Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Prayers of the Faithful: The Shifting Spiritual Life of American Catholics

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Prayers of the Faithful: The Shifting Spiritual Life of American Catholics

Article excerpt

Prayers of the Faithful: The Shifting Spiritual Life of American Catholics. By James P. McCartin. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 2010. Pp. x, 225. $25.95. ISBN 978-0-674-04913-0.)

James P. McCartin's book is an historical examination of the changing forms and content of prayer in the American Catholic community from the late-nineteenth to the late-twentieth century. Examining prayer, he maintains, provides a window into how people viewed themselves in their changing relationships with God, their religious community, and the world around them. A major shift, he argues, took place in the period under consideration: from an immigrant Church in which prayer was dependent upon the mediation of clergy and patron saints to a Church after the Second Vatican Council in which prayer no longer depended on such forms of mediation and in fact developed a growing sense of spiritual independence where the laity were more likely to find God on their own.

The book is divided into five major chapters, detailing the gradual spiritual shifts in Catholic spiritual life. "Praying in the Immigrant Church," the first chapter, focuses on dependence on the mediation of the institutional and hierarchical Church. "Praying in the American Century" emphasizes the shifting emphasis in the first half of the twentieth century on mental prayer, devotion to the Sacred Heart, and St. Thérèse 's spirituality of "the little way" as manifestations of a more direct and immediate contact with the divine. "Prayer Becomes a Crusade" outlines the Family Rosary Crusade of Patrick Peyton after World War II, stressing a family-centered spirituality and the attempts to bring spiritual influence to the wider culture through mass media. "Prayer Becomes Secular" concentrates on transformations between 1945 and 1975 that stressed a convergence of the sacred and the secular (manifesting the spiritual in everyday life and in public life). "Prayer Becomes Personal and Political," the fifth chapter, focuses on the late-twentieth-century emphases on the sacredness of the human person that brought about a new universalism and egalitarianism in Catholic spirituality demonstrated by the charismatic movement and various forms of political and social activism ttansforming Catholic spirituality from its earlier emphasis on private and communal devotionalism to publicly oriented spirituality with a social conscience. …

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