Soren Johnson emailed this quote from the recent Synod on Evangelization to the Abbey:
…we wish to indicate to all the faithful [an] expression of the life of faith which seem particularly important to us for witnessing to it in the New Evangelization. The first is constituted by the gift and experience of contemplation. A testimony that the world would consider credible can arise only from an adoring gaze at the mystery of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, only from the deep silence that receives the unique saving Word like a womb. Only this prayerful silence can prevent the word of salvation from being lost in the many noises that overrun the world.
We now address a word of gratitude to all men and women who dedicate their lives in monasteries and hermitages to prayer and contemplation. Moments of contemplation must interweave with people’s ordinary lives; spaces in the soul, but also physical ones, that remind us of God; interior sanctuaries and temples of stone that, like crossroads, keep us from losing ourselves in a flood of experience; opportunities in which all could feel accepted, even those who barely know what and whom to seek.
I offer this quote not as self-congratulations but as a reminder and a call to renewed commitment. We who profess the contemplative life and to all of you who practice it, may be reminded that what we try to live is essential to the life of the Gospel for all believers, as it is to all who wrestle with belief.
I grew up in a era when Catholicism viewed its various charisms as “specializations”. I can remember when those who taught in our schools might say that a Jesuit misionary, for example, lived out an incarnational spirituality in the world while a Carmelite nun lived an eschatological spirituality in her cloister. Wouldn’t Ignatius Loyola, with his deep capacity for contemplation, have been surprised by that typology? Wouldn’t Therese of Lisieux, with her intense missionary zeal, have been startled by such categorization? Doesn’t any Trappist at work literally handle the stuff of creation, rendering his work a vehicle for the mystery of the Incarnation? Any and every Christian is called to live the whole Gospel and to life it for the spread of the Gospel. We don’t specialize, we live the Gospel in the lives we’re called to lead.
In our monasteries, our communities strive to witness to the Gospel, that is, spread the Gospel, by our life together. Granted, that’s no small challenge; in this challenge we experience the ups and downs of every Christian family. In our monasteries we all are granted the privilege of hospitality–to our guests, our neighbors, our partners in business or local projects, our employees, our families and friends. May we always be “opportunities in which all could feel accepted, even those who barely know what and whom to seek”!