Speaking boldly, looking intently: models of monastic and scriptural friendship

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With the wealth of discussions on marriage, religious life, and singlehood, spiritual friendship is an oft-neglected topic, yet one that offers rich meaning and sustenance over a lifetime. This presentation surveys evolving traditions of friendship over the first millennium of Christian monasticism to enhance our current understanding of both personal and public life. I will focus on reading a foundational scriptural text, namely, the early Christian community described in the Book of Acts, to explore the use of speaking and listening in friendships. For that purpose, I will refer specifically to Foucault's study of Greek democracy and Epicurean philosophy, Fearless Speech: Parrhesiastes Lectures, as well as early cenobitic application of Roman (Ciceronian) models of friendship. As a contrast, I will also consider the cautions against certain kinds of friendship in the early tradition of eremitic monasticism. My purpose is to illustrate both the perimeters and parameters of monastic friendship, so as to demonstrate the resources of "bold speech" (parrhesia) and spiritual counseling, while also attending to the limitations of exclusivism or manipulation. To that end, this study will also develop a theoretical exegesis of the Lucan "look," or the way in which the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts narrates the way that human agents regard one another. This topic also returns us to the origins of Benedictine monasticism, as the Rule of Benedict places a crucial emphasis on intentio cordis, or the "regard of the heart," both in private prayer and in community life.


The slides for this presentation are not available.