Contemplation and Action Summary
Saturday, January 2, 2021
Summary: Sunday, December 27, 2020—Friday, January 1, 2021
When we experience the reality of our oneness with God, others, and creation, actions of justice and healing naturally follow. If we’re working to create a more whole world, contemplation will give our actions nonviolent, loving power for the long haul. (Sunday)
I’ve often said that we founded the Center for Action and Contemplation to be a place of integration between action and contemplation. I envisioned a place where we could teach activists in social movements to pray—and encourage people who pray to live lives of solidarity and justice. (Monday)
God offers us quiet, contemplative eyes; and God also calls us to prophetic and critical involvement in the pain and sufferings of our world—both at the same time. (Tuesday)
Rather than being about hiding out in the chapel for hours on end, my contemplative practice has led me to an activism that is expansively grounded in compassion and care for others. —Sister Simone Campbell (Wednesday)
Saint Teresa of Calcutta’s Missionaries of Charity have that amazing and rare combination of utter groundedness and constant risk-taking that always characterizes the true Gospel. (Thursday)
The gaze of compassion, looking out at life from the place of divine intimacy is really all I have, and all I have to give. (Friday)
Practice: A Commitment to Nonviolence
My longtime friend, Catholic priest and peace activist John Dear, has dedicated his life to the practices and teaching of nonviolence. His work with the Fellowship of Reconciliation and other organizations is truly an example of contemplation expressing itself in action for peace and justice. He has now founded “The Beatitudes Center for the Nonviolent Jesus.” Our executive director, Michael Poffenberger, and I recently visited John at his new home in California, and received much gracious hospitality and kindness.
The Fellowship of Reconciliation [FOR] has worked to bring together people on all sides in all the conflicts of the world, in pursuit of peace and reconciliation. . . . FOR started a wide variety of campaigns—sending delegations around the world . . . teaching people creative alternatives of nonviolence. . . . In the 1940s, FOR helped form the Congress of Racial Equality and set up “Journeys of Reconciliation,” which promoted integration in the segregated South. . . . [Today,] after nearly a century of dedicated peacemaking, members of the Fellowship of Reconciliation remain as committed as ever to the mission of promoting peace, justice, and nonviolent action. . . .
FOR is learning the great wisdom of the ages: that making peace requires persistent reconciliation. Peace does not happen overnight. There is no immediate result. It is a lifelong struggle and requires a lifetime commitment. It necessitates patience and dedication, even facing the worst odds. The challenge of reconciliation is to keep at it—to keep opponents talking, to encourage compassionate listening, to invite forgiveness, to compromise for the sake of peace, and to never give up the dream.
When FOR moved from being exclusively Christian to truly interfaith in the late 1950s, it broadened its mission to include building bridges between all the world’s religions for the sake of peace. Today, FOR embraces Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, other people of faith, and those with no formal religious affiliation. Through this interfaith commitment to nonviolence, we are forging a modest, new path into a new future for us all.
In contemplation, we empty ourselves of our own hurts, agendas, and even some of our most treasured beliefs. It is a practice of inner nonviolence, which gives us confidence to join with others to create a more peaceful world. John Dear continues:
The work of peace and reconciliation is not only political, it’s human work, and it’s spiritual. The God of peace is determined to reconcile the human race, and employs whomever will help in this great project. . . . As we have seen from the abolitionist, suffragist, civil rights, antiwar, human rights, and environmental movements, patient grassroots organizing and reconciliation over time has the power to transform nations and the world.
True contemplation always leads to action on behalf of a world in desperate need of healers and peacemakers, channels of God’s grace by any name. How might you join in that work in the year ahead?
John Dear, Living Peace: A Spirituality of Action and Contemplation (Doubleday: 2001), 207–208, 210–213.
For Further Study:
Simone Campbell, Hunger for Hope: Prophetic Communities, Contemplation, and the Common Good (Orbis Books: 2020).
Contemplation in Action, Richard Rohr and Friends (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2006).
John Lewis with Brenda Jones, Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America (Hachette Books: 2017, ©2012).
Albert J. Raboteau, American Prophets: Seven Religious Radicals and Their Struggle for Social and Political Justice (Princeton University Press: 2016).
Richard Rohr, Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer (Paulist Press: 2014).
“Unity and Diversity,” Oneing, vol. 6, no. 2 (CAC Publishing: 2018), especially the essays “Unity and Diversity in the Land of Nonviolence,” by John Dear, and “Love and Kenosis: Contemplative Foundations of Social Justice,” by Gigi Ross.