Browse

You are looking at 1 - 10 of 2,263 items for :

  • Refine by access: All content x
Clear All
Abstract only
Brian Heffernan

The conclusion summarises the main findings of this Dutch Discalced Carmelite case study for the use of scholars of the female religious life more widely. It makes eight points: victim spirituality was central to the history of modern women religious and there are non-reductionist ways of analysing this; the public performance of the cloistered life involved an enduring paradox that marked many of its aspects; the conciliar and post-conciliar renewal of the religious life was a project mainly promoted by the clergy; contemplative nuns appropriated renewal and attempted to steer it into ways that reflected their own priorities; reformism and traditionalism, as responses to the challenge of renewal, should be historicised as competing but not dissimilar manifestations of a new, ‘expressive’ concept of the religious life; there was a degree of continuity in the religious life of Carmelites that defied the turn to self and the notion of expressive religion; historical analysis of prayer must be alert to its polysemic nature; and prayer can and must be historicised as performance of self.

in Modern Carmelite nuns and contemplative identities
Prayer and the turn to self, 1970–2020
Brian Heffernan

This chapter explores the outcome of renewal: the construction of a new identity as contemplatives in an expressive culture. Human values such as community spirit and spontaneity were highly esteemed, and the new concept of spirituality was discursive rather than ritual or devotional, requiring narrative expression of experiences and feelings. Life as a Carmelite required the performance of a new persona: that of the mature, free but conscientious religious. The new Carmelite identity pivoted around prayer, and, although many sisters experimented with novel, extemporaneous forms, mental prayer according to a now non-dolorist reading of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross remained core. Discourse about Carmelite prayer focused particularly on an apophatic interpretation of John’s dark night of the soul. This also shows the limits of the turn to self and the expressive revolution for Carmelite life: new acquaintance with John of the Cross gave the sisters a sense of the inadequacy of experience. The reinvention of Carmelite identity and spirituality entailed shifts in memory, as dolorism and victim spirituality were expunged from the new narrative, in line with the ‘othering’ of the traditional in media representations. But legacies of the past continued to obtrude on the present, particularly around the beatification and canonisation of Edith Stein in the 1980s and 1990s. The chapter also looks at the evolving Carmelite presence in society amid the closure of convents, and addresses heritagisation, post-Christian nostalgia and oblivion.

in Modern Carmelite nuns and contemplative identities
Brian Heffernan

Chapter 1 sets the stage for the analysis of discourses of spirituality and identity in the subsequent chapters. It does this, under ‘convents’, by providing an event-based historical overview of Carmelite history, particularly of the foundations of Carmelite convents in the Netherlands from early modern times to the 1950s, and of the complicated process of merging and closing convents from the 1970s onwards as the population of sisters declined. This section gives readers a sense of the geographical spread and chronological waxing and waning of the Carmelite presence in the Netherlands. It also discusses the motives for foundations, including the culture wars as they occurred in Germany and France, and the church politics involved in the order’s slow retreat, from 1970 to 2020. Under ‘sisters’, it looks at the composition of the population itself, with particular regard to nationality and social background, recruitment strategies, vocation narratives and internal stratification between choir nuns, lay sisters and extern sisters. Finally, under ‘power’, it addresses power relations within convents and between the communities, external authorities and other parties. Gender roles are discussed, as well as the models that were proposed to justify or contest power relations. This chapter gives readers all the context they need to understand the rest of the book.

in Modern Carmelite nuns and contemplative identities
Abstract only
Brian Heffernan

The Catholic female religious life burgeoned in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Europe, including the contemplative life. There is a great deal of scholarship on this phenomenon, and the Introduction provides a survey, with particular attention to non-anglophone historiography. The inner, spiritual lives of nuns have been somewhat neglected in the literature, however, despite the centrality of spirituality in sisters’ own experience of the religious life. The Introduction explains why a spiritual history of modern contemplative women is necessary, why Dutch Discalced Carmelite sisters are a good case study for this, and the methodology that has been used for this book, and the sources – including convent chronicles, obituaries (or circulaires) and oral history. Modern Carmelite nuns defined their contemplative identity in different ways over time, shaping their spirituality to adapt to their evolving context.

in Modern Carmelite nuns and contemplative identities
Pain and prayer, 1920–1970
Brian Heffernan

Therese of Lisieux’s ‘little way’ greatly influenced the spiritual lives of Dutch Carmelites after the First World War. Therese was regarded as a powerful miracle worker, but trust in God’s loving mercy and the spiritual childhood she personified were the greater part of the attraction. She provided Carmelite nuns with a new sense of their gendered role as ‘love in the heart of the church’. But the teachings of the Little Flower did not herald the end of the old way: victim spirituality. On the contrary, the rise of totalitarian ideologies, the destructive world wars and the Cold War gave it new depth and purchase. As the chapter shows, victim spirituality seemed a sensible and attractive proposition to twentieth-century Carmelites well into the 1950s, including to intellectually accomplished women such as Edith Stein, who had particular reasons of her own to embrace it. The new interest during the interwar years in Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross offered the prospect of a new way: a supposedly ‘truly Carmelite’ spirituality beyond dolorism. This came to the fore particularly in the 1950s, when discourse about identity began to concentrate on the Carmelites as contemplatives and the focus shifted from pain and penance to prayer. The chapter also looks at media representations of contemplative nuns and the influence that press coverage had on these changes.

in Modern Carmelite nuns and contemplative identities
Abstract only
Suffering and spiritual warfare, 1872–1920
Brian Heffernan

