A “Plan” for Being a Contemplative Layperson?

I’ve been asked a few times whether I have any plan for being a contemplative layperson, that is, a layperson with a primarily contemplative vocation.

The short answer is no.

The long answer is, in fact, long. It would begin by me saying that I don’t have a plan, because, ultimately, God throws all our plans away. Passing through the dark night of the spirit means letting go of all our plans, all asserting of our own “personality,” and the like. God will purify all the deepest roots in us, including our attachment to particular forms of prayer or apostolate — so how could anyone have a definite plan? The lack of any plan gets even worse when we think of the multitude of duties, various and numerous, that press on each individual layperson. So the long answer is that, no, I don’t have a plan.

But what I have always wanted to do with this blog is to highlight the main themes of a contemplative life lived in the world, as far as I can understand them. Some of those themes are contemplation, silence and time for prayer, life with our neighbours, seeing Jesus in our neighbours, being a standing delegate to pray for those who need prayer, the Eucharist as sacrifice and as bond of unity, the necessity and central place of love, living with the Church of Heaven and the Church of Purgatory even though we yet are on this earth, learning detachment and living through a seemingly endless “dark night,” learning to rely on the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit which blow where we cannot calculate, embracing our weakness through which God manifests his strength, accepting with confidence the divine Providence which manifests his divine Will for us – and so on.

Those are some themes. And if one looks at the tag cloud on the right-hand side of the blog’s main page – those themes are there, with varying emphasis. Also there are the contemplative souls who, it seems to me, have a lot to say to laypeople in particular: Charles de Foucauld, Charles Journet, Jacques Maritain, Francis de Sales, John of the Cross, Elizabeth of the Trinity, Brother Marcel, Catherine of SienaJohn of Avila, Edith Stein, René Voillaume, and many others.

So – I dare not have a plan. Many people have asked, but no matter how many times I am asked for a plan, or an idea for a kind of “lay contemplative” novitiate, or the like – I do not think I could ever come up with an adequate answer. What I do hope, instead, is that the original plan for this blog can be useful. I hope God’s providence can use the array of posts, tagged and not very well ordered, for anyone wishing to explore contemplative Christian themes. Read and be informed. Be determined. Don’t give up. Trust where the Spirit leads in life, in reading, in reflection, and in prayer. I propose no other plan than this. =)

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One thought on “A “Plan” for Being a Contemplative Layperson?

  1. I’d agree that it’s not possible to trace a uniform plan for people interested in a contemplative lay vocation.
    But I think that, if it’s possible to give any advice on this matter, anyone who wants to receive the gift of contemplation should follow the general rules given by the saints to souls in the purgative way: humility, prayer, frequent reception of the sacraments (Eucharist and reconciliation) and mortification. If one, more or less perfectly, strives to live by it, sooner or later God will give the gift, even in an unexpected time.
    I would add one other spiritual author that may help the wannabe lay contemplative: St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei. His writings can be found here: http://www.escrivaworks.org/ The members of Opus Dei see their vocation as (exactly) that of the contemplative living in the world, as can be seen in these posts: http://www.opusdei.org/en/article/work-and-contemplation-i/ & http://www.opusdei.org/en/article/work-and-contemplation-ii/

    By the way, thanks for your blog, Ben. It’s been a huge inspiration for me in the last two years.

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