Workdays may have changed a lot in the last 1500 years, but the ancient Benedictine rule has some good advice for anyone who wants more meaningful work: “Laborare est orare.” Or, if your Latin is fuzzy, “to work is to pray.” St. Benedict (480-547) probably never said these exact words, though he definitely promoted the spirit of work done prayerfully as well as carefully and efficiently.
Recently, my husband John and I did a lot of meditation on the very practical meaning of “to work is to pray.”
Here are a few of our favorite brief affirmative prayers in Latin and English. Why Latin? Because John loves Latin and doesn’t get to use his Latin fluency enough. We’ve also found that many people enjoy Latin as a reminder that, though things and languages may die out in common use, the wisdom behind them never grows old.
Labore meo caritatem aparere facio. Through my work I make love visible. (An affirmation of a quote by Khalil Gibran.)
Laboris mei ultima mensura integritas est in omnibus suis significationibus. The bottom line of my work is integrity in all its meanings. (Since there is no Latin translation for “bottom line,” John used the Latin wording for “the final measure.”)
Ne quidam Deus omnia uno die creavit. Even God didn’t do everything in one day. (A reminder to all the workaholics among us.)
Labore meo Dei manus pedesque in mundo sum. Through my work I am God’s hands and feet in the world. (God has decided to transform the world through us rather than micromanage all creation.)
Benedicat Deus hunc locum minusculum ubi me magna opera producere expectatur. Bless this tiny space where I am expected to do big work. (A common name for our tiny workspace is cubicle. But the Latin word “cubiculum” refers to a place to sleep rather than a place to work.)
Benedicat Deus conditionem hanc difficilem ut per eam discere, crescere, sevare et gaudium invenire possim. Bless this difficult situation. May it be a place of learning, growing, serving and finding joy. (John’s comment: finding joy among our difficulties is a daunting task but not impossible.)
Benedicatur iste qui mihi vexatio est. Bless this difficult person.
Utinam in labore meo eundem spiritum explorationis inveniam per quam infans ambulare discit. May I find in my work the same spirit of adventure that guides a child who is learning to walk
Esto illa transformatio quam in mundo apparere vis. Be the change you want to see in the world. (A popular saying by Ghandi.)
Benedicat Deus hanc novam scientiam practicam et meam conjuctionem cum ea. Bless this new technology and my relationship to it. (We both have a hard time remembering this when we’re tempted to curse the machine that doesn’t do what we expect it to do.)
Quamlibet celeriter et furiose laboro, quare laboro et quibus servio semper meminero. No matter how fast and furiously I work, I will always remember why I work and whom I serve. (This affirmation of mindfulness is in the spirit of Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection (The Practice of the Presence of God.
Benedicat Deus hanc confusionem. Bless this mess. (The prayer of the chronically disorganized.)
As always, many blessings for your work and life! Pat and John Sullivan