November 17, 2008

Ora et labora, deus adest sine mora

In English: Work and pray; God will aid you without delay.

After yesterday's rhyming proverb, I thought it would be fun to do another rhyming proverb, especially since for this one, it's easy to make it rhyme in English, too! Ora et labora, deus adest sine mora, "Work and pray; God will aid you without delay."

Now, to be fair to people who worry about Latin vowel length, the rhyme is not exact, because mora has a short "o," and the "o" in labōra is long. In the Middle Ages, however, the distinctions between long and short vowels were not observed as they were in ancient Rome - so the rhymes of medieval Latin are not constrained by classical vowel length.

The rhyming phrase Ora et labora, "Pray and work," is also well-known on its own, and is especially associated with the monastic rule of Saint Benedict although it does not actually appear in the text of the rule. Interestingly, however, it appears that the motto only became associated with the Order of Saint Benedict in the 19th century, based on a book by Maurus Wolter.

If you're curious about the rule of Saint Benedict, you can find the text online at the Latin Library: Regula S. P. N. Benedicti (where S.P.N. stands for Sanctissimi Patris Nostri). Even if the saying ora et labora is not found here in the rule, the sentiments expressed are nevertheless very similar indeed, as in this declaration: Otiositas inimica est animae, et ideo certis temporibus occupari debent fratres in labore manuum, certis iterum horis in lectione divina, "Being unoccupied is a danger to the soul, and therefore at some times the brethren should be occupied in manual labor, while at other times in reading of scripture." Given the stress placed here on reading the scriptures, it is not surprising to find, in addition to the motto Ora et Labora, this variant: Ora et Labora et Lege, "Pray and Work and Read." Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI himself invoked this motto in a recent homily.

So, hoping you have have managed to escape the perils of otiositas today, here is the proverb read out loud:

2356. Ora et labora, deus adest sine mora.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

If you are reading this via RSS: The audio content is not syndicated via RSS; please visit the Latin Audio Proverbs blog to listen to the audio.
For more Latin proverbs, fables and commentary, visit the Bestiaria Latina blog, or you can sign up to receive the latest posts by email.
Aesop's Fables in Latin now available at


John said...

Very interesting.

I had not heard this before. I learn some Benedictine fact every day. With 1,529 years of histroy I guess I have lots to learn!

Laura Gibbs said...

Hi John, that's why I like doing these little essay: I learn new things, too, and basically just write up what I learn. Isn't Google amazing? It was so exciting to find that sermon by Pope Benedict online and to see the thoughts he is thinking about this motto, and how he considered Bible reading important enough to include, even though it is surely not part of the oldest form of the motto which is rhyme-based. :-)