Franciscan Spirituality and Mission in New Spain, 1524-1599: Conflict Beneath the Sycamore Tree (Luke 19:1-10), 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Franciscan Spirituality and Mission in New Spain, 1524-1599

Conflict Beneath the Sycamore Tree (Luke 19:1-10), 1st Edition

By Steven E. Turley


214 pages

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Franciscans in sixteenth-century New Spain were deeply ambivalent about their mission work. Fray Juan de Zumárraga, the first archbishop of Mexico, begged the king to find someone else to do his job so that he could go home. Fray Juan de Ribas, one of the original twelve 'apostles of Mexico' and a founding pillar of the church in New Spain, later fled with eleven other friars into the wilderness to escape the demands of building that church. Fray Jerónimo de Mendieta, having returned from an important preaching tour in New Spain, wrote to his superior that he did not want to enlist again, and that the only way he would return to the mission field was if God dragged him by the hair. This discontent was widespread, grew stronger with time, and carried important consequences for the friars' interactions with indigenous peoples, their Catholic co-laborers, and colonial society at large. This book examines that discontent and seeks to explain why the exhilaration of joining such a 'glorious' enterprise so often gave way to grinding discontent. The core argument is that, despite St. Francis's own longing to do mission work, his followers in New Spain found that effective evangelization in a frontier context was fundamentally incompatible with their core spirituality. Bringing together two streams of historiography that have rarely overlapped - spirituality and missions - this book marks a strong contribution to the history of spirituality in both Latin America and Europe, as well as to the growing fields of transatlantic and world history.


''Franciscan Spirituality's strengths lie in its explication of the transformation of the Franciscan Order in the Americas in the sixteenth century, its focus on the tension between spirituality and mission, and its ability to migrate between two scales of analysis: the history of individual Franciscans and the history of the order. Turley makes good use of Pierre Bourdieu's notion of habitus to assist his approach. This conceptual framework and the coherence and consistency of these three themes make the book a concise and original contribution to the history of the Franciscan order.' Sixteenth Century Journal ’Turley provides a well-written account that demonstrates the impact missionary work had on the spiritual life of the Franciscans. Employing well-known sources and events in new ways to expose diversity and conflict, Turley’s work encourages readers to consider the impacts of evangelization beyond the natives to include the Franciscans charged with their conversion.’ American Historical Review 'Franciscan Spirituality and Mission in New Spain contributes a vital facet to the study of Franciscan missionaries in early colonial Mexico, and presents an essential chapter in the global history of the Franciscan order. Turley’s insightful and well-researched study provides valuable insight into the spiritual conflicts that framed the Franciscan attitudes toward the mission enterprise. As a study of how Franciscan spirituality influenced mission politics at both a colonial and imperial level, it will be of particular interest to scholars of sixteenth-century Mexico, early modern missions, and Franciscan history.' Renaissance Quarterly

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Medieval precedents of missionary spirituality, 1209-1523; The eremitic ideal of the mission pioneers, 1524-1548; The difficult reality of the mission practitioners, 1524-1548; Flight and fight in the missionary Church, 1549-1574; Eremitic retreat and a new missiology in the Church, 1549-1574; Crisis and renewal in the maturing Church, 1574-1599; Peninsular repercussions of the mission enterprise; Conclusions; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Steven E. Turley has served as a lecturer in History at Rice University and as an adjunct assistant professor of History at Fuller Theological Seminary - Texas. He is currently a graduate and faculty chaplain at Rice University. His next research project will extend the analysis of the present book, to examine the ways in which Franciscan mission work and spirituality continued to interact and evolve as they moved into the northern territories of Mexico.

About the Series

Catholic Christendom, 1300-1700

Catholic Christendom, 1300-1700
Catholic Christendom, 1300-1700 addresses all varieties of religious behaviour extending beyond traditional institutional and doctrinal church history. It is interdisciplinary, comparative and global, as well as non-confessional. It understands religion, primarily of the 'Catholic' variety, as a broadly human phenomenon, rather than as a privileged mode of access to superhuman realms. Catholic Christendom, 1300-1700 will appeal to academics and students interested in the history of late medieval and early modern western Christianity in global context. The series embraces any and all expressions of traditional religion, books in it will take many approaches, among them literary history, art history, and the history of science, and above all, interdisciplinary combinations of them.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Modern / 17th Century
RELIGION / History