Catholic Devotion in Victorian England

By Mary Heimann | Go to book overview

5
An English Piety

ASSUMPTIONS about the nature of the English Catholic community have hidden the subject of devotion from direct scholarly attention and prejudged the significance of devotional change in the nineteenth century. The preceding chapters have shown how devotion, far from exacerbating differences between Irish and English, old Catholics and converts, ultramontanes and liberals, effectively provided a common language to articulate that specifically religious dimension of life which was shared by Catholics as Catholics. In its accommodation of the piety of the humble and illiterate, its sentimentality and simplicity of expression, and above all its revivalist tendencies, this new English spirituality had a good deal in common with contemporary Catholic developments abroad. But Catholic devotion in nineteenth-and twentieth-century England was not primarily characterized by an importation of popular Italian manifestations or the straightforward implementation of Roman imperatives. Just as Marian apparitions were almost entirely confined to France in the period, and cults surrounding bleeding statues were restricted to southern Italy, so English Catholic piety manifested itself in ways which may have been influenced by, but were distinct from, those of neighbouring Catholic countries.

The Catholic revival in nineteenth-century England was just that: the attempted renewal and vigorous reappropriation of a distinctive religious outlook among Catholics, both nominal and practising, living in England. But, despite second-spring propaganda, which held that the faith had been virtually lost during the penal years, and the ultramontane charge that the recusants' faith was tainted or incomplete, it was an invigorated English recusant tradition, not a Roman one, which was most successful in capturing the imagination of Catholics living in England from the middle of the nineteenth century to the early years of the twentieth. This tradition was not reproduced exactly, but was filtered through contemporary idiom and made both more attractive and more accessible to what had come to be a majority of uneducated and poor members within the community. Thus the longer litanies and prayers from the eighteenthcentury Garden of the Soul were replaced with shorter, more sentimental

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Catholic Devotion in Victorian England
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vi
  • Contents *
  • I - Received Ideas 1
  • 2 - Devotions in Common 38
  • 3 - Familiar Prayers 70
  • 4 - A Community Apart 100
  • 5 - An English Piety 137
  • Appendix - Devotional Statistics of the Churches, Chapels, and Stations in England and Wales 174
  • Bibliography 201
  • Index 233
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