The Internet and the Madonna: Religious Visionary Experience on the Web

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University of Chicago Press, Mar 25, 2005 - Religion - 282 pages
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In 1994, a devout Catholic woman from Vermont began having religious visions and hearing the voice of the Virgin Mary. To spread word about her mystical experiences, she turned to the Internet. As Paolo Apolito records here, she is only one of many people who use the Web as a tool of religious devotion. Every day, thousands of Catholics—from Italy and Latin America to the United States and Bosnia—use the Internet to describe and celebrate apparitions of Mary, to exchange relics and advice in chat rooms, to make pilgrimages to religious Web sites, and to practice the rites of their faith online.

But how has this potent new mix of technology and religiosity changed the way Catholics view their faith? And what challenges do the autonomous qualities of the Internet pose to the broader authority of Catholicism? Does the democratic nature of access to digital technologies constitute a return to a more archaic and mystical form of Catholicism that predates the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council?

In working through these questions, Apolito considers visions of Mary on the Web over the past two decades, revealing a great deal about religion as it is now experienced through new information technologies. The Internet, he explains, has made possible a decentralized community of the devoted, even as it has absorbed God into the shifts and complexities of electronic circuitry. And this profound development in religious life will only accelerate as use of the Internet spreads around the world.

An indispensable guide to the future of Catholicism, The Internet and the Madonna offers a compelling glimpse into the spiritual life of the connected soul.

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The Internet and the Madonna: religious visionary experience on the Web

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Librarians have often pointed out that information on the web, while free and convenient, can lack authoritativeness. Since authority is a crucial concept in Roman Catholicism, the most hierarchical ... Read full review

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About the author (2005)

Paolo Apolito teaches cultural anthropology at the University of Salerno and at the University of Rome III. He is the author of several books, including Apparitions of the Madonna at Oliveto Citra: Local Visions and Cosmic Drama. Antony Shugaar is a translator and journalist who has translated more than one hundred books from Italian and French, most recently Giorgio’s Memoirs of an Italian Terrorist.

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