Of the many traditions from which the Carmelite sisters could draw, dolorism, the spirituality of suffering, was dominant in this period. Asceticism was the common heritage of most religious institutes, and it inspired a thousand and one precepts in the Carmelite books of rules and customs, the most striking of which was strict enclosure. But dolorist spirituality went beyond asceticism and the usual practices of fasting and self-abnegation. The accompanying discourse that can be reconstructed from normative sources as well as from sisters’ egodocuments emphasised the meritorious nature of accepting illness and adversity, of voluntary humiliation and the deliberate infliction of pain through mortification of the body. This spirituality of vicarious suffering or victim spirituality interpreted suffering as a sacrifice that was efficacious before God, and that therefore constituted a valuable spiritual good that could be used as a weapon in the culture war. Many sources testify to the appeal that the gendered appropriation of this spiritual tradition had for sisters, an appeal that was differently inflected for sisters of different national backgrounds. The chapter also addresses the paradoxes of the dolorist performance of the cloistered life, as well as the presence of alternative constructions of spirituality, such as mental prayer and various devotions, although these were often themselves infused by dolorism.

in Modern Carmelite nuns and contemplative identities
Shaping spirituality in the Netherlands
Author:

Discalced Carmelite convents are among the most influential wellsprings of female spirituality in the Catholic tradition, as the names of Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux and Edith Stein attest. Behind these ‘great Carmelites’ stood communities of women who developed discourses on their relationship with God and their identity as a spiritual elite in the church and society. This book looks at these discourses as formulated by Carmelites in the Netherlands, from their arrival there in 1872 up to the recent past, providing an in-depth case study of the spiritualities of modern women contemplatives. The female religious life was a transnational phenomenon, and the book draws on sources and scholarship in English, Dutch, French and German to provide insights into gendered spirituality, memory and the post-conciliar renewal of the religious life.

Renewal, 1950–1990
Brian Heffernan

One topic dominated convent life from the 1950s to the 1990s: renewal. It was inspired by a new sense of the importance of fostering mental and physical health, and by a theological recalibration that favoured authenticity and ‘mature faith’, and it was promoted by sections of the clergy, previously the guardians of observance and tradition. Carmelite renewal played out on two levels: the official, worldwide process of revising the constitutions; and local changes within the convent. This chapter looks at the fraught and polarised process of constitutional revision, which resulted in papal approval of two different texts in 1990 and 1991, reflecting conflicting versions of Carmelite renewal, one more traditionalist and the other more reformist. It also analyses the changes that occurred at convent level, showing how protagonists of reform attempted to persuade the sisters of the necessity of change, and how the latter sought to bend reform to suit their own purposes: to find the shape of a contemplative, secluded life of prayer that would be suited to modern times and to the modern ideal of the Christian. The chapter is a study of grassroots appropriation of and resistance to church reform.

in Modern Carmelite nuns and contemplative identities
Peter Lake

This chapter analyses three collections of sermons, preached during the reign of Charles I in 1636/37 in prominent pulpits by Daniel Featley, Griffith Williams, and John Prideaux as powerful statements on the pre-Laudian status quo ante, a version of Jacobean Reformed orthodoxy. Their publication coincided with the renewed prospect of Charles I re-entering the Thirty Years War. If war forced Charles to seek parliamentary supply, then in order to appease parliament a new ecclesiastical establishment might very well be required. Since Williams was very close to his kinsman Bishop John Williams, who had been positioning himself as the moderate Calvinist alternative to Laud since the late 1620s, and Featley had been George Abbot’s chaplain and a long-standing adversary of Arminianism, and Prideaux was the Regius Professor of Divinity and Rector of Exeter College, Oxford, their three volumes of sermons can be read as advertisements for what such an establishment might look like. All three were explicitly anti-Catholic, apologists for iure divino episcopacy and the Prayer Book, and employed the hypothetical universalist position on predestination to oppose what they termed Pelagian or Arminian error. They were also resolutely anti-puritan, although on terms very different from those espoused by the Laudians. Aggressively conformist, all three nevertheless distanced themselves from the Laudian ideal of the beauty of holiness. These massive tomes thus represent a detailed evocation of what had passed for Reformed orthodoxy under James I, an account now rendered newly relevant by the shifting political circumstances of the later 1630s.

in Reformed identity and conformity in England, 1559–1714
Alice J. Soulieux-Evans

This chapter examines the attitude of Reformed churchmen – both conformist and puritan – towards cathedrals during the reign of Elizabeth. Although various historians, following Patrick Collinson, have demonstrated the strength of a Reformed position on episcopacy in this period, there has been little interest in Reformed engagement with cathedrals. Current scholarship on Elizabethan cathedrals, although highlighting a Protestant cathedral ideal, unwittingly propagates an older view of religious identity, which pits conformist churchmen against puritan opponents. This chapter approaches these Elizabethan debates through a specifically Reformed lens in order to nuance this conformist/puritan dichotomy and demonstrate the Reformed paradigm in which these debates took place. While acknowledging differences, this chapter focuses on this shared Reformed tradition to draw out similarities between conformist churchmen and their puritan counterparts in their engagement with cathedrals; and how such similarities arose from shared Reformed priorities: the centrality of preaching and teaching, godly church government, and a learned ministry. Using John Whitgift’s contributions to the Elizabethan Admonition Controversy in the 1570s as a starting point, it explores how his arguments in defence of cathedrals permeated English Reformed culture more broadly, including in puritan petitions to parliament in the mid-1580s.

in Reformed identity and conformity in England, 1559–1714