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A lived religious history of English Catholicism, 1945–82
Author: Alana Harris

Drawing upon a multi-disciplinary methodology employing diverse written sources, material practices and vivid life histories, Faith in the Family seeks to assess the impact of the Second Vatican Council on the ordinary believer, alongside contemporaneous shifts in British society relating to social mobility, the sixties, sexual morality, and secularisation. Chapters examine the changes in the Roman Catholic liturgy and Christology, devotion to Mary, the rosary and the place of women in the family and church, as well as the enduring (but shifting) popularity of Saints Bernadette and Thérèse.

Appealing to students of modern British gender and cultural history, as well as a general readership interested in religious life in Britain in the second half of the twentieth century, Faith in the Family illustrates that despite unmistakable differences in their cultural accoutrements and interpretations of Catholicism, English Catholics continued to identify with and practise the ‘Faith of Our Fathers’ before and after Vatican II.

Alana Harris

This chapter examines the little known part played by British Catholics in the development of worldwide devotion to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux after her death. Focusing on the pivotal part played by Monsignor Thomas Nemo Taylor in the cultivation of her cult, this chapter also explores the role of ordinary Catholic women and men in the ‘making’ of this now ubiquitous saint. British Catholics were foundational to the evolution of the cult of the ‘Little Flower’ – from one of the first beatification miracles (a Glaswegian woman cured of a tumour in 1900) through to the establishment of a prominent pilgrimage site at Motherwell (complete with a ‘lifelike’ statue erected by public subscription and the procurement of a miracle-working relic from Lisieux) and the erection of a national shrine in her Basilica in Lisieux. Utilising a cachet of ex-votos received from British Catholics and kept in the archives in Lisieux - which centre on health, the family, and fulfilment of gender roles - this chapter analyses the growing appeal of a nineteenth-century saint in the early twentieth century. Through her British Catholics articulated new ideas about Christian virtue (and its democratization), shifting gender roles, and the distinctiveness of Catholic identity within a still sometimes vociferously Protestant nation.

in Making and remaking saints in nineteenth-century Britain
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A Vatican rag
Alana Harris

This chapter provides a short introduction to the Second Vatican Council, and then outlines the methodologies (grounded in gender and cultural history) and diverse sources that are employed in this groundbreaking study. It discusses the analytical metaphor and subjective reality of the ‘family of the faithful’ that provides the structure for this book and unpacks the ‘lived religious history’ approach utilised throughout. These particular discussions are then situated within broader debates in mainstream twentieth century historiography about secularization, the sixties and shifting gendered identities. The chapter concludes with an outline of the structure of the book and a statement of its central contention, namely that despite marked changes in English Catholicism throughout this period, there were also little-appreciated elements of continuity, especially in the subjective understandings, lived religious experiences and popular devotional practices of English Catholics.

in Faith in the family
Beyond ‘ghettos’ and ‘golden ages’
Alana Harris

This chapter provides an overview of the socio-economic status and cultural identity of English Catholics in British society after the Second World War, surveying the existing histories of English Catholicism and their tendency to present a picture of a ‘Catholic ghetto’ or ‘golden age’. It also examines the ways in which English Catholics contemporaneously reacted to the Second Vatican Council, and their assessments of the ‘doings in Rome’ in the early 1960s. In situating this study of English Catholicism within a broader ‘mainstream’ historiography of the post-war period, this chapter triangulates its analysis against important debates amongst twentieth-century historians today about secularisation and religious diversity, fundamental shifts in morality, the erosion of respect for authority and tradition associated with the 1960s, and shifting leisure cultures and social mobility.

in Faith in the family
The liturgy, the Eucharist and Christ our brother
Alana Harris

This chapter examines the relationship of English Catholics with Christ their ‘brother’ in his different guises as the Christ child, suffering Saviour and Sacred Heart. Nevertheless, the pre-eminent forms for this incarnated encounter were thought to be the Mass and host, and through an exploration of the marked changes to the language and form of the liturgy, this chapter illuminates associated and little-recognised shifts in Eucharistic theology. It argues that whilst these ‘gatherings at the family table’ articulated a transformed understanding of this relationship with Jesus, and utilised different tropes over this period, the Mass and the Eucharist remained at the centre of English Catholic devotional life.

in Faith in the family
Marian devotion, the Holy Family and Catholic conceptions of marriage and sexuality
Alana Harris

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.

in Faith in the family
St Thérèse of Lisieux, St Bernadette Soubirous and the Forty Martyrs
Alana Harris

This chapter addresses the shifting hagiographical traditions surrounding St Thérèse of Lisieux and St Bernadette Soubirous. It argues that there was a movement from the presentation of these saints as exemplary character models of obedience and sacrifice towards accounts that placed a greater premium on each saint’s historicity and personality within an explicitly psychological framework. The emphasis upon an experiential, ‘this-worldly’ spirituality increasingly present within biographies of St Thérèse, which ensured she was enduringly popular throughout the period, is contrasted with the cause for the canonisation of the forty English and Welsh martyrs. These case-studies illustrate the forms of sanctity which continued to be recognised and valued as the century progressed, and the ways in which these reconstructions could form a valuable spiritual resource for English Catholics, negotiating new demands and challenges to family life.

in Faith in the family
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Hymns ancient and modern
Alana Harris

This concluding chapter teases out the tangled and interwoven threads of continuity and change, as well as the contradictory and countervailing trends that have been examined in this study of the spirituality and popular religiosity of Catholics in England from 1945 to 1982. It argues that these aspects of both preservation and innovation were vested in the marked and manifold changes in British society and the Church itself over three decades. Moreover, it identifies the overarching premium now placed on an experiential, self-authenticating and efficacious lived religious practice which might dispense (or sometimes dovetail) with institutional expression and hierarchical, clerical determinations, as once of the key drivers of change. While there was a little-appreciated spectrum of opinion within the Catholic Church on matters doctrinal and moral prior to the Second Vatican Council, the changed cultural setting of late twentieth century Britain allowed for greater public acknowledgment and an expanded repertoire for the articulation of this diversity of opinion and practice, with a reconfiguration of Catholic identity accordingly.

in Faith in the family