Good Grief? by Richard J. Mammana, Jr.

Good Grief?

Searching for Raymond: Anglicanism, Spiritualism, and Bereavement Between the Two World Wars
by Rene Kollar
New York and Oxford: Lexington Books, 2000
(208 pages; $60.00, cloth)

reviewed by Richard J. Mammana, Jr.

The First World War, with its unprecedented losses, brought bereavement as never before to vast numbers of British families. Immediately after the 750,000 English wartime casualties came the further deaths of more than 150,000 Britons in an influenza epidemic. All this hit a church without explicit liturgical prayers for the dead very hard. Survivors wishing to have some sort of contact or assurance regarding their departed loved ones often turned to the welcoming arms of spiritualism. Through séances, channeling, automatic writing, and other means, many found more for their comfort than they saw in traditional Christian teaching about the afterlife. Rene Kollar (a Roman Catholic priest teaching at Saint Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania) chronicles the official Anglican reaction to this tendency in Searching for Raymond. At eight decades’ remove from the events in question, one can’t but see a pastoral blunder of the most extraordinary proportions. From the outset, ecclesiastics formed committees to handle the issue. As usual, this was to the detriment of Christian souls.

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