Eugène Mazenod in 1815, and the Assumptionists, founded by Emmanuel d'Alzon in 1845.

The reconstitution of the French clerical cohorts was only one manifestation of a Europe-wide Catholic Revival which owed much to the change in the intellectual climate produced by the rise of the Romantic movement. Chateaubriand's The genius of Christianity (1802) did more than any other single work to restore the credibility and prestige of Christianity in intellectual circles and launched a fashionable rediscovery of the Middle Ages and their Christian civilisation. The revival was by no means confined to an intellectual elite, however, but was evident in the real, if uneven, rechristianisation of the French countryside. Coming on top of an already significant decline in religious practice towards the end of the ancien regime, the French Revolution had created a situation in which entire generations had reached adulthood without exposure to any kind of religious formation (a typical case in point being Francois-Brice Veuillot, the artisan father of the Catholic journalist and polemicist Louis Veuillot). By the calculations of Gerard Cholvy and Yves-Marie Hilaire, the ignorance in religious matters of the great mass of the French population was probably at its peak around 1830. But as clerical numbers expanded and the church began to put down roots in the villages and communes of France clear signs of a return to religious practice could be discerned, particularly in the period 1830 to 1880. Mass attendance rose, as did the number of Easter communicants, though under the impact of the anticlerical policies of the Third Republic after 1879 there was some serious, though by no means universal, backsliding, which may have been partially compensated for by greater commitment on the part of the pratiquants.

Especially in the first half of the nineteenth century, the Catholic Revival owed much to missionary activity, conducted mainly by the religious orders and often directed at children. During the Restoration period (1814-30), missions to adults took spectacular form, with rousing sermons accompanied by lavish ceremonies - including processions, hymn-singing and, most notably, the erection of huge missionary crosses - all of which were calculated to make a deep impression on the popular imagination (though they succeeded also in offending the secular sensibilities of the liberal bourgeoisie). Under the July Monarchy (1830-48) the internal missions lost some of their more provocatively ostentatious character but they continued to be employed by parish priests to reinforce their work of evangelisation. The orders - including the female orders, the bonnes sœurs - played a crucial role in the consolidation ofthe reawakened faith through schooling. With the blessing of the state, irrespective of the regime (for, until the anticlerical initiatives of the Third Republic

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment