Contemplation is understood in varied ways, but every perspective views contemplation as an ongoing process. To experience contemplation, Merton tells us that continual divesting of our ego, self-centeredness, and sinfulness is necessary to recognize that in our true poverty we are free to more perfectly follow Christ. This experience of humility beckons an awareness of the poverty and need of those around us. In turn, such a process of ongoing conversion, or contemplation, leads one upward to God and outward toward the rest of humanity.
This is the challenge that Pope Francis invites us all to take up. It is to convert the world through Love, not a cowardly sentimentality, but a burning, infinite Love that radiates directly from the Holy Spirit dwelling within us and leaps forth to set fire to the souls of each person we encounter. It is a Love that proceeds from lives lived in holiness, humility, and total dependency on Jesus and surrender to His Holy Will.
If we are to re-evangelize this world that has forgotten the face of Our Savior, we must begin not with catechesis (though that will come), but with charity and holiness of life. This can only come about through lives that are daily immersed in prayer and the sacraments of the Church, lives of continual interior conversion, penance, and true poverty of spirit. We must strive to live, by God’s grace and as near as we are able, in imitation of that of St. Francis of Assisi.
But as Day, whom I’d long admired, well knew, true poverty is never, ever voluntary. Poverty consists precisely in all the ways you absolutely don’t want to be poor. Poverty consists in a long succession of events not going your way. Poverty consists in being stripped down to nothingness.
~Heather King, Shirt of Flame: A Year with Saint Therese of Lisieux