The Ramonat Seminar: Fabolia; or, The Church of the Catacombs

Oh, how plans fall apart! I was originally going to do my project on the portrayals of Catholic females by Catholic authors in the 19th century. However, after stumbling across a work of historical fiction by Cardinal Wiseman, my research project has taken a rather abrupt u-turn. The featured image above is from the 2012 reprint of the novel. 

Written at a seminal moment in English Catholic history, with the reestablishment of the Church’s hierarchy there, Fabiola is a strange text in of itself. It’s a part of a small segment of fiction by a church official, chiefly concerned with theoretical musings, with an ultramontanist(pro-Pope), anti-Protestant lean. Wiseman’s other works of fiction called The Witch of Rosenburg and The Hidden Gem, A Drama in Three Acts are the only others I’ve found. First discovered in a primary source (a collection of works written by Catholic authors up to that point in England, Ireland, and America), I then tracked down a version of Fabiola in HathiTrust.

So far, I’ve been reading my main primary source as a reflection of the author’s worries and hopes for English Catholics at the time. I believe he’s using the Early Church as an analogy for their present situation. Studying the history of this book will be a challenge but, one I hope is rewarding in the end. Below is the cover of the 1880 version published in New York that I’m reading. As I read through the actual text, its impact as a cultural work has raised some interesting questions.

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The Ramonat Seminar: Final Reflection (Fall 2015)

 

Introduction

What Has Made

Chicago Catholicism Distinctive?

21st Century Perspective

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The Ramonat Seminar #6: Saints in America

“Saint Philomena, pray for me!”

Kathleen Sprows Cummings of Norte Dame University came to speak to us about her new book concerning saints, and the race to find the first American born to be canonized (which of course is Elizabeth Ann Seton mentioned in a previous blog post).

Utilizing this list of female saints, I came across one that interested me a lot. Maybe it was due to her young age, or just because she had so much attributed to her, but I chose to do this blog on St. Philomena pictured above, a young virgin martyr, whose remains were discovered in 1802 in the Catacombs of Priscilla. Philomena is said to have refused the advances of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, and had been brutalized various times before being beheaded in 304 A.D/C.E. She’s the patron saint of infants, babies, and youth. Beside her bones within her tomb was a small vial containing some of her blood. An inscription inside read “Peace be with thee, Philomena”, along with drawings of 2 anchors, 3 arrows and a palm. She has a church here in Chicago as well.

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The Ramonat Seminar: Discovering the Neighborhood 

1870+Census_683

I was in charge of mapping pg. 683 of this 1870 census, taken around the Holy Family neighborhood! Susie and Claire covered the other portions of our section.

Here are some stats to start off with:

  • I have a total of 40 residents
  • Of those residents, there are 9 “families” (Strong, Haganin, Teas, Vanever, Washburn, Camfield, Genard, Templease, and Brown), and three “singles” (John, Burchman, and Fay)
  • The Strong family only lists children between the ages of 9-16, with no parents attached to them
  • While most “families” consist of a mother and father plus a few kids, the Teas are a husband and wife (I assume) with a large age gap (53 Husband to Wife’s 37), and the Camfields are both in their 40’s with no children
  • 14 residents were born aboard (In Prussia (present day Germany), the Kingdom of Hanover (present day Germany), England, and Canada)
  • The rest are born in either Illinois or a Midwestern state
  • Those born aboard have marked both parents being born aboard, while Lizzie (3) and Mary (1) Genard are the only native-born American’s with that mark, indicated that their family immigrated shortly before Lizzie’s birth
  • It seems after the age of 16 or so, most children haven’t attended school within the year, do to the fact that high school and beyond hadn’t really caught on in that era
  • All men 21 and older could vote, all residences were literate, and no one suffered from mental or physical disabilities 
  • The age range is even as well as the mix of males to females
  • Finally, out of all the data the class collected, my page was the only one who had a family who was not of total white descent. The Browns had a black father, with the Mother and two children of mixed white and black descent or mulatto, to use the antiquated term

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The Ramonat Seminar #4: Early American Catholic

St. Peter in Chains Cathedral seen above in the featured image section, is located in Cincinnati, Ohio. I chose this location and one of it’s various Catholic institutions because it use to be a boom town, and one of the many centers of the New West after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. While the Jeffersonian vision of an agrarian nation did not stand the test of time (for the most part even in rural sections of the Midwest), this new frontier was seen as a battle ground in more ways than one, especially when it came to spreading the (Protestant) Christian message in the face of mass Catholic integration (new European Catholics, Mexicans, Native Tribes, etc.), and pre-colonization by Catholic nations such as Spain in those areas. So, that begs the question, what were people saying about Catholics back then?

