cultivate themselves by reading spiritual books. In brief, they would serve as examples of saintly living for the faithful.20
The masses, meanwhile, would be educated by this new-model clergy, through the ceremonials ofliturgy, throughpreaching and catechesis, and, individually, through holy confession. Generations of Catholic reformers thought that such a better-educated laity would automatically withdraw from those popular religious practices and beliefs that were now clearly defined as superstitious, unruly, and even immoral. Popular devotion would be canalized into the norms and values that corresponded to the intellectual, emotional, and moral canons of the Catholic Reformation. With this in mind, popular devotion was encouraged, and new devotions were created, insofar as they could promote a better education for the people. Miracles that served the cause of the Catholic Reformation were readily promoted among the public, and a special category of Counter-Reformation saints arose, adapted to the new requirements of the Roman Catholic Church. New religious orders were created as bearers of this movement and each of them adopted its own pastoral strategy. The Jesuits, for instance, promoted in many different ways -including the use of traditional devotional practices - the cult of the saints of their Company: the founder Ignatius Loyola and the great missionary Francis Xavier, and also John Berchmans, Aloysius Gonzaga, and Stanislas Kostka, spiritual heroes and patron saints of the young. Most important in this respect were the confraternities for young people inside and outside the Jesuit colleges, where individuals were trained to imitate the virtues of the saintly heroes.21
Beside the continuous efforts at preaching and catechizing - expressed in innumerable collections ofsermons, preaching manuals, catechetical primers and prayer books for the laity - the Catholic Reformation was characterized by a strenuous and prolonged attempt to eradicate what was increasingly interpreted as the pagan, animistic mentality of the masses, especially in the countryside. This mentality was to be replaced by a new religious idiom, directed towards the internalization of religious experience.22 During the seventeenth and still more during the eighteenth century, the conviction grew that the laity, at least the lower social classes, had never really been Christianized, and that forbidden, sometimes even hidden forms of popular religion preserved pre-Christian forms of pagan folklore. These all had to be excised: sexual beliefs and customs, pre-nuptial intercourse, fertility rites, midsummer bonfires meant to conjure the forces of nature, and social rituals of the world turned upside down practised during Carnival, Epiphany, and other occasions.
Was this article helpful?