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The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life and Gift Exchange During Pastoral Visit

Religious Beliefs and Practices in Poland

Approximately 90% of the Polish population holds a Roman Catholic belief, making it one of the most deeply religious countries in Europe. Throughout the ages, religious traditions are frequently unmoderated, and thus strictly followed over generations. The priest and the altar boys regularly attend the homes of his parishioners to bless the families and households of the families in the community as part of a pastoral visit. Likewise, according to Durkheim, every community or society recognizes a plurality of sacred things; "what makes a thing holy is the collective feeling attached to it. Each family prepares the objects they wish to be blessed the day of the visit, as well as the religious objects required for the ritual. In preparation for the priest's arrival, carols are sung, the householders' concerns are discussed, and then the priest blesses the house and residents with the Lord's blessing for the upcoming year. Parishioners conclude the ritual by giving the priest an envelope containing the gift they wish to give to the church. The following exchange of the envelope and blessing is a form of gift exchange and reciprocity, as it builds a connection between people and demonstrates moral value.  In theory such gifts are voluntary, but in practice they are given and repaid as a matter of obligation  According to Durkhiem , ’’ A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden beliefs and practices which unite in one single community called a Church, all those who adhere to them" .

Religious beliefs usually have a defined group of followers that practice the rites that accompany them. This belief system is not only embraced by every member of the collectivity personally, it is part of the group as a whole.   Members of this group are connected by their shared beliefs. We call a church a society or a community of members who share a common understanding of the sacred and its relationship with the profane, and who enact this understanding into identical practices (Dillon, 2014).  Likewise, according to Durkheim, every community or society recognizes a plurality of sacred things; "what makes a thing holy is... the collective feeling attached to it.".

As an example, the American flag is sacred - it represents the nation's shared national identity, freedom, democracy, patriotism, and a shared collective history. The sacred things are not divinely decreed or politically predetermined but rather are defined by its particular culture (Dillon, 2014).  Church is then the collective gathering of people who share a similar set of beliefs and rituals, whose practice further solidifies their bond and strengthens their solidarity as a group.  This paper examines several concepts and theories in order to understand the enigmatic intentions and motives behind the gift exchange during a pastoral visit, considering how important church is to people. Moreover, this paper is going to explore the social and moral nature of human nature models, to determine if a gift exchange is driven by faith and moral righteousness or by the hope of social acceptance. Although this paper will examine the priests' and the parishioners' actions and intentions in the light of moral and pure Christian attitudes, the contemporary reality is that such actions are now so common, and people belonging to Christian society can lack faith and not follow its morals and values.

The gift' by Marcell Mauss provides a unique insight into the nature of gifts and reciprocity that is more persuasive than any other. Mauss views gift giving and reciprocity as a mutual relationship that includes the gift returning to the original giver and people feeling obligated to reciprocate.  From the opposite perspective, gift exchange can strengthen bonds and enhance relationships since it requires effort, is intimate, and conveys gratitude (Mauss, 2011) Marc Mauss uses a paradox to describe the gift of giving in society: although gift-giving is a foundational act of building a community, a gift must always already be attributed to a community before it can circulate. (First Published January 26, 2020). However, we will only look at generalized reciprocity for the purposes of this paper. Generalized reciprocity enhances the gift-giving process without taking into consideration how much has been given. It does not keep track of the amount of gift reciprocity because it is not immediate exchanged.

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