachings of Jesus.
Work tests and solidifies the effects of our prayer and reading. The goal of prayer goes beyond interaction with other people to our relationship with God; but prayer which does not change the way we live and interact is not real prayer. The true measure of our prayer is not what we feel while at prayer, but whether we grow in loving behavior.
The ways in which our love is deficient is often manifest in how we work together. Work brings us back to prayer and lectio as we struggle with our own weaknesses and difficulties. We ask for God's assistance in all we do, and that our union with Christ may always grow deeper.
in the monastery
we shall through patience
share in the sufferings
that we may deserve also
to share in his kingdom.
- Rule of St Benedict, Prologue 50