Asceticism in Modern Times

Challenging Monastic Pillars in a New Twenty-first-century Catholic Monastery


  • Stefania Palmisano University of Turin



Catholicism, Asceticism, New Monasticism, Invention of Tradition


In this paper I examine how ascetic practices – consubstantial with monastic life of every kind and in every age – have been reinterpreted in the context of New Monasticism, a phenomenon which emerged at the end of the 1970s at the heart of contemporary Catholic monasticism. Starting from empirical research carried out in the most important Italian neo-monastic community, I aim to show how, in its efforts to respond to accusations of “being out of date” and “trivial” which have been levelled at contemporary monasticism, this community has become the interpreter of a process of “invention of monastic tradition” which restores a particular reinterpretation of the grammar of monastic asceticism. An analysis of these changes allows us to throw light on a transformed religious universe in which if, on one hand, traditional concepts of Catholic doctrine have been emptied of their original meanings, on the other they are taking on new ones, sometimes far from, or out of tune with, orthodox guidelines.


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Author Biography

Stefania Palmisano, University of Turin

Stefania Palmisano is Lecturer in the Sociology of Organization at the University of Turin, Italy, where she teaches the Sociology of Religious Organizations. She is Visiting Research Fellow, Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion in Lancaster University (UK). She also has been Visiting Research Fellow at the Department of Sociology in Boston University (USA). At the moment she is doing research on new monasticism and its relationship with monastic tradition. She is also editing a book in Italian on the study of relations between religion and economics. Recent publications include: Ambiguous Legitimation: Grassroots Roman Catholic Communities in Italy and Ecclesiastical Hierarchies (Temenos. Nordic Journal of Comparative Religion); New Monastic Organizations. Innovation, Recognition, Legitimation (Journal for the Study of New Religions); Catholicism and Spirituality in Italy, (Journal of Contemporary Religion).


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How to Cite

Palmisano, S. (2015). Asceticism in Modern Times: Challenging Monastic Pillars in a New Twenty-first-century Catholic Monastery. Fieldwork in Religion, 9(2), 202–223.




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