- Hardcover: 384 pages
- Publisher: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press; 1st, Date Same Title & Copyright Page edition (April 30, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 067402818X
- ISBN-13: 978-0674028180
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #451,513 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Faithful: A History of Catholics in America Hardcover – April 30, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Recent studies of the Roman Catholic Church in America have brought into focus the emergence of Catholics into mainstream culture and the colorful particularities of the faith in various parish neighborhoods. O'Toole, a historian at Boston College, follows this trend of telling the story from below, but begins his narrative from the birth of the nation in the 1770s. For many, the biggest revelation in the book will be O'Toole's designation of the colonial church as priestless. While that was not entirely the case—a handful of priests did serve the small number of Catholics who had settled here—many did not see a priest more than once a year. As Catholics today are aware, the church currently faces a similar priest shortage. For readers who are familiar with the church, the primary joy of this book will be found in checking their own experiences against those described by O'Toole. Still, the genial style of writing together with a plentiful amount of fascinating tidbits will keep all but the most jaded expert going. (Apr.)
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The Faithful is a truly original and mature work that gives us a rich history of American Catholics. There is simply no comparable book.
--David O'Brien, Holy Cross
An ambitious narrative history of American Catholicism, written with great historical range and attention to lived experience. It has profound contemporary resonance. This courageous book, unafraid to explore the story's darker moments, is destined to become the new standard text on American Catholicism.
--Robert Orsi, Northwestern University
Solidly researched, engagingly told and insightfully interpreted, The Faithful is the first comprehensive history of lay Catholic prayer, politics and creative fidelity to church teaching, even in times of crisis such as the present. It could not come at a better time, as American Catholics struggle to reclaim a legacy of moral leadership and stalwart service to the nation.
--R. Scott Appleby, University of Notre Dame
O'Toolesurveys the lay Catholic experience in America with remarkable breadth and mastery. Lively and accessible, this book provides a valuable introduction to American Catholic history.
--Leslie Tentler, Catholic University of America
O'Toole's history, focusing especially on personal narratives, makes for captivating reading...A history worth reading. (Kirkus Reviews 2008-02-15)
For readers who are familiar with the church, the primary joy of this book will be found in checking their own experiences against those described by O'Toole. Still, the genial style of writing together with a plentiful amount of fascinating tidbits will keep all but the most jaded expert going. (Publishers Weekly 2008-02-11)
O'Toole deftly tells the history of lay Catholics in America. Beginning with the priestless church of the Colonial period, he goes on to explore the church in the democratic republic, the immigrant church, the church of Catholic Action, the church of Vatican II, and the church in the 21st century.
--Augustine J. Curley (Library Journal 2008-03-15)
Especially timely...This is not so much a history as, in this case, a penetrating, deftly worked summary of organizational and liturgical developments, formal and informal, in the American Catholic Church with emphasis on the role and influence of the laity.
--Katherine A. Powers (Boston Globe 2008-04-20)
O'Toole crams an array of stories, profiles and statistics into his book that will make it a welcome addition to the shelf of anyone interested in the country's religious culture. His focus is on how the relationship between rank-and-file Catholics and the church has changed since the country's colonial era...O'Toole's prodigious research and engaging writing ensure that The Faithful: A History of Catholics in America will be the authoritative work on this subject for quite some time.
--Claude R. Marx (St. Petersburg Times 2008-04-25)
An intriguing book, brimming with wisdom. It studies the evolution of U.S. Catholicism by dividing it into a half-dozen historic segments, from the Colonial "priestless church" to the muscular, immigrant-fed church a century ago, to the reformist, post-Vatican II church and beyond.
--Rich Barlow (Boston Globe 2008-05-07)
[O'Toole] relies on a wide range of source material, writes in vivid detail and, above all, pays a great deal of attention to religious practice and ritual. It is this last that distinguishes The Faithful from previously published histories of American Catholicism...He is certainly not the first to write Catholic history from the perspective of the people in the pews. But it is true that his narrative eschews, to a much greater extent than other surveys, expositions of ideological or political conflict among the church hierarchy. Instead, he frames his book in a manner designed to capture the myriad ways in which ordinary American Catholics have lived, prayed and practiced their faith...It is the Catholic faithful more broadly who stand to gain the most insight from reading this book...[It] deserves a wide readership.
--Kathleen Cummings (America 2008-09-15)
[A] splendid new history of Catholics in the United States.
--Rodger Van Allen (Commonweal 2008-09-12)
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Top customer reviews
Some glaring omissions: People of color hardly warrant more than a paragraph mention, until the final chapter, which condescendingly explains that the future Catholic of the US is "a woman named Maria". There is proportionately much more information about the northeast than the south or west.
The book is statistics heavy, which readers might see as either a feature or a bug.
Despite these hesitations, I would say O'Toole's book draws attention to interesting trends in US-ian Catholicism: the changing relationship of the priests and the laity, the decline in popularity of Confession and the rise in popularity of receiving the Eucharist, the Church's beginnings in the colonies as largely priestless and led by the laity, to the height of clerical power, to the reality at the beginning of this century--fewer and fewer priests and sisters are present to minister to US Catholics, so once again, the laity are assuming many important responsibilities in the parish.
Good discussion also of Catholic social action, and movements like Voice of the Faithful, Call to Action, and Catholic Worker.
In an August 5, 2013 post on my weblog, _The Main Event_, I reviewed _The Faithful_. I said in part:
SUBJECT AND THEME. To completely know what a thing is we should study how the thing came to be. In large part, describing the development of today's Catholic laity is the task of Catholic historian James M. O'Toole in writing _The Faithful: A History of Catholics in America_. Through six periods, beginning with the colonial, he describes the ever-changing mass of laymen, and he is generally sympathetic to them--but willing to face facts.
In O'Toole's terms, the laity of the Church are the 99% of the Catholic movement, the followers of the Church, the "sheep" guided by the priestly shepherds. (p. 3) The hierarchy are the 1% of the Church; they are the individuals--the priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes--who are mystically ordained to perform sacred tasks such as conducting a Mass, receiving a confession, and giving "last rites" to the dying. O'Toole discusses the hierarchy of the Church, as an institution within the Catholic movement, but only to the extent that the laity interact with them. ...
O'Toole profiles the masses. (pp. 2-3) He asks (pp. 4-6) three main questions about the Catholic community at each of the six phases of its history in the USA:
1. What is the size and structure of the Catholic community? ...
2. What did Catholics emphasize as the core of being Catholic in dealing with this world and in preparing for the supernatural world? ...
3. What was the relationship between the American laity and the pope? ...
O'Toole is not writing an advertisement for the Catholic Church. He faces defects in the Church movement where he sees them. ...
AUDIENCE. O'Toole is a skillful narrator. He writes to readers--Catholic or not--who want to understand both the enduring nature and the evolving nature of Catholicism in the USA. Non-Catholics can learn the basic elements of Catholicism from reading this book. O'Toole casually explains Catholic terms as he progresses. ...
CONCLUSION. I do recommend this book because of its general approach--knowing the subject by looking at its historical roots as well as its present face--its style, and its sincere concern about the Church. Catholics, Protestants, and even atheists can gain from thoughtfully reading this sweeping look at the largest single religious worldview in the USA.