The Formula: C & A r 1

After nine of us gathered for a sacred yoga class at Parker United Methodist Church, Eva Barkoff interviewed me for a New Orleans Advocate article on meditation practices from my book, Monks in the World. As she asked questions about the sources of the contemplative models I learned through the years, our discussion turned to Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity. I remembered the earliest model I saw in person of the formula for contemplative living: Contemplation and Action are one (C & A r 1).
When I was thirty I met Mother Teresa and her nuns at their mother-house in Calcutta, and later spent a day with them at the Home for the Dying. The visit changed my life and still affects me 27 years later. The visit taught me a formula I am still trying to learn and teach within our School for Contemplative Living.
A common myth in America is that contemplatives waste time in the non-productive act of contemplation, while important people are out there “doing” things that matter. I hear it in my own church regularly, and we all get that message in the larger culture.
But what I learned in Calcutta is that people who serve in the most stressful place on the planet have a particular formula for their effective service. Those nuns taught me C & A r 1.
Each morning they spent the first hour in private contemplation: practicing the presence of God. Then they gathered for worship in community. Then they ate. Then they spilled into the streets of Calcutta as they voiced their prayers in unison, practicing the presence of God AS they served the poorest of the poor.
In my book I share this: “Prayer was their means of survival! It was their way of depending on a power greater than themselves. If there is such a thing as living in contemplation, living “with temple” throughout one’s day, these nuns surely demonstrated both that the practice is possible and that the secret can be practiced even in the most stressful of places.”
So a quiet revolution is unfolding around the New Orleans region as in other places around the world. Contemplatives are finding a way to ground our service of the world in a Source of compassion and wise guidance that goes far beyond the American myth that our worth depends on “just doing something.” From the monks in monasteries to the rest of us in monasteries of the heart, contemplatives are learning to live this fundamental formula: C & A r 1.


About soulcare4u

I am the author of Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic World, published by Wipf & Stock and available through; and of a blog on, "A Contemplative Path." I serve as the founding spiritual director of The School for Contemplative Living (, adjunct faculty of Loyola University, and as a pastoral counselor and spiritual director in private practice.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Formula: C & A r 1

  1. Even though you picked up a bug that almost killed you, you took away that important lesson which has been worked out in you life of ministry within the frantic culture that surrounds you. So proud of you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s