Becoming a New SelfPractices of Belief in Early Modern Catholicism

Becoming a New SelfPractices of Belief in Early Modern Catholicism

Moshe Sluhovsky

Print publication date: 2018

ISBN: 9780226472850

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


Early Christian monastic spiritual practices of self-formation became increasingly popular in late medieval and early modern Catholicism. Now, for the first time in the history of Christian spirituality, religious orders, first and foremost among them Franciscans and Jesuits, trained devout people, men and women, lay and religious, in practices of meditation, introspection, and subjectivization. Thousands, if not ten of thousands of lay people now acquired techniques of self examination that enabled them to pursue life goals and transform themselves. The book examines four of the major spiritual practices of the period, traces their history, diffusion, and the challenges they presented to clerical authority. Spiritual direction and general confession, two of the practices of self-formation discussed in the book, served as safety belts to guarantee that practitioners remained subjected to the teachings of the church. But spiritual exercises, general examination of conscience, and general confession supplied practitioners with techniques of self-construction and self -affirmation. Using insights from Michel Foucault's later work on practices of truth-telling and subjectivization, the book proposes the first systematic investigation of the complexity of subjectivization in early modern Catholicism as both a mechanism of self-formation and of subjugation