Beliefnet

"The brain is a wonderful organ," the poet Robert Frost once said. "It starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the office." For too many of us, that sums up the 21st century work experience: Our jobs have become devoid of our true selves, more about money than meaning, and completely lacking connection in a sense of God's presence.

"Too often the ways we earn our living seem almost hostile to faith, interested only in fragments of our whole selves and requiring that we leave our capacities to envision and to embrace at home," writes Norvene Vest in her 1996 book "Friend of the Soul: A Benedictine Spirituality of Work." Vest adds: "In my own work of lecturing and teaching, I often hear people speak of a sense of helplessness about their work."God's presence can seem all but lost in work environments that dampen rather than foster our creativity: in factories whose products damage the earth--either in their mode of manufacture or their ultimate purpose--and in offices that impair workers' health and welfare in order to help the company turn a profit.. Ever since the Age of Enlightenment, when scientific rather than mystical experiences became our source of truth, and the Industrial Revolution, when time-honored bonds to family and land were broken, we have grown increasingly distanced from ourselves and the meaning of our work. Popping Prozac and "going postal" are all too common occurrences at the jobsite.

But as Vest points out in her book, we can learn from the spiritual approach of the Benedictine monks how to re-infuse our work with meaning and a connection to the sacred. She writes: "God's original intention was that work express the unique gifts and qualities of each person in the service of a unified whole, like a melody that is diminished by the absence of any single note. Many of us harbor some form of this vision: a deep, often unspoken sense that we have been created for a special purpose, that we have a serious and holy calling to be expressed through active engagement with the world around us--that is, through our work."

In the sixth century, when St. Benedict wrote, "Do all for the glory of God", work was considered valuable in itself. Treat even the pots and pans reverently as holy objects because God is found in all things. Benedict counseled. Today, monks continue to serve God through work as varied as growing produce and raising chickens to teaching children and counseling adults.

"Monastics have to work for their living the same as anyone else," notes Beatrice Bruteau, writer and lecturer in the field of spirituality and founder of the Fellowship of The Holy Trinity, an organization influenced by the Rule of St. Benedict but not affiliated with any church. "But they look at their work with great respect, and we can do the same. If we're farming, for instance, we need to study that particular land and climate. We must plant the right kind of crops and give them what they need for their sustenance."

"The brain is a wonderful organ," the poet Robert Frost once said. "It starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the office." For too many of us, that sums up the 21st century work experience: Our jobs have become devoid of our true selves, more about money than meaning, and completely lacking connection in a sense of God's presence.

"Too often the ways we earn our living seem almost hostile to faith, interested only in fragments of our whole selves and requiring that we leave our capacities to envision and to embrace at home," writes Norvene Vest in her 1996 book "Friend of the Soul: A Benedictine Spirituality of Work." Vest adds: "In my own work of lecturing and teaching, I often hear people speak of a sense of helplessness about their work."God's presence can seem all but lost in work environments that dampen rather than foster our creativity: in factories whose products damage the earth--either in their mode of manufacture or their ultimate purpose--and in offices that impair workers' health and welfare in order to help the company turn a profit.. Ever since the Age of Enlightenment, when scientific rather than mystical experiences became our source of truth, and the Industrial Revolution, when time-honored bonds to family and land were broken, we have grown increasingly distanced from ourselves and the meaning of our work. Popping Prozac and "going postal" are all too common occurrences at the jobsite.

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