Contemplative Religious Life

All photos on this page courtesy of Jacques Côté, o.s.b.

Contemplative monastic life is a lived response to a call from God, heard within the heart; a call to go apart and enter more fully into the search for God. It is marked by a life of intense prayer cultivated in silence and solitude but lived within a human community which offers the constant invitation to conversion of heart.

The life of a contemplative religious, man or woman (monk or nun) is lived in silence, prayer, and contemplation of God while holding the deep needs of the world in the heart and in the presence of our Loving God.

Women and men called to the contemplative life in monasteries where they pray, work and live community. The daily schedule in contemplative monasteries is centered on the Eucharist (the Mass) and on the Liturgy of the Hours (the official public prayer of the Church) prayed in community at regular intervals during the day and night. Each day there is also time set aside for personal prayer, meditation, spiritual reading and study. To support this focus the “cloister” is important meaning that contemplative religious do not leave their monasteries except for required education or necessary appointments or external visits.

The life is simple and uninterrupted. To support themselves, contemplative monks and nuns also have some time each day allotted to work. The life of the contemplative religious is a life of healthy balance and the development of the whole person. In our noisy, stressed world today what a gift and example that is!

Most monasteries also welcome guests for retreats to share in their silence and prayer. One or more members of the community may be available to “walk spiritually” with retreat guests during this time.

The contemplative life is greatly valued in the Church and for the world. Traditionally, monasteries have been called the “power-houses” of the Church as they contribute the “ministry of prayer” to the world and by their example of absolute commitment to God they call each of us in our various vocations to “wholeness and holiness”.

Imagine a life of silence and prayer, no cell phones, iPods, TVs – a simple prayerful, balanced life centered on God. Impossible today or does it call your heart?

Clouds of Witnesses: Meet some great contemplatives past and present