To conclude my thoughts for Vocations Week, I want to mention a vocation that is close to my heart: a predominantly contemplative (not active) life lived at the heart of the world by a layperson.
The first question anyone asks is whether it is possible.
Of course it’s possible. With God all things are possible.
Is it likely? Perhaps not so much. The normal daily bread of the layperson involves a lot of action.
However, what determines whether a way of life is primarily active or primarily contemplative is not external appearances. What determines whether a way of life is primarily active or primarily contemplative is the balance of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit offered to the person by the times and the seasons. A predominantly contemplative life is a life where the Holy Spirit leads primarily by the Gifts of Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge. It would be foolish to tell the Holy Spirit that to try to do this with a layperson is a bad idea. So, let’s not try to tell the Holy Spirit that.
We can’t say that a lay vocation to contemplative life is impossible. But it really is difficult.
The dispositions required for large amounts of time for silence are hard. The dispositions required for enough stability and community, while keeping such silence, are hard. The dispositions required for (what I think is a necessary) regular participation in Eucharistic activities, such as Mass and Adoration, are hard. Not everyone has these opportunities. Not everyone could create them if they tried.
We have here a vocation that is, perhaps, rare and hard but possible. But at the end of the day, the possibility is witnessed to by those small but persistent and prophetic religious orders of contemplatives immersed in the world. They’ve led contemplatives lives in the world: why can’t we?
What support is there for anyone with a predominantly contemplative lead from the Holy Spirit?
- I know of the Charles de Foucauld Lay Fraternity (Lay Community) (blog here and guidebook here). The association can trace its direct inspiration to Blessed Charles de Foucauld, who died almost a century ago, but, like most aspects of Christians engaging the modern world, it’s still relatively new and under a lot of development.
- Some support may be available as a Benedictine oblate, depending on one’s circumstances.
- One might become a secular discalced Carmelite (“a contemplative in the world who is called to be a witness to the love of Christ to others”).
- One might get practical experience as volunteer with an organization like Heart’s Home International, which offers lay volunteers the chance and formation to live a contemplative life in the world and with the poor for a year or two.
- I’ve tried to make this blog a small place of resources, encouragement, experience, and sharing for “contemplatives in the mud”.
Are you aware of any other support for leading a primarily contemplative life as a layperson? Are you aware of any other ways to lead a primarily contemplative life as a layperson?