Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Religious Orders of the Catholic Reformation. in Honor of John C. Olin on His Seventy-Fifth Birthday

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Religious Orders of the Catholic Reformation. in Honor of John C. Olin on His Seventy-Fifth Birthday

Article excerpt

Religious Orders of the Catholic Reformation. In Honor of John C. Olin on His Seventy-Fifth Birthday. Edited by Richard L. DeMolen. (New York: Fordham University Press. 1994. Pp. xxii, 290; 12 illustrations. $30.00.)

This Festschrift in honor of John Olin provides a solid collection of basic information on religious congregations in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Both the well-known orders (like the Society of Jesus and the Ursulines) and the lesser-known (like the Piarists and the Visitation sisters) are covered. Although little new historical ground is broken, there are suggestions for future research and excellent bibliographies that help qualify this volume as a substantial contribution to the history of early-modern Catholicism.

As in most volumes of collected essays, those presented here are not uniform in quality. Elisabeth Gleason's contribution on the Capuchins is itself uneven. At times, her analysis disintegrates into pious retelling of secondary sources, while elsewhere she renders questionable negative judgments about the group. She asserts that the initial Capuchin rules leave modern readers "wondering whether their purpose was to virtually prevent...a cheerful life," but she also says that a "fruitful tension between action and contemplation shaped each friar's existence," and all in a rather short span of pages (41-45). Other essays are far better, such as those by John O'Malley on the Jesuits and by Paul Grendler on the Piarists. These give developed information on the apostolates chosen by the two orders, their unique contribution to that defining feature of post-Tridentine mentality: the desire to do something--anything--at the service of God through others.

Better still are the essays of Patrick Donnelly on the Oratorians, Wendy Wright on the Visitation sisters, Richard DeMolen on the Barnabites, and Charmarie Blaisdell on the Ursulines. These contain ashes of creative reconsideration of the era. Donnelly shows that Philip Neri might have fallen into disfavor with infamously repressive popes like Paul IV and Pius V--he was, after all, a cleric whose delight in practical jokes those moralizers disdained was equally infamous--but their actions failed to end his pranks. …

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