In Signs of Catholicity, I linked to a blog entry by Gilles Cayoutte of Le chercheur nomade/The Nomadic Researcher, concerning the Catholic burial of an unknown man who had drowned in the St. Lawrence. In this burial record, the priest explains that he had performed the rites of a Catholic burial for this unknown man, because the body or person of the man had displayed sufficient signs of Catholicity (des signes suffisants de catholicité).
It turns out that Gilles Cayouette has more, much more, on signs of Catholicity. In an earlier blog entry, Les registres de l’état civil et les signes de catholicité, Cayouette refers to a number of examples of Catholic burial records of unknown persons, where various signs of Catholicity (which is to say, signs of membership in the Roman Catholic Church) had been discovered, which signs were thought to warrant a Catholic burial.
Among these signs of Catholicity:
- un chapelet (a rosary)
- une croix ou un crucifix (a cross or a crucifix)
- un scapulaire (a scapular)
- un livre de prières (a prayer book)
I have no doubt that, when someone entered the home, however humble, of a 19th-century Catholic family, that someone could find evidence of Catholicism. But how many 19th-century Catholics carried with them, on their own persons, and at all times, at least one or more “signs of Catholicity,” such that, were they found dead, and the body unidentified, someone could make a confident judgement of “Roman Catholic”?
It is an interesting question, I think.