Laborare est Orare (To Work is to Pray)

Three years ago, I spent a week in a Benedictine monastery for a prayer retreat.  It was a beautiful place, with years and years of prayer and service soaked into the very floorboards.

While there, I became rather fascinated with the history of the Benedictine order and St. Benedict, their founder.  I noticed some of the wall-hangings labeled with the motto “Laborare est Orare” (To Work is to Pray).  This phrase drew me in, and I’ve turned it over in my mind since then, keeping it with me, and wondering at it.

Work as prayer became very real to me this past Sunday as I had a chance to work with some members our church’s altar guild as they prepared for the Sunday service.  (The why and wherefore is a rather long and different story, so I won’t go into it here.)

So, I hung around (rather trying not to get into the way than really doing anything useful as I had not much clue what I ought to be doing), the awe of arranging the altar and wiping the sacred things with a dishcloth dawned on me.  This chalice will be a means of God ministering grace to someone today.  These linens will be a part of the Eucharist, demonstrating Christ’s act of love for us today.  Somehow, doing such everyday things (washing and drying) the instruments of the altar grounded the act in its holiness as well as its ordinariness.

It amazed me.  The service was richer that day because my work and my prayer were united.  My prayer was stronger through my work, and perhaps my work was better because of my prayer.

I don’t suppose every day of altar guild work will be an epiphany.  Come to think of it, I doubt every day of being a Benedictine monk or nun sees the heavens burst open, shining light on the path.  But I hope, knowing the joining of the work with the prayer, I might keep them in my awareness, my heart.  I hope my work might infiltrate my prayer, and my prayer wrap itself around my work.

Amen.

5 (Moderately) Good Reasons to Begin Blogging

I’ve always been a writer.  From the plays my best friend and I co-authored at a young age through college papers that I drafted, wrote, and re-wrote, suffering with anxiety over whether or not the professor would like it.  Recently, though, for a raft of rather bad reasons, I’ve stopped writing entirely, except for my 2nd grade classroom’s weekly newsletter, and, of course, the Dreaded Report Card Comments (I teach at a charter school, and unlike regular public schools we are required to write, if not a novel, at least a short pamphlet on each student at report card time).

This idea of self-publishing my thoughts for others to read has been popping into my consciousness lately.  I spoke of it rather sarcastically at first, then wistfully…finally, I thought, why not?  I could certainly list reasons why not, but instead, my dratted stubborn brain kept bringing up reasons why I should start a blog.  I’ll not bore you with all, but here are my top five (moderately) good reasons that I will begin blogging.

1.  A Lenten Discipline.  As a former member of multiple independent-fundamental type churches recently converted to Anglicanism, I still find a strong fascination in Lent.  It strikes me as a period of slowing yourself, of stripping down to bare essentials, of setting aside distractions in favor of God.  Writing has long been a prayer for me, a way to draw closer to God.  Thus, my hope in this blog is make space for Him in a kind of soul spring houscleaning.

2.  A way to write well, but not perfectly.  Though not a first-born, I got a fair dose of perfectionism in my genes and struggle to move beyond its bonds.  Since that first teacher told me that I was good at writing, it became a contest of sorts — ever trying to make what I wrote better, to get more applause, to get an A+, not just an A.  Fear of hitting a wall in writing was one of the bad reasons I stopped writing.  I hope this venue will be a chance for me to lighten up on the self-judgment while still honing my skill.

3.  To use a gift without coercion.  I mentioned earlier my fundamentalist upbringing.  The damage there was a continual urging, browbeating if you will, that gifts from God were not to be wasted.  If you wasted them, there would surely be consequences, etc., ad infinitum.  I wanted to use my gift, but was unsure how I might do that.  I had not leisure to pray and seek.  I felt pressure.  Solution: pretend it didn’t exist.  I feel God leading me gently back to my gift and showing me how to use it.

4.  To be nor not to be — like everyone else.  Blogs are everywhere these days, and I’ve gone back and forth about whether or not I have something unique to say.  I suppose I would like to try it and see.

5.  Procrastination and Lack of Commitment.  I am a queen of procrastination and will put something off until A.  Someone does it for me or B.  I come upon it in a pile of other neglected things and say to myself, “Now why did I never do that?”.  I also do not like to be boxed into things that I will regret committing to later: I enjoy keeping my schedule open.  (This may sound like a reason NOT to start a blog, but bear with me).  Beginning this as a commitment for Lent only (with the possibility of carrying on afterwards) suits my lack of commitment, and knowing the short amount of time I have to work on this will hopefully remedy my procrastination (we shall see — I set the blog up 3 days ago and am only now getting around to writing my first post).

I am intrigued by the possibilities of this — like trying a new recipe: it may flop, or be a thing of beauty and incredibly delicious.  I shall but wait and see.