SOJOURNERS: You said earlier that contemplation sometimes means binding up the wounded person along the road. Would you say more about what you mean by that?
Joan Chittister: If the contemplative life has to bring us to an awareness of the presence of God and a consciousness of the mandates of Jesus, how else can you purport to live a contemplative life? Contemplation is not an excursion into the "airy fairy."
Contemplation is an immersion into the mind of God and the life of Christ to such an extent that the way you live your own life can never again be quite the same. That's why people change. Because they're drawing from a different set of values and a different goal.
The goal is the building up of the kingdom where the widows are cared for, orphans are loved, the measures are equal, dreaming is possible, and everybody is brought to the fullness of life. If you're living the contemplative life, then eventually you have to come face to face with your obligation to be touched by all those dimensions.
That's why Thomas Merton had the most contemporary prayer life in the world. That's why you ought to be able to go to any enclosed monastery and get good counsel about your own life and the circumstances of the world you're living in.
There's a historian who said that the monastery confronts the castle with a question mark. The values that are derived from the contemplative life are the filter through which the contemplative sees the world. And they are consequently the critique that the contemplative brings to the constructs and institutions of a society. These values should never be "other than" or "out of the world." The world should be seen through those values. And the contemplative speaks of the incongruity of those values.