In the early centuries of the Church, many Christians were led to the desert by the Spirit in imitation of Christ. There, in SILENCE and SOLITUDE, they found an ideal setting for their life of prayer. Today these conditions are provided by monasteries, especially those where papal enclosure ensures an effective separation from the world. If, however, contemplatives are separated from all, it is order to be more spiritually present and united to all: solitude with God is for them the means of solidarity with their contemporaries. The Church and the popes have often stressed this hidden apostolic fruitfulness of the contemplative life:

To leave the world in order to devote oneself in solitude to deeper and constant prayer is . . . a special way . . . of being an apostle. It would be an error to consider cloistered nuns as creatures separated from their contemporaries, isolated, and as if cut off from the world and the Church. Rather they are present to them in a deeper way, in the heart of Christ (John Paul II, May 13, 1983). The monastery is the prophetic place where creation becomes praise of God and the precept of concretely lived charity becomes the ideal of human coexistence; it is where the human being seeks God without limitation or impediment, becoming a reference point for all people, bearing them in his heart and helping them to seek God (May 2, 1995). As an expression of pure love, which is worth more than any work, the contemplative life generates an extraordinary apostolic and missionary effectiveness (March 25, 1996).