Special Issue "Material Religion, Popular Belief and Catholic Devotional Practice in the Age of Vatican II (c. 1948–c. 1998): Global Perspectives"
A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).
Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (11 March 2021).
Interests: late medieval and early modern Christianity; popular religion; lived religion; materiality of devotion; devotion to Christ’s passion; bardic religious poetry; hagiography; history of preaching; medieval exempla; catechisms and their use; sacred history; 19th and 20th century prayer books; relationship between popular piety and liturgy from the Middle Ages to the present day; Irish religious folklore
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
This Special Issue will examine the worlds of material religion, popular belief, and Catholic devotional practice in the period immediately before and shortly after the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), a period of incredible flux for the faith lives of individuals and communities.
There is a rationale behind the chosen chronology. The fifty-year period of 1948–1998 begins just after the release by Pope Pius XII of the encyclical Mediator Dei on 20 November 1947 (http://www.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_20111947_mediator-dei.html). This encyclical was concerned specifically with the Roman Catholic liturgy and, in a somewhat guarded response to the liturgical reform movement, advocated a much more active participation for the laity. It cautioned, however, that “the chief element of divine worship must be interior”. It foreshadowed, in significant ways, some of the reforms that would be introduced by the Council. However, while stating some ideals, it also allowed for those who could not manage to follow a Roman missal, even in the vernacular, and stated that they could participate in the Mass and share its fruits if “they can lovingly meditate on the mysteries of Jesus Christ or perform other exercises of piety, or recite prayers which, though they differ from the sacred rites, are still essentially in harmony with them”. (108). It also stated that “when dealing with genuine and solid piety … there could be no real opposition between the sacred liturgy and other religious practices, provided they be kept within legitimate bounds and performed for legitimate purpose” (Mediator Dei, 173). Presciently, at least regarding some interpretations of the “spirit of the Council”, the encyclical warned: “Hence he would do something very wrong and dangerous who would dare to take on himself to reform all these exercises of piety and reduce them completely to the methods and norms of liturgical rites” (184). To balance this, however, it went on to “censure the inconsiderate zeal of those who propose for veneration in the Churches and on the altars, without any just reason, a multitude of sacred images and statues, and also those who display unauthorized relics, those who emphasize special and insignificant practices, neglecting essential and necessary things. They thus bring religion into derision and lessen the dignity of worship” (189).
The tightrope that Mediator Dei attempted to walk in November 1947 was one which would prove particularly challenging to the Catholic Church, both locally and universally, over subsequent years. The closing year for this Special Issue, 1998, was chosen because it marks twenty years since the election of Karol Wojtyła as Pope John Paul II, whose papacy is regarded by many as initiating a pushback on many later interpretations of Vatican II, not least in the realm of popular piety. It also marks just under a decade since the revolutions which precipitated the fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe.
Finally, just three years later, in September 2001, the Plenary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, would approve a new Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, which would address many of the issues which had arisen in this area since the Second Vatican Council.
This Special Issue calls for contributions from those who wish to examine the dynamics of religious change in the realm of devotional and liturgical practice as experienced by the Catholic laity over these fifty years. The emphasis will not be on ecclesiastical documents, conciliar decrees, or theological treatises in and of themselves, but in the practical outworking of their ideas and their impact on the lives of ordinary believers in what scholars now call “lived religion”.
In launching this Special Issue, I wish to acknowledge and build upon some recent excellent work done in this area, but also to highlight some areas (thematic and geographical) which merit further attention.
In conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism launched a major research project designed to produce the first comparative, international, lived history of Catholicism in the Vatican II era. Its rationale arose from an awareness that “there has been virtually no attempt at comparative historical studies of the Vatican II era, to explore how this epoch of change took different shape in various social, political, and cultural contexts.” (https://cushwa.nd.edu/about/history/rationale/). An international conference on the Lived History of Vatican II followed, and was held at Notre Dame University on 24–26 April 2014 (https://cushwa.nd.edu/about/history/conference-program/), and three years later, the volume Catholics in the Vatican II Era: Local Histories of a Global Event, edited by Kathleen Sprows Cummings, Timothy Matovina, and Robert A. Orsi, was published by Cambridge University Press https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/catholics-in-the-vatican-ii-era/160B0FBBFADE523028C769B6A36AE829) and was widely praised in reviews.
However, this large project, which broke new and important ground, was much broader in perspective than the concerns of this Special Issue. While there were some very valuable contributions dealing with popular piety and material religion, this area has hardly been exhausted. Furthermore, while the project was comparative and international in scope, there were many geographical areas which were not covered by the project and which I wish to highlight here. One of those areas, for instance, is Central and Eastern Europe.
Separately, in 2016, Piotr H. Kosicki edited Vatican II Behind the Iron Curtain, which was published by Catholic University of America Press (https://www.hfsbooks.com/books/vatican-ii-behind-the-iron-curtain-kosicki/). It aimed to fill an important lacuna. As the promotional synopsis for the book explains, “a substantial historiography has emerged across national and linguistic boundaries documenting the Second Vatican Council. And yet virtually no attention has been devoted to the links between the Council and the Catholic faithful who had found themselves living behind an iron curtain by the end of the 1940s”. But, once again, while being warmly welcomed as a hugely important study, the remit for this book was much broader than the practice of popular piety during this period. This Special Issue aims to further open up this field with respect to this region.
This Special Issue welcomes contributions on Catholic religious practices, lived religion, and the material culture of devotion during the years 1948–1998, with special emphasis on how the Second Vatican Council and its local interpretation and implementation “on the ground” shaped the devotional lives of ordinary believers. The scope of this Special Issue is global. While it certainly welcomes contributions from English-speaking countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Ireland, etc. (all of which have much work still to be done), it especially welcomes articles from regions less well represented in the literature (such as Central and Eastern Europe). It also welcomes contributors who will take the opportunity to gather together and share the insights of local studies published in other (often minority) languages and which, thus far, have been inaccessible to many English-speaking readers. Contributions are also very warmly welcome from Asia, South America, and Africa. The aim of the Special Issue is to gain a snapshot of the devotional worlds of individuals and communities who lived through this period of significant change (and, it must be admitted, a much slower pace of change for some regions; but this is also worth noting). Articles are also sought from contributors who may wish to examine the changes to popular Catholicism in the age of Vatican II through the eyes of those of different faiths.
Topics which might be covered include popular religious literature and its content (and how this may have changed over time); letters sent to both Catholic publications and mainstream newspapers about the practicalities of adapting to religious change; the content and use of popular prayer books; holy cards: their iconography and use; oral histories which recall what it was like to have attended Mass in Latin all one’s life and then transfer to liturgy in the vernacular; reactions to the reordering of churches; catechetical practices; a comparative study of popular hymnody during this period; domestic piety in a period of change; the practice of pilgrimage; Eucharistic piety, holy hours and Corpus Christi processions; devotions to the Virgin Mary and the saints and what impact (if any) Vatican II had on these practices; popular religious practices and rituals surrounding the commemoration and burial of the dead; memorial cards and their use; membership of confraternities and their related duties; how the lived reality of post-Vatican II Catholics was viewed by other faiths, both within and without Christianity (and, especially, by members of the Jewish faith); changes in the practice of the sacraments in the fifty-year period between 1948 and 1998; the keeping of the liturgical year and its rituals.Prof. Dr. Salvador Ryan
Manuscript Submission Information
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- Vatican II
- Second Vatican Council
- liturgical change
- vernacular liturgy
- lived religion
- domestic devotion
- Catholic literature
- holy hours
- 20th century Catholicism