Oblate Program at Belmont Abbey, NC

St. Benedict and the Dignity of Work



Besides, Venerable Brethren, the author and lawgiver of the Benedictine Order has another lesson for us, which is, indeed, freely and widely proclaimed today but far too often not properly reduced to practice as it should be. It is that human labor is not without dignity; is not a distasteful and burdensome thing, but rather something to be esteemed, an honor and a joy. A busy life, whether employed in the fields, in the profitable trades or in the liberal arts does not demean the mind but elevates it; does not reduce it to slavery but more truly gives it a certain mastery and power of direction over even the most difficult circumstances. Even Jesus, as a youth, still sheltered within the domestic walls, did not disdain to ply the carpenter's trade in his fosterfather's workshop; He wished to consecrate human toil with divine sweat. Let those therefore who labor in trades as well as those who are busy in the pursuit of literature and learning remember that they are performing a most noble task in winning their daily bread; they are not only providing for themselves and their best interests but can be of service to the entire community. Let them toil, as the Patriarch Benedict admonishes, with mind and soul elevated towards heaven, working not by force but through love; and a last word, even when they are defending their own legitimate rights, let them not be envious of the lot of others, labor not in disorder and tumult, but in tranquil and harmonious unity. Let them be mindful of those divine words "in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread";[45] this law of obedience and expiation holds good for all men.

30. Above all let this not be forgotten that looking beyond the fleeting things of earth we must daily and increasingly strive after heavenly and lasting goods, whether we be engaged in intellectual work or study or in a laborious trade; when we shall have gained that goal, then and then only will it be given to us to enjoy true peace, undisturbed repose, and everlasting happiness.

Pope Pius XII
Fulgens Radiatur
Encyclical On St. Benedict


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