May 14, 2011
Book Review: Framing Faith
by Amanda R. Danziger
"Framing Faith: A Pictorial History of Communities of Faith" written by Sarah Piccini, photography by Ivana Pavelka & ARTS! Engage.
This book is a wonderful tribute to the faith and hard work of the Catholic immigrant communities in the Scranton, PA area. It highlights ten churches that have been closed recently due to restructuring. "They are Polish, Slovak, Italian, German, and Lithuanian parishes with long traditions and deep roots."
The beautiful photographs of the art and architecture in these parish churches are the next best thing to being able to visit in person. There are many artistic gems hidden in this diocese; stained glass, paintings, altarpieces, and more. I particularly enjoyed the different sculptures of Our Lady in each ethnic parish.
Visit the website: http://www.framingfaith.com
I'm sure this book would be of particular interest to Catholics of the Scranton area whose ancestors came to work in the coal mines, but the story of rapid industrialization followed by waves of European immigrants is a very familiar one to any American. The historical detail was very engaging, especially insights into the immigrants' financial circumstances, various parish organizations, and the odd tale of the suave thief. I'm impressed by the faith of these communities, and how their values were manifested so visibly through their hard work and generosity.
The only piece missing was an explanation of the spirituality of the Tridentine Mass and belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I feel that both of these elements are essential to understanding the faith the way it was practiced at the time these parishes were founded, and understanding what motivated these immigrants to sacrifice so much to honor the Lord.
It's sadly ironic that these once extraordinarily active parishes are now closed after renovations and reforms in the "spirit of Vatican II" which were supposed to help the lay faithful become more active participants. Regardless, these churches stand as a testimony to their great faith, and this book is a well-deserved tribute to them. I hope this project inspires others to document the rich spiritual, cultural, and artistic heritage of Catholic parishes all over the U.S.