Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
David Van Heemst
R. Curt Rice
Scholarship of Discovery
In April of 1208, Francis of Assisi came to Rome with a handful of his followers, seeking papal permission to found a new religious order. Innocent III had other issues on his mind at the time. But tradition holds that a dream changed the pope’s mind, and he gave his qualified approval to the order of the Friars Minor that day. His gamble was vindicated by history. Twenty years later, Francis of Assisi was canonized, beloved by all Christendom as the founder of the Franciscan mendicant order. His order and others like it constituted a revolutionary departure from traditional monasticism.
Today, St. Francis’ life and example has found a new champion within the American Protestant tradition. Promoters of the popular “new monasticism” movement have often invoked St. Francis and his friars specifically as a guiding historical example for what they seek to accomplish. This young movement, consisting of small groups engaging in communal living and radical activism across the country, has begun to consciously rehabilitate the practice of monasticism within the evangelical Protestant fold. Their efforts and vision, as articulated by movement leaders like Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson, have received a great deal of attention and admiration from the mainstream Christian public, along with significant criticism.
In this project, I aim to assess the possibilities, limitations, character, and meaning of the new monastic movement through a historical comparison with the 13th century mendicant movement. The similarities between the two movements are many, and the leaders of the new monastic movement are consciously aware of these similarities and interested in modeling themselves further on the example of the St. Francis and his counterparts. My study will seek to assess the historical reality of the comparison and its implications for the young new monastic movement.
Kennedy, Kimberly C., ""God's Recurring Dream:" Assessing the New Monastic Movement through a Historical Comparison" (2012). M.A. in Philosophy of History Theses. 3.