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Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

From the Center for Action and Contemplation

Image credit: The Angelus (detail), Jean-François Millet, 1857–1859, Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France.


Week One


Action and Contemplation:
Part One




Sacred Silence
Thursday, January 9, 2020


Most of us who live in a capitalist culture, where everything is about competing and comparing, will find contemplation extremely counterintuitive. How do we grasp something as empty, as harmless, as seemingly fruitless as the practice of silence? Only when we know that it also offers a “peace beyond understanding” (Philippians 4:7) and a “joy that no one can take from you” (John 16:22).

Silence needs to be understood in a larger way than simply a lack of audible noise. Whenever emptiness—what seems like empty space or absence of sound—becomes its own kind of fullness with its own kind of sweet voice, we have just experienced sacred silence.

When religious folks limit their focus in prayer to external technique and formula, the soul remains largely untouched and unchanged. Too much emphasis on what I call “social prayer” or wordy prayer feeds our egos and gives us far too much to argue about. That is surely why Jesus emphasized quiet prayer in one’s own “inner room” and warned us not to “babble on as the pagans do” (Matthew 6:5-7). Oh, the years we Catholics and others have wasted arguing about liturgy in a juridical way! For me, law and liturgy are two different realms. How can we truly pray when we are preoccupied with formula and perfection of technique?

If we can see silence as the ground of all words and the birth of all words, then when we speak, our words will be calmer and well-chosen. Our thoughts will be non-judgmental. Our actions will have greater integrity and impact.

When we recognize something as beautiful, that knowledge partly emerges from the silence around it. It may be why we are quiet in art galleries and symphony halls. If something is not surrounded by the vastness of silence and space, it is hard to appreciate it as singular and beautiful. If it is all mixed in with everything else, then its particularity does not stand out.

As one author I read years ago said, silence is the net below the tightrope walker. [1] We are walking, trying to find the right words to explain our experience and the right actions to match our values. Silence is that safety net that allows us to fall; it admits, as poets often do, that no words or deeds will ever be perfectly right or sufficient. So the poet keeps trying, for which we are grateful! The great spaciousness and safety net beneath a tightrope walker is silence; it offers freedom from self-preoccupation and the fear of making a mistake. A regular practice of contemplation helps us trust that silence will uphold us, receive our mistakes, and give us the courage to learn and grow.


Gateway to Action & Contemplation:
What word or phrase resonates with or challenges me? What sensations do I notice in my body? What is mine to do?

Prayer for Our Community:
O Great Love, thank you for living and loving in us and through us. May all that we do flow from our deep connection with you and all beings. Help us become a community that vulnerably shares each other’s burdens and the weight of glory. Listen to our hearts’ longings for the healing of our world. [Please add your own intentions.] . . . Knowing you are hearing us better than we are speaking, we offer these prayers in all the holy names of God, amen.

Listen to Fr. Richard read the prayer.



[1] Max Picard, The World of Silence, trans. Stanley Godman (H. Regnery: 1964, ©1952), 22.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation(Franciscan Media: 2014), 7-9.

Image credit: The Angelus (detail), Jean-François Millet, 1857–1859, Musee d’Orsay, Paris, France.




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News from the CAC


The Franciscan Way Online Course

Financial assistance is available!
Explore Richard Rohr’s teachings on St. Francis of Assisi with a passionate and diverse group of online learners, February 5-March 24, 2020. Applications for financial assistance are due January 22.


CONSPIRE 2020 Online

CONSPIRE 2020 unites Richard Rohr’s seven themes of alternative orthodoxy into a way of life rooted in radical openness to God’s loving presence. Join us for the live webcast or the replay. Learn more at




Action & Contemplation


2020 Daily Meditations Theme

What does God ask of us? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. —Micah 6:8

Franciscan Richard Rohr founded the Center for Action and Contemplation in 1987 because he saw a deep need for the integration of both action and contemplation. If we pray but don’t act justly, our faith won’t bear fruit. And without contemplation, activists burn out and even well-intended actions can cause more harm than good. In today’s religious, environmental, and political climate our compassionate engagement is urgent and vital.


In this year’s Daily Meditations, Father Richard helps us learn the dance of action and contemplation. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time! Click the video to learn more about the theme and to find reflections you may have missed.



An image of Richard Rohr speaking in his chair about the 2020 Daily Meditation Theme. The image links to a video.


Click here to learn about contemplative prayer and other forms of meditation. For frequently asked questions—such as what versions of the Bible Father Richard recommends or how to ensure you receive every meditation—please see our email FAQ. Visit to explore other ways to connect with the Center for Action and Contemplation.




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Inspiration for this week’s banner image: We tend to presume that one must create silent spaces for contemplation. It is as if we have drawn the spiritual veil around contemplative activity, seeking to distance prayerful and reflective practices from the noise of the world. —Barbara Holmes


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