The Spirit of Vatican II: A History of Catholic Reform in America

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Overview


In 1962 a group of Catholic leaders traveled to Rome, charged by Pope John XXIII with the task of making the gospel of Christ relevant in a modern world. The Second Vatican Council transformed the lives of Catholics through sweeping reforms--yet its effect on the daily lives of practicing Catholics has never been fully understood.

In this illuminating study, religious historian Colleen McDannell presents new insight into Vatican II by shifting the framework of its analysis: ...

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The Spirit of Vatican II: A History of Catholic Reform in America

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Overview


In 1962 a group of Catholic leaders traveled to Rome, charged by Pope John XXIII with the task of making the gospel of Christ relevant in a modern world. The Second Vatican Council transformed the lives of Catholics through sweeping reforms--yet its effect on the daily lives of practicing Catholics has never been fully understood.

In this illuminating study, religious historian Colleen McDannell presents new insight into Vatican II by shifting the framework of its analysis: from men to women, from urban to suburban, from theory to practice. Using the story of her Catholic mother's life as a narrative thread, McDannell presents in The Spirit of Vatican II a refreshingly positive portrayal of the state of modern Catholicism--and a testament to the lasting effects of its liberalization.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Peter Steinfels, Co-director of the Fordham University Center on Religion and Culture and author of A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America
“Colleen McDannell offers readers a wonderful blend of macro-history and micro-history.   Her remarkably comprehensive and completely accessible account of the Second Vatican Council and the changes it wrought in American Catholic life takes an original tack in weaving these changes around the experiences of Catholic women and of several generations of her own family.”

Chester Gillis, Professor of Theology at Georgetown University and author of Roman Catholicism in America
“Written in an inviting and accessible style, McDannell’s work captures the important movements in the church and American society that preceded (and prepared the way for) Vatican II, the details of the Council, and its unique effects on various parishes. The book underscores the contributions of women whose roles may not have been as public as those of male clerics but which were influential at the local level. Catholics who lived this era will recognize the history and younger generations will learn the nuances of the history that has shaped contemporary religious experience.”
 
Leigh E. Schmidt, Charles Warren Professor of American Religious History at Harvard University
“Part social history, part family memoir, Colleen McDannell’s The Spirit of Vatican II beautifully evokes the dramatic transformation of Catholicism in the middle decades of the twentieth century. The way she entwines her stories of family and church is a breath of fresh air all its own.”
 
Mark Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame
“Colleen McDannell has done a superb job interweaving the high level unfolding of the Second Vatican Council and the ground level effects of Vatican II on her parents’ own Catholic experience. The book is an outstanding example of analysis joined with empathy, the Big Picture balanced by the intimate portrait, the detached observation meeting the involved participant. With prose of unusual clarity McDannell breathes unusual life into what has been far and away the most important event of recent Catholic history.”
 
Robert Orsi, Professor of Religious Studies and History and G. Craddock Nagle Chair in Catholic Studies at Northwestern University and author of Thank You, Saint Jude: Women’s Devotions to the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes
“A vividly described and richly detailed history of American Catholic lives in the thrilling, challenging era of ‘Vatican II.’ In a way that only she can do, Colleen McDannell’s story ranges from a gripping account of the unfolding work of the Council fathers to how a young wife and mother—her own mother, whose life is the heart of this book—experienced the times. McDannell brings readers very close to what these times felt like to Catholics, especially Catholic women, in their changing church and in the changed world around them, and she makes clear women’s central role in enacting the spirit of the Council in their parishes and schools. Colleen McDannell is a great historian and The Spirit of Vatican II is a masterwork.”
 
Judith Weisenfeld, Professor of Religion at Princeton University
“In this engaging and compelling text McDannell uses her mother’s story to trace the impact of Vatican II’s reforms on the everyday lives of American Catholics. Through the lens of family history we come to understand not only the theological, liturgical, and cultural changes the Council set in motion, but gain insight into broader issues such as immigration, family history, gender, class, region, and popular culture. McDannell’s accessible narrative makes important contributions to the history of religion in America.”

