Saturday, May 17, 2014

Books, Books, Books! Three in Queue

I have three great books lined up for Summer reading. I've started the first one, Romantic Catholics: France's Postrevolutionary Generation in Search of a Modern Faith by Carol E. Harrison from Cornell University Press:

In this well-written and imaginatively structured book, Carol E. Harrison brings to life a cohort of nineteenth-century French men and women who argued that a reformed Catholicism could reconcile the divisions in French culture and society that were the legacy of revolution and empire. They include, most prominently, Charles de Montalembert, Pauline Craven, Amélie and Frédéric Ozanam, Léopoldine Hugo, Maurice de Guérin, and Victorine Monniot. The men and women whose stories appear in Romantic Catholics were bound together by filial love, friendship, and in some cases marriage. Harrison draws on their diaries, letters, and published works to construct a portrait of a generation linked by a determination to live their faith in a modern world.

Rejecting both the atomizing force of revolutionary liberalism and the increasing intransigence of the church hierarchy, the romantic Catholics advocated a middle way, in which a revitalized Catholic faith and liberty formed the basis for modern society. Harrison traces the history of nineteenth-century France and, in parallel, the life course of these individuals as they grow up, learn independence, and take on the responsibilities and disappointments of adulthood. Although the shared goals of the romantic Catholics were never realized in French politics and culture, Harrison's work offers a significant corrective to the traditional understanding of the opposition between religion and the secular republican tradition in France.

As I read the introduction I thought how nineteenth century Catholics in both England and France had to rebuild their churches--the English after centuries of penal laws and martyrdom; the French after the Revolution, the Terror, and the revolutionary campaign of De-Christianization that led to destruction of churches, suppression of monasteries, and the martyrdom of priests and nuns. The difference for the French, as Harrison is explaining to me, is that as the Catholic laity worked to influence their society--re-evangelize it!--they also had to consider the Church's relationship with the monarchy and whether it was good for the Church or not. Harrison notes in the introduction that nineteenth century Catholics in France were for a time at least solidly ultramontane, ascribing the weakness of the Church in France during the Ancien Regime partially to its Cisalpine stance of loyalty to the Bourbons instead of the Papacy. More on Romantic Catholics after I've read it!

Then I have The Oxford Movement: Europe and the Wider World 1830-1930, edited by Stewart J. Brown and Peter B. Nockles from Cambridge:

The Oxford Movement transformed the nineteenth-century Church of England with a renewed conception of itself as a spiritual body. Initiated in the early 1830s by members of the University of Oxford, it was a response to threats to the established church posed by British Dissenters, Irish Catholics, Whig and Radical politicians, and the predominant evangelical ethos – what Newman called 'the religion of the day'. The Tractarians believed they were not simply addressing difficulties within their national Church, but recovering universal principles of the Christian faith. To what extent were their beliefs and ideals communicated globally? Was missionary activity the product of the movement's distinctive principles? Did their understanding of the Church promote, or inhibit, closer relations among the churches of the global Anglican Communion? This volume addresses these questions and more with a series of case studies involving Europe and the English-speaking world during the first century of the Movement.

My husband gave me both of these books for Mother's Day!

And finally, thanks to the Queen Anne Boleyn blog and Beth von Staats who introduced us in a way, I have received a review copy of God's Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England, from the author herself, Jessie Childs!

The Catholics of Elizabethan England did not witness a golden age. Their Mass was banned, their priests were outlawed, their faith was criminalised. In an age of assassination and Armada, those Catholics who clung to their faith were increasingly seen as the enemy within. In this superb history, award-winning author Jessie Childs explores the Catholic predicament in Elizabethan England through the eyes of one remarkable family: the Vauxes of Harrowden Hall.

God’s Traitors is a tale of dawn raids and daring escapes, stately homes and torture chambers, ciphers, secrets and lies. From clandestine chapels and side-street inns to exile communities and the corridors of power, it exposes the tensions and insecurities masked by the cult of Gloriana. Above all, it is a timely story of courage and frailty, repression and reaction and the terrible consequences when religion and politics collide.

I may have to bump God's Traitors up in the queue after Romantic Catholics!

What are you reading, readers? Or planning to read?


  1. Hi Stephanie, those all sound very good. I am particularly interested in the French one, Romantic Catholics. I plan to look for a copy. I have just started Remembering Belloc by Fr Schall, a book of essays on Belloc from Fr Schall with many quotes from Belloc. I sat outside reading it last evening until the sun set.

  2. I'm enjoying Romantic Catholics very much. Schall and Belloc--what a team! Thanks for commenting.