The Individual in the (Catholic) Mass: Restoration, Self and Community in Liturgy and Literature

Rosemary A. Peters
In the turbulent 1830s, the young priest Prosper Gueranger determines to restore France's dispersed Benedictine community. Gueranger revitalizes a religious community, as well as a thousand years of monastic tradition. He does this work with full knowledge that he will be criticized, in the ethos of postrevolutionary France, for sacrificing the individual to the col­lective. In the decadent 1890s, Joris-Karl Huysmans writes En route, a novel that continues the narrative of the novelist's
more » ... e novelist's alter-ego Durtal. Durtal, dis­gusted with life in Paris, leaves on retreat to a Trappist monastery, where his soul is "surprised by grace" in the atmosphere of "mystical literature, liturgy and plainchant" (Huysmans qtd. in Baldick 288). Durtal undertakes his own individual 'rebuilding' within the monastic community. My article focuses on the conversion narrative in a century dedicated to the reinforcement of individualism both personal and regional. These au­thors represent a cultural continuum in the nineteenth century, one that sublimates the personal to the collective, yet with the seemingly paradox­ical objective of raising up the individual. The figures I study here repre­sent different modes of religious activity or adherence; each approaches religious discourse in ways that investigate the place of the individual within the infrastructure of a plural organism.
doi:10.26262/gramma.v18i0.6341 fatcat:t43rwlnkqretxalap76axw6mau