In Brief

As Bloom walks into the nave of St. Andrew's he sees "Something going on: some sodality." A hint to the sense of this arcane word is suggested a few sentences later: "Women knelt in the benches with crimson halters round their necks, heads bowed. A batch knelt at the altarrails." Catholic sodalities are fraternal organizations (Latin sodalis = companion, fellow, comrade, member) formed for purposes of devotion, charity, evangelism, and/or mutual assistance.

Read More

The word has been used in Christian churches since ancient times, with various meanings. In the Middle Ages it was sometimes applied to monastic and mendicant orders, but in recent times Catholic sodalities (and similar organizations: "confraternities," "archconfraternities," "pious associations") have been groups that, while under ecclesiastical direction, include many lay worshipers. Some of them have been in existence for centuries and have spread to many different countries: the Sodality of Our Lady, also known as the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was founded in Rome by a Jesuit in 1563. Irish sodalities saw a surge of interest in the second half of the 19th century, perhaps owing in part to the increase in popular devotion spurred by the famine of the 1840s.

Sodality gatherings in Catholic churches are marked by the display of colorful vestments and banners. The "crimson halters" that Bloom notices in Lotus Eaters are part of larger celebratory tableaux as described in Nausicaa: "Gerty could picture the whole scene in the church, the stained glass windows lighted up, the candles, the flowers and the blue banners of the blessed Virgin’s sodality."

JH 2022
Sodality banners displayed in the Church of the Holy Redeemer in Bray, County Wicklow, date unknown. Source:
A recently made banner of the Sodality of Our Lady.