Neither Holy nor Well: Persistent Sadness in American Catholic Advice Literature





Document Type



Justification, Religious, Violence


DOI: 10.1163/2208522X-02010097


Statements about sadness in American Catholic advice literature in the 1930s–1950s reveal a mix of emotional experiences, ideals, and strategies. While sadness and grief are recognised as part of ordinary life, deep and persistent sadness is described as incompatible with the hope and cheerfulness expected of a Christian. The recommendations offered show the influence of traditional Catholic anthropology, current medical practice, psychology and a broader cultural emphasis on willpower. The ideas in these texts would have shaped how some readers experienced sadness. For those whose feelings did not match the norm or yield to recommended strategies, the messages may have intensified their interior emotional conflict and complicated their relationships with others. Examining messages about sadness in Catholic advice literature against the backdrop of broader cultural ideas about emotions allows for insight into the emotional experience of early- to mid-twentieth-century American Catholics.

Citation/Other Information

Sain, Barbara. “Neither Holy nor Well: Persistent Sadness in American Catholic Advice Literature.” Society for the History of Emotions, Ottawa, Ontario, October 2019.

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