The divide between the “professional” religious people and the lay people is nothing new for Christianity. In fact, Pope Gregory I struggled with the urgency of his ministry as Pope and his inner desire to make more time for contemplative prayer. He spent considerable time bridging the divide between the Christians who attempted to elevate the office of monk over the ministry of lay people.
His words remain helpful for us today as we seek to join our contemplation with action and to guide our action with contemplation.
Here are a few highlights from a recent profile:
Gregory (ca. 540-604) was a contemplative mystic at heart who struggled all of his days with the conflict between busyness and intimacy with Christ. And this struggle gave him great pastoral sympathy for a group of people who had become “second-class citizens” in Christendom: married layfolk. His meditations on the busy life—the life he associated both with Jesus’ friend Martha and Jacob’s wife Leah—led him to formulate a spiritual theology that blasted monastic elitism and freed busy laypeople to enjoy the contemplative life.
[While Pope] He wrote, “I am being smashed by many waves of affairs and afflicted by the storms of a life of tumults.” But whatever the dangers to his soul, the new pope felt obliged to spend himself in labor for his people, healing and calming whom he could among a populace battered by war, plague, and famine. His heart still aching for the contemplative life of the monastery, the shepherd devoted himself to his sheep.
…The contemplative life equips us for the active life, and the active life grounds us in acts of love to our neighbors, to keep us from floating off into spiritual pride and irrelevance.