Contemplative life not enough?


I have talked to a few people, including a Priest about religious vocations and they have all said that Prayer and work or being active like in helping others etc. is better than just prayer/contemplation.

Isn’t contemplation(prayer) better than being active or at least the same and why would people think that you can’t just be a contemplative? I mean, for example, hermits focus on prayer almost exclusively. Do you think it’s better to do both or it’s all the same?

I also notice that a lot of religious orders are now being active too. I’m just a little disappointed that many don’t recognize the power of prayer and penance and all those Saints that became holy by praying a lot and saved a lot of souls this way.


It is best to be who God calls you to be.


There are different forms of being perfected in Christ, including both the consecrated religious and secular, and the societies of apostolic life:

[LIST]]Institutes of Consecrated Life
]Religious Institutes of Consecrated Life
Members live and pray in common.
Members make solemn vows.
*]Orders of Canons Regular
Canons sing the liturgy in choir and may run parish-like apostolates.
*]Monastic Orders
Monks are bound to live and work at their monastery and recite the Office in common.
]Mendicant Orders
Friars (either priests or lay brothers) may have a more active apostolate, and depend on alms for their life.
]Orders of Clerics Regular
Priests are also vowed religious and usually have a more active apostolate.
]Religious Congregations
Members make simple vows.
]Clerical Religious Congregations
Members usually assume the ordained state.
*]Lay Religious Congregations
Members usually assume the lay state.
*]Religious Orders and Institutes of Consecrated Life with independent houses (Women)
*]Centralized Religious Institutes of Consecrated Life (Women)[/LIST]
]Secular Institutes of Consecrated Life
]Members live in the world.
*]Clerical Secular Institutes of Consecrated Life
Members usually assume the ordained state.
*]Lay Secular Institutes of Consecrated Life
Members usually assume the lay state.
*]Societies of Apostolic Life
*]Members do not make religious vows, pursue the same apostolic purpose; priests are usually incardinated into the society and not the diocese.



I agree. Both types of vocations are legitimate and can be very fruitful for the Church. What God calls us to will bear the most fruit.


I’m not about to attempt to get into those persons’ heads, but they are likely voicing frustration that they don’t have enough personnel to get the job done. And there likely never will be, unless some kind of system is implemented like what the Sisters of St. Joseph used. “The poor will always be with you.”

Jesus Himself said that Mary would not be deprived of her place in contemplation. Marthas have to learn to contemplate while being active.

Here is my organization’s website. It explains the cloistered life:



Try not to become discouraged by the opinions of others.

The contemplative life is indeed a valid and necessary form of life. Pope Saint John Paul II had extremely high praise for contemplatives.

There are many contemplative and fully-cloistered monasteries around the world. I can think of three monasteries of women in my own diocese. But the call to the monastery is rare as well as beautiful.

Of course, the congregations of sisters who are engaged in active service in the world far outnumber cloistered religious. And on the male side, the ratio is even more unbalanced, contemplative men being extremely rare!

Many of the active congregations include times of community prayer and contemplation, even calling themselves active contemplatives. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta used to the tell the story of how her sisters told her they needed an hour of contemplative prayer daily in order to do the work – and she listened and agreed!

Listen for the voice of God in your life. It may be that the people with whom you are speaking see in you someone called to an active ministry. Or they may just wish more people were. Pray and listen. God will lead you.


I think too that many folk do not realise how a cloistered community lives. They care fro their sick and old;often they grow food etc and many feed needy folk at the door. And “parlouring”; talking across the grille to hurting folk.

It is not about kneeling 24/7… same with hermits… Hard working folk we are…


You must remember that there is a difference between being either an active or contemplative religious community in liturgical terms and participating in activity or work. In the Church, Contemplative Religious generally live their charism through interior meditation and prayer. Active Religious generally live their charsim through working in the world towards a specific mission. Many (including some diocesan priests) simply think Contemplatives simply pray all day and Actives just work. This is not the case. Both are called to participate in prayers and meditation and both are called to work. Contemplatives simply work within the confines of their cloister and their benefit to the laity is through constant intercessory prayer. There are also Orders and institutes that fall into both categories. Before Vatican II they were called Mixed Institutes, but now they are referred to as Semi-Contemplatives. My own order, the Clerics Regular Minor, fall within this distinction as we work in the world through pastoral work and missionary activity (however that may manifest itself) but we also are required to daily attend mass, receive the Blessed Sacrament, and spend at least half an hour (one hour for seminarians) in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. No Order is purely active or purely contemplative, it is simply how they live their charisms that the Church classifies them as such.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit