The Sign Value of Contemplative Life
Today we celebrate the Presentation of Mary in the Temple, and Passionist Nuns throughout the world are renewing their vows on this beautiful feast. It is also Pro Orantibus Day, a special day to pray for those men and women called to a life of prayer within the Church as contemplative monks and nuns. Please do pray for us, we are ever and always praying for you!
In honor of this feast, we would like to share a beautiful reflection on the contemplative life, composed by a member of our community.
The Sign Value of Contemplative Life
By Sr. Catherine Marie, CP, November 2007
Signs are all around us, communicating information and meaning. A monastery too, is a silent sign. I have witnessed over the years an amazing communication of the Holy Spirit that happens in the minds and hearts of people who drive onto this property, this holy ground, and especially as they drive around that curve at the top of the hill in front of the monastery, where the chapel first comes into sight.
I have heard children say: "Peace washed over me." I have heard adults say, "When I came around that bend at the top of the hill and the monastery came into view, I wanted to slow down and just drive very slowly in."
UPS men, elevator inspectors, electricians, and so forth–people who come simply to make a delivery or to do some work on the property, end up asking questions about God and the Church. They often end up saying they wish they could stay because they find peace, or however they might express it.
What is happening here? It is the energy of the Holy Spirit beaming light and peace to human hearts from a SIGN that the Church herself has established, from a monastery that is a dwelling place of God with man, or as Pope Benedict calls it, a place where heaven and earth merge. And we know that our present Pontiff is really promoting the value of monastic life.
I think that when people see a monastery, there truly is a grace offered in their hearts. The Holy Spirit stirs in a person, making them aware of the little monastery, the dwelling place they carry in their own hearts. There is an invitation to come home to their own hearts, and to the God who dwells there.
Monasteries call people back to the one thing necessary: loving God with all our hearts and loving our neighbor as Christ loves him or her. Monasteries call people to a deeper prayer life, to slow down and be still for a while, to take more time for God, and to enter more deeply into that desire for God that is written into every human heart.
The sign value of a monastery is to call people to prayer, to go deeper into their own call to contemplation.
Thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit in the Church of our time, we have a renewed awareness that every member of the Church, and not just priests and religious, every member of Christ’s Body is called to holiness. There is a renewed awareness that the Church herself, and every member of it, is both active and contemplative.
Even those whose vocation places them in the noisy, rushing world of today, yes each one of us, the Church says, is to be both active and contemplative. In our culture, we are pretty good at activity, but what about fostering the contemplative dimension of our Christian lives? Perhaps this aspect of our baptismal call needs to be focused on more seriously in our times. Pope John Paul II laid out a marvelous pastoral plan for this new millennium, and in it he called each member of the Church to learn the art of prayer more deeply.
Not everyone can live in a monastery, but everyone can step apart regularly, as Jesus Himself did, and take time to be alone with God in prayer. Times of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, times of quiet attentiveness to the treasure we bear in our baptized souls–the indwelling of the Most Blessed Trinity–really entering into a deeper relationship with the Trinity, will keep us growing in the art of Christian prayer. It will bring us the peace the world cannot give. It will keep us rooted in God’s faithful presence with us in the turmoil of the day, and in the crosses we are each asked to bear.
Each one of us has a dwelling place of God in our hearts, where God’s love is constantly being poured out into our hearts. Taking time to get in touch with that hidden treasure, will help us develop the art of prayer and be more effective witnesses of Christ to family, friends, parish and to the world we live in.
Monasteries exist as a sign, a reminder of this Christian call to holiness and prayer.