The contemplative or even the one who gives himself to silence for God’s sake, but who has not yet experienced God’s gifts of contemplation, is often met with the question: Why don’t you do something for God? What is your apostolate?
In truth, to have an apostolate of prayer is enough. I do not mean, of course, that one can neglect other duties and parts of one’s state in life, but I mean simply that prayer is indeed an apostolic work. It is a necessary part of the Church’s life, if the Gospel is ever to be preached and if works of charity and justice are ever to be begun. This is why there are communities, like the Carthusian friars or the Carmelite nuns, dedicated towards injecting the blood of prayer into the plumbing of Christ’s Body on earth. It is useful for the Church as a whole.
But even that is hardly enough to answer the question, Why don’t you do something for God? What is your apostolate?
In yet more truth, contemplation makes the individual contemplative soul more active or, if not more active, at least more useful in each of his or her actions. Contemplation acts so as to concentrate or distill one’s actions and words. Each action or word has more power. It makes the care, the concern, and the love greater than they otherwise would be.
Jacques Maritain puts it this way, and this is one of those quotes that has greatly influenced the orientation of this blog:
It is proper to these souls [who experience contemplation and set aside time for it] that they communicate in the work and the dreams of men with as much fervour and intensity (but purified of all worldly interests) as those whose entire existence is fixed at such a level.
(Jacques speaks in reference, one thinks, of his wife Raïssa.) Jacques says, in sum, that contemplative souls give everything human, and also something very divine. They fulfill all the duties of the world, but their activities are not disrupted by worldliness. And doesn’t that make sense? Contemplation cleans us out. It heals us. It focuses us on God and our neighbour, loved with the same divine love. So how could contemplation be a distraction from the world’s need for love, concern, and justice? And how could the contemplative be less effective than his or her fellow traveller on the roads of this world?
Contemplation is an effective power. That’s true for the world as a whole, invigorated through the invisible ligaments of the Mystical Body of Christ. It’s also true on the level of the individual: “they communicate in the work and the dreams of men with as much fervour and intensity (but purified of all worldly interests) as. those whose entire existence is fixed at such a level.”