Chapter

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

Robert A. Orsi

in Religion and Healing in America

Published in print December 2004 | ISBN: 9780195167962
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199850150 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195167962.003.0002
The Cult of the Saints and the Reimagination of the Space and Time of Sickness in Twentieth-Century American Catholicism

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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.

Keywords: Catholics; United States; devotion; saints; cult; sickness; space; time; theodicy; letters

Chapter.  8988 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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