I read the following today about St. Gregory the Great (a pope and doctor of the Church who lived from c. 540-604 AD):
St. Gregory the Great "exercised a decisive influence on the share given in monastic culture to the spiritual tendency .... St. Gregory was a great pope, a great man of action; his Pastoral Care and his Letters have become sources of moral theology, canon law, and medieval pastoral theology. But he was also a great contemplative, a great doctor of the life of prayer." (1)
My pre-oblate view was that the contemplative life meant a life that was not involved with the world. I think my previous ideas were part of the modern view that faith/religion are private matters not related to action in the world. My reasoning might have been: if a religious life tended to diminish a person’s involvement in the world compared to a nonreligious person, then a contemplative religious life would tend to diminish a person’s activity even more.
This was all part of my general sense that monastic contemplative living was marked out primarily on a scale in which the "contemplative life and less worldly involvement" were on one end of the scale and the "noncontemplative life and more worldly involvement" were at the other end of the scale. The test of the contemplative life became simply where a person was placed each day on that one dimensional scale. On days when there was more worldly involvement, the person became less contemplative.
Somehow I think St. Gregory would not have viewed his life this way. And I think that this great man who worked fully in the world might still be good example for a simple oblate today.
I think that St. Gregory lived the Christian life, deeply spiritual and contemplative, full of prayer, and because of such direction and strength, he was able to be fully involved in God’s world. Where else would he be?
(1) The Love of Learning and The Desire for God: A Study of Monastic Culture by Jean Leclercq. Fordham University Press (1982), Edition: Rep Sub, Paperback, Page 25
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