“Contemplative in action” is an Ignatian buzzword. It’s a coolly ironic label for the way Ignatian spirituality straddles the worlds of prayer and action. But what does it mean, really? Here’s a great explanation from William Barry, in his book A Friendship Like No Other:
This Ignatian notion can be understood as analogous to the kind of friendship that develops over a long time between two people. They are aware of each other even when they are apart or not engaging directly with each other. Although they may not be talking, at some deep level they are in touch with each other. Ignatius’s contemplative in action has such a relationship with God. Engaging closely with God over time, we allow the Spirit to transform us into people who are more like the images of God we are created to be—that is, more like Jesus, who was clearly a contemplative in action.