Today is one of those days that must be celebratory for all graduates of my alma mater, Saint Vincent College, for today is the memorial day of St. Benedict of Nursia, the founder of the Order of Saint Benedict. The spirit of "Ora et Labora" which animated so many Benedictines throughout the ages ultimately led Boniface Wimmer to bring his brothers to America in order to minister to the Germans. His venture set the roots for one of the largest Benedictine monasteries in the world. (I have sometimes heard that it is the largest but have also heard otherwise.) In any case, the spirit of the monks of Saint Vincent continues to be a motivating force for the edification of the world. It is precisely in their unity of work and prayer that they remain a vital, formative factor in the world.
Perhaps this message of St. Benedict is one which should be resounded to modern thought. I think that man has tendency to be a bit too hopeful in his own endeavors. A great example of this is the fact that mankind seems to have a proclivity to trust the "market" or "government" as forces of salvation. There are indeed many good things that can be done by each force. Free-market economics, like it or not, have done a great deal of good for the world. By encouraging free investment into ideas, it spurs man onward toward many goods in both science and the arts. However, the danger always remains latent in such systems that man will forget that he is more than a utility. In these cases government does its good share as well. It also is a necessity in the preservation of human freedom insofar as it prevents the destruction of coexisting freedom. Even so, it can also become a force of indoctrination which seeks its own propagation because of its own rule for the "good" of all.
What is missing in both cases is often a realization of the Other. Man must orient himself to the Truth if he is going to make any true positive progress. (This is a theme which seems to keep cropping up in this blog. No redundancy is desired in stating this fact.) If market and government become the focal point of orientation, all deeds are focused on the truths latent in their subordinate existence, ultimately dependent on mankind. It doesn't take much to realize that being subordinate to man's own conceptualizations is a bit risky of an endeavor (to say the least). The whole sodden state of affairs in which we find ourselves riddled with sinful action proves that man is not absolutely good (although he is indeed capable of a radical ordering to the Truth). Man's gaze must rise above himself if he is to act in such a way that will truly build the world up. He must orient himself to That which is greater than him. This is where ora becomes necessary.
Prayer remains that fundamental link which never can be forgotten. It is only possible if the author of Truth and Truth itself are communicable and not merely idle forms outside of the world. Effective prayer is an encounter in which the relationship between the created and the Creator is refreshed and strengthened. Labora is only fully possible when ora occurs. It is only by communing with the Truth that man may fully act according to It. Without this orientation, man begins to strike out without reflection. Like St. Peter who fell asleep in the garden of Gethsemane, we will find ourselves always cutting the ears off those who assail us instead of reflectively working to lift them (and the world) up. It was up upon the Cross that the great Labora was done by him who continually remained prayerfully in God's presence. Through this exchange of being, the great "work" of the Resurrection occurred, as He who prayerfully remained one in being with the Father removed the limitations of humanity, lifting humanity into the realm of the divine.