Sporting Glass

The largest Gothic cathedral in the Western Hemisphere has the strangest stained-glass windows in the world

TO A CASUAL OBSERVER , the first window on the north face of New York City’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine looks as traditional and reverent as stainedglass windows the world over. But viewed up close, the fourteen thousand pieces of glass reveal scenes of baseball, fishing, and golf—almost as if to remind worshipers of the fun they might be having if they weren’t in church. Much of the credit for the window’s unconventional design belongs to Elizabeth Manning, daughter of William T. Manning, Bishop of New York from 1921 to 1946.Read more »

The Witch & We, The People

Did the fifty-five statesmen meeting in Philadelphia at the Constitutional Convention know that a witch-hunt was taking place while they deliberated? Did they care?

 

SEVENTEEN EIGHTY-SEVEN was not that long ago. It will be four years before we can celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of what happened in Philadelphia that summer. And it will be something worth celebrating. The United States Constitution was the culminating achievement of the Enlightenment in America, if not in the world.Read more »

Ouija

In 1913 the Ouija board dictated a novel. Twenty years later it commanded a murder. It is most popular in times of national catastrophe, and it’s selling pretty briskly just now.

PARKER BROTHERS , who bought the rights to the Ouija in 1966, denies that it is more than a game. But over the past century millions of Americans have used it to speak with the dead, to answer life’s questions, and to make their decisions. Common sense says it merely reveals the user’s unconscious thoughts and is subject to overt manipulation as well, but some believers in the occult dread it as the devil’s oracle.Read more »

The Ursuline Outrage

In the shadow of Bunker Hill, bigots perpetrated an atrocity that showed a shocked nation that the fires of the Reformation still burned in the New World

On a sweltering Monday afternoon in July, 1834, Edward Cutter of Charlestown, Massachusetts, was startled by the sudden appearance of a woman in his house. Her hair was closely shorn, she was clad only in a flimsy nightdress, and she was muttering incoherently. Cutter probably surmised that she was from the Ursuline convent a few hundred yards up the hill, then known as Mount Benedict. Read more »

An Artist Among The Shakers

“I had come to visit the people in that quiet Shaker village upon the mountain terrace,” Benson John Lossing wrote in August of 1856. This prolific author and illustrator, best remembered for his monumental Pictorial Field Book of the Revolution , planned to write an article about the New Lebanon community for Harper’s New Monthly Magazine . His sympathetic account, illustrated with engravings based upon the watercolors in the following portfolio, appeared the following year.Read more »

Out Of This World

The Shakers as a Nineteenth-Century Tourist Attraction

While touring the United States in 1842, Charles Dickens visited the Shakers at New Lebanon, New York. It was not one of his happier experiences. Dismayed by the strict beliefs of America’s largest communal sect and disgruntied by their simple life-style, he reported, “We walked into a grim room, where several grim hats were hanging on grim pegs, and the time was grimly told by a grim clock.” Read more »

Mary Baker Eddy

Unschooled and uncompromising, she founded her own faith

Mary Baker Eddy was, against all odds, one of the most influential women of her age. Born into unpromising circumstances, she never mastered the limited education that was available to her. She lacked literary talent and any real vocation for family life. She struggled against a social order and a century which permitted women only the narrowest range of life choices.Read more »

Calm Dwellings

The Brief, Sentimental Age of the Rural Cemetery

Several years ago Thornton’s Mortuary, an Atlanta funeral home, announced a new service available to its customers. It had installed a large plate-glass window facing onto its parking lot so that families who wished to could now avail themselves of a drive-by viewing ceremony.

Rarely has the link between a culture’s way of life and its way of death been shown more graphically. And yet it is a link that always has existed. Read more »

The Way I See It

TRUSTING OURSELVES

We like to say that this is a skeptical age. The landscape is all littered with the sad fragments of things we no longer believe in, and we wear the resulting pessimism proudly, as a fashionable garment. We are too smart to be kidded.

 

So we say. Actually, our age takes more things on faith than any previous age in history. It has to, because it believes (as our fathers understood the word) in nothing at all. Read more »

God’s “almost Chosen People”

“We are a religious people.…” The United States Supreme Court likes to quote this dictum by Justice William O. Douglas, who coined the phrase to accompany a decision in 1952. The Court has not been trying to provide America’s pious Little Jack Horners with new reasons to say, “What a good boy am I!” The justices are not supposed to favor particular religions or to discriminate against irreligion. They merely have been explaining why their legal decisions take into account the sentiments of so many citizens on the delicate subject of religion. Read more »