Grass-roots Catholicism and the Secular Drought
Addressing the Eldest Daughter of the Church in 1892, Leo XIII called France ‘a Catholic nation... by virtue of the faith of the great majority of her sons today’.1 Like King Lear, fathers often entertain fond illusions about their eldest daughters; and if there were traditional reasons for still giving France this title, the faith of her sons in 1892 scarcely remained one of them. Admittedly the vast majority of Frenchmen had been taken to a Catholic church as unsuspecting babies to be baptised — perhaps well over 90 per cent.2 And of the two or three million who escaped the brief alarm of having water poured on their heads and salt put in their mouths, some 600,000 underwent similar experiences in Protestant churches. A church wedding was still the dream of most women, over 80 per cent of French weddings being blessed in church as well as in the drab solemnity of the mairie. And finally, when life had no more to offer, the vast majority of people were taken feet first to church, to be buried according to the rites of their ancestors.
KeywordsChurch Attendance Social Convention Catholic School Paris Basin Religious Observance
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