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The Catholic Imagination

The Catholic Imagination

Andrew Greeley
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: 1
Pages: 213
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  • Book Info
    The Catholic Imagination
    Book Description:

    Catholics live in an enchanted world: a world of statues and holy water, stained glass and votive candles, saints and religious medals, rosary beads and holy pictures. But these Catholic paraphernalia are merely hints of a deeper and more pervasive religious sensibility that inclines Catholics to see the Holy lurking in creation. The world of the Catholic is haunted by a sense that the objects, events, and persons of daily life are revelations of Grace. In this fascinating discussion of what is unique about the Catholic worldview and culture and what distinguishes it from Protestantism, Andrew Greeley--one of the most popular and prolific authors writing today--examines the religious imagination that shapes Catholics' lives. In a lively and engaging narrative, Greeley discusses the central themes of Catholic culture: Sacrament, Salvation, Community, Festival, Structure, Erotic Desire, and the Mother Love of God. Ranging widely from Bernini to Scorsese, Greeley distills these themes from the high arts of Catholic culture and asks: Do these values really influence people's lives? Using international survey data, he shows the counterintuitive ways in which Catholics are defined. He goes on to root these behaviors in the Catholic imagination. As he identifies and explores the fertile terrain of Catholic culture, Greeley illustrates the enduring power of particular stories, images, and orientations in shaping Catholics' lived experience. He challenges a host of assumptions about who Catholics are and makes a strong case for the vitality of the culture today. The Catholic imagination is sustained and passed on in relationships, the home, and the community, Greeley shows. Absorbing, compassionate, and deeply informed, this book provides an entirely new perspective on the nature and role of religion in daily life for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92805-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[viii])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [ix]-[x])
  3. INTRODUCTION The Sacraments of Sensibility
    (pp. 1-21)

    Catholics live in an enchanted world, a world of statues and holy water, stained glass and votive candles, saints and religious medals, rosary beads and holy pictures. But these Catholic paraphernalia are mere hints of a deeper and more pervasive religious sensibility which inclines Catholics to see the Holy lurking in creation. As Catholics, we find our houses and our world haunted by a sense that the objects, events, and persons of daily life are revelations of grace.

    The assertions in the last paragraph are not statements of what Catholics should be like, nor are they demands that Catholics return...

  4. CHAPTER ONE Sacred Place, Sacred Time
    (pp. 23-53)

    The autobahn from the Köln-Bonn airport approaches Köln from the East Bank of the Rhine. As one drives over the bridge one sees the skyline on the West Bank. It is not exactly Chicago as seen from the Shedd Aquarium (what is?), but it is still striking: the great spired Dom which dominates the city is surrounded, as by faithful servants, by seven Romanesque churches, each one representing a phase in the city’s long history. Along the riverbank, picturesque multicolored buildings hint at a late medieval city. Gaily painted excursion boats and big barges with the flags of many countries...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Sacred Desire
    (pp. 55-87)

    Erotic desire has on occasion been portrayed in art with a Catholic perspective.¹ Moreover, on occasion it has been considered sacramental in the Catholic heritage, so sacramental indeed that the union born of erotic desire has become an official sacrament of the Church. In principle, if sexual attraction is part of the human condition, if it has been created by God, however indirectly, and if human nature, however flawed, is still fundamentally good, and finally if sexual imagery is used both in the Jewish and the Christian scriptures as a metaphor for God’s love, how can one possibly deny its...

  6. CHAPTER THREE The Mother Love of God
    (pp. 89-109)

    I heard the story in third grade and have never forgotten it. I tell it at homily times often, especially on feasts of the mother of Jesus. I understand it much better today than I did in the past, though that increase of understanding does not add anything to my appreciation of it, which is surely pre-philosophical, pre-theological, and presociological.

    One day Himself was going on a tour of the heavenly city, much like the monsignor tours his parish or the mayor his city. Heaven is, after all, the city that works. Everything seemed in order. The hedges were properly...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Community
    (pp. 111-135)

    Italian American films, fromMean StreetsthroughMoonstruck, Sleepers, andJohnny Brasco,display consistency in their settings and characters. There is almost always an uncle who is “connected,” a priest, a tough kid, a rebellious young woman, a suspicious working-class father, a crooked cop, an outspoken mother or grandmother. Robert DeNiro is often present. Baptisms, marriages, and funerals are celebrated with elaborate expense, if not a lot of taste. One can hardly avoid the obligatory scenes in a parish church, a grocery store, a tavern with a bar and pool tables and an always running television set, an “athletic” club...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Hierarchy
    (pp. 137-157)

    Normally, three distinguishing characteristics are associated with Catholicism: sacramentality, community, and hierarchy. Catholicism believes in metaphors, communal relationship to the Deity, and leadership organized in ascending layers of authority and power. I prefer the word “structure” to “hierarchy” because the latter suggests that the present relationship between pope and bishops, and among bishops and clergy and people, is a given. Anyone who knows Catholic history knows that for most of it—indeed, until the beginning of the present century—bishops were elected by clergy and laity, and that for the first thousand years and more the papacy’s control of local...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Salvation
    (pp. 159-171)

    The slow movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 26 is one of the saddest musical compositions ever written. The composer’s career was in jeopardy. His work was no longer as popular as it had been. His health was poor, his marriage deeply troubled, his spirit uneasy. His genius, it seemed, had worn out its welcome. He lived on the margin of failure. He did not have much longer to live, though there is no way he could have known that. But he had to face the possibility that he was a “has-been.”

    Mozart felt with reason that his enormous talent...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN Sensibility and Socialization
    (pp. 173-181)

    The conventional wisdom of pop sociology is that everyone is becoming more like everyone else. The mass media, the jet airplane, the Internet are homogenizing humankind (or, at least, American humankind) at a rapid rate. Differences among humans are disappearing, and that is probably a good thing. If, therefore, there remains a Catholic religious sensibility, it is declining. Catholics are rapidly becoming like everyone else.

    There is no evidence to support such generalizations—no correlation, for instance, between youth and more advanced education (factors presumed to enhance this homogenization) on the one hand and lower scores on the measures of...

  11. CONCLUSION The Enchanted Imagination
    (pp. 183-188)

    If a reader were of a mind to, it would be easy to pick this essay apart on the grounds that the correlation between the vision of Catholic art and the imagination of ordinary Catholics is not proved conclusively. Such a reader could also assert that there are many different kinds of Catholic imagination, some of them strikingly different.

    Such responses, I submit, miss the point entirely. The present essay is not a definitive statement about either the Catholic artistic sensibility or the Catholic popular sensibility, nor is it about the similarities between them or how they might influence one...

    (pp. 189-190)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 191-198)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 199-213)