In our Rule, Saint Albert speaks about “some work” that has to be done. This expression indicates that work is not an end in itself as it is often misunderstood in contemporary societies where people are valued according to the status, efficiency and outcome of their labour.
The Carmelite Rule sees work on the one hand simply as a means of supporting community. Every work has therefore to be understood as community work even if it is done in the greatest solitude. On the other hand, according to our Rule, work has a spiritual meaning within our journey towards union with God and builds up the Kingdom. Outside the times for prayer and community activities work helps us to be engaged in doing something with attention and concentration in order to be “occupied” so that we are not getting distracted from the very true meaning of our life. This is why the Rule requests us to work in silence.
A healthy balance of prayer, work and time for rest will help us to remain always and everywhere with all our being focused and centred in God’s transforming love so that we may better recognize and follow His will for us.
As part of the institutional Church we are inclined to understand work more or less exclusively as pastoral or liturgical ministry. Our Rule instead gives us the example of the Apostle Paul who integrated two important dimensions of work in his own life: he practiced his profession as a tentmaker and lived from this physical labour of his hands. In his remaining time he devoted himself to working for the kingdom of God by proclaiming the Gospel.
Every community, and in fact each Carmelite, has to pay attention to finding the right balance between these two dimensions of work.
Source: Ratio Institutionis Vitæ Carmelitanæ, 44.