The vocation to be a contemplative nun is perhaps best understood in the light of the mystery of the Body of Christ which we, the Church, are. The mystery of the Body of Christ was first introduced by St. Paul and we read of it in his letters to the Romans and Corinthians. In the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul explains that just as a body of flesh has many parts so it is with Christ’s Body the Church. In just the same way as each body part has a different and necessary role for the body to function (see 1Cor 12:14ff) so also in the Church, there are many different people with many different functions all of which are essential to the vitality of the Church.
Many liken contemplative nuns to the heart of the Church, which gives the power of love and fidelity to the other members through continual prayer and sacrifice. The contemplative nun is an essential part of the life and holiness of the Church. It is to the heart that our Lord speaks and the response of love from the soul begins in the heart. The task of the contemplative nun is to be the heart of the Church in continual dialogue with the Trinity — a continual heart to heart, listening and responding to the Eternal Word of the Father. Our Lord told us, “Abide in me… without me you can do nothing.” The contemplatives abide in Him in a special way as they live hidden in Christ, and through prayer bear fruit in the Church’s apostolic members.
The contemplative life acknowledges in a radical way the ultimate truth that no good we do is ours, but it is all the work of God. It is a life of pure faith which testifies that the “victor is the one who believes” (1 Jn 5:5). We, the Church, are only successful, fruitful, through our faith. Thus it is that a life of pure faith is truly the most fruitful, the most victorious. It is through their hidden lives of faith that the contemplatives serve the Church and help it to grow. (Perfectae Caritatis, 7) Contemplatives give themselves to God alone — He who is most worthy of our entire lives — and are the “glory of the Church and an overflowing fountain of heavenly graces.” (Perfectae Caritatis, no. 7)
A contemplative nun’s life of prayer is a life dedicated to the praise of God. Indeed the life of praise of God is the highest vocation to which all are called. The summit and source of all the activity of the Church is the liturgy, the prayer, praise, and contemplation of the Blessed Trinity. In fact, the goal of the apostolic life is to lead all to the praise and worship of God. Thus the contemplative vocation exercises this essential duty of Church that of continuously giving praise to the Father.
For more information visit the Benedictine Nuns of Walburga.