Skip to main content

Kindred Spirits

Friendship and Resistance at the Edges of Modern Catholicism

Kindred Spirits

Friendship and Resistance at the Edges of Modern Catholicism

Kindred Spirits takes us inside a remarkable network of Catholic historians, theologians, poets, and activists who pushed against both the far-right surge in interwar Europe and the secularizing tendencies of the leftist movements active in the early to mid-twentieth century. With meticulous attention to the complexity of real lives, Brenna Moore explores how this group sought a middle way anchored in “spiritual friendship”—religiously meaningful friendship understood as uniquely capable of facing social and political challenges.

For this group, spiritual friendship was inseparable from resistance to European xenophobia and nationalism, anti-racist activism in the United States, and solidarity with Muslims during the Algerian War. Friendship, they believed, was a key to both divine and human realms, a means of accessing the transcendent while also engaging with our social and political existence. Some of the figures are still well known—philosopher Jacques Maritain, Nobel Prize laureate Gabriela Mistral, influential Islamicist Louis Massignon, poet of the Harlem renaissance Claude McKay—while others have unjustly faded from memory. Much more than an idealized portrait of a remarkable group of Catholic intellectuals from the past, Kindred Spirits is a compelling exploration of both the beauty and flaws of a vibrant social network worth remembering.


"An incredibly rich, insightful, and nuanced book. It’s intellectual and political history, but also history of spirituality and of Catholic views on family, marriage, and sexuality, that opens a new chapter in the way we understand 20th-century Catholicism."

American Catholic Historical Association

"Kindred Spirits offers a vivid and venturesome alternative to histories of Catholicism in modernity that are white, male, sexless, and European, even as it situates its readings, remarkably, within the same Catholicism: colonial, dominated by men, and recalcitrant on questions of sexuality. Beautiful and rich, this book will speak powerfully to those who wonder how in the world we were connected to one another before the internet, and what forms of intimacy we have lost from ceasing by and large to cultivate them.”

Tracy Fessenden, Arizona State University

“Passionate spiritual relationships have never been treated with the depth of insight, the warmth, or the empathy displayed in Kindred Spirits, a work that is attentive to both the profound joy and the “jealousies and grief” that sometimes “hovered around the edge of these bonds.” Kindred Spirits is also rich in implications for better understanding personal relationships in contemporary spiritual practice.”

James T. Fisher, Fordham University

Kindred Spirits recovers the lost world of ‘spiritual friendships’ that stimulated Catholic intellectual resistance to the horrors of the twentieth-century. It is a brilliant and brave book, beautifully researched, and a model for how to write the history of the emotions and the 'personal' without losing sight of the largest questions.”

Ruth Harris, All Souls' College, Oxford

"Kindred Spirits is a very fine work on 'Spiritual Friendship' in the life and thought of French Catholics in their encounter with the modern world. Moore demonstrates in a series of detailed and well researched studies the creative theological, cultural, and political endeavor of French Catholicism as a significant legacy of the twentieth century. However, Moore clearly signposts the abiding importance of this rich and complex contribution of French Catholicism to our own times and challenges."

Anthony O'Mahony, University of Oxford

Table of Contents

Introduction    Spiritual Friendship as an Alternative Catholic Modernity
Chapter 1        Between Latin America and Europe: Gabriela Mistral and the Maritains
Chapter 2        “Luminous Spiritual Traces” to Islam: The Passionate Friendships of Louis Massignon
Chapter 3        Marie-Magdeleine Davy and the Hermeneutic of Friendship in Resistance to Nazism
Chapter 4        The Intimacy and Resilience of Invisible Friendship: Marie-Magdeleine Davy and Simone Weil
Chapter 5        Friendship and the Black Catholic Internationalism of Claude McKay
Epilogue          Kindred Spirits as Fragments of Modernity



American Catholic Historical Association: John Gilmary Shea Prize

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press