‘A model for many homesteads’
Marian devotion, the Holy Family and Catholic conceptions of marriage and sexuality
in Faith in the family
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This chapter offers a detailed study of Marian devotion and the reverence for St Joseph expressed in the context of the Holy Family. It explores the ways in which these heavenly personages functioned as ideals and models for rightly ordered, but societally adaptive, understandings of femininity, masculinity and the conjugal relationship. It then concentrates on an aspect of married life, sexuality, which underwent rapid transformation in the post-war period. It illuminates the shifting understandings, across the theological spectrum, of gender roles and married life from the 1950s onwards, and the way in which the sacramental model of the ‘body of Christ’ was mobilised as a more flexible and workable resource than the ‘Holy Family’ in responding to, and reconstructing, a Catholic perspective on the role of sex within married life. During a period of intense gender transition from the late 1960s onwards, Marian devotions slipped out of the institutional frame, but moving into the papacy of John Paul II they were increasingly reinterpreted and repackaged by the church and the laity in ways that might again resonate with gender roles and social expectations towards the end of the century.

Faith in the family

A lived religious history of English Catholicism, 1945–82

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