“The Story Is What Saves Us”


in The Catholic Studies Reader

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780823234103
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823240906 | DOI:

Series: Catholic Practice in North America

“The Story Is What Saves Us”

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Autobiographical works such as Augustine's Confessions are the very foundation of Catholic Studies. Our understanding of the evolution of Catholic life in North America is deeply grounded in life-writings, personal narratives presented in a variety of genres and formats, from travel narratives and traditional memoirs to autobiographical fiction and specialized hybrids. One of the primary functions served by life-writings in Catholic Studies is to remind readers from all denominations, vocations, and walks of life that the Catholic Church is a community composed of individuals whose identities are deeply informed by a common faith and sharply varying experiences of Catholic lived religion. This chapter locates the tradition of American Catholic “life-writing” at the heart of Catholic Studies practice. From the earliest accounts of European explorers to dramatic nineteenth- and twentieth-century conversion narratives by notable Protestants to contemporary chronicles of faith lost or reclaimed, the stories told by American Catholics chart the experience of a community so diverse its shared traditions are both inscribed and invented in these autobiographical narratives.

Keywords: Catholic Studies; life-writings; personal narratives; Catholic Church; explorers; conversion; Protestants; faith; American Catholics; autobiographical narratives

Chapter.  9270 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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