Why do post-pilgrimage slideshows help Transylvanian Hungarian Catholics perform domestic devotional labor? There is growing interest in breaking open pilgrimage research, and scholars have recently begun studying rituals of return—including pilgrims’ practice of using photographs to narrate their journeys after returning home. I contribute to this effort by sketching out the general characteristics of Transylvanian Hungarian Catholics’ post-pilgrimage slideshows about the Medjugorje shrine. I then give a detailed description of an exemplary case: a married couple’s presentation for their children gathered around the family computer. Although we might expect pilgrims to routinize stories and images from a chaotic journey, many slideshows were quite disorganized and impressionistic. This disorganization helped travelers tailor their stories to the diverse spiritual interests of guests in a changing Transylvanian Hungarian Catholic religious landscape. Family members’ conversations also dramatized how neoliberalism in Romania has emerged alongside new global pilgrimage sites like Medjugorje. Medjugorje appeals to pilgrims because it is a privileged site for advertising national wares on the global market.
Abstract: This essay presents an ethnographic account of two divorced Catholic women’s memories of praying to the Virgin Mary while seeking illegal abortions under the Romanian socialist regime. These women’s stories focused on troubling memories of being in love, reflections that were retrospectively shaped by divorce. Drawing on Sigmund Freud’s notion of the uncanny, I call these recollections uncanny memories of the self in love. Uncannily remembering one’s self in love combines experiential self-examination and ethical assessment of actions. The notion of the uncanny self in love thus helps bridge the divide between experience- and action-oriented approaches to lived ethics. I argue that the ethical significance of the Virgin Mary’s actions depended on my acquaintances’ approach to love. For one woman seeking to stay estranged from her ex-husband, the Virgin Mary’s actions accentuated his ethical immaturity. My other acquaintance harbored more ambivalent feelings toward her ex-husband; for her, talking about the Virgin Mary helped her relativize feelings of ethical indignation. As a core implication of this argument, I urge greater awareness of the problematic tendency to include the need for greater awareness of tendencies in theories of lived ethics to reify socially situated perspectives on love.
In 2016 a new open access journal, The Journal of Global Catholicism, was launched in conjunction with the Catholics & Cultures program at College of the Holy Cross. We recently caught up Dr. Marc Loustau, one of the journal editors, to talk about this exciting new forum.
Participants: Marc Loustau (College of the Holy Cross); James S. Bielo (Miami University)
James: Marc, thanks so much for taking the time to talk about The Journal of Global Catholicism. The inaugural issue was published in late 2016, and consists of six articles on Indian Catholicism. Very exciting for anyone interested in “lived Catholicism” (a category we’ll circle back to), and certainly exciting for the editorial team. Could you start by explaining a bit about the project’s background. How did this project get started?
Marc: The Journal of Global Catholicism (JGC) works in tandem with the Catholics & Cultures initiative at College of the Holy Cross. Both are programs of Holy Cross’ McFarland Center for Religion, Ethics, and Culture. I am the Editor, working with Mat Schmalz, Associate Professor in Holy Cross’ Department of Religious Studies, who is the JGC’s Founder and Senior Editor. We also work with Tom Landy, Director of the McFarland Center’s Catholics & Cultures program where the JGC has its institutional home. Continue reading
Loustau, Marc. 2016. Risking a Miracle: Transcendentally Oriented Improvisation and Catholic Charismatics’ Involvement in a Transylvanian Canonization. Journal of Contemporary Religion 31(3): 335-350.
Abstract: Anthropologists have begun to challenge the consensus that sainthood is not an operative factor in Charismatic Christianity, opening up space to re-examine how ritual and narrative shape habitual religious sensibilities. Through an ethnographic study of Transylvanian Catholic Charismatics’ search for miracles to aid a deceased Bishop’s canonization, I argue that canonization is driven by a form of adaptive ritualization and storytelling, which I call ‘transcendentally oriented improvisation’. In this mode, ritualization and storytelling are existential strategies by which subjects extrapolate styles of action and discourse into new situations to transcend disordered being-in-the-world. By engaging in improvisation, my acquaintances renewed a sense of existential potentiality put at risk. Studying transcendentally oriented improvisation draws attention to risk and indeterminacy as central aspects of the lived experience of canonization and other divine mediations. Transylvanian Charismatic Catholics’ involvement in canonization is also evidence that the global Charismatic movement is now integrating into mainstream Catholicism. Movement, memorialization, authority, and religious experience are the central points of contention shaping the outcome of this process.