In practice, that there is only one vocation. Whether you teach or live in the cloister or nurse the sick, whether you are in religion or out of it, married or single, no matter who you are or what you are, you are called to the summit of perfection: you are called to a deep interior life, perhaps even to mystical prayer, and to pass the fruits of your contemplation on to others. And if you cannot do so by word, then by example.
Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain, pp.418f.
Here, without further comment, are three quotations I’ve read in the past few days that develop what Thomas Merton is saying above:
From Fr James Farfaglia:
My dear friends, a serious life of contemplative prayer is very important for the times in which we live. As I mentioned to you last week, the traditional structures of support such as family life, parishes and religious organizations that have made our lives comfortable and easy, are presently engulfed in confusion and meltdowns. Moreover, we have to live counter-cultural lives in a culture that is more and more out of control. Our being anchored in God is the path to recovery.
God is moving us away from wrongly clinging to things, people and institutions, other than our Life in Him, lived in His Church. He is calling us to detachment, to the desert, into the night of naked faith. He is calling us to cling only to him. This journey is difficult, frightening at times and even risky. Remember the words of St. Theresa of Avila: “Let nothing trouble you. Let nothing frighten you. Everything passes. God never changes. Patience obtains all. Whoever has God, wants for nothing. God alone is enough” (Poesías 30).
We have to go through this time of intense purification without falling apart or running off to some island. Through perseverance, we will become the living witnesses of the God of love that will transform the present culture of death into the culture of life.
From Fr Thomas Dubay:
In our day the divine fire has not been extinguished. The consuming conflagration has not been contained. The proven incapacity of committees and clubs, speeches and surveys, electronics and entertainment profoundly and permanently to change vast numbers of people for the better has to be conceded. As the experience of the centuries attests, true transformations in the world and in the Church continue to come about only through the interventions of men and women on fire – that is, through saints. The evidence is overwhelming. It is also widely ignored, for it contains an otherworldly wisdom that this world does not welcome. For some, taking the evidence seriously presents a snag, since it implies striving for this same kind of transformation within oneself as a starting point for improving the world.
Indeed, at this very moment, deep and lasting changes in the Church are being brought about by a faithful few who are burning interiorly as a consequence of the deep prayer given by the Holy Spirit, who renews the face of the earth in ways other than our own. These quiet, humble, unassuming individuals seldom write position papers, and they are not likely to appear on controversial television talk shows or to attract frontpage headlines. They are not identified with any “ism”, and they care nothing for a life of luxury or notoriety. They do not achieve popular acclaim by opposing ecclesial leadership and rejecting received doctrine. Rather, they are like the saints have always been. The burning ones are the unflickering light of the world, the savory salt of the earth, the lively leaven in the mass.
[…] In the home, in the marketplace, in the cloister, the love steadily radiating from these simple ones permeates and invigorates the world around us. It is unmistakable evidence of God living in and among us, a clear manifestation to our world that the Incarnation has taken place. Common folk instinctively grasp this, while it easily escapes the more sophisticated, who often fail to comprehend what transcends the tangible order of meetings and strategies and publicity campaigns.
And from Martin Thornton:
England was converted to the faith when St Augustine of Canterbury arrived on the island of Thanet with forty companions. They might have offered service and they probably preached, but they certainly settled down to Benedictine stability and contemplated God. That is one out of thousands of examples of the mystical process of spiritual power. It is mysterious but indisputable.
When we look at our contemporary trouble spots, at violence in the inner cities, at racial hatred, or torture, murder and rape, I can muster little faith in the efficacy of ‘praying about it’. I have absolute confidence in the efficacy of planting a contemplative community in the middle of it and letting God manifest his power. Prayer, real prayer, is no last resort but the first priority.