Info

been in good taste during the eighteenth century but which, by the middle decades of the nineteenth century, had widely come to be seen as 'cold' or overly 'intellectual' - in short, insufficiently active and enthusiastic - to appear to attest to earnestness of religious conviction. This Romantic or 'evangelical' enthusiasm gave mid to late nineteenth-century Christian worship and spirituality, whether Protestant or Catholic, a kind of broad family resemblance, despite the ever-sharper emphasis being placed, by both communities, on the doctrinal differences which continued to divide them.

Catholicism, as practised in all countries which boasted a substantial Catholic population, came to seem more exclusive and denominationally distinct as Catholics everywhere began to withdraw from what were increasingly perceived to be dangerous, non-Catholic influences by ensuring that they went regularly to church, joined exclusively Catholic societies, had their children educated in Catholic schools, and incorporated pious practices and set prayers into their daily routine. Catholic literature of the day, with its emphasis on the other-worldly, the importance of the saints, the centrality of penance and the holiness of simplicity, gave Catholics a shared sense of values, just as a number of universalised Catholic shrines, saints, images, devotions and places of pilgrimage gave them common points of reference and a shared spiritual vocabulary. But for all the common ground between Catholics of different nationalities, no Catholic was under obligation to feel a sense of attachment or devotion to any one particular devotional or spiritual approach any more than to one particular saint. National differences, although papered over by Ultramontane enthusiasts at the time and by modern historians since, continued to be marked.

Little, as yet, has been published - in English, at any rate - about the transformation of Italian Catholicism in the first decades of the nineteenth century; but traditional Italian devotion, with its concentration on local saints and idiosyncratic tradition of bleeding statues as the objects of local cults, does not appear to have spread to the rest of the Catholic world. Popular French spirituality, with its focus on child visionaries and string of claimed apparitions of the Virgin Mary, led to copycat apparitions over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including in places as far afield as Marpingen in Germany (1876), Knock in Ireland (1879) and Fatima in Portugal (1917); but the vast majority of such claimed apparitions remained a distinctively French contribution to Catholic spirituality (La Salette 1846; Lourdes 1858; Pontmain 1870; Tilly-sur-Seulles 1896-9). English and Irish Catholics do not appear to have imported the French and Italian habit of using ex-votos; nor was Belgian

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment