Lifeblood of the ParishMen and Catholic Devotion in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Lifeblood of the ParishMen and Catholic Devotion in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Alyssa Maldonado-Estrada

Print publication date: 2021

ISBN: 9781479872244

Publisher: NYU Press

Abstract

Each year the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, celebrates its annual Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and San Paolino di Nola. The crowning event is the Dance of the Giglio, a devotional spectacle of strength and struggle in which men lift a four-ton, seventy-foot tower through the streets. This ethnographic study delves into this masculine world of devotion and the religious lives of lay Catholic men. It explores contemporary men’s devotion to the saints and the Catholic parish as an enduring venue for the pursuit of manhood and masculinity amid gentrification and neighborhood change in New York City. It explores the way laymen imagine themselves and their labor as high stakes, the very work of keeping their parish alive. In this Brooklyn church men, money, and devotion are intertwined. In the backstage spaces of the parish men enact their devotion through craft, manual labor, and fundraising. A rich exploration of embodiment and material religion, this book examines how men come to be part of religious community through material culture: costumes, clothing, objects, and tattoos. It argues that devotion is as much about skills, the body, and relationships between men as it is about belief.