Ora et labora, pray and work, is a Benedictine motto, and the monastic life aims to join the two. This perspective liberates prayer from God-talk; a well-tended garden, a well-made cabinet, a well-swept floor, can be a prayer. Benedict defined the liturgy of the hours as a monastery’s most important work: it is, as the prioress explained it, “a sanctification of each day by common prayer at established times.” Many people think it’s foolish to spend so much time this way, but the experience of Benedictines over 1500 years has taught them that doing anything else is unthinkable. It may be fashionable to assert that all is holy, but not many are willing to haul ass to church four or five times a day to sing about it. It’s not for the faint of heart.
-Kathleen Norris, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, p.185