The question of how priests were taught to think about and care for female parishioners is the topic of this book. As neither misogynist villains nor saintly heroes, clerical authors of pastoral vernacular literature persisted both in their characterization of women as difficult parishioners and in their attempts to recognize women as ordinary parishioners who deserved ordinary pastoral care. Focusing on the important vernacular writings of John Mirk, his Festial and Instructions for Parish Priests, the author reveals how even a small number of influential sermon compilations, exempla, and pastoral guides could have significantly shaped the perceptions, attitudes, and - perhaps - actions of fourteenth- and fifteenth-century priests. Shedding light on the mental universe of the late medieval parish, this study offers important new insights into the reality of how priests perceived and fulfilled their spiritual obligations to the women they served.
BETH ALLISON BARR is Assistant Professor of European Women's History at Baylor University.
Table of Contents
Introduction: "Be it husband, be it wife?"
Pastoral Vernacular Literature
Conclusion: Gendered Lessons