What is the contemplative life? How do I know if I am called to it?
A contemplative community is made up of nuns, brothers, or priests who live together in a monastery and normally would stay in that same community for life. Although the community must support itself with some kind of work, life is centered around communal and personal prayer. The work they are involved in is usually carried out within the monastery and helps to financially support the community — for example, some contemplative communities make and sell altar breads, and others may be involved in making the vestments that priests wear during Mass. Generally those in contemplative orders have minimal contact with people outside the monastery so that they can nurture a quiet, prayerful atmosphere in the community. These communities carry out a wonderful ministry in that they offer prayers for the world and people around them in so in many ways they are often quite "touche" with what is happening in the world around them. There are different types and traditions of contemplative orders; e.g., the Benedictines, the Carmelites, and the Franciscan Poor Clares.
At the core of a call from God to be a contemplative is a continuing conversion of the human heart away from following its false gods, to a definitive choice of the one transcendent loving God, renewed an infinite number of times. DETERMINED DETERMINATION must become the seeker's leit motif, because the human heart is a natural idol-making machine. Another necessary quality is intelligence, not great reasoning powers, or a brilliant mind, or a sharp intellect but rather the intelligence of a heart which passionately desires that the living, true God be the one and only center of the heart and its affections. If one seeks to be a contemplative, but is unwilling, or resists daily challenges to conversion of heart, he/she will not only end up as an unhappy, but as an unfulfilled individual. On entering religion, the aspirant is not just entering a building, joining a community, or taking on a life of prayer. Her life-long commitment will be to build on her foundational desire a framework of conversions, which will change a self-centered heart gradually into a loving, listening, liberated, and pure undivided heart ready to be transformed, enlivened, and re-orientated by the Divine Lover. As well, her "intention" for engaging in this journey must be for the good of Christ's Church and the glory of the Blessed Trinity. To complete all the above, normal health, a sense of humor, common sense, and affability will go a long way to ensure that the one called to a contemplative life will be a joy to her community, and live happily not only in this life but for all eternity.