Today is the first Sunday of the month when we share guest posts from people living and teaching the Contemplative and/or Celtic Christian way around the world. One of the beautiful things about the internet is that people doing amazing things in isolated parts of the world can learn from one another and grow together. We hope this article inspires you to dive a little deeper into what it means to follow in the footsteps of our ancestors while looking forward to what kind of world we will leave for our grandchildren.
My name is Fr. Kevin Daugherty. I serve as Abbot of a new religious community called Kindling Fires: A New Monastic Order (www.kindlingfires.org). We are an ecumenical order open to all Christians, but we are also an affiliated ministry of the Convergent Christian Communion. In addition to being Kindling Fires’ Abbot, I serve as an Elder (Priest) and Secretary-Treasurer in our Communion.
Our community was founded in June 2018, so we are just about two years old now. A few months before our official founding, I had approached Bishop Kenny von Folmar about my interest in New Monasticism and my desire to see a New Monastic order. (Bishop Kenny is the CCC’s Presiding Bishop, and the Bishop-Protector of our order.) It did not take long for Bishop Kenny to speak with other council members, and Kindling Fires was officially chartered, and I was appointed to serve as our Abbot.
However, I think before I continue with more information about Kindling Fires, it is important to go back a little and describe a bit about my spiritual journey, since my background contributed to the desire to create our New Monastic community.
I come from a nominal Christian background. I was baptized and was brought to church on major holidays as a child, but I was never catechized, confirmed, or committed to the faith. However, as a young teenager I became interested in religion as a general topic, and in January of 2011, while I was still in high school, I had an intense spiritual experience in which I found myself surrounded by heat and light, and I saw what I believe was the Blessed Virgin Mary and the New Jerusalem.
In that moment I converted.
I sought out a local church and pursued confirmation. It was not long before I felt yet another call, this time to ministry, and I began a journey of pursuing ministry.
My denominational background is very complicated as I am a very catholic person. I was baptized and confirmed Presbyterian, initially ordained by a nondenominational organization, interned with Mennonites, often worshiped with Catholics and Lutherans, and had my ordination regularized within the Independent Sacramental/Catholic Movement.
In the midst of my ecumenical faith journey, I become very interested in monasticism, which was mostly the result of my step-grandmother giving me a copy of the Sayings of the Desert Fathers several years ago. I was very much inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, and I pursued membership within an ecumenical Franciscan order.
However, I never committed to full membership, and I spent time associated with a few Franciscan orders over the next few years. The calling for a religious life of discipleship was there, but something never felt quite right about any of the traditional religious orders.
In my studies of historic monasticism, I found that many of the well-known religious orders around today (e.g. Benedictine, Franciscan, and Augustinian) started out in the middle ages as reform movements within the Church. There were many religious communities before them, but as the life of the Church evolved with time, there was routinely a need to reform yet again.
That is certainly the case with New Monasticism, which seeks to draw the good from the traditional monastic and religious orders but seeks to embrace a more contemporary version of it to meet the needs of the Church today. That is exactly what I felt needed to be done, and why I always felt a bit uncomfortable in the traditional orders.
Where New Monasticism has its start is in Europe in the first half of the 20th century, especially in the context of the two world wars. The churches of Europe were being co-opted by authoritarian ideologies, nationalism, bigotry, greed, and the like. In the wake of this, numerous communities emerged to renew the Church according to the principles of the Sermon on the Mount.
One of the most prominent examples of this is the Taizé Community founded by Brother Roger Schütz. In more recent years, New Monasticism has been popularized by people such as Shane Claiborne.
When I approached Bishop Kenny with this calling two years ago, that is what I wanted to see more of—renewal in the Church according to the principles of the Sermon on the Mount. In addition, New Monasticism (much like the Franciscans) is about being evangelistic.
Instead of being cloistered as St. Benedict advocated for, New Monasticism is rooted in an engaged Christianity that seeks to live out the Gospel in the world in which we live, and it is from that impulse that we got our name. We want to be on fire for Jesus like the Church was at Pentecost, and we want to ignite that spiritual fire in other people.
We do follow a Rule, but it is a simple one. It is primarily based upon the Sermon on the Mount and the Didache (an early Christian catechism). In addition, we make use of the Twelve Marks of New Monasticism. Traditionally, religious orders take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Instead of following the traditional model, in Kindling Fires, we take the following vows:
- Loving God, loving our neighbors, and loving our enemies;
- Working and ministering within the local community in the service of others and those in need;
- Praying without ceasing as our daily office.
These, in my opinion, reflect basic Gospel values that the Church often neglects—love, service, and prayer. The Church often has a tendency to become hateful on the one hand or lazy on the other, but what we need more of is active, healthy loving community. That’s what Kindling Fires is all about.
I serve as Abbot, which is a term that simply means father. It comes from the early desert monastics, but the Bible also uses the term father (abba) for mentors. I do a lot of the administrative work for our community. Bishop Kenny serves as well as Bishop-Protector and as our other co-founder.
In addition, we currently have one other companion (full member), three postulants (candidates for membership), and an oblate (associate member). Here’s a picture of us (that’s me second from the right)
We live a way of life that is rooted in the Gospel, but adaptable to whatever our circumstances are. Our Rule is more so one of general principles rather than strict canon law. We are very much so an open and affirming community. We live in the world and in the our local churches with the mission to be a presence of love, discipleship, prayer, service, and spiritual renewal in a world that is currently suffering from a lot of spiritual apathy and indifference.
O God, kindle within us the flame of Your love, that we may become a burning and a shining light in Your Church; grant that we may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and walk before you as children of light. Amen.
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