The simplest way
to recognize if true contemplation is present in an era
or a group
is that there will be numerous small faith groups
and gentle prophets.
Such small faith groups
and gentle prophets,
speaking truth in love,
are greatly needed today!
In 1400 there were hundreds of Franciscan-based small faith communities
all over Europe,
small, simple communities.
Soon after the dualistic fights of the Reformation,
and after the over-rationalization
of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Enlightenment,
Christians took on a more rational form of thinking
and covered it with churchy or pious words.
Doctrines and dogma
were presented in an all-or-nothing, argumentative way
rather than through a contemplative, mystical knowing.
Almost all Catholic priests and Protestant ministers
were educated in their own version of this headiness
until it began to fall apart in the mid-1960s.
In the 1950s and 60s,
Thomas Merton revealed a contemplative mind
that had largely been lost for five centuries.
Merton was not very popular
with many of the older monks in those early days,
and was considered a rebel
because he told them that they were not contemplatives.
Twere just introverts saying prayers all day”—but still with the dualistic and judgmental mind fully in charge. You can imagine how well that was received.
Many, many young seekers
left seminaries, ministry, religious orders, and convents
basically because no one taught them how
to live in love.
Without a contemplative life,
poverty, chastity, obedience, and community itself
do not work or even make sense.
And ministry becomes another way of running away
or trying to find true self
instead of real service for others.
Contemplation is a positive choosing
of the deep, shining, and enduring divine mysteries
that are hidden beneath the too-easy formulas.
Contemplation is not fast-food religion,
but slow and healthy nutrition.
Contemplatives do not let the old get in the way of the new,
or the new get in the way of the old.
Like all religious geniuses,
contemplatives reveal what the old was saying all along.
sometimes needs to be stripped of its social and historical encrustations
and returned to its first, churchless incarnation in the human heart.
The Contemplative Tradition cannot be repressed
and will always show up in unsuspecting places.