Contemplative in Action

Recently one of my favorite Catholic priests, Fr. John Riccarrdo, gave a talk to a group of men at his parish. He began the talk by playing a short clip from the movie Hacksaw Ridge. If you haven’t seen this film, go see it. The scene takes place during an intense battle and shows Desmond Doss, the main character, stopping to pray and he asks God “what is it you want of me?”. Doss listens intently because he can’t hear God’s answer in the middle of the fierce battle until a moment later his attention is captured by a fellow soldier who is critically injured and pleading for a medic. Doss takes this as his answer and leaps into action. He would later be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for single handedly saving 75 men from the ridge in one of the bloodiest battles of WWII.

Fr. Riccardo drew from this scene two important qualities of a Christian disciple. One who is contemplative and active! He referred to St. John Paul II’s call for us to all be “contemplatives in action”, just as Doss demonstrated in the movie.

Most of us tend to land in one of these camps or the other, but rarely demonstrate both qualities consistently. Most men lean towards being active…doing, creating, initiating. Being a man of action is a positive characteristic and reflects the creative power of God the Father. However, if we lack a contemplative nature it leads us to frustration, and an inordinate desire for work. When we lean solely towards being an active disciple we seek affirmation in what we do rather than who we are.

The other side of the coin are those of us who are inclined towards being contemplative but lack putting things into action. We like to think things through and are comfortable being still and silent in order to hear. This attribute reflects the love of God the Father; the one who is always seeking the good of the other…an encounter, a meeting. However, if we always find ourselves in a contemplative state then we can lack initiative and action. We never put our boots on the ground and enter the battle. We think through all of the possibilities; we’ve checked and re-checked if we heard God correctly, but we fail to launch.

The reality is that we are made to first contemplate and listen to the voice of God and then to spring into action. If you find that this is not a pattern in your life, fear not. Try and press into which direction you lean, contemplative or active, so that you gain self-awareness. Then you can make small incremental steps towards incorporating the supporting attribute in order to become a combat effective soldier for Christ.

“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)