The question is often asked: ‘do we need contemplative monastics in the modern age?’ Merton was the prime example of the perfect answer to such a question: without contemplation, Merton’s activism would have atrophied and his stance on peace and non-violence would have lost the spiritual pillars that supported it.
The renowned Protestant theologian Jurgen Moltmann made this astute observation:
Christian responsibility for the world requires an ethics for changing the world, based on the righteousness and peace which we believe in and try to live, in the discipleship of Christ. For that reason Catholic worldwide Christianity needs the Christianity of the monastic orders, and Protestant Christianity needs the historical peace churches as orientation for the far-off goal from which the immediate goals must take their direction. Without the great alternative, small steps in the direction of more justice and righteousness and more peace in the world will have no orientation, and will lose hope; but without practical changes in the world the great alternative will become irrelevant. (Jurgen Moltmann, 2012: Ethics of Hope).
I would add that the Protestant contemplative tradition also needs to be reinvigorated, working hand-in-hand with their Catholic brothers and sisters. The Merton Fellowship in Ireland is a good start at doing just that. So whatever your background, please consider joining us!