Contemplation & Silence

Compiled by Michael T. Sullivan, MD

(Extracts from the Ponder, Part 5 document)


“Thinking these things with myself, and pondering them in my heart,

that to be allied to Wisdom is immortality.”

(Wis 8:17)


“Contemplation” (New Catholic Dictionary) is the state in which the mind is elevated to God and Divine things, joined with an admiring and loving intuition of these.  Mystical contemplation is Divine and effective; it enlightens the intellect and inflames the will in a special manner, above the human way of acquiring knowledge by reasoning and inference.


“In the silence of the heart God speaks.

If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you.

Then you will know that you are nothing.

It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness,

that God can fill you with Himself.

Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”

(Mother Teresa of Calcutta)



The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) very concisely teaches us about the gift of contemplation, the gift of contemplative prayer.  “It is the simple expression of the mystery of prayer.  It is a gaze of faith fixed on Jesus, an attentiveness to the Word of God, a silent love.  It achieves real union with the prayer of Christ to the extent that it makes us share in His mystery, the mystery celebrated by the Church in the Eucharist, which the Holy Spirit makes come alive so that our charity will manifest it in our acts.”  (CCC 2718, 2724) 


“It is the prayer of the ‘child of God,’ the forgiven sinner who agrees to welcome the Love by which he is loved and who wants to respond to it by loving even more, but he knows that the love he is returning is poured out by the Spirit in his heart, for everything is grace from God. (CCC 2712)  Far from being passive, such attentiveness is the obedience of faith….It participates in the ‘Yes’ of the Son become servant and the ‘Fiat’ of God’s lowly handmaid.”  (CCC 2716)


“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile.”

(Mk 6:31)


For a gift so profound, so deep, so holy as this, it is not surprising that Our Lord Himself in His Lessons to the world spoke much about contemplation, inviting each of His children to rest in His Most Sacred Heart and to allow the embrace and tenderness of God the Father not restrict them, and to graciously accept His gifts so as to be able to grow in humility and holiness:


“I your Lord love you and give you My Most Sacred Heart in which to rest….When you rest in My Heart, a peace overcomes you, almost a state of sleep; but you are resting truly in My Most Sacred Heart where I am carrying you and sifting through all your needs and organizing all your spiritual and temporal needs for the glory of God the Father….I invite you all to be ‘little.’  When you are little, the Father is able to embrace your soul ever so tightly, and He will protect you….How My Father desires to be the tender Father of all My people,  (but) they will not allow Him because many are so fearful of Him….Many are lacking the knowledge of His tender Love and kindness….Therefore, many people restrict the graces and good fortunes designated for them….Tell My people of His Love and invite all to a new Light of Truth, free of confusion….Contemplate these words of Mine and ponder them in your heart!”  (JOM, Vol V, #1, Nov. 11, 1994)


“When you perceive a longing of heavenly desire and wish to contemplate My brightness, enlarge your heart; and with all of your affection, seek after and embrace this holy inspiration.  Give thanks to My Father Who deals so favorably with you, Who is merciful, Who gives you His power, Who raises you up, Who gives you graces of bliss, and Who ardently incites you lest you fall  (by your own neglect) into worldly desires and carnal affection.  For it is not through your own merit that you attain the bliss of His blessings.  It is through Our Divine visitations and heavenly graces that you may grow in Our Holiness and in the virtue of humility.”  (JOM, Vol III, #22, Mar. 2, 1991)


“What bliss, if one of my family be left to see your glory

and praise the King of Heaven!”

(Tob 13:16 )


In our Blessed Mother Mary, God has given us the model for perfect contemplation.  It matters not what independent conditions of work, play, health, or physical and emotional stress exist externally, for this encounter takes place in the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the place where Our Lady resides and to which we are invited.  Our Lord speaks about His Mother:


“If you truly grow and follow my ways, you will follow the  example of My Mother.  Contemplate how she loves Me by serving Me quietly and obediently….She always showed her  love by listening, assisting and praying….Live as My Mother lived—for Me!”  (JOM, Vol II, #45, Feb 12, 1990)


“My Mother is the one who can lead you into this depth of My Merciful Heart.  Pray for this grace so that you can dive into a deeper contemplative life.  No matter what errand or job you do, you can focus in prayer in love of Me; and you can live a life of forgiveness of others and harmony through mercy, following the steps through grace bestowed upon you to listen, love, assist and pray for all.  It will relieve your mind of business and will inflame your heart with a greater desire to serve and live in joy and unity.”  (JOM, Vol IV, #32, July 18, 1992)


“…While they were there, the time came for her to have her Child,

and she gave birth to her firstborn Son.

She wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger,

because there was no room for them in the inn….”

