the prophetic irritant, a case study of a new monastic in society

A bit of a long winded title perhaps, but a prophetic irritant seems to describe pretty well the person of Fr Martin Newell, a Catholic priest, and member of the Catholic worker movement.

Uncontent to sit idly by as weapons of mass destruction are developed and built here in the UK, Martin Newell and his friends have – time and time again – demonstrated another way through direct action.

Always non violent, always prophetic, and always at some cost to himself, Fr Martin has a history of direct action demonstrations at military installations. The latest is reported here – he was arrested at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston, where he and two fellow peace campaigners ‘opened the base for disarmament’.

I am full of respect for the commitment shown by this peaceful man, after all, imagine the threat he faces each time gets sent to jail: ‘so you’re a priest eh, I wonder what you’ve been put away for…’

But because it is part of his vocation, he continues to campaign in this way.

I interviewed Martin for my book, excerpts of which I have been publishing here on the blog, and he proved to be an insightful and wise man. But more than anything he stands in a long line of prophetic irritants, one of whom was Dorothy Day and another of whom was Peter Maurin, the founders of the Catholic Worker movement. They, and the movement they founded demonstrate an aspect of new monasticism first modelled by the fore runners of classical monasticism, political dissidents like John The Baptiser and other old school prophets.

We know where politics got John, fortunately for all of us, Martin is unlikely to end up decapitated, but we could all do with heeding his warnings, and ultimately following his lead.


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