For Benedictines, the daily work we do is part of what it means to be a monk. St Benedict reminds us that we believe that God is present everywhere; so when we work, we are working with God and for God.
The Benedictine monastic tradition, which stretches back over one and a half thousand years, teaches that our daily work is important, because it brings balance to our lives, because it enables us to support ourselves, and because it allows us to give to others in need.
This threefold ancient wisdom is still part of our understanding of work today. Firstly, balance is important to our life, as it is to everyone’s. “Ora et labora”, which means “pray and work”, has become an unofficial motto of the Benedictines, reflecting the essential role that this balance has for us. Secondly, we still work to support ourselves. This is true even though like many other monasteries, we have to ask for help from others to run and repair the large historic buildings we have inherited. Thirdly, we work to be able to give to those in need, which we do via charities and other organisations.
The daily work of monks was so important to St Benedict, that he wrote, “Then they are truly monks, when they live by the labour of their hands.”
Each monk has his own duties and responsibilities. As far as possible these are given to him on the basis of what work will best suit him, although the needs of the community must always be considered. Because we are a small community, everyone has several responsibilities, and we could not do all that we do without the volunteers and employees who work with us.
Some of us have work in the church and the sacristy to do, to enable the Liturgy of the Church to be celebrated each day. Some welcome and look after guests who come to stay in the monastery. Others look after those who visit each day, working in the Monastery Shop, or the Tea Garden, or talking with visitors. Some produce food, growing vegetables or fruit, or looking after the pigs, cattle, or bees. Others look after the development and repair of the buildings, or work in the gardens or on the estate. Others cook, clean, or carry out various administrative tasks.
At Quarr we have a tradition of encouraging crafts and trades. At the moment there are several trades present in the monastery, and among the crafts, we have a bindery which binds, repairs, and renovates books, we have a monk who paints treescapes, from which we also produce small cards, and we have a monk who writes spiritual books.