If Jamie Fraser has the faith I wish I had (the unwavering faith that I strive to have), then perhaps Claire’s faith is a bit closer to my religious reality. Like Jamie, Claire was also a “cradle Catholic.” But when we first meet Claire she was (and had never been) a practicing Catholic. (That isn’t to say that she didn’t have some core beliefs tucked away under the foul mouth and headstrong ways that we all know and love. That’s just to say that, well, Claire changes over the story. And her religious beliefs are one of the things that change…or at least deepen and evolve.)
Claire’s initial brush with organized religion might have tainted a lesser person… Certainly her run in with the local priest, circa. 1743, wasn’t an event likely to make her feel welcomed into the proverbial fold and, when later faced with an abundance of Highland superstitions, a visit to Auld Nick’s kirkyard, and charges of witchcraft, one might be able to see her, ahem, disinclination.
But Life (even Fictional Book Life) has a way of making you have to rethink things, and often results in the need to eat your words, totally change alliances, or otherwise transform yourself. (*Ahem* Not that I’m speaking from experience here). Yep. Claire has one of Those Moments.
After saving Jamie from the Wentworth, and their subsequent escape to France and to the abbey, Claire finds a kind of spiritual advisor in Father Anselm. (And yes, this was one of the scenes that I really, really wish had been on the show. Feel free to lament the loss with me.)
When Father Anselm and Claire discuss her religion, she tells him that she isn’t Protestant, but she isn’t really Catholic, either. She isn’t much of anything. But he explains to her that if she was baptized Catholic, then the mark is still on her. (You know, kinda like that “J” scar that we all secretly…or not so secretly…wish we had on the base of our hand. *swoon*)
It’s Father Anselm who introduces Claire to the ritual of Perpetual Adoration (and it’s a ritual that Claire takes comfort in more than once in the books). This time spent in quiet contemplation, alone and yet so very NOT alone, marks the turning point in Claire’s religious metamorphosis. (And, yes, I do see the change in Claire as being exactly that pronounced.)
Of course, falling through time, having everything you know ripped away from you, and finding yourself in constant danger are certainly enough to make one call out for the help of someone, or something, greater to intervene on your behalf. Except Claire didn’t. Or rather, those things weren’t what finally pushed Claire to examine her beliefs. Those things weren’t what finally formed a prayer on Claire’s lips.
Old time, old life, old world be damned. It was the thought of losing Jamie that made her reach for something, anything, to save him. It was Jamie that finally evoked a prayer from Claire’s lips.
It was always Jamie.
When situations warranted, the Claire of the later books makes the sign of the cross without hesitation. The Claire of the later books also routinely blesses Jamie before battle, and she is clearly moved when Jamie invokes the same blessing on her behalf when she goes to deliver a child. She often utters prayers to saints over the course of the later books. (Something that Book 1 Claire was not likely to do!)
However, her Catholicism is colored by Jamie’s own and, like his, there is a certain spirituality rooted in Jamie’s Celtic homeland that permeates her beliefs as well. While not quite as superstitious as her Highlander husband, she finds great comfort in the fact that Jamie knows just the right saint for every occasion, and that he knows that salt keeps the spirits from walking.
Her perfectly rational 20th century certainty definitely took a blow once she went through the stones. When science and reason can’t find explanation, one must look elsewhere for answers. Is it any wonder that the things that finally give her grounding, are things based on faith…religion, love, the hope for a future?
Not bad things to build a life around, if you ask me.*
* Of course, having a strapping Highlander husband around to share that life doesn’t hurt, either. Speaking of which, I’m very grateful for my own Scottish-blooded husband. (See, honey, I don’t just talk about Jamie.)
NOTE: For those who might wonder about the use of “conversion” in the title, since Claire did not initially identify as “Catholic,” or anything for that matter, it seems to me that by adopting any form of religious identity she actually did undergo a religious conversion. (Plus, I’ll be honest, I really like alliteration.)