The Cult of the Saints and the Reimagination of the Space and Time of Sickness in Twentieth-Century American Catholicism

Robert A. Orsi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

Devotion to the saints has been an essential component of the Catholic experience of sickness and suffering for centuries. Since the early decades of the 20th century, suffering American Catholics have left a record of their feelings, hopes, and understanding in letters they have sent to the shrines of various saints in the United States. The devout write to the shrines mainly to request or report assistance from the saints. They impose their own sense of the meaning of the experience on it. They identify the loci of power and authority in the experience-who was truly in charge, who was responsible for what. This reconstruction is the work of theodicy, which on one level is a cognitive task, a way of shaping the understanding in a disorienting time. Space and time are extremely important in the imaginations and narratives of the devout. Of particular concern is how the devout use the cult of the saints to create, interpret, and inhabit these times and places, and how this reimagination is shaped in and presented by the letters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationReligion and Healing in America
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199850150
ISBN (Print)9780195167962
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 3 2011

Keywords

  • Catholics
  • Cult
  • Devotion
  • Letters
  • Saints
  • Sickness
  • Space
  • Theodicy
  • Time
  • United states

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

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