So with the exception of the hours which the sisters ought to consecrate to prayer, to reading, to the preparation of the Divine Office and chant, or to study, they should devote themselves to some manual labor, as shall be judged good by the prioress. –Constitutions of the Dominican Nuns
Work, however, is not antithetical to a life of contemplation. In fact, it can help foster our receptivity to God. Because of the effort it demands, work is one of the more common forms of asceticism. In can foster mental equilibrium and the formation and development of personality.
Through the observance of work, we participate in God’s creative work-making all things new in Christ. Work provides a wonderful opportunity to show concrete expression of love for our Sisters as each one takes her part, as much as she is able, in the life of the monastery and its needs.
Work in the monastery is also a reflection of Our Lady’s hidden life at Nazareth. Like her we do the simple things like cooking, cleaning, sewing, gardening, bookkeeping, etc. to provide for our sisters. By ministering to our sisters we minister to Christ our Spouse.
Through the observance of work we share in the life of most people who have to work hard for their daily living to support their families. Our life as contemplatives, however, challenges us to trust in God’s loving Providence to provide for our needs, for while work is necessary and important it must always be subordinated to the reason why we are gathered together in the monastery-contemplative union with God.