Sister Thorn and Catholic Mysticism in Modern America
One day in 1917, while cooking dinner at home in Manhattan,Margaret Reilly felt a sharp pain over her heart and claimed to see a crucifixemerging in blood on her skin. Four years later Reilly entered the convent ofthe Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Peekskill, New York, where, known as SisterMary of the Crown of Thorns, she spent most of her life gravely ill andpossibly exhibiting Christ’s wounds. In this portrait of Sister Thorn, Paula M.Kane scrutinizes the responses to this American stigmatic’s experiences andillustrates the surprising presence of mystical phenomena in twentieth-centuryAmerican Catholicism.
Drawing on accounts by clerical authorities, ordinaryCatholics, doctors, and journalists—as well as on medicine, anthropology, andgender studies—Kane explores American Catholic mysticism, setting it in thecontext of life after World War I and showing the war’s impact on AmericanChristianity. Sister Thorn’s life, she reveals, marks the beginning of atransition among Catholics from a devotional, Old World piety to a newlyconfident role in American society.
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