A Plea for the Contemplative Life. By Maestro Aurelio Porfiri

We live in hectic times where doing seems to take precedence over being. We are not what we are, but we are what we do or even what we have.

In reality, we are what we are. Our being consists in our participation in the supreme being, which is God. St. Paul says in his speech at the Areopagus, "For in him we live and move and are, as also some of your poets have said, 'For of him we also are the seed'".

An important manifestation of our being lies precisely in our ability to reconnect, through prayer and contemplation, with the One who created us. What about those who dedicate their lives to contemplation? They should certainly be praised.

The monastic and hermit life has always been highly valued in the Church, as Pius XII teaches us: "If we wished to penetrate into the profound mysteries of the monastic life, who could enumerate and evaluate the treasures of religious perfection hidden in monasteries? Who could enumerate the flowers and fruits of holiness that these enclosed gardens produced to Christ and the Church? Who could enumerate the efficacy of prayer, the fullness of devotion, the goods of every kind with which the nuns with all their strength adorned, supported and consoled their Mother Church?" (Sponsa Christi 1950).

And yet today the virtues of contemplation, of letting oneself be visited by God, virtues that some call passive, are almost despised precisely because of the priority given to doing or having.

This problem is not new. Leo XIII had already outlined it well in his letter Testem Benevolentiae of 22 January 1899:

"From this contempt, so to speak, for the evangelical virtues, which are wrongly called 'passive', it resulted quite naturally that little by little contempt for the religious life itself entered the minds of men, and that this is common among the advocates of the new views may be seen from certain statements about the vows taken in religious orders.

For they say that these vows are very far removed from the character of our time, because they restrict the limits of human freedom and are more suitable for weak than for strong souls; nor are they very conducive to Christian perfection and the welfare of human society: on the contrary, they oppose and hinder both.

How much falsehood there is in these assertions, however, may be inferred from the practice and teaching of the Church, which has always greatly welcomed religious life. And not without reason; for those who, called by God, spontaneously choose such a life, and bind themselves to the evangelical counsels prove to be industrious and generous soldiers in the army of Christ. Can this be said of indolent or useless souls? Or call this detrimental to the perfection of life?

Those who thus bind themselves to the sanctity of vows are so far from losing their freedom that they enjoy a fuller and nobler freedom, the freedom 'with which Christ has made us free' (Gal 4:31)."

The Pope opposed a false doctrine called Americanism, a close relative of modernism, indeed one could say that it was (and is) a particular manifestation of the multifaceted phenomenon of modernism.

A theologian like Father Henri de Lubac (1896-1991), who is certainly not above criticism and who was elevated to the rank of cardinal, put it very aptly in an interesting book, Meditation on the Church: "Every activity that deserves to be called Christian necessarily takes place against a background of passivity. The spirit from which it proceeds is, in fact, a 'spirit received from God'".

If we do not understand this, we fall into activism and pretend that liturgy is a result of our own inventiveness rather than a gift we receive. This passivity is not a weakness but a strength, because through it we want to let God work in us.

Contemplation, monasteries, religious life have thus been our "nuclear power stations" of graces and blessings that have come to us from heaven. Their only raison d'être is not in what they do, but in Him in whom they move and exist. And that is enough.

Cassandra Laments
Pity it stops short before what must have been the original end.
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The monastic robe that covers the feet is a symbol of reverence and steadfastness.
A sexy nun ?
The monastic robe that covers the feet is a symbol of reverence and steadfastness.

A sexy nun ?