Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Devotional Revolution

     I’ve read on some message boards that the genealogy centers in Ireland work from indexes and don’t have actual microfilm of the parish registers, and that may be true in some cases, but not all.  Wicklow for example has the Baltinglass Parish microfilm which they searched for me at no charge when my results page at the Irish Family History Foundation site, (which you remember is no longer free), instead of coming up with the McGarrs I  searched for gave me multiple hits on the surname Connors and I complained. 

      In fact they found a baptism that would have never shown up in any index since the name of the child and father was not given, just the mother’s name and address, a sponsor’s name and the other sponsor's
Anne Donahoe Ballyraggan -Garr & Anne Coleman

surname.  In this case that was enough since I knew from other sources the child’s name, parent’s names and address and the approximate year (1831) the baptism should have occurred.  The Wicklow center hypothesized that the priest had written the entry some time after the actual event and had forgotten some of the details…he made a mistake.  They do happen.

     I’m betting they happened more frequently before the famine when baptisms and marriages were commonly performed at home rather than in a church.  I’ve discussed this recently in the blog, Stations in Ireland.  Things changed drastically following the famine.  The massive reduction in population meant there was now enough space and clergy to allow for the practice of Catholicism in Ireland in the same manner it was practiced on the continent.  Modern historians have coined the term “devotional revolution” to describe what happened next.

    Archbishop Paul Cullen, a native of Kildare and later Ireland’s first cardinal, was a man with a mission.  As unbelievable as it may seem, the typical Catholic in pre famine Ireland was not what we today would consider a practicing Catholic.  Mass attendance was spotty at best, many had no real understanding of the basic tenants of their religion.  Even worse, in rural areas vestiges of the old pagan religion were still practiced.  Celtic fertility rites and of course the rambunctious Irish wake were examples.  Many of these country folk were the very ones swept away by the famine making the Archbishop’s attempt at reform easier.

      Archbishop Cullen introduced sweeping changes, among them a better trained clergy, now required to wear the Roman collar, the use of the rosary, the introduction of retreats and novenas, and the obligation to hear Mass weekly.  He encouraged Catholics to take advantage of confession and communion regularly; and they did.  Ireland evolved into one of the most orthodox, conservative countries in the world with the words Irish and Catholic almost synonymous.

    Paul Cardinal Culled passed away in 1878, but the revolution he began lived on and forever altered Ireland.  As we know, the Irish people became devout Catholics and the Church enjoyed immense growth and influence in Ireland and would for decades to come.         

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