Lest We Be Damned: Practical Innovation and Lived Experience by Lisa McClain

By Lisa McClain

Via compelling own tales and in wealthy aspect, McClain unearths the give-and-take interplay among the institutional church in Rome and the desires of believers and the hands-on clergy who supplied their pastoral care inside England. In doing so, she illuminates greater problems with how believers and low-level clergy push the boundaries of professional orthodoxy with a view to meet devotional wishes.

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They would have used such a whip to mortify their flesh and punish and cleanse their bodies of sins, a ritual practiced in Christianity from the days of the desert fathers such as St. Anthony in the third century. Yet as these more traditional avenues of attaining salvation— intercessors, sacraments, prayers, Masses said by priests for the health of souls, and the purchasing of indulgences—became more difficult to achieve, many English Catholics required alternatives. As previously noted, in 1586 the Jesuit Robert Southwell feared that the lack of priestly-administered sacraments would equal the decline of the faith.

58 The immediate, physical act in the natural sphere brought forth concrete spiritual results in the natural and supernatural spheres. Catholics could, KNITTING THE REMNANTS 33 therefore, impact both the material and spiritual worlds through bodily actions, use of material objects, and resort to particular places. 60 There was no cause-and-effect relationship between an Anglican priests words and the presence of Christ in the Eucharistic elements. To allow ritual to transform reality would grant powers to humanity which only God possessed.

In Warwickshire. Father Southwell was beginning Mass and the rest were at prayer, when suddenly I heard a great uproar outside the main door. Then I heard a voice shouting and swearing at a servant who was refusing him entrance…. Father Southwell heard the din. He guessed what it was all about, and slipped off his vestments and stripped the altar bare. While he was doing this, we laid hold of all of our personal belongings; nothing was left to betray the presence of a priest…. Some of us went and turned the beds and put the cold side up to delude anyone who put his hand in to feel them….

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