The Common Good

Two young adults offer a new take on 'new monasticism'

Date: September 10, 2012

Although the term "new monasticism" has been floating around ether of the contemplative world for several decades, it has remained difficult to define.

Catholic incarnations of the new monasticism movement have sprung up since the 1970s in Europe and the United States. Some have come in the form of third-order or lay associates programs in religious communities.

More recently, the term has been adopted by evangelical young adults who embrace a radical commitment to social justice, often living in communities based in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the country. A visit to newmonasticism.org takes one to the virtual base camp of this version of movement, including their fundamental values, their "School of Conversion" and an introduction to their communities across the nations.

It also offers a link to the evangelical new monasticism's highly popular books, including their recent Common Prayer: A liturgy for ordinary radicals. The text is remarkable in that it was produced by young men who grew up in a Christian denomination that is not only allergic to liturgy; it is adverse to any prayer that isn't spontaneous (with the exception of the Lord's Prayer, of course). Tradition seems to be speaking to even the most nontraditional of Christians.

This form of the new monasticism is by far the most visible, thanks in part to the support and promotion they receive from rock star progressive evangelicals like Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo. But true to its evangelical roots, this new monasticism is also rigorously Christian, less oriented toward the mystical qualities of traditional monasticism and, it appears, not inclined to engage with the spirituality of non-Christian contemplatives.