Of Monks and Mercenaries
Every now and then it pops up: the idea that the Reformation "liberated" Christian theology from the erroneous elitism of the cloistered. To hear some speak of it, it would seem that Roman clericalism had left we working, mundane laity out in the cold, while monastics and clergy enjoyed True Spirituality; hence, perhaps, God was "hindered" from speaking to the ploughboy until the Prots arrived to mediate His voice to the middle class.
- Not so! Catholic Christianity has offered a robust theology of the sanctity of all of life, in work, family, and play, from the beginning. Some good resources on point for correcting false dichotomies:
The first is the Rule of St. Benedict, which, as you know, is the paradigm and original model of monastic life, composed around A.D 530. It is interesting to note that at least five highly significant chapters of the Rule are devoted to a Christian theology of work, as an integrated and essential part of the Christian life.
Secondly, two modern voices in the Catholic church have articulated beautifully and Scripturally the Christian theology of work, vocation, and the sanctity of all of life; if you will permit me, I refer especially to John Paul II's Letter to Workers (Laborem Exercens,1981). See especially the "Elements for a Spirituality of Work," including "Work as a Sharing in the Activity of the Creator," and "Human Work in the Light of the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ," etc.
Finally, of course, we find a modern incarnation of the Christian's understanding of the integration of all of life- mundane work and holiness- in the thought and method of Josemaria Escriva, founder of the thriving and growing lay order of Opus Dei (literally, of course, "the
work of God"). As you probably know, the Opus Dei order exists to encourage all people to understand and practice the glorification of God in the activities of daily life. Their mission statement explains that "work, family life, and other ordinary activities are occasions for spiritual union with Jesus Christ." Many of my dear friends are young members of Opus Dei, and I am always so humbled and encouraged by the vibrancy of their intentional witness to Christ through the small acts of their daily lives.