Monday, May 9, 2011

Framing Faith -- Book Review for Tribute Books

Catholic Church architecture, stain glass windows and statuary have always inspired me, even before my reversion to Catholicism. When we take family vacations and visit new areas of the country, it is exciting to make a pilgrimage to a Catholic Church on our route. A few years ago we visited Jim Thorpe, PA and saw the most exquisite Church built with the blood, sweat, tears and hard earned funds of the German immigrants. It was among the highlights of our visit to the Poconos.

When the opportunity to review Framing Faith, written by Sarah Piccini, with photography by Ivanka Pavelka and Arts!Engage, landed in my email, I eagerly accepted. The history of these immigrant Catholic Churches of Lackawanna County, PA is awe inspiring. But, with the history comes a sad reality; the Churches featured in this book are being closed and merged with other parishes. The immigrant communities they were founded to serve have long since died, and their families have become part of  the American migratory culture no longer staying in the towns of their birth.

The photography in the book is also stunning. The Churches, their body and soul, come to life in the images captured. To think that many of these pictures were taken by students is even more impressive. They have highlighted the beauty of these structures that were meant to facilitate and inspire prayer and worship.

While I loved the book and visiting the Churches vicariously through images, I do have to point out one prominent error in the introduction. The author quotes author, Richard Taylor, as an authority on Catholic images depicted in stained glass. He writes:
These patron saints, Mary or popular Bible stories were writ large in stained glass inside churches. Because of the Second Commandment, “Thou shalt not make thee any graven image,” the three-person God is not depicted directly but rather as established symbols: a triangle for the Trinity, the Hand of God or All-Seeing Eye for God the Father, the fish or lamb for God the Son, and a dove or flame for the Holy Spirit.
Unfortunately, his information in the above passage is not correct. The Second Commandment according to the Canon of Scripture is: Thou Shall Not Take the Lord's Name In Vain. This differs from the Protestant enumeration of the Commandments which lists "no graven image" as the Second Commandment and combines the Ninth and Tenth Commandments, "shall not covet neighbor's goods & wife", into one single Commandment. Thus, this reasoning would not and never could have been why the artists chose not to depict the Trinity but rather use symbols instead. No graven images was perhaps the rationale, of that I am not certain, but not based on the Second Commandment. As a book about Catholic Churches, that error should have been noted by the author.

Aside from that one piece of misinformation, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and its images.

For more information about Framing Faith:

Book web site:

Book Facebook:

Sarah Piccini Facebook:!/profile.php?id=30703496

Ivana Pavelka Facebook:!/profile.php?id=100002171373171&sk=wall

Tribute Books website:

Tribute Books Facebook: Archbald-PA/Tribute-Books/ 171628704176

Tribute Books Twitter: TributeBooks

Framing Faith Synopsis:
Framing Faith tells the story of the faith of immigrants and their descendants, spotlighting ten Catholic churches in the Diocese of Scranton that were closed due to restructuring. The churches, SACRED HEART, MAYFIELD; ST. ANTHONY OF PADUA, SCRANTON; ST. JOSEPH, SCRANTON; HOLY FAMILY, SCRANTON; ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST, SCRANTON; ST. MARY OF THE ASSUMPTION, SCRANTON; ST. MARY CZESTOCHOWA, SCRANTON; ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, TAYLOR; IMMACULATE CONCEPTION, TAYLOR; AND ST. MICHAEL, OLD FORGE have rich ethnic heritages. They are Polish, Slovak, Italian, German, and Lithuanian parishes with long traditions and deep roots. Each church was founded by immigrant groups who came to the coal fields of the Lackawanna Valley with little more than their faith in God. Their churches served as the center of the community and touchstones of the Old Country. Framing Faith traces their histories from small beginnings through baptisms, weddings and funerals to their final celebrations. Throughout the text are images from each church, visual reminders of what was for many an important part of their lives.

Sarah Piccini Bio:
SARAH PICCINI graduated from the University of Scranton with a degree in History and Communications. In 2010, she received a Master’s degree in History focusing on the ethnic and labor history of the Lackawanna Valley. She collaborates with the Lackawanna Historical Society on many projects and programs, and serves the Vice President of the board for the Anthracite Heritage Museum and Iron Furnaces Associates.

Ivana Pavelka Bio:
IVANA PAVELKA is a co-founder and co-manager of the photographic gallery Camerawork in Scranton and is a professional photographer who has had many solo and group shows. Her professional career includes teaching in the art department at Keystone College (La Plume, PA), giving workshops and residencies as a rostered artist in schools, and working as a commercial photographer. She is also a professional bookbinder who was trained in European methods in Prague, where she grew up. When she came to the United States in 1980, she free-lanced as a bookbinder for such institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She has lived in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania, since 1991.

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