Paula KaneSister Thorn and Catholic Mysticism in Modern America

UNC Press, 2013

by Hillary Kaell on March 31, 2015

Paula Kane

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Sister Thorn and Catholic Mysticism in Modern America (UNC Press, 2013) is a detailed journey into the life of Margaret Reilly, an American Irish-Catholic from New York who entered the Convent of the Good Shepherd in 1921, taking the name Sister Crown of Thorns. During the 1920s and 1930s, Sister Thorn became known as a stigmatic who bled the wounds of Christ. In this microhistory of Thorn’s story, Professor Paula Kane immerses readers in a world in transition, where interwar Catholics retained deep mystical devotionalism, yet also began to claim a confident new role as assimilated Americans. She does so through a very provocative question: “How did a stigmatic help ordinary Catholic understand themselves as modern Americans?” In the process, Professor Kane explores religious practice and mysticism through a number of theoretical literatures—including theology, psychology, feminism, sociology, and cultural studies—opening up multiple new avenues for scholars of religion to consider.

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