Monasteries of the Heart

Monks in Our Midst: Kathleen Norris on restorative leisure

Monastic people are called to be prophets in the sense that they remind us what it means to be a free people who can enjoy a holy leisure. That is difficult, I know, and monastics can feel hypocritical on this score—I recall Timothy Joyce saying at an ABA convention that these days the true Benedictine motto seems to be "ora et labora, et labora, et labora.’"

But monastics do know the value of restorative leisure. 

The fact that their horarium includes time for play, as well as prayer, lectio divina, meals, and work, reminds us that the Sabbath rest was given by God to a free people. If it’s only slaves who cannot observe a Sabbath, what does that say about us, or the businesswoman I once heard describe her day as so frantic that she was “too busy even to go to the bathroom.” 

How do we define ourselves as free in a workaholic society that pressures so many of its most productive, well-trained, and well-compensated people to be available 24/7? Do the cell phones, PDAs, and laptops come with invisible chains, marking us as slaves?
- from "The Secret Ingredient" by Kathleen Norris in A Monastic Vision for the 21st Century edited by Patrick Hart, OSCO

Kathleen Norris is an oblate at Assumption Abbey in North Dakota. She is a writer and poet with focuses on the Benedictine life. In one of her writings, she challenges those practicing the monastic life to question if they are still living counter-cultural to the workaholic culture and therefore according to Benedictine tradition. 

In what way do you intentionally live with balance in your life? 

Does technology get in the way? Does work get in the way? What gets in the way of your leisure?

Please share your thoughts and insights here.

To view or make comments you must be logged in to Monasteries of the Heart. If you are not yet a member, you can create a free membership account at now. A real person authenticates each new member account to avoid spam accounts so you will not have immediate access. As soon as your account is verified you will receive an email with further instructions.