Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Holy Tears, Holy Blood: Women, Catholicism, and the Culture of Suffering in France, 1840-1909

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Holy Tears, Holy Blood: Women, Catholicism, and the Culture of Suffering in France, 1840-1909

Article excerpt

Holy Tears, Holy Blood: Women, Catholicism, and the Culture of Suffering in France, 1840-1909. By Richard D. E. Burton. (Ithaca, NewYork: Cornell University Press. 2004. Pp. xxviii, 291. $45.00.)

Richard Burton's haunting study of the religious sensibilities of eleven French women makes an original contribution to the history of modern France. Many of these women-Thérèse de Lisieux, Raïssa Maritain, Claire Ferchaud, Simone Weil, and Camille Claudel-are well known figures in the world of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The others-Mélanie Calvat and Colette Peignot, for example-are less so. In a period during which the state and civil society became increasingly secularized and the Catholic Church increasingly "feminized," Burton seeks to understand the emergence of a distinctive kind of female religiosity, characterized by a conscious embrace of both suffering and sacrifice, which reflected the Catholic doctrine of "vicarious suffering." It should be emphasized, as Burton himself does, that these women are not representative of French Catholic women as a whole. Indeed, the majority of women lived ordinary lives and those who entered religious life joined active religious orders and were congréganistes, not nuns in cloistered orders, like Mélanie Calvat or Thérèse Martin. In this sense it is difficult to claim, as Burton does, that they illuminate what was "the most publicized, if not the most generalized, expression of female Catholic spirituality in France" (p. xv).

What all these women share is a life of suffering, which could take the form of mental anguish, as in the case of the sculptress Camille Claudel, the one-time mistress of Auguste Rodin and sister of the poet Paul Claudel, or physical pain associated with tuberculosis, stigmata, and eating disorders. Burton charts the way in which each of these women transformed often excruciating suffering into forms of holiness or martyrdom, which was celebrated or appropriated for their own purposes by the men around them.These include some of the most significant intellectual figures of the day-Paul Claudel, Jacques Maritain, Georges Bataille, Léon Bloy Joris-Karl Huysman, and Georges Bernanos, among others.

The book is divided into seven chapters, six of which are devoted to the women's biographies and an analysis of their writings and visions. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.