A Saint of Our Own: How the Quest for a Holy Hero Helped Catholics Be­come Amer­i­can

Kath­leen Sprows Cum­mings

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Nonfiction - MEG NOLA

The Univer­sity of North Carolina Press (APRIL) Hard­cover $28 (336pp) 978-1-4696-4947-4

Kath­leen Sprows Cum­mings’s thor­ough and spir­ited A Saint of Our Own looks at the Catholic com­mu­nity in the United States and its de­sire for an Amer­i­can saint. Well-re­searched in his­tor­i­cal and re­li­gious con­text, the book con­veys the de­vo­tion and pas­sion of its sainted sub­jects, as well as those who cham­pi­oned their can­on­iza­tions.

Though colo­nial in­flu­ence from France and Spain brought Catholic mis­sion­ar­ies to early Amer­ica, Catholi­cism it­self only be­came more of an Amer­i­can force in the nine­teenth cen­tury, as cities de­vel­oped and im­mi­grants set­tled in ur­ban ar­eas. The Catholic in­flu­ence was grow­ing, but there was still a sense of mis­trust and prej­u­dice from non-catholic Amer­i­cans.

A Saint of Our Own de­tails the so­ciopo­lit­i­cal cli­mates that af­fected can­di­dates for saint­hood and the anti-im­mi­grant at­ti­tudes of cer­tain Amer­i­cans that ex­tended to­wards Catholi­cism. Catholics, with their mys­te­ri­ous con­nec­tion to a Ro­man pope and seem­ingly strange re­li­gious prac­tices, un­nerved var­i­ous non-catholic fac­tions. More vi­o­lent ex­pres­sions of this prej­u­dice would come through the Know Noth­ing Party, hir­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion, phys­i­cal at­tacks, and even lynch­ings.

How­ever, as Catholic com­mu­ni­ties con­tin­ued to pros­per and politi­cians shrewdly rec­og­nized Catholics’ vot­ing power, the can­on­iza­tion of an Amer­i­can-based saint seemed more pos­si­ble. The book in­cludes the com­plex path to saint­hood for El­iz­a­beth Se­ton, Frances Cabrini, Katharine Drexel, and John Neu­mann, as well as Ka­teri Tekak­witha, Rose Philip­pine Duch­esne, Junípero Serra, and oth­ers. The text is lively with spir­i­tu­al­ity, con­tro­versy, anec­dotes, and mirac­u­lous mo­ments, along with the im­pres­sive ad­min­is­tra­tive skills of many saints who, be­yond ho­li­ness, were able to unite, mo­ti­vate, and get stuff done.

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