On/File: A Continuing Record of People, Groups, Movements, and Events Impacting Contemporary Religion

1) Hyattsville, Maryland has become a living example of what is called the “Benedict option,” the idea that Christians should form countercultural communities that eschew politics in the face of a hostile secular society. Young conservative Catholic families have been moving into the suburban town just outside of Washington, DC and the section known as “little Rome” (for the large number of Catholic institutions based there) and have congregated around St. Jerome Catholic parish, transforming its liturgy into a more traditional form and turning its parochial school into a classical Christian school. This core group of Catholics started convincing other Catholics to move into the neighborhood. Most of the interaction and organization of the  community is carried out through the St. Elizabeth Listserv and social events such as a “Mom’s Cocktail Hour.” The town is known as a progressive community with urban amenities such as walkability, the presence of “third places,” and plenteous job opportunities. But Catholics are using the same amenities found in the “bourgeois-bohemian suburbs” that urban theorist Richard Florida argues attracts the secular creative class to build this community, which has caught the attention of the media and of The Benedict Option author Rod Dreher himself. One concern is that this ingathering of mainly white, well-educated and well-off Catholics may further diminish the diversity in this neighborhood in a similar way to that which “creative cities” have experienced.

(Source: Paper presented by Audra Dugandzic of the University of Notre Dame at the meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion)

2) The Lord of Miracles is a Peruvian devotion that has recently taken on national dimensions, honored by laity, clergy, and civil authorities. The Lord of Miracles, a copy of a fresco of Jesus’ crucifixion painted by an Angolan slave in the seventeenth century that has survived earthquakes, has drawn on African and native traditions and deities, such as Pachacamac. While its syncretistic components have been condemned by Catholic clergy, a Creole of aristocratic lineage who claimed to be cured by the veneration of the Lord of Miracles lent it wide legitimacy, and it has expanded and taken over Spanish-imported devotions, such as Captive Lord, a devotion based around miraculous beliefs in a human-sized statue of Jesus. Today the Lord of Miracles procession, run on several days in October by numerous fraternal groups, has dominated the shrinking procession for the Captive Lord. An October poll found that 70 percent of Limenians consider the procession important or very important. As evidenced by Pope Francis controversially blessing a native Pachacamac statue during the Amazon Synod, his papacy has encouraged such devotions as the Lord of Miracles. Clergy themselves now see the Lord of Miracles devotion as a strategy to reach nominal Catholics and safeguard against the growth of Pentecostalism. Although a non-confessional state, Peruvian officials and authorities feel pressured by the public to participate in the rituals, with various politicians making use of the Lord of Miracles to promote their popularity. President Alan Garcia declared the Lord of Miracles the “Patron of Peruvian Catholic Religiosity and Spirituality.”

(Source: Paper presented by Veronique Lecaros of the Pontifica Universidad Catolica del Peru at the meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion)