Contemplative Life vs. Married Life?

St. Thomas Aquinas writes in his Summa Theologica that “marriage is a very great obstacle” “to the contemplative life.” Does this mean those married must necessarily live a predominately active life, i.e., a life mostly devoid of contemplation? Yet, St. Thomas also says that the contemplative life is not hindered by the active life; rather, the former requires the latter. Thanks

I think married life presents challenges to what people typically consider a contemplative life. My impression growing up was that contemplative meant total silence and seclusion from others, which in married life would be next to impossible if one were to be successful at it. Lately as I find myself more and more at home with contemplation, it seems to be more of an inner silence than an exterior one. I can be very busy on the outside and remain interiorly recollected. It’s what I would describe as one continuous and unending conversation with our Lord, unhindered by the things going on around me. An active life can be one with physical motion and also mental/spiritual motion, so I think St. Thomas was more accurate in saying that in order to contemplate one must be active. I would think married folks would be as drawn to this as unmarried people. The peace that comes from contemplating would be possible even if they were “busy” on the outside…

No, it doesn’t necessitate being a hermit. The Dominicans, e.g., are very contemplative, and their community life is essential for this.

One must first be active, then, before contemplating, not; I think is what he meant.

What you say reminds me very much of St. Escrivá’s and Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange’s spirituality of the “interior life.” E.g., read this of Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange.

I know of several monks who would disagree with you. You may be confusing meditation (even deep meditation) with contemplation.


I’m sorry, I forgot about the OP sisters.

In Summa Theologica Thomas Aquinas speaks of the division of life, one contemplative and the other active, the both are opposed to each other, he says the active life disposes to the contemplative life because disordered passions can disturb the contemplative, so they are both impossible to do at the same time. In the active life we have love for our fellow man, and in the the contemplative life we have love for God. Since the acitve live regards the appetite(that is the practical intellect) the contemplative life(speculative intellect) is the rest following the active live since he says the active precedes the contemplative in the order of generation. And he says some people are apt to contemplative and others are more apt to active.

St Theresa of Avila’s brother grew in the great heights of contemplation…and he was from ‘the world’…

Really? What was his name? Was he a canonized saint?

Especially check out that first paragraph.

Note that many religious orders consider themselves “contemplatives in action,” as well.

I have not read this book, but the reviews seem rather decent, as well:

From my understanding, we are all called to contemplation, but in varying degrees. We should attempt to seamlessly integrate the spiritual and the physical, always keeping God in mind.

I have heard the comparison made that as a married person, waking up to change a diaper and feed a crying infant in the middle of the night is much like a holy hour, if God is kept in mind, and the perfection of charity is approached. St. Therese shows in her “little way” how we can make God present in all our actions, no matter how great. St. Josemaria Escriva also had a mission to show that the common activities of daily life can indeed be sanctifying. Check out “Opus Dei”.

Hope this helps.


“Contemplative life” is a lifestyle that predisposes one to the gift of contemplation (monastic life) while contemplation per se remains a gift of God to a person living out their vocation in any state of life. Contemplation is a gift of God. Our highest aspiration is to unite ourselves to God and His Will (perfection of Charity) which is also the fruit of the heights of the gift of contemplation whether we are united to God’s Will via the gift of contemplation or whether we are not. The gift of contemplation is the prerogative of God.
St Therese of Lisieux herself points out in her writing that her prayer time was not (at one point anyway) “the prayer of quiet” (a level of contemplation) but that in living out her life she did strive always to be united to God’s Will through a life of virtue. It is felt that in the closing 18 months or so of her life, she did pass through The Dark Night which is a very high level of contemplation and God’s Gift and prerogative and usually precedes Union with God and His Will.
We are all called to holiness through our Baptism and holiness is nothing more or less than to unite ourselves with God’s Will for our particular life and faithfulness lovingly to the duties of our state in life for God’s sake, because they are God’s Will for our life. We may be gifted with contemplation and contemplative prayer, we may not.
If we are striving to please God in our life and living also a prayerful life, one would do very well indeed to seek out wise and holy spiritual direction.
Catholic Catechism: “The Life of Prayer”
What is contemplation?
This can make for a somewhat long read, but worth it:

As I understand things :slight_smile:


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