The Lord as Their Portion: The Story of the Religious Orders and How They Shaped Our World

The Lord as Their Portion: The Story of the Religious Orders and How They Shaped Our World

The Lord as Their Portion: The Story of the Religious Orders and How They Shaped Our World

The Lord as Their Portion: The Story of the Religious Orders and How They Shaped Our World

Synopsis

From St. Francis to Mother Teresa, from the caves of the Egyptian wilderness to Europe's majestic cloisters and beyond, the church has long been blessed and built up by those who single-mindedly sought after the things of God.

Aside from a few high-profile instances, nuns and monks today serve their church with heroic anonymity -- and, indeed, in many cases, their future is uncertain. Yet their past is undeniable. The religious orders throughout Christian history have been the strong right arm of the Catholic Church and a major force in the maturing of Western civilization.

Elizabeth Rapley beautifully tells their story in The Lord as Their Portion. Rapley has fit the sprawling history of the religious orders -- some seventeen centuries -- into a lively, accessible volume perfect for curious readers. Much more, though, than just a sweeping survey of the highlights (and lowlights) of monasticism past and present, this book also recounts the lives of many of the individual men and women who chose to take "the Lord as their portion" -- and whose piety, devotion, and energetic pursuit of a holy life have profoundly shaped the course of history.

Excerpt

“Lord, what about us? We have left everything and followed you.”

This book is for those people for whom monks and nuns are only a distant memory, or who have never known them at all. This means not only Protestants, non-Christians, and agnostics, but also many, many Catholics. the times have changed at lightning speed, and the recent past seems terribly long ago. the generations born since Vatican ii in the 1960s may never have so much as laid eyes on a nun, or a monk, or a friar. Their parents and grandparents harbor memories that may vary, depending on whether Sister Martha strapped a mean strap, or hugged you when you hurt yourself, or taught you to love Shakespeare; whether Brother Philip was the gaunt, scary person who appeared once a year to preach hellfire, or the young redheaded guy who hitched up his robes and played football with you in the school yard. Our memories are all over the place. But whatever the case, those people belong in the past; they appear to us as anachronisms in our twenty-first-century world. in an era that is called post-Christian, many religious orders appear to be passing into oblivion.

This is all the more reason to spend a little time calling them to mind. Their diminished visibility here and now may lead us to underestimate the vital part they played in the building of the world we live in. That would be a mistake. After the collapse of the Roman Empire and throughout the violent centuries that followed, it was monks who kept the memory of Christianity alive. When, inch by inch, western Europe emerged from its Dark Ages, much of its developing dynamism came from them. There was noth-

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