How is the Catholic Church represented in the story "Eveline"?James Joyce's Dubliners

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As Eveline sits at the window, watching "the evening invade the avenue, she reflects upon how the neighborhood once was. Considering her departure, she recalls that she has never learned the name of the priest whose yellowing photograph hangs on the wall next to the colored print of the promises she has made to Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque.  This beatified French nun (one of the steps to sainthood) who was canonized as a saint in 1920, introduced devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Most Catholic homes, then, had pictures of the Sacred Heart, and a list of promises of domestic security and blessings in life for those who maintain devotion to it and attend Mass regularly. 

With the yellowing photograph of the unknown priest, Joyce indicates that the Catholic Church is not a living, thriving part of Eveline's life. Furthermore, since she is the victim of abuse from her father and worries what will become of her little brother if she leaves, there is anything but domestic security and blessings in her life.  Therefore, the Catholic religion lack viability and relevance to Eveline.  Yet, as a child raised in the rigidity of this religion that Joyce felt caused Irish stagnation, Eveline clings to her Catholic prayer, aware of the promises that she has made to the Blessed Margaret Mary. When she does accompany Frank to the station at the North Wall, she desperately "prayed to God to direct her, to show her what was her duty."  But, her religion is no thriving part of her life, and Eveline receives no inspiration.  Instead, she is psychologically paralyzed with the pull of "all those commonplace sacrifices" which are part of her tragic Irish-Catholic life.