I used LUC’s library’s digitized newspaper collection stretching from 1690 to the present to find out…kind of. The advent of the internet and digital archival work make this useful source of primary sources much easier to browse than years before. I’m happy to be able to access such information so easily, with a bit of a learning curve, then to have to dig up this kind of stuff manually which scholars would have had to do years ago. Some of the articles were smudged or harder to read, and though we had the constraint of observing peoples’ thoughts about Catholics before the outbreak of the Civil War (Pre-1860’s), it was still a lot of material to shift through.

Untitled

I framed my search around the concept of “Manifest Destiny”, first purposed around the period beginning in the 1840’s-1850’s (though Manifest Destiny as a concept and driving American principle can arguably be seen as established in American policy then, and used for God ordained expansionism and exceptionalism ever since). The three key terms I utilized in my search were “Catholic Church” (19953 hits in total)”, “Papist” (1251 hits in total), and “Romanist” (85 hits in total), two of which I borrowed from our reading Catholicism And The Shaping Of Nineteenth-Century America by Jon Gjerde.

Working my way backwards in reverse chronological order, I investigated a number of newspapers within my three set parameters (Between 1840-1850, using one of the three keywords, and printed by or aimed at an American audience), and finally chose three to illustrate my findings. I chose these three articles keeping in mind two of the terms (Romanist and Papist) had overwhelming negative things, while Catholic Church had the most hits the most variety of sources because it is a more “neutral term”. These views were more in line with the readings we did but, with more time, especially using the more neutral term “Catholic Church”, I’m sure more positive/neutral results could have been found.

New-Hampshire Sentinel (Keene, New Hampshire) “A Little of Every Thing

  • Keyword: “Catholic Church”
  • Specific Article: Though it covered a variety of territories and topics (in line with the articles’ title), the bit about the church near the end talks about Rev. Dr. Spring of New York reply to the Bishop Hughes, who says that “infidelity was preferable to Catholicism“, which the newspaper interpreted to mean “an intolerant spirit”.
  • In General: Too broad a scope to pin down an overwhelming feeling from what I looked at alone

Morning News (New London, Connecticut) “Too Romish for Rome 

  • Keyword: “Papist”
  • Specific Article: Rev. Mr. Newman (Anglican) of the Oxford Movement who expressed Puseyist views (derogatory term for Tractarianism that grew into Anglo-Catholicism that pushed the Catholic history/practices of the church), was accused of being too “romish”, who he says (aka The Church) is too “lukewarm” to convey the message he wants.
  • In General: Concentrated in certain newspapers and overwhelming negative sentiments

The Farmers’ Cabinet (Amherst, New Hampshire) “From the Boston Recorder. Protestant Associations

  • Keyword: “Romanist”
  • Specific Article: Exaggerations of the Catholic church and the dangers it poses to civil and religious liberties in tandem with Pagans, and more so than the “innocent” religion of Mohammed in comparison. It says they’re the most idolatrous, evil, lying institution of despots focused only on “money, money, MONEY!”, calling themselves the one true church.
  • In General: Broader newspaper coverage and leaned heavily on the negative

Some interesting research questions I thought about were as follows…

“How did Catholics respond to the rise of Nativism and anti-Catholic practices throughout this period? Did the responds differ in the hierarchy compared to the laity? Did it impact practice at all?”

“What was the reputation of the newspaper in its’ time? What influence did it have on what it reported, who its’ main audience was, and how they presented the Catholic Church?”

“Do Catholics from diverse ethnic and geographical locations receive the same stereotypes or, do these factors play a role in them?”

While this search was by no means all inclusive of the time periods’ feelings towards Catholic Americans and or the Church in general (due to the specific keywords I used, few sources, etc.), it was a very new and fun experience for me! Though my time was limited, and my knowledge limited, I am happy that I got to mess around with this source of information, which will hopefully help me later on as we start to unpack Catholic immigration in Chicago during this period of early American Catholic history, through their eyes for once hopefully!