From a recent homily concerning Thomas Aquinas, given by Fr. Aquinas Guilbeau, OP, someone I follow on Twitter.
The monk lives close to God through the ora—the prayer—of his life, which takes its preeminent form in the liturgy. The monk lives close to the things of God through the labora—the work—of his life, which is intellectual and not only physical. The monk interrogates the soil as his tills it. Through study and observation, the monk inquires about the causes and ends of the things before him. He poses the question “What?” to them. “What is this?” It’s a holy question. With it the monk probes the things that God has made, coaxing them to reveal their hidden, divinely given essences. This interrogation of things perfects the monk’s prayer, for through his questions the monk discovers the divine ideas inscribed in things, and thereby he absorbs the wisdom of the one who made them all. Besides being a holy question, “What?” is also a very practical one. Its monastic use has given the world many gifts: early medicine, Belgian beer, and the wines of Burgundy, as well as Gothic architecture, the scholastic method, and the science of genetics. Of course, monks aren’t the only ones to ask the question “What?” But given the graces of their vocation, monks are often good teachers of how to ask the question rightly.