Ann Braude, Director of the Women’s Studies in Religion Program at Harvard Divinity School
“One of the leading historians of American religion chronicles the joys and travails of one family—her own—experiencing modern U.S. history through a Catholic lens. The result is a major revision of the story of American Catholicism centered on the core of its membership, the female laity. Colleen McDannell uses every tool learned from her numerous studies of material and popular religious cultures to create a finely textured account connecting the lived experience of the faithful in mobile suburban parishes to international debates among the Bishops in Rome. The Spirit of Vatican II is a sweeping synthesis that reads like a novel."

Publishers Weekly
“[A] deeply researched but lively social history that uses the affecting story of [McDannell’s] own mother as the narrative thread…. This is indispensable history for today’s Catholics—and others—to learn, and McDannell has told the tale well and with a depth and context that places the council in time and space, but also acknowledges a conciliar spirit that blows where it will.”
 

National Catholic Reporter “This book’s strength is in its anecdotes that signal how deep Vatican II’s impact has taken root…. [McDannell’s mother] Margaret’s spiritual search is emblematic of women of the Greatest Generation, and it comes alive in this book. So does the history, weaving in the currents of the wider society with what was happening in the church and the family…. McDannell’s social history proves that Vatican II cannot be relegated to a book on a shelf filled with agreeable sayings. We remain children of its legacy, like it or not.”
 
Christian Century
“McDannell rightly points out that the Catholic Church is not a monolith…. [Her] telling of the American story is graceful and reveals a sharp eye for detail.”

Library Journal
“What sets McDannell’s book apart is her use of her own family history to illustrate the effect of the changes…. Emphasizing the success of Vatican II, McDannell has a feel for the telling facts and incidents that give life to the story of the genuine upheaval in the church from the perspective from the pew. A well-written history of the effects of Vatican II in America both generally and on a particular, representative family, which puts a real face on what could have been an abstract discussion.”

Austin American-Statesman
“[McDannell] tells the story of Vatican II through the eyes of her mother, Margaret, and provides a thorough – and much-needed – explanation of the council that helps readers understand the enormous impact it had on the life of the church.”

U.S.Catholic
The Spirit of Vatican II urges us to remember what being an American Catholic was like before and during the council, as well as in the decades since. It asks: Who do we want to be as a church going forward?”
 

Catholic World Report “Well-written…. McDannell’s weaving of the two stories of her mother and the broader church is deft.”

Library Journal
A number of books have been written about the various effects of Vatican II on American Catholicism, e.g., Mark S. Massa's The American Catholic Revolution, which focuses on big topics and well-known figures. What sets McDannell's (history & religious studies, Univ. of Utah; Heaven: A History) book apart is her use of her own family history to illustrate the effect of the changes. McDannell specifically focuses on her mother, who, with her family, moved several times as her husband took different jobs, thus experiencing the changes wrought by Vatican II as played out in a number of different parishes, some embracing the changes, some changing only reluctantly. Emphasizing the success of Vatican II, McDannell has a feel for the telling facts and incidents that give life to the story of the genuine upheaval in the church from the perspective from the pew. VERDICT A well-written history of the effects of Vatican II in America both generally and on a particular, representative family, which puts a real face on what could have been an abstract discussion.—Augustine J. Curley, Newark Abbey, NJ
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465044801
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 3/1/2011
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,132,396
  • Product dimensions: 9.28 (w) x 6.42 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Meet the Author


Colleen McDannell is a Professor of History and Sterling M. McMurring Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Utah. Her books include Heaven: A History and Picturing Faith: Photography and the Great Depression. She lives in Salt Lake City.
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Table of Contents

Introduction ix

Chapter 1 Catholic Neighborhoods 1

Chapter 2 Postwar Suburbs 29

Chapter 3 Gathering in Los Angeles and Rome 55

Chapter 4 The Council and Its Decisions 73

Chapter 5 Uneven Acceptance 119

Chapter 6 Design for Change 151

Chapter 7 A Deciding People 177

Chapter 8 Legacies 207

Acknowledgments 233

Notes 237

Bibliographical Essay 247

Index 269

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    The author left Catholicism. But if she looked at the actual tex

    The author left Catholicism. But if she looked at the actual text of the council (there is an english translation available online on the vatican's website of it) she would see that the spirit of vatican II sometimes does not equal the text of Vatican II. Vatican II was hijacked by some people who wanted things differently. The texts of Vatican II actually don't ask the priest to face the people at mass, nuns not wearing habits, or liturgical dancing. It did allow mass to be said in english though.

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