March 28, July 28, November 27
Chapter 48: On the Daily Manual Labor
Idleness is the enemy of the soul.
Therefore the sisters should be occupied
at certain times in manual labor,
and again at fixed hours in sacred reading.
To that end
we think that the times for each may be prescribed as follows.
From Easter until the Calends of October,
when they come out from Prime in the morning
let them labor at whatever is necessary
until about the fourth hour,
and from the fourth hour until about the sixth
let them apply themselves to reading.
After the sixth hour,
having left the table,
let them rest on their beds in perfect silence;
or if anyone may perhaps want to read,
let her read to herself
in such a way as not to disturb anyone else.
Let None be said rather early,
at the middle of the eighth hour,
and let them again do what work has to be done until Vespers.
And if the circumstances of the place or their poverty
should require that they themselves
do the work of gathering the harvest,
let them not be discontented;
for then are they truly monastics
when they live by the labor of their hands,
as did our Fathers and the Apostles.
Let all things be done with moderation, however,
for the sake of the faint-hearted.
“Idleness is the enemy of the soul.” What does that mean to you, gentle readers? One thing it tells me is that work is holy because it is the unholy that is the enemy of the soul. Of course, this immediately raises the issue of what work is holy in today’s post modern world. i have Very Strong Opinions on this subject so please Don’t Get Me Started.
Notice the flow of their days: prayer; work; reading; meal; nap; prayer; work; prayer. Prayer punctuates work. It is not an either/or work all day, pray all day. I could well stand to be reminded of this on a daily basis. I get a sort of tunnel vision. I start something and will power on through until it is finished, ignoring any hints to slow down or cease for a time. Sometimes I think I need a very fancy wrist watch that I could set with different chimes to remind me when to pray, take meds, knit, study. After all, we just read about the ringing of the bells in the monastery to recall them to this or that.
Also important to Benedict is the balance of the day. Not too much of this. Not too much of that. Time is made for everything. Workaholics might take note.