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Center for Action and Contemplation
Engaging with a World on Fire
Engaging with a World on Fire

Contemplation, Love, and Action

Monday, January 8, 2024

Father Richard explains the importance of engaging with the world’s needs as a way of holding action and contemplation together:

I’m inspired by the word “engaged” from my Buddhist friends who talk about engaged Buddhism. What Jesus talks about is not attending or belonging but doing. He focuses on the way we do life and do life with and for the neighbor. If going to service on Sunday morning keeps us from volunteer work on Monday, service work on Thursday, and pro bono work on Friday, I don’t think it’s what Jesus had in mind. The soul is refined in engagement, in relationship, in doing, in connecting. [1]

When we named the Center for Action and Contemplation, I hoped our rather long name would itself keep us honest and force us toward balance and ongoing integration. However, over the years, I have witnessed how many of us attach to contemplation or to action for the wrong reasons. Introverts may use contemplation to affirm quiet time; those with the luxury of free time sometimes use it for “navel-gazing.” On the other hand, some activists see our call to action as an affirmation of their particular agenda and not much else. Neither is the delicate art and balance that we hope to affirm.

By contemplation, we mean the deliberate seeking of God through a willingness to detach from the passing self, the tyranny of emotions, the addiction to self-image, and the false promises of the world. Action, as we are using the word, means a decisive commitment to involvement and engagement in the social order. Issues will not be resolved by mere reflection, discussion, or even prayer; nor will they be resolved only by protests, boycotts, or votes. Rather, God works together with all those who love (see Romans 8:28).

Though “Love” is not in our Center’s name, I hope that it is the driving force behind all we do, just as it was for Jesus who knew God’s love intimately and fully, and for the early church who proclaimed that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Amidst this time of planetary change and disruption, the CAC envisions a movement of transformed people working together for a transformed world.

The only way out and through any dualism, including that between action and contemplation, is a kind of universal forgiveness of reality for being what it is. This becomes the bonding glue of grace which heals all separations that law, religion, or logic can never finally or fully restore.

We are all on this journey together and we are all in need of liberation (which might be a better word than salvation). God’s intention is never to shame the individual (which actually disempowers), but solidarity with and universal responsibility for the whole (which creates healthy people). That is an act of radical solidarity that few Christians seem to enjoy but which the CAC is committed to fostering. [2]

[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, “What Is Engaged Contemplation?,” Essentials of Engaged Contemplation, Center for Action and Contemplation, 2024. Presentation for the Living School.

[2] Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Not the Center for Activism & Introspection,” Radical Grace 4, no. 6 (December 1991–January 1992).

Image credit: Evgeniy Alyoshin, Firefighters putting out a fire (detail), Ukraine, 2022, photograph, public domain. Click here to enlarge image.

What does it look like to engage with the catastrophic fires that sweep through our world without becoming frenzied or frozen?

Story from Our Community:  

Recently, I have been on a long “pause” from the Catholic parish I had been part of for many years. My children were raised there and I had many good friendships, and a deep sense of service to my faith community. But for years, I had been growing uncomfortable with the increasingly conservative, nationalistic, and exclusive extremes of our parish. I also found that my community wasn’t meeting my expanding spiritual needs. The pause gave me much time to deepen my contemplative prayer life and develop a daily mantra: “guide me.” I haven’t found a new local spiritual community yet, but my heart is open to find one. Meanwhile, CAC and other contemplative resources have become my community in a very real way. Thank you, for giving such rich and blessed hope. I’m inspired by the idea that our faith is an organic one—ever growing and expanding. —Lauri P.

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We live in a world on fire. This year the Daily Meditations will explore contemplation as a way to build Radical Resilience so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or burning out. The path ahead may be challenging, but we can walk it together.

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In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.