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182. Active and Contemplative Life Compared

1. The contemplative life, taken simply, is more excellentthan the active life. Yet what is in itself more excellent is not,by that fact, more excellent in relation to every person or to allthe demands and the circumstances of earthly existence. If Marychose the best part, Martha did not choose a bad or unnecessarypart. The order of human existence could not be served were allpersons dedicated to contemplation and none to action.

2. The contemplative life is, in itself, more meritoriousthan the active life. For the contemplative life is whollyconcerned with God,whereas the active life must necessarilydeal much with creatures. But it may happen that, in particularcases, one person merits more by the works of the active life thananother person merits by the works of the contemplative life.

3. The active life, in so far as it demands attention toexternals and care in their use and practice, hinderscontemplation. But it can happen that active life contributes tothe quelling of internal passions which arouse imaginings thatdistract and hamper the concentration of the soul; in such a casethe active life itself contributes to contemplation.

4. Action precedes contemplation. For what is common toall precedes what is perfect and attainable by some. As St. Gregorypoints out (Hom. xiv in Ezech.), we can get toheaven without the contemplative life if we do all that we shoulddo. But if we neglect doing what we should do (that is, if weneglect the active life), we cannot get to heaven.

"As the flesh is nourished by food, so is man supported by prayers"
St Augustine

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"The essence of perfection is to embrace the will of God in all things, prosperous or adverse. In prosperity, even sinners find it easy to unite themselves to the divine will; but it takes saints to unite themselves to God's will when things go wrong and are painful to self-love. Our conduct in such instances is the measure of our love of God."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"God looks neither at long nor beautiful prayers, but at those that come from the heart."
The Cure D'Ars

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