Archbishop Lamy: In His Own Words

By Bridgers, Lynn | The Catholic Historical Review, April 2004 | Go to article overview

Archbishop Lamy: In His Own Words


Bridgers, Lynn, The Catholic Historical Review


Archbishop Lamy: In His Own Words. Edited and translated by Thomas J. Steele, SJ. (Albuquerque: LPD Press. 2000. Pp. vii, 271. $29.95 paperback.)

As first Archbishop of Santa Fejean Baptiste Lamy (1814-1888) left a divided legacy. Perhaps no figure in New Mexico history has provoked so much controversy, criticism, and devotion as Lamy. In this book Thomas Steele, SJ., known for his substantial scholarship in New Mexican culture and religious tradition, excavates the real Lamy from myth and fiction.

Steele does so in two ways, each corresponding to a section of the book. First, he challenges the fictional portrait of Lamy presented in Willa Gather's Death Comes for the Archbishop. Contexting his life through historical analysis of the French ecclesiastical culture that produced him, Steele then profiles Lamy and explores his spirituality. secondly, Steele examines existing manuscripts of Lamy's sermons and selected characteristic sermons to create a facsimile of the liturgical cycle during which Lamy usually preached. Steele uses the sermons to allow us to see Lamy "in his own words."

One of the most intriguing chapters explores Lamy's psychological profile. The portrait emerging of Lamy, as an extroverted guardian with a strong sense of adventure and great respect for authority, stands in stark contrast to the introverted, intuitive soul of Jean Marie Latour, the title character in Gather's book. Steele's research suggests that Latour's personality actually reflected Gather's personality more than Lamy's. Since Lamy's personality has so long been hidden behind Latour's, Steele constructs a more accurate portrayal through the profile, elements of his spirituality, and the voice emerging from the sermons.

The sermons themselves are presented in two sections. Steele has selected representative sermons in English, most of which are from Lamy's time on the Ohio Frontier, in Covington, Kentucky, and Danville, Ohio. …

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