The International Trappist Association currently unites 21 Monasteries of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance located in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Spain and the USA.
Ora et labora : pray and work
This motto summarizes monastic life in two words. The monks and nuns devote a considerable portion of each day to manual labor, thus providing for their own living expenses as well as helping others in need. Idleness is the enemy of prayer: work provides a balance in their life, helping them keep both feet on the ground, in the reality of everyday joys and pleasures. By performing very ordinary tasks, day in and day out, and by bearing the routine burdens of material cares, they subject themselves to the common law of labor: “You will earn your bread by the sweat of your brow.” All the tasks are performed as quietly and calmly as possible. In addition, when experienced as a form of solidarity and service, performed in God’s sight, the work itself becomes a simple, silent prayer.
The various kinds of manual labor done in monasteries are extremely diverse. The best-known economic activities have to do with the production of various foods, but there are a whole lot more, for example: farming, forestry, small business production of skin-care products and cleaning products, and ateliers for religious art and traditional crafts. Besides the economic activities, there is also the maintenance of the buildings and grounds as well as the housekeeping tasks and services needed in any community where people live together: the kitchen, the laundry, the library, the care of the sick...