Invitation to Love

Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love: The Way of Christian Contemplation. New York: Continuum, 1995. 151 pages
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Chapter 21. Contemplation in Action

An outstanding example of contemplation in action is Archbishop Dom Helder Camara of Brazil, who started the base communities in Latin America. This was perhaps the first time groups of people tried to live the Beatitudes not only as individuals but as community. Their desire to live the gospel in this way brought them into conflict with political, and eventually religious, authorities.

Keating tells the story of introducing Dom Helder at a meeting on peace and religion in 1984 where "representatives of the World Religions were speaking as one voice and proclaiming that war in our time was indefensible." At an associated private meeting, Dom Helder was invited to speak about the poor, or rather the destitute, in Brazil. He began to speak but was unable to continue. "The memory of the destitute and the realization of their desperate plight left him with just one response: tears. Nothing has ever so convinced me of what it means to be destitute than his face at that moment."

In the face of the injustice and suffering in the world, one might well wonder what a single individual can do. Jesus said, "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me" (Matt. 25:35). This shows that there is compassionate action to help those in need that everyone can take.

Moreover, we do not need to wait until we think we are prepared to serve. We are not relying only on ourselves. If we do, we will fail. This failure, in turn, teaches us our dependence on divine inspiration.