WOMEN OF THE STREETS: EARLY FRANCISCAN WOMEN AND THEIR MENDICANT VOCATION, Dr. Darleen Pryds PhD, Associate Professor of Christian Spirituality, Franciscan School of Theology, Berkeley and San Diego, California
Women in Holy Scripture and in the life of the Church have received short shrift in both the identification of their lives and roles until the late 1970s, when women scholars, primarily but not only Protestant, began to shift this ground dramatically. Diminishment has moved to serious exposition. Joining these scholars is Dr. Pryds, a Roman Catholic lay person with her “tract,” Women of the Streets: Early Franciscan Women and Their Mendicant Vocation, now in the Renouf/Nelson Library at St. Philip’s. Dr. Pryds adds four women to the medieval pantheon of Joans, Hildegaards, and Teresas with four Franciscan mendicant women, all called forcefully by the Holy Spirit to witness to Jesus and preach literally in the streets of Italy. Unlike Clare, the Franciscan woman, who chose the cloister, the four stories of the mendicants has them very much in the world. “These stories reveal how lay women gained a kind of religious education through their informal affiliations with the friars that in turn allowed them to attain significant roles of influence and leadership in their communities” (preface). However, Pryds also notes that it wasn’t always smooth sailing for these four, as the resistance was formidable because of gender and class in many places in the Catholic Church. There was Rose of Viterbi (street preacher) who only lived 18 years. She preached to all who listened and “she posited the supremacy of divine authority against human power of the emperor and his local minions who governed the city of Viterbo” (p. 8). Angela of Foligno in the 13th century went through a midlife crisis and discarded her life and all accoutrements and attachments to lead the mendicant life. Margaret of Cortona—The Poverella baptized, performed public acts of penitence, and counseled Franciscan Friars. And finally, Sancia, Queen of Naples, used her royal office “to shape religious life in her kingdom” (p. 74). Dr. Pryds documents her work with original sources. A fine short read. St. Philip’s is also fortunate to have Dr. Pryds serving in an advisory capacity to our Library Committee.
—The Rev. Paul Buckwalter