The Need to Develop and Order An Active and Contemplative Life


The world is focused solely on productivity and efficiency, so it is kind of easy to think that the active life (work) is more important than the contemplative life (prayer). From an economic point of view, leisure is good because it allows us to “sharpen the saw” so that we can continue to be productive. Prayer then is seen as an unproductive waste of time for many and an afterthought for many Catholics until Sunday rolls around. Our Catholic faith tells us that we were created to know, love, and serve God and so our prayer lives, our communication with God, should be primary to anything else we do.

Here are a few excerpts from a book called “Soul of the Apostolate”. Several popes cited it and recommended it to wide audiences. Pope Pius X was said to have it on his night stand, Benedict XV wrote a foreword for it. A copy should find its way to your bookshelf. You’ll be in good company.


“Just as God is to be loved in contemplation, we must also love our neighbor through the active life, and follows that we cannot be without both these kinds of life, just as it is absolutely necessary for us to practice both kinds of love.

An interior life and active life (living an integrated life)! Holiness within works! A powerful union, and a fruitful one. What miracles of conversion it can work!

Zeal will only get results in so far as it is united to the action of Christ Himself. Christ does all the work; we are only His instruments. Our Lord does not give His blessings to any enterprise in which men place trust in human means alone. He does not give His blessings to enterprises that are kept going solely by natural activity. Jesus does not give His blessing to an enterprise in which self-love is working in the place of divine love.

  • Woe to the man who refuses to do the work to which he is called by God!
  • Woe to the man who worms his way into an enterprise without finding out what God wills for him!
  • Woe to the man who, in his work, wants to run things without really depending on God!
  • Woe to the man who lives an active life without taking steps to preserve or to regain the interior life!
  • Woe to the man who does not know how to make the interior life and the active life harmonize, so that neither suffers from the other!

A jeweler will prefer the smallest fragment of diamond to several sapphires; and so, in the order established by God, our intimacy with Him gives Him more glory than all possible good, procured by us, for a great number of souls, but to the detriment of our own progress. He prefers sometimes to let an enterprise go by the board, if He sees it becoming an obstacle to the charity of the soul engaged in it. But as for Satan, he, on the contrary, does not hesitate to encourage a purely superficial success, if he can by this success prevent the apostle from making progress in the interior life: so clearly does his rage guess what it is Our Lord values most highly. To get rid of a diamond, he is quite willing to allow us a few sapphires.”

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