Born Catholic. Raised Catholic. Americans across generations have used these phrases to describe their formative days, but the experience of growing up Catholic in the United States has changed over the last several decades. While the creed and the sacraments remain the same, the context for learning the faith has transformed. As a result of demographic shifts and theological developments, children face a different set of circumstances today from what they encountered during the mid-twentieth-century. Through a close study of autobiographical and fictional texts that depict the experience, Ingrained Habits
explores the intimate details of everyday life for children growing up Catholic during the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. These literary portrayals present upbringings characterized by an all-encompassing encounter with religion. The adult authors of such writings run the gamut from vowed priests to unwavering atheists and their depictions range from glowing nostalgia to deep-seated resentment; however, they curiously describe similar experiences from their childhood days in the Church.
Mary Ellen O'Donnell uses examples from her own family's experiences to frame this story of change within an American Catholic life. Her analysis of the literature about pre-Vatican II Catholicism points to a perceived insular environment infused with religious authority in multiple contexts. The book includes a chapter about each of the three distinct, but linked, settings considered in the study--the institutional parish/school, the family home and the ethnic neighborhood. These places offered discrete introductions to and lessons about the faith, but they combined to constitute an enveloping Catholic world. As the larger institution of the Church was changing across the decades of the mid-twentieth-century, a generation of Catholics was being formed through particular details within daily routines. Ingrained Habits
, through the literature it surveys, brings us to the classrooms and confessionals, kitchens and bedrooms, sidewalks and stoops where it happened.