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Monk in the World: Work 1 – Reflection by Christine + Art

Dear monks, artists, and pilgrims,

During this Jubilee year of sabbatical we are revisiting our Monk Manifesto by moving slowly through the Monk in the World retreat materials together every Sunday. Each week will offer new reflections on the theme and every six weeks will introduce a new principle.

Principle 5: I commit to bringing myself fully present to the work I do, whether paid or unpaid, holding a heart of gratitude for the ability to express my gifts in the world in meaningful ways.

“In Benedictine spirituality, work is what we do to continue what God wanted done.  Work is co-creative. Keeping a home that is beautiful and ordered and nourishing and artistic is co-creative.  Working in a machine shop that makes gears for tractors is co-creative.  Working in an office that processes loan applications for people who are trying to make life more humane is co-creative. . .We work because the world is unfinished and it is ours to develop.  We work with a vision in mind. . . Work is a commitment to God’s service.”   

—Joan Chittister, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily

Work is an important element of monastic life.  Benedict called for his monks to live by the work of their own hands.  Monastic spirituality calls us to be present to the gifts of meaningful work, work which gives us shelter and food, work which allows us to be a part of something larger than ourselves, work which gives us space for creative expression.

Work isn’t always what we are paid to do.  Meaningful work is rooted in our sense of vocation – what we have been called by God to offer in service through our unique gifts.  Work, as Joan Chittister writes above, is co-creative.  It contributes to the flourishing of heaven on earth.

As monks in the world, work life is perhaps the hallmark of our relationship to our communities.  It is often the place where we make our offering.  Even if our work feels tedious, we are called as monks to be present to each moment and enter into it with love.  In this way we grow in freedom and discover how we are being called even more deeply to transform the world.

With great and growing love,


Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE

Art © Kristin Noelle

Text: “Each minute and each second of life is a miracle. /  And the dishes themselves / And the fact that I am washing them are miracles. / Each bowl I wash / Each poem I compose / Each time I invite a bell to sound / Is a miracle / And has exactly the same value.” Thich Nhat Hanh

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