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Center for Action and Contemplation
Action and Contemplation: Part One
Action and Contemplation: Part One

Action and Contemplation: Part One: Weekly Summary

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Action and Contemplation: Part One

Summary: Sunday, January 5—Friday, January 11, 2020

We need both compassionate action and contemplative practice for the spiritual journey. (Sunday)

In contemplative practice, the Holy Spirit frees us from taking sides and allows us to remain content in the partial darkness of every situation long enough to let it teach, broaden, and enrich us. (Monday)

Silence surrounds every “I know” with a humble and patient “I don’t know.” It protects the autonomy and dignity of events, persons, animals, and all created things. (Tuesday)

Silence is a kind of thinking that is not thinking.  (Wednesday)

A regular practice of contemplation helps us trust that silence will uphold us, receive our mistakes, and give us the courage to learn and grow. (Thursday)

Action doesn’t mean busyness or “do-goodism.” It may not even mean activism, but it does mean serious engagement with the suffering of the world, beyond our own in-groups and affinities. (Friday)


Practice: A Prayer for Our Cities

Jesus never told us to separate ourselves from the world. That’s why St. Francis of Assisi and his brothers would not be monks. The Franciscan friars were a totally new religious movement, living in the middle of cities, right with the people, refusing to separate themselves. Francis didn’t hate or avoid the world. He said we had to find a way interiorly to love and have compassion for the world. “The whole world is our cloister,” he taught us. [1]

Our friends at Mile High Ministries in Denver, Colorado, have written a beautiful prayer adapted from Walter Brueggemann’s Prayers for a Privileged People that we would like to share as inspiration for the beginning of this year’s meditations on Action and Contemplation. We invite you to use place names specific to your location and read responsively in a group, though it may also be prayed alone. No matter the setting, allow the ground of silence to hold these sacred words until they birth compassionate action in the world.

Loving God, you have set us in families and clans, in cities and neighborhoods.

Our common life began in a garden, but our destiny lies in the city.

You have placed us in Denver. This is our home.

Your creativity is on display here through the work of human hearts and hands.

We pray for Denver today—for the East Side, West Side, North and South.

For Montebello, Sun Valley, Green Valley, and all two miles of Colfax.

We pray for our poorest neighbors and for powerful people in banks and offices downtown.

We pray for people from the ’hood and the barrio and for the new urbanites.

We pray for Denver’s sisters: Aurora, Arvada, Cherry Hills, Lakewood, Thornton, Highlands Ranch, and others.

And for Albuquerque and Cheyenne, Jerusalem and Nairobi, Kunming and Cuernavaca—and a thousand other cities connected to our own.

In all our neighborhoods this day there will be crime and callous moneymaking; there will be powerful people unable or unwilling to see the vulnerable who are their neighbors.

There will also be beautiful acts of compassion and creativity in all these places—forgiveness and generosity; neighbors working together for a more just community.

Help us see this place as something other than a battleground between us and them, where our imaginations are limited by win/lose propositions and endless rivalry.

Show us a deeper reality, God: Show us your playground, and invite us to play.

Like the city of your dreams, make this a city where those who were once poor enjoy the fruits of their labor;

A place where children are no longer doomed to misfortune, but play safely in the streets under the watchful eyes of healthy old men and women;

A place where former rivals and natural enemies work and play together in peace;

And where all people enjoy communion with you. We pray in the name of the one who wept over the city. Amen. [2]

[1] “Sacred Exchange between St. Francis and Lady Poverty,” 30.25, Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1 (New City Press: 1999), 552.

[2] Adapted from Beyond Our Efforts: A Celebration of Denver Peacemaking (Mile High Ministries: 2019), 251; and

Walter Brueggemann, “This City . . . of God,” Prayers for a Privileged People (Abingdon Press: 2010), 157.

For Further Study:
Barbara A. Holmes, Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church, 2nd edition (Fortress Press: 2017)

Richard Rohr, CAC Foundation Set: Gospel Call for Compassionate Action and Contemplative Prayer (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2007), CD, MP3 download

Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (The Crossroad Publishing Company; 2009)

Richard Rohr, Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation (Franciscan Media: 2014)

Image credit: The Angelus (detail), Jean-François Millet, 1857–1859, Musee d’Orsay, Paris, France.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: We tend to presume that one must create silent spaces for contemplation. It is as if we have drawn the spiritual veil around contemplative activity, seeking to distance prayerful and reflective practices from the noise of the world. —Barbara Holmes
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