Passionist Contemplative Prayer
The primary "work" of a contemplative nun is prayer. This opus Dei, "work of God," as St. Benedict terms it in his Rule, takes many forms: the public prayer of the Church in the Liturgy of the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours, communal prayers such as the Rosary and other vocal prayers, prayerful reading of Scripture and other holy writings, and periods of personal prayer alone with God. Private prayer is the necessary complement to prayer in common. Times of deep immersion in God enable us to abide lovingly in His presence throughout the rest of the day, as we fulfill our daily tasks.
In our Rule we are given the gift of two hours of private personal prayer, while there are many other opportunities for extended periods of prayer, lectio divina, and study. The continual encounter with God in loving intimacy is necessary for a true following of Christ, who regularly withdrew from His work, in order to pray to His Father in solitude. In prayer we make our own the mind of Christ, and are rooted and grounded in the height and depth and length and breadth of God's love for us. The Father manifested this love when He sent His only Son into the world, to undergo His sacred Passion and Death that we may have eternal life and become His beloved sons and daughters.
Our Holy Founder, St. Paul of the Cross, knew from deep mystical experience the importance and value of intimate prayer alone with God. Hence he insisted that it permeate our daily life. "All the good of the Nuns depends on holy prayer," he would write. Like Paul the Apostle, he wished his spiritual sons and daughters to pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17). Our Holy Founder also knew that the search for intimacy with God involves the vital need of silence, and that this silence insures the necessary calm for a spirit of prayer. The loving awareness of God throughout the day quiets the heart in deep interior peace. It releases the soul from obsessive cares, and quiets the discordant voices of the daily demands made upon us.
A silent heart is ever listening to the Word of God speaking through the scriptures, the Church, people and events, creation, and through His Spirit dwelling deep within. This interior silence promotes an atmosphere of recollection in our monasteries, which are true 'retreats' in the midst of a noisy and chaotic world. True interior silence also enables us to be in communion with other persons by sincere and healthy relationships.
Feeding on Christ in the holy scriptures and the sacraments, especially in the Holy Eucharist, we abide in interior union with Christ through the contemplation of His Paschal mystery. With Mary, we fix our eyes on Jesus, treasuring His every word. St. Paul of the Cross wanted us to penetrate deeply into the mystery of Christ allowing the Holy Spirit to engrave it indelibly upon our hearts, transforming us more and more into the likeness of Christ.
Our most treasured moments in the day are those of prayer, when with Mary we endeavor to fathom the love with which Jesus laid down His life for us and for the entire world. With Mary, we grieve to see Christ's infinite Love appreciated by so few, and His sufferings apparently endured in vain for so many in our world today. As a consequence, we offer ourselves to God to obtain His graces for the Church, the world, and for the conversion of sinners. It is from the Sacred Heart and Wounds of Jesus Crucified that we draw strength to walk in His footsteps, sharing in the work of salvation.
In all of this, we do not live for ourselves alone but for Him who died for us, as the Church explains in the Vatican II document on religious life: "Driven by the love with which the Holy Spirit floods their hearts (cf. Rom. 5:5), they live more and more for Christ and for His body which is the Church (cf. Col. 1:24). The more fervently...they are joined to Christ by this total life-long gift of themselves, the richer the life of the Church becomes and the more lively and successful its apostolate." (Perfectae Caritatis #1)