Thomas A. Tweed

in America's Church

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780199782987
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199897384 | DOI:

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This chapter presents some concluding thoughts. Steep granite steps lead visitors to the two tall doors of the Shrine's main entrance, which is framed by a Roman arch and decorated with a sculpted image of the national patroness, Mary Immaculate. Standing there we can mark the passage of time, the historical shifts during the 20th century, and map the contours of piety, the flows of people, things, and practices. Positioned at that spatial and temporal boundary—glancing up the long nave and turning to face the capital city—we can't see everything, but that threshold provides an illuminating angle of vision. Thinking about the history of practice there (devotees' giving and going), and attending to its material culture (the building and its ornamentation) reveals a good deal about Catholic America in the era of consolidation—its diverse members, clerical aims, and shared worldview from 1909 to 1959—just as recent developments and contemporary reactions disclose much about the fragmented U.S. Catholic Church that emerged during the half century between the 1959 dedication ceremony and the 2009 Golden Jubilee. Finally, positioned at that site we can even learn something about religion and how to study it.

Keywords: material culture; Catholic America; Catholicism; consolidation; Catholic Church

Chapter.  7502 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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