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Contemplative Prayer & the 21st Century



The medieval, contemplative tradition for the most part ended with the great 16th century Spanish mystics. The modern period of the 17th and 18th centuries was an age of reason that sought to eliminate mystery. Modern theology kept in step with the rational nature of the period and the contemplative tradition was lost to the modern age. Thomas Merton reintroduced a contemplative theology to the 20th century, but contemplative practices are much more popular today than they were in the mid-twentieth century when Merton was writing. This paper examines what it is about our present 21st century and the end of modernity that is so conducive to the popularity of contemplative prayer, and so conducive to bringing us to a deeper and richer understanding of the Gospel.