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241 The story of “Our Lady of Several Names” and of her three sacred sites and her entry into my life has not been an easy one to place on paper. Reciting my story has left me feeling, at times, uncomfortably exposed and vulnerable. But writing that story has not been as difficult or painful as remembering the experience of watching Our Lady’s enclosure in New Harmony dissolve. I wish this chapter could be omitted in its entirety. Yet her four walls contained for me a precious fluid, and from 1961 onward it began seeping out of what would become within a de­cade a severely cracked vessel. The Third Canticle of Isaiah (60:18) expresses the purpose of a consecrated container better than any words of mine: Violence will no more be heard in your land, ruin or destruction within your borders. You will call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise. ChaptER 27 Tumbling Walls 242 New Harmony, indiana That grand old prophet would have likened the shattered walls of any temple to a bleeding wound, the spilling of ­ life-­ sustaining praise and prayers. Human tragedies and natural disasters give us sufficient cause to weep; so why should I, or anyone, shed tears over the demise of four brick walls? A tragic event in World War II, the war of my generation, provided an impetus for rebuilding the crumbling walls of the Roofless Church. Of all its heinous crimes against structures, the Nazi air raid that destroyed Coventry’s cathedral was, for me, the hardest to forget or forgive. While in London on our way to Iona in the summer of 1955, I wanted my daughters to experience the horrors of war and, simultaneously, the resilience of the human spirit. So it was that the En­ glish driver, our nurse Emma, Janie, Carol, and I all stood solemnly before a giant, blackened cross assembled from roof beams salvaged from the burnt cathedral. It­ rose majestically from the center of its shattered perimeter. Two words­were carved into its horizontal arms: “Father Forgive.” If citizens of a devastated city could rise to such Christlike heights, how could Americans, old and young, remain untouched by Coventry’s example? If all warring factions could grasp the full meaning of Coventry ’s cross, Sister Carita’s prophetic banner words would come true: “Someday, someone shall give a war and no one shall come.”1 But the tumbling walls of our Roofless Church, unlike Coventry’s charred remains, did not send a New Testament command to the world. Our new, clean bricks fell as the result of human miscalculation, not because of Nazi bombs. Philip Johnson was not, to be sure, a heartless air raider intent on the destruction of a church that had brought him his first award from the American Institute of Architects. He had, however, kept me waiting nine troubled years for effective remedies. In the early spring of 1961, scarcely a year after its baptism, the Roofless Church had given me cause for alarm. White, powdery streaks ­were staining large portions of the north wall. I had called the architect for an explanation . (Photographs of the Roofless Church in earlier chapters clearly show the phenomenon.) “Just a little efflorescence,” Philip Johnson had answered blithely. “A minor matter that a coating of polyurethane will quickly remedy.” Thereby assured that the bricks ­ were suffering from a temporary illness , I had relayed Philip’s prescription for their recovery with unques- Tumbling Walls 243 tioned faith to our New Harmony maintenance men, and polyurethane was applied. Had I consulted my dictionary at the time and read that efflorescence is “a substance due to the emergence of moisture which turns to a fine powder on exposure to air,” I would have realized that water was actually seeping into the walls and would have sought advice from engineers unconnected with the Johnson office. But, susceptible to Philip’s charm and erudition, I did not question his facile remedy for a fatal disease. Unaware of a serious problem with the bricks, I had asked Lipchitz to proceed with the model for a large ceremonial gate, which Philip had approved. Seeing the external walls of the Roofless Church collapsing before my very eyes, I struggled to know what action to take. The Roofless Church was not my personal oratory but a public place maintained by the Robert Lee Blaffer Trust and under the spiritual supervision of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis because of my affiliation. My...

Additional Information

ISBN
9780253016638
Related ISBN
9780253016249
MARC Record
OCLC
903357020
Pages
400
Launched on MUSE
2015-03-20
Language
English
Open Access
No
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