“You must give yourselves to work of some kind, so that the devil may always find you busy; no idleness on your part must give him a chance to pierce the defences of your souls.” (Rule of St. Albert)
Manual labor is strongly encouraged by the Rule of St. Albert. “You must…” strong words for this precept. “No idleness on your part must give him a chance to pierce the defences of your souls.” Here we have the motivation for this point in the Rule. For when we are unoccupied we are left open to the influences of the devil who comes to knock. The imagination and memory are his favorite playgrounds, if he can gain an entrance. Left alone with our thoughts, images and memories are created which will trouble us and stir up temptations.
It’s not that thinking is a bad thing. To think is a good thing. However, lest bad thoughts creep in, our thoughts must be general ones and should have God as their object. Consequently, when left to dream, living in the imagination can be dangerous! Thought is a dynamic force. It is the beginning of action; therefore, it can lead to sin, even serious sin!
It must be recalled that everything in the Carmelite Rule is directed towards contemplation. A soul that is contemplative truly loves God and gives God more glory than any other soul. The devil knows this and will make every effort to hinder a contemplative soul. He accomplishes this best by trying to trouble the soul by overburdening it and causing it disquiet within it.
The devil is so clever. He will do whatever he can to accomplish this disturbance within a soul even pushing it to idleness or to a work that overburdens it – excess or defect. Either way he will gain.
“In this respect you have both the teaching and the example of Saint Paul the Apostle, into whose mouth Christ put his own words. God made him preacher and teacher of faith and truth to the nations: with him as your leader you cannot go astray. We lived among you, he said, labouring and weary, toiling night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you; not because we had no power to do otherwise but so as to give you, in our own selves, as an example you might imitate. For the charge we gave you when we were with you was this: that whoever is not willing to work should not be allowed to eat either. For we have heard that there are certain restless idlers among you. We charge people of this kind, and implore them in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they earn their own bread by silent toil. This is the way of holiness and goodness: see that you follow it.”(Rule of St. Albert)