From their monastic prehistory in the Egyptian desert, through their political heyday in Medieval and Renaissance Europe, to their present-day work of education, human care, and the pursuit of social betterment, the Catholic religious orders have been a driving force in Western civilization.
In The Lord as Their Portion Elizabeth Rapley paints a broad portrait of the Roman Catholic religious orders spanning their vast and varied history.
Rapley shows how religious orders led the way in learning and inventiveness throughout the early periods of Western civilization, explores how religious orders contributed to Western politics and the global spread of Christianity; examines the ways in which religious orders have championed the poor, marginalized, and disenfranchised throughout history; and, lastly gives attention the ongoing work of religious orders today.
More than simply highlighting the sweeping progress of monasticism's past and present, however, Rapley also takes time to share, in a clear and engaging fashion, the fascinating stories of many of the men and women who chose to take "the Lord as their portion" - and whose piety, devotion, and energetic pursuit of a holy life profoundly shaped the course of world and ecclesiastical history.
From St. Francis to Mother Teresa, from the caves of the Egyptian wilderness to Europe's majestic cloisters and beyond, the church has long been blessed and built up by those who single-mindedly sought after the things of God.
Aside from a few high-profile instances, nuns and monks today serve their church with heroic anonymity -- and, indeed, in many cases, their future is uncertain. Yet their past is undeniable. The religious orders throughout Christian history have been the strong right arm of the Catholic Church and a major force in the maturing of Western civilization.
Elizabeth Rapley beautifully tells their story in The Lord as Their Portion. Rapley has fit the sprawling history of the religious orders -- some seventeen centuries -- into a lively, accessible volume perfect for curious readers. Much more, though, than just a sweeping survey of the highlights (and lowlights) of monasticism past and present, this book also recounts the lives of many of the individual men and women who chose to take "the Lord as their portion" -- and whose piety, devotion, and energetic pursuit of a holy life have profoundly shaped the course of history.
Elizabeth Rapley is adjunct professor of history at theUniversity of Ottawa. Her books include TheDévotes: Women and Church in Seventeenth-CenturyFrance and A Social History of the Cloister: DailyLife in the Teaching Monasteries of the Old Regime.
Life under a religious rule has been a hallmark of the Catholic tradition for millennia. Elizabeth Rapley shows how these rules of life have given shape to a plethora of religious orders and why those orders are crucial for understanding the history of Christianity. Her overview of this way of life, ranging from the fourth-century desert ascetics to the missionary orders of men and women in the modern period, is a carefully researched and highly readable work.”
Lawrence S. Cunningham
University of Notre Dame
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