The contemplative ideal of dying to the world
in English Benedictine nuns in exile in the seventeenth century
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Through the textual analysis of clerical prescriptive writings and of the notes compiled by the nuns themselves, this chapter examines the contemplative ideal and the idea of social death at its very core. By dedicating themselves to the monastic life, encosed and in exile, postulants embraced a lifestyle that required great determination to die to the world, to others and to themselves, in order to exist for and in Christ only. The manuscripts of their spiritual guides, their superiors, and the few personal notes left by the nuns themselves show how these ideals form the infrastructure of religious life; spiritual progress appeared impossible without absolute abandonment and self-denial.


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