The Three Kinds of Human Labor: Physical, Intellectual, Interior Work

Jean Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O.
Lent is is agre time to recall the struggle of sanctity. The great Trappist and mystical theologian Jean Baptiste Chautard in his work The Soul of the Apostolate cites Dom Sebastian Wyart regarding the three kinds of labor and exhaustion:
  1. Physical Work
  2. Intellectual Toil
  3. Interior Life
These holy fathers (who engaged in all three kinds of work) taught that the work of the interior life is the most difficult and the most tiring. This is misunderstood by some since they assume that nuns and monks sit around all day doing “nothing.” However, Dom Chautard notes how difficult it is to cultivate an interior life. Thirty minutes of serious mental prayer can be exhausting. Attentive hearing of Holy Mass can be very difficult. Father Faber writes that for some people, “the quarter of an hour after Communion is the weariest quarter hour of the day.”
The time carrying bricks can go by more quickly than time before the Blessed Sacrament.
The point of all this, say the Trappists, is that cultivating an interior life is difficult. It is battle. Our flesh and the devil don’t want it.
One of the things that Saint Bernard would say about those who marveled at the austerity of the Cistercian monks was, “They see the cross, but they do not see the consolations.” That is, when Catholics looked at the penances of the Cistercians they were amazed by what they saw. However, they could not see the delighted and cheerful souls of the monks since this was an interior reality.
The good news is that the difficulty of the interior life is not sheer struggled but it is elevated and crowned with the love of God and the secret delights that flow from the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Please get Dom Chautard’s book The Soul of the Apostolate. It is excellent Lenten reading!

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