Between Heaven and Earth

Between Heaven and Earth: The Religious Worlds People Make and the Scholars Who Study Them

Robert A. Orsi
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: STU - Student edition
Pages: 264
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt4cg9sd
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  • Book Info
    Between Heaven and Earth
    Book Description:

    Between Heaven and Earth explores the relationships men, women, and children have formed with the Virgin Mary and the saints in twentieth-century American Catholic history, and reflects, more broadly, on how people live in the company of sacred figures and how these relationships shape the ties between people on earth. In this boldly argued and beautifully written book, Robert Orsi also considers how scholars of religion occupy the ground in between belief and analysis, faith and scholarship.

    Orsi infuses his analysis with an autobiographical voice steeped in his own Italian-American Catholic background--from the devotion of his uncle Sal, who had cerebral palsy, to a "crippled saint," Margaret of Castello; to the bond of his Tuscan grandmother with Saint Gemma Galgani.

    Religion exists not as a medium of making meanings, Orsi maintains, but as a network of relationships between heaven and earth involving people of all ages as well as the many sacred figures they hold dear. Orsi argues that modern academic theorizing about religion has long sanctioned dubious distinctions between "good" or "real" religious expression on the one hand and "bad" or "bogus" religion on the other, which marginalize these everyday relationships with sacred figures.

    This book is a brilliant critical inquiry into the lives that people make, for better or worse, between heaven and earth, and into the ways scholars of religion could better study of these worlds.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4965-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction JESUS HELD HIM SO CLOSE IN HIS LOVE FOR HIM THAT HE LEFT THE MARKS OF HIS PASSION ON HIS BODY
    (pp. 1-18)

    MY MOTHER became gravely ill in the months when I was finishing this book, and I found myself with my father and brother spending long and frightening days in the hospital walking up and down confusing corridors and waiting for word from the doctors. On the morning of the procedure that determined her cancer was inoperable my mother lay in her hospital bed holding a tiny blue statue of Our Lady of Fatima tightly in one hand, and from the fingers of her other hand she trailed the beads of her favorite rosary. After the operation my mother kept mistaking...

  5. Chapter One “MILDRED, IS IT FUN TO BE A CRIPPLE?” THE CULTURE OF SUFFERING IN MID-TWENTIETH CENTURY AMERICAN CATHOLICISM
    (pp. 19-47)

    ON THE FIRST SATURDAY of every month in the 1960s my uncle Sally, who has cerebral palsy, used to go to a different parish in New York City or its suburbs for Mass and devotions in honor of Our Lady of Fatima and then afterwards to a Communion breakfast sponsored by that month’s host church. These special outings for “shutins” and “cripples”¹ were organized by the Blue Army of Mary, an association of men and women dedicated to spreading the messages of apocalyptic anti-Communism and personal repentance delivered by Mary at Fatima in 1917.² My uncle would be waiting for...

  6. Chapter Two THE MANY NAMES OF THE MOTHER OF GOD
    (pp. 48-72)

    ONE OF THE MOST common images of Mary in the United States in the modern era has been the dashboard Madonna, slender statuettes of the Virgin set under the curved glass canopy of automobile windshields. The Blessed Mother protected drivers and passengers from the hazards of the highways that were taking the children and grandchildren of immigrants away from the old ethnic enclaves out to the new suburbs ringing the industrial cities of the Northeast and Midwest and rising up in the western deserts. These were usually glow-in-the-dark figurines: late at night, in cars parked on city streets or suburban...

  7. Chapter Three MATERIAL CHILDREN: MAKING GOD’S PRESENCE REAL FOR CATHOLIC BOYS AND GIRLS AND FOR THE ADULTS IN RELATION TO THEM
    (pp. 73-109)

    IN THE LAST CHAPTER I asked what accounted for people’s experience of Mary’s presence in their lives. Presence is central to the study of lived Catholic practice—the study of Catholicism in everyday life is about the mutual engagement of men, women, children, and holy figures present to each other. But presence is a human experience; how sacred presences become real in particular times and places is a question. That is what I begin with here. How do religious beliefs become material? How do the gods and other special beings—and, more broadly, how does the world, visible and invisible,...

  8. Chapter Four TWO ASPECTS OF ONE LIFE: SAINT GEMMA GALGANI AND MY GRANDMOTHER IN THE WOUND BETWEEN DEVOTION AND HISTORY, THE NATURAL AND THE SUPERNATURAL
    (pp. 110-145)

    BEFORE WE GO any further here and assuming that most readers will not have heard of the saint from Lucca, Gemma Galgani—she is all but lost to contemporary American Catholicism (although there are many Catholic women in their forties and fifties, sometimes younger, named after her, so the saint endures at least in this nominal way)—I want to note that this little devotional biography, taken in its entirety from a popular mid-twentieth-century American collection of lives of the saints, inexplicably omits any reference to what some might consider the central feature of Saint Gemma’s life. On the feast...

  9. Chapter Five “HAVE YOU EVER PRAYED TO SAINT JUDE?” REFLECTIONS ON FIELDWORK IN CATHOLIC CHICAGO
    (pp. 146-176)

    I AM SITTING toward the back of the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in South Chicago, watching clusters of people arrive for the night’s novena service in honor of Saint Jude Thaddeus, patron saint of hopeless causes, whose national shrine is housed here. It is in the late 1980s and I have been working on this devotion for some time, reading through archives at the devotion’s headquarters in the Loop, and now I am trying to find my way into the world of Jude’s devout. The people coming into the warm glow of the church’s electric candles from the...

  10. Chapter Six SNAKES ALIVE: RELIGIOUS STUDIES BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH
    (pp. 177-204)

    AT THE END of an account of his two-year sojourn among snake handling Christians in southern Appalachia, Dennis Covington, who at the time was a Georgia-based reporter for the New York Times, describes the night he realized that he could not join the snake handlers whom he had come to love and respect in their faith. I want to borrow this instance of one man’s discovery of radical religious otherness—a discovery that led him to turn away in sorrow and disappointment from his friends—as an opening onto the question of how critical scholarship in religion is not only...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 205-240)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 241-245)