CONTEMPLATIVE ACTION

A young Spanish soldier was leading a fierce battle against the superior French army. He took a cannonball between his legs in 1521. Because of his valor, he was not executed. Badly wounded, however, he returned to his family’s castle in Spain to die.

This man’s name was Ignatius of Loyola. During many weeks of convalescence, the invalid read a devotional book written in 1497. It was Imitations of Christ by Thomas A. Kempis. Reading of the love of God, Ignatius miraculously recovered. Leaving the riches of his noble life in northeastern Spain, he walked away with only sackcloth on his body. He did not know where he was going or what he as going to do with his life. Yet, inspired by the saints he read about, he knew his life was to have a holy chivalry code as service to God. 

Ignatius understood this related to Christ living in us and time given to meditation on Him; then letting this being, doing, seeing affect life.  This was called CONTEMPLATIVE ACTION. It is quite simple to understand. Contemplation, taught by Ignatius, is that personal quiet time when you stop activity and come to know, understand, love God and His Son with all your mind and heart.

Ignatius’ prayer is the essence of this contemplative spirit: “Take, Lord, receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, my entire will. All I have and call my own, I give back to You. Take, Lord, receive all Yours now, Dispose of it, wholly according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace. That’s enough for me.”

With that foundation, this became the Jesuit movement. Hundreds of universities were founded since the priests were challenged to become world-class intellectuals. Action without contemplation becomes meaningless activity; conversely, contemplation without action results in idle time. The key, the balance, and the joy, is prayer to the living God for His approach to life, activity, work to glorify Him. 

Take, Lord, all I have and call my own… give me only Your love and Your grace. That’s enough for me.”

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