Occasions of Faith: An Anthropology of Irish Catholics

Occasions of Faith: An Anthropology of Irish Catholics

Occasions of Faith: An Anthropology of Irish Catholics

Occasions of Faith: An Anthropology of Irish Catholics

Synopsis

Devotional "occasions" or experiences by Irish Catholics form the crux of this powerful, first book-length anthropological study of Irish Catholicism.

Rich in ethnographical material, wide-ranging archival sources, insightful cultural observations, vivid accounts of individual experiences, and thoughtful scrutiny of religious questions and theories illuminate twenty years of ethnographic fieldwork. From these varied resources Lawrence Taylor creates a memorable account of the forces that shape local forms of Catholicism in southwest Donegal.

Excerpt

It was still light when the bus pulled out of Killybegs and headed east over the last range of rugged, stone-scattered, brown hills of southwest Donegal. Before us, gentler, greener lands rolled softly away from the street villages of Dunkineely, Mountcharles, Inver, and Donegal Town. As we turned north into the broader road that leads through Barnesmore Gap and on toward Derry, the women's chatting began to subside. They had been talking, as they would at any social gathering, of family matters. the sky darkened and Fiona, the young woman who had organized the trip, sent word forward that the rosary would now begin. With the smoothness of habit, young and old fished beads from handbags and launched into the first five decades. "Hail Mary full of grace..." rose from the back rows of the bus and then the response "Holy Mary, Mother of God..." resounded from the front. Ten decades, glorious and sorrowful, brought us through the more prosperous looking east Donegal market towns of Ballybofey and Stranorlar, across into the diocese of Derry and, finally, through the gates of Castlefinn parish churchyard.

Our destination was a Healing Mass -- a recent Charismatic Catholic addition to the regional religious scene that had for some time been drawing minibus-loads to its well advertised monthly sessions. It was the first of several such voyages for me. I was the lone stranger and, in fact, the sole male among twenty-odd women, ranging in age from early twenties to mid- sixties. I met the organizer, Fiona, only a few days before. An almost eerily pallid young woman, she had been welcoming enough, but distanced by what seemed a practiced serenity and a self-conscious religiosity. She and her older colleagues, Margaret and Mary -- who wore their new faith more lightly than saintly Fiona -- had made several pilgrimages to Medjugorje, the Bosnian village where the Virgin Mary was believed to appear nightly to a group of teenagers. By their account, they had been transfigured by the experience and had decided to follow "Our Lady's" request that her followers "pray and fast." Accordingly, they had organized a small prayer group, which had been meeting weekly in Margaret's house for more than a year.

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