(Lk 2:6-7)


“My people need to look within.  There I lie; an inner contemplation living amongst an active world…..Most of My people are subject to living in an active world as I walked, and they must flee within to find solitude in Me….The peace, solitude and love of contemplation would become the cornerstone of your soul, because I am the cornerstone of peace in your soul.  I dove into the Heart of My Being, there to find My Father’s Peace and to dwell in solitude, then to rest my Head on My Mother for loving care….

“…Dive into My Sacred Heart for rejuvenation of the soul.  Do not look for rest and peace in outer sources.  Look inside, and those who are willing to receive My Love and Peace will find Me!  Here lies your protection and intimacy with God.” (JOM, Vol IV, #$20, June 27, 1992)


“You fools!

Did not the Maker of the outside also make the inside?”

(Lk 11:40)



“The prudent man is silent at this time….

then truly will the Lord, God of Hosts, be with you….”

(Amos 5:13)


In speaking of the place of silence in this contemplative encounter, the Catechism (CCC) notes that “Words in this kind of prayer are not speeches; they are like kindling that feeds the fire of love.  In this silence, unbearable to the outer man, the Father speaks to us (CCC 2717)….and the Spirit of adoption enables us to share in the prayer of Jesus.” (2718).  Moreover, Our Lord in His Lessons notes that as we move forward in contemplation, we may find (almost imperceptibly) that we have progressed in grace from “knowing” to “loving”:


“Silence is an increase in knowledge, a virtue of contemplation in which the spirit of the soul ascends.  Silence is a whisper and grace of My Father in which He instills the Truth into your being as you listen with an open heart….Silence will allow you to be ruled by God, and provide the way to flourish in the gifts of humility and divine charity!  It is far better to be weak in understanding and have lack of knowledge than to be lacking humility and charity.   Humility is a grace; and silence and solitude, through Divine contemplation, are catalysts to humility.  Those who choose to be quiet through prayer and discipline, even though it may be difficult, are graced with true wisdom and lack of self-conceit….

“…Quiet the mind, and rest in Me….If you feel far away and not rewarded and empty, hold on to your faith and know that the Light may leave as well as return when God deems fit.  Better now for my people to be at peace and contemplate how it might be if the Light turns to the shadow of darkness.  And if you feel the Light leave, know that it will come back.  So hold on to your faith in silence and in the solitude of contemplation.”  (JOM, Vol IV, #14, Feb. 22, 1992)


“As I move the graces of your prayer forward, you will notice one day in contemplation that you have progressed in this grace from ‘knowing’ to ‘loving.’  The prayer of My Love moves from the mind to the heart….The fervor of My Love will inspire you to give to Me all the more; to give until there is no more to give; and, even then I shall draw from you.  In the grace of prayer, you will discover what truly nourishes your soul.  The search becomes the goal, and the longing for My Love is sufficient in itself to sustain you.  The fruits will become self-evident.  The desert flowers bloom when you will no longer exert energy to control or distract you from attentiveness to My Will.”

(JOM, Vol IV, #39, July 25, 1992)

”And they found not what to do to Him:

for all the people were very attentive to hear Him.”

(Lk 19:48)


So what are the obstacles to progressing in contemplative prayer?  Our Lord in His Lessons notes several impediments in making that desired progress:  talking too much, listening too little, being too selfish with one’s time, too loving of “self” over God and impatient with God:


“My people speak too much and do not listen with their hearts….Prayer and contemplation allow you to be at peace with yourself, no matter what distractions or confusion surround you.  My people take little time for silent prayer and many do not take any time for silent meditation; then when confusion and chaos strike, they are not able to find peace within.  Consequently, only few of My people are able to know the Truth and follow my Way….Confusion and chaos will only continue if no one believes in My Word to reflect in prayer on my Will and My Love….When you are able to reflect in silence, you will see that there are more speakable words in your heart than those found on your lips.  (JOM, Vol V, #17, Sept. 10, 1995)


“Be on guard not to be a lover of yourself, but to earnestly and ardently love Me….My people have much yet to learn.  They are eager and are inclined to do good, but they do not restrain themselves to be reserved to the Will of God!  Many times their desires supersede with eagerness and prevent the Will of God from being fulfilled….Allow My Will to be fulfilled and carried out.  Therefore, in My eager desire, be restrained and be disciplined to the Will of God by waiting patiently and in prayerful contemplation….Place before Me all desires, and I shall take the pleasure in fulfilling the good deeds and extinguishing the bad ones….Be patient people after you have submitted to My Will; and rejoice, for good fortune has befallen you!”   (JOM, Vol III, #7, June 18, 1990)


“So turn from your youthful desires,

and pursue righteousness, faith , love and peace,

along with those who call on the Lord with purity of heart.”

(2Tim 2:22)

The fruit of Silence is prayer.

The fruit of Prayer is faith.

The fruit of Faith is love.

The fruit of Love is service.

The fruit of Service is peace.” 
(Mother Teresa of Calcutta)