A way of living especially adapted to induce and facilitate contemplation.
Based on the preeminent Christian duty of seeking to increase one's knowledge and love of God, contemplation is in itself the noblest occupation that may engage man's faculties, and has been held in veneration since the early Christian Fathers retired to the desert in imitation of Christ.
The contemplative seeks that union with God which is to reach perfection in the life to come.
To this end he strives to prepare his soul by the exercise of Christian virtues, by estrangement from the world, profession of vows contrary to the worldly spirit, silence as an aid to converse with God, and by self-mortification.
His investigation of Divine things necessitates the study of history and science, in short, of whatsoever bears witness to the development of the Divine plan.
His great function is, of course, worship, and in community this sacred duty is performed in a public, official way by the recitation of Divine Office.
Moreover, the second great commandment, love of our neighbor for God's sake, is fulfilled by contemplatives by means of prayer for suffering humanity, and by penance as an atonement for sinners.
Those who practise this twofold ministry have greater merit, theoretically, than those in active orders, but the individual vocation must in all cases be considered.
Undoubtedly the contemplative life presupposes a remarkable vocation.
New Catholic Dictionary