Habits of Devotion. Catholic Religious Practice in Twentieth-Century America

By Dries, Angelyn | The Catholic Historical Review, October 2006 | Go to article overview

Habits of Devotion. Catholic Religious Practice in Twentieth-Century America


Dries, Angelyn, The Catholic Historical Review


Habits of Devotion. Catholic Religious Practice in Twentieth-Century America. Edited by James M. O'Toole. [Cushwa Center Studies of Catholicism in Twentieth-Century America.] (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. 2004. Pp. viii, 289. $39.95.)

Habits of Devotion is one of the first fruits of the "Catholicism in the Twentieth Century" study hosted by the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame. James O'Toole has ably edited this important volume on Catholic practice and Catholic identity. Four scholars, well-known in American Catholic studies, examine the "week-to-week" experience of "ordinary" Catholics in America by taking a "long historical view" of the material for the half-century (1925-1975) which encompassed the second Vatican Council. The historiography complements the work of anthropologists, oral historians, and ethnographers, who have treated similar material. The sources used include religious pamphlets, church bulletins, diaries, letters, and national conference proceedings. A central theme explores how Catholic belief and practice both changed and remained the same in differing social and political times, as well as the insight that modifications in public and private prayer life had begun earlier than the Second Vatican Council.

Joseph P. Chinnici, O.F.M., provides a substantial chapter on prayer. Analyzing an array of national prayer movements, including lay retreats, various liturgical groups, the Christopher Movement, and the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Chinnici traces the continuities and discontinuities in American Catholic prayer life and concludes that because of a "pedagogy of participation" (p. 39), American Catholics generally accepted the liturgical changes which preceded and followed from the Second Vatican Council. Secondly, part of the reason for a "piety void" which coincided with the collapse of the Cold War can be related to a transformed social world and to a gap between experience and theory. Finally, Catholics sought a new relationship between contemplation and their social world, a dimension of American Catholic prayer life often overlooked by scholars.

Paula Kane analyzes the malleability of Marian devotion from its ethnic expressions to anti-communism, the impact of the Second Vatican Council, and the apocalyptic aspects of the devotion in the 1980's. …

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