The greatness of the contemplative vocation (1961)
How grateful I feel today to the Lord for having given me this vocation, and how I feel bound to pro-claim the greatness, the necessity also in the service of others, in service of all mankind, especially of those Christians most taken up with work, most distracted by the occupations and preoccupations of everyday life! For many people our life may seem wasted. And indeed on the natural level it is, because in human terms our desire for silence is incomprehensible and mistaken. We could certainly achieve apparently better results with our ordinary work: living among men, exercising a profession, involving ourselves in a more direct kind of service than our humble praying. One can understand other people’s incomprehension. But to understand it is not to justify it. Is it not the most suitable and the greatest service to give our life for all those whom the cares of living distract from God? Does not the life of all tend towards death? But this is why death becomes more and more a reason for dismay and terror, a reason for scandal and rebellion, because men no longer know how to live for God. They would like to serve God for the sake of their human interests. They would like the religious life to serve only to enrich the few years of their earthly pilgrimage. They live for death, but true life is beyond this life.
This is what we want to teach: power and grandeur do not count; efficiency in work, dignity in ministry do not count; only love of God counts, because love of God alone remains. Men must know that these are not mere words: for this we must waste ourselves away with humility, for this we must accept that the sacrifice of a poor and obscure life is to pass uncomprehended by those for whom we live and whom we teach by example. If we truly believe that we are made for everlasting life, what are the eighty or a hundred years that we spend on this earth compared to the eternity that awaits us? How can we contemplate eternity with-out terror, if up until now we have sought to live in such a way that the loss of anything there is counts for nothing with us?
No. From now on we must become used to living among the emptiness of things in the infinite presence of God. We must in some way anticipate, in poverty and in humility, the joy and peace that await us in the future. If God is nothing for us then our death will take us to hell. Who can fill the emptiness caused by the detachment from creatures, the end of the present world, if we have not learned to know God, if we have not loved Him in this life? We want this: to give men a sense of the reality of the divine world, which is not a future world entirely separate from us. No, we should already carry this world in our hearts, we have already entered this world through the sacrament of baptism, already this world is our most real one.
Our humble life must bear witness so that in poverty the Kingdom of God may become in some way visible to man. By a journey of humility and silence, we must make space in our life for the presence of God.
Hermitage of Fornace, April 26th, 1961