Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Sacred Threads: Catholic Spirituality in Australia 1922-1962

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Sacred Threads: Catholic Spirituality in Australia 1922-1962

Article excerpt

Sacred Threads: Catholic Spirituality tn Australia 1922-1962. By Katherine Massam. (Sydney: UNSW Press. Distributed in the United States by International Specialized Book Services, Inc., Portland, Oregon. 1996. Pp. x, 295. $34.95 paperback.)

There are a few relevant remarks that need to be made about the title of this book. Its analysis of Catholic spirituality is, in large measure, the spirituality of women. The examination is confined almost exclusively to Western Australia and South Australia, meaning in effect Perth and Adelaide. Why 1922 was chosen as a starting point is unclear, but 1962 marks the beginning of Vatican Council II. Sometime in the future, although a beginning could be made now, a scholar will examine Catholic spirituality before and after the Council. The results, I suggest, will be startling for the very reason that the devotional and public expression of Christianity used in this analysis has largely vanished.

Dr. Massam discovered "a helpful grid" which made it easier to pose contrasting alternatives" of spirituality. It stems from Jung, Durkheim, and Weber and argues that there is " `masculine/animus' and `feminine/ anima', or `left-brain instrumental' and `right-brain feminine' or 'inward' and 'outward' tendencies in all human experience. . ." (p. 7). This may be another way of saying that the spirituality of the female differs from that of the male, which could be a useful device in explaining how spirituality is expressed, provided stereotyping is avoided. The author, in the main, has attempted to steer clear of that pitfall. There is an example of a fall on page 183 when a bride is said to be "almost" completely absent from a groom's account of his wedding. It begins, "My bride and I were married at 9 o'clock in the morning. When we were man and wife . . . "One hopes the unfortunate man was not chastised for his omission by the bride!

"Religion in Australia was often labelled `women's work; and justifiably so, and" `Women were the backbone' of the Church" (pp. …

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