"For Faith and for Freedom"
This dissertation investigates the Holy Name Society, a Catholic men's confraternity that thrived in early-to-mid twentieth-century America, aimed at addressing perceived problems of modernity by curbing blasphemous speech and bringing men back to the regular attendance to the sacraments of the faith. A dual focus on the local Holy Name movement in Boston and the national campaign uncovers the linkages within the organization as its numbers and purposes expanded. Blending the perspective of lived religion with the methods of social and cultural history, the study explores social relationships of Holy Name men pertaining to race, gender, family, and children, and it shows that the institution was the main lens through which its members translated their faith into their daily lives. Holy Name men, for example, entered into the era of Catholic Action long before historians understand that movement to have begun. The institution served as the Catholic counterpart to the predominantly Protestant push for muscular Christianity, combining corporate faith practice with publicly oriented events such as massive rallies and parades. As such, the society became a mouthpiece of the laity, lashing out against anti-Catholic bigotry, defining American Catholic patriotism anew, and offering a particularly strong anticommunist stance. The study uncovers new dimensions in the relationships between the clergy and the laity, it shows that liberal concepts of racial equality came early and met with mixed success in the organization, and it reveals that Catholic laymen at midcentury bore a tremendous responsibility as defenders of their nation, church, wives, and children. The domestic role of Holy Name men, moreover, was much more engaged and leadership-oriented than traditional "separate spheres" assumptions about gender and family relations might suggest. The overarching result is that the study conclusively shows that many of the dramatic changes commonly attributed to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council were in fact underway long before the 1960s. The distinctive era of Holy Name practice described here, however, had begun to decline by the late 1940s, a process accelerated the following decade by the relative decline of Catholic devotional life and larger social forces such as suburbanization.