Pope Francis today (Wednesday) encouraged people to embrace the contemplative dimension of being human both in prayer and their daily lives.
In his general audience address on May 5, the Pope said that the “contemplative dimension of the human being – which is not yet contemplative prayer – is a bit like the ‘salt’ of life: it gives flavour, it seasons our day.”
“We can contemplate by gazing at the sun that rises in the morning, or at the trees that deck themselves out in spring green; we can contemplate by listening to music or to the sounds of the birds, reading a book, gazing at a work of art or at that masterpiece that is the human face,” he said.
The Pope said that for those who live in a big city, where everything tends to be “artificial and functional,” there can be the risk of “losing the capacity to contemplate”.
Pope Francis recommended contemplative prayer, “the ‘breath’ of our relationship with God”, which he said “sharpens our gaze” and “purifies the heart”.
“Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus,” he said, quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
He recounted the story of a peasant in Ars, France, who told St John Vianney while praying before the tabernacle: “I look at him and he looks at me.”
“The light of the countenance of Jesus illumines the eyes of our heart and teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all men,” he said.
“Everything comes from this: from a heart that feels that it is looked on with love. Then reality is contemplated with different eyes.”
The Pope stressed that in the Gospel there is “no opposition between contemplation and action”.
Jesus “never lacked the time, space, silence, the loving communion that allows one’s existence not to be devastated by the inevitable trials, but to maintain beauty intact,” he said. “His secret was his relationship with his heavenly Father.”
Pope Francis spoke from the library of the Apostolic Palace due to coronavirus restrictions. The speech was the 32nd reflection in his cycle of catechesis on prayer, which he launched in May 2020 and resumed in October following nine addresses on healing the world after the pandemic.