BookMarks

September 18, 2006

To open this beautiful book is to enter multiple, overlapping worlds: the history of a great architectural city, the history of immigration to the hub of the Midwest and, most significantly, Catholic Chicago. The city’s oldest Catholic churches were often efforts to match or surpass the grandeur of its greatest Protestant structures. Subsequent waves of building kept pace with Polish, German, Ukrainian and, most recently, Hispanic immigration. McNamara is skilled not only in presenting architectural history—a snooze for some—but also in describing how people’s theological commitments were enshrined in structures. There are even occasional notes on present-day parish life in these buildings: some have closed, have been taken over by Pentecostals, or are used by Latin-rite congregations.

Weber teases a story out of a news account of a 1911 New York sweatshop fire that killed 146 workers, many of them young women who were trapped between rows of sewing machines with piles of flammable fabric. Weber imagines two sisters, one who jumps to her death and one who survives. Inconsistencies in the surviving sister’s story set up an engrossing mystery, but a second plot, about the granddaughter who’s investigating the deaths, is less compelling and weakens the whole.

Ramsey was a giant of late-20th-century Anglicanism, not only as archbishop of Canterbury, but as a formidable New Testament scholar (whose work influenced Hans Urs von Balthasar’s aesthetics), ecumenist and writer about the pastoral and spiritual life. This volume collects snippets of Ramsey’s thoughts on various topics, arranged in systematic fashion in a trinitarian pattern. Each of the authors, who are all esteemed Anglican clerics who learned at Ramsey’s feet, contributes several essays engaging his work. Williams, present occupier of Ramsey’s throne in Canterbury, has an essay on “The Christian Priest Today” that is worth the price of the book. He insists that pastors must not be enslaved by the tasks and duties of ministry, but must work to be literate in the various cultures we live in by paying attention to “the novel and the newspaper and the soap opera and the casual conversation—even (especially?) when it looks like wasting time from some points of view.”