As a Benedictine contemplative nun, I am sometimes asked what makes someone a contemplative. Since there is a contemplative vocation in the church, people often think that living a contemplative life is meant only for a few, and that it is only possible to do so within the walls of monastery. True, it may be easier to devote oneself to contemplation of God when the context of one’s life is predisposed to it, but when the vocation is distilled down to its essence, it is easy to see that everyone is called to contemplation at some level. For after all, contemplation can be thought of as simply being with God. Thinking of him, loving him, being a constant companion of Christ who dwells in the soul—this is all the prayer of a contemplative.
And what of the question, “Can it be done anywhere?” Catherine Doherty, the Russian-Canadian wife, mother and founder of Madonna House, sums it up beautifully: “When you are in love with someone, it seems that the face of the beloved is before you when you drive, when you type, when you are taking out insurance, and so on. Somehow or other we can encompass these two realities, the face of the beloved and whatever we happen to be doing. Prayer is like that.” Perhaps, then, we could think of every human heart as a potential “monastery”—the place where one can abide with God.