Skip to main content
Center for Action and Contemplation
The Prophetic Path: Motivated by Love
The Prophetic Path: Motivated by Love

Obeying the Call to Love

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Carlo Carretto (1910–1988) was a member of the Little Brothers of Jesus, a community of contemplatives who lived and worked among the poor in Northern Africa. Carretto reflects on the call that inspired him to give up his comfortable life in Italy:

When I was forty-four years old, there occurred the most serious call of my life: the call to the contemplative life. I experienced it deeply—in the depth which only faith can provide and where darkness is absolute—where human strength can no longer help.

This time I had to say “yes” without understanding a thing. “Leave everything and come with me into the desert. It is not your acts and deeds that I want; I want your prayer, your love.”…

“Come with me into the desert.” There is something much greater than human action: prayer; and it has a power much stronger than human words: love.

And I went into the desert. [1]

Passing through a desert village on his way to a time of solitude, Carretto met a man named Kada who needed a blanket. Although he had two, Carretto did not share. The next night, Carretto dreamed that he was pinned under a boulder and unable to move, a terrible feeling he described as “purgatory.”

“You will be judged according to your ability to love” this place [in the Sahara] reminds me insistently. And my eyes, burnt by the sun, gaze up into the cloudless sky.

I don’t want to deceive myself any more; indeed I am not able to. The truth is that I did not give my blanket to Kada, for fear of the cold night. And that means that I love my own skin more than my brother’s, while God’s commandment tells me: “Love the life of others as you love your own.”…

God does not hurry over things; time is [God’s], not mine. And I, little creature, a man, have been called to be transformed into God by sharing [God’s] life. And what transforms me is the charity which [God] pours into my heart.

Love transforms me slowly into God.

But sin is still there, resisting this transformation, knowing how to, and actually saying “no” to love.…

To have resisted love, not to have been capable of accepting the demand of this love which said to me, “Give the blanket to your brother,” is so serious that it creates an obstacle between me and God and this is my purgatory. 

What’s the use of saying the Divine Office well, of sharing the Eucharist, if one is not impelled by love?

What’s the use of giving up everything and coming here to the desert and the heat, if only to resist love?…

“You will be judged according to your ability to love,” says the great stone under which I spent my purgatory waiting for perfect love to grow within myself, that which Jesus brought to earth for me….

May that day not be far off. [2]

[1] Carlo Carretto, preface to Letters from the Desert, trans. Rose Mary Hancock,anniv. ed. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1972, 2002), xvi–xvii.

[2] Carretto, Letters from the Desert, 7–8, 9–10.

Image Credit: A path from one week to the next—Loïs Mailou Jones, Shapes and Colors (detail), 1958, watercolor on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum. Madison Frambes, Untitled 4 (detail), 2023, naturally dyed paper and ink, Mexico, used with permission. Madison Frambes, Untitled 1 (detail), 2023, naturally dyed paper and ink, Mexico, used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.

For this series of pieces for CAC [I explore] the loneliness of grief, and the fleeting moments of beauty, grounding, and community that make it bearable.
Madison Frambes, artist

Story from Our Community:  

The Daily Meditations from the CAC have become an important influence on me. In recent months, I found that an insight from Brian McLaren has repeatedly come to mind. He noted that “Thy will be done” in the Lord’s Prayer might just as accurately be translated to “Thy desire be fulfilled.” I am struck by how that slight change in wording communicates so much. It transforms God from someone issuing a mandate into a caring parent, friend, or lover. It transforms a demand for obedience, drudgery, and obligation into eager participation. Thank you for this beautiful re-framing. I see clearly that God’s desire is that we love. —Jerry O.

Navigate by Date

This year’s theme

A candle being lit

Radical Resilience

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.

The archives

Explore the Daily Meditations

Explore past meditations and annual themes by browsing the Daily Meditations archive. Explore by topic or use the search bar to find wisdom from specific teachers.

Join our email community

Sign-up to receive the Daily Meditations, featuring reflections on the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.

Hidden Fields

Find out about upcoming courses, registration dates, and new online courses.
Our theme this year is Radical Resilience. How do we tend our inner flame so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or out? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
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.