Monks fill a good portion of their day in work that serves the monastery and the church at large. Every member of the monastery is assigned some daily work. According to A Declaration on Benedictine Monastic Life for the Monasteries of the Swiss-American Benedictine Congregation,
The Rule of Benedict insists on work as an important part of the monk’s labor of obedience. The Rule does not put work above everything else, however, or single out one type of work as more monastic than all others. Monks show their love by serving one another in whatever work they do, invoking God’s blessing on tasks large and small. They share in God’s continuing creation while supporting themselves by earnings and by producing for their needs.
The monks of Mt. Michael have various kinds of work that help provide for their living while at the same time serving the needs of the church. One of the main works that the monks engage in is the education of young men through our school, Mt. Michael Benedictine High School. Many monks teach classes in the school as well as serve in more administrative roles. Still other monks serve the community by focusing on offering hospitality to all the guests of the monastery so that in the words of St. Benedict, “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ,” (RB 1980 53:1). Still other monks have work that directly provides for the needs of the monastery by taking care of the vehicles, the mail, the grounds, and the buildings. The church at large is served by the monks who do ministry to the poor and also by the ordained monks who will assist with parish work.
As important as work is to assisting the monastery in maintaining its living, the type of work is not as important as the way in which each member approaches the work through which they serve the community. For,
Benedictines do not work as a corps of independents or careerists, but as a community. They are interested in all the involvements of the monastery, for each monk carries the community’s presence and influence to his particular task. (D42).
A responsible approach to the work of the community fosters the monk’s solidarity with the poor and all who must support themselves by their daily labor. However, the Benedictine vocation to be poor like Christ does not commit the monks to a life of bare survival. With hard work and good management they may have more than they need and more to share with others by almsgiving and hospitality. Both work and the sharing are gospel signs in a world obsessed by production and gain (D44).
As important as work is in the Benedictine community, it is not an end in itself. Healthy life in the community requires times of recreation and relaxation. Even the work itself, performed with dedication and thoroughness, must be governed by peaceful and prayerful composure, for as God’s work its success does not depend on the speed, intensity, or amount of the monk’s labor (D45).
The monks at Mt. Michael engage in work so as to align themselves with Christ and by the labor of their hands help to build up his kingdom. Work, however, does not consume the whole or even the majority of the monk’s daily life. Balancing the human person’s need for a balanced life of work, prayer, and genuine recreation guides the scheduling of the monk’s day at Mt. Michael.