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Old Modern Devotion Article
An article titled Modern Devotion was merged into this article. The old article is below.
The Catholic Church went through great changes and turmoil in the fourteenth century, not the least of which was the growing conflict over what form of piety was acceptable. The dominant form of piety emerged from the Middle Ages and was based on monastic tradition (Hause and Maltby, p. 351). This form of piety considered priests to be intermediaries between the physical world of man and the spiritual otherworld of God (Hause and Maltby 351). The intermediations occurred primarily through the Eucharist and prayers of intercession (Hause and Maltby 351). The priests held enormous power in this monastic tradition. These powers were often abused. Abuses took place in the payment of indulgences, masses for the dead and pilgrimages. Indulgences and prayers for the dead all cost a price. The more one paid for an indulgence, the less time one would spend in purgatory. Indulgences could also be bought for sins not yet committed. Prayers for the dead also worked in a similar way. The more prayers that were offered, the less time the person prayed for would spend in purgatory. The relationship between the God and his people became one of contractualism (Hause and Maltby 351). In other words, people only dealt with God to make deals with Him for special favors, which the Catholic pietists and the Churchmen in general considered a too pagan approach.
Many in the Catholic Church rejected the traditional, monastic form of piety and wanted one which was based on a close, personal relationship with God. These men and women wanted a relationship with God based on personal spirituality, not contractualism. The first such movement to emphasize a personal relationship with God was (medieval) mysticism (Hause and Maltby, p. 352). Mysticism is the effort to achieve spiritual union with God through ecstatic contemplation (Hause and Maltby, p. 352). Mystics spent years meditating and learning ways to achieve closeness with God. Very few were able to achieve this with any consistency. Mysticism was essentially a very private matter. Only the relationship between God and the devotee mattered. Mysticism inflenced a much more powerful, corporate movement called the Modern Devotion. This movement was founded by Geert Groote, a well educated secular canon and deacon. Groote sought to "teach people, especially lay people, how to find God, not through scholastic arguments - which by this point had became fruitless and perilous through the obscurity of Nominalism - but through trust in God. This simple way to God went through the humanity of Jesus Christ, emphasizing the incarnation and passion of the Son of God."
Groote set out to do this by organizing a community of religious women in Deventer, the Netherlands. The Sisters of the Common Life as they were known were not nuns but laywomen like beguines. Florens Radewijns, a disciple of Groote, organized a comparable group of religious men called the Brethren of the Common Life. Radewijns also founded a monastic order called the Augustinian Canons of the Windesheim Congregation. The orders were based on spiritual practices of "small penances, frequent examinations of conscience and meditation using imagination, will and intellect." They were also highly critical of the established clergy within the Catholic church and "emphasized charitable works, private devotion, and its own form of education." Education played a key role in the modern devotion. The orders were forbidden to beg or ask for charity from others to support themselves, so they started to support themselves by copying books and through education. The emphasis on education resulted in the opening of educational institutions by the orders.
Modern Devotion attracted many members to its principles. The movement spread throughout the Low Countries and western Germany (Hause and Maltby 352). The movement called for living as the Apostles and the first Christians in the early Church did. It emphasized living as Christ did and imitating his acts and deeds. The book The Imitation of Christ , written by Thomas a Kempis, a Brother of the Common Life, outlines the concepts of the Modern Devotion, based on personal connection to God and the active showing of love towards Him, e.g. in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar or at Mass. The book is still widely read and highly influential. The basic tenets of the followers of the modern devotion can be summarized as the "love of God and neighbor as well as humility, simplicity and devotion."
This movement has been referenced in the name of a Colorado rock band, Modern Devotion.
--Eleazar 14:40, 16 February 2007 (UTC)