Reflecting Heaven Part 5: Apse Mural and the Stained Glass

05-25-2021Letter from the PastorFr. Don Kline, V.F.

“In the Christian community’s place of prayer, art evokes and glorifies ‘the transcendent mystery of God—the surpassing invisible beauty of truth and love visible in Christ.’ Therefore the ‘Church entrusts art with a mediating role, analogous, we might say, to the role of the priest or, perhaps better, to that of Jacob’s ladder descending and ascending. Art is meant to bring the divine to the human world, to the level of the senses, then, from the spiritual insight gained through the senses and the stirring of the emotions, to raise the human world to God, to his inexpressible kingdom of mystery, beauty, and life.’”

– Built of Living Stones §142

The above quote from the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ document Built of Living Stones aptly sums up the ultimate goal of the art of our current renovation project: striving for a meeting of heaven and earth when we gather at liturgy, leading to a deeper relationship with Christ and his Church.

Several months ago, when talk of improvements to our sanctuary and nave began, one of the first topics on the table was stained glass. Our present glass windows, while not unworthy, where built with the intention of having beautiful stained glass images that would raise minds and hearts to union with Christ. For that reason, it was decided now was time to complete the windows with more traditional, representational windows that inspire devotion and enhance the liturgy.

We have all seen churches that contain images that have helped us contemplate the readings and homilies on Our Lord. We have seen images that depict the faith of Mary, Joseph, and the Saints. If this is the result of one visit to a church, I’m eager for the effect of 34 high-quality stained glass windows, sacred murals and a pipe organ on our spirituality and contemplation!

The Apse Mural

Our beautiful sanctuary draws our focus to the source and summit of our faith in the Holy Mass. The mural is meant to draw us into Holy Mass. The Immaculate Conception is a painting by Italian painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696–1770). The painting was one of seven altarpieces commissioned in March 1767 from Tiepolo by King Charles III of Spain for the Church of Saint Pascual in Aranjuez, then under construction. This was originally an Alcantarine (Franciscan) monastery that was later assigned to the Conceptionist nuns.

The painting was commissioned in 1767, at a time when the Immaculate Conception was already a common theme in art. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception (8 December) was restored to the Calendar of Saints in 1708, though its theology would not be definitely settled as dogma until Pope Pius IX’s declaration in 1854.The image of Mary represents the Immaculate Conception, a tradition of the Catholic Church stating that the Virgin Mary was conceived without original sin. It depicts the Virgin Mary, surrounded by angels and crowned with the circle of stars. She is shown trampling a snake, representing Her victory over the devil. The lilies and the rose are references to hortus conclusus (“enclosed garden”), and symbolize Mary’s love, virginity and purity. The painting is now in the Prado Museum, Madrid.

American Saints and Blesseds are also included in the apse mural. Among these holy men and women are St. Joseph, St. John the Baptist, St. Peter and St. Paul. Beneath the New Testament Saints are: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, S.C., Foundress of the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph - considered founder of the Catholic School system in the United States, St. John Neumann, C.Ss.R. - Missionary and 4th bishop of Philadelphia. Founded the first diocesan Catholic school system in the United States, St. Marianne Cope, O.S.F. - Missionary to the lepers of Molokai, Hawaii, St. Katharine Drexel, S.B.S. - school builder and founder of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and People of Color, St. Damien de Veuster of Molokai, SS.CC. - Missionary to the lepers of Molokai, Hawaii, Saint Junípero Serra, O.F.M. - Founder of the Spanish missions in California, St. Kateri Tekakwitha - Native American and consecrated virgin, St. Mother Théodore Guérin, S.P. - Missionary and founder of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, C.Ss.R. - Missionary preacher, St. Isaac Jogues, S.J.- Jesuit priest, missionary and one of the North American martyrs, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, M.S.C. - Missionary and founder of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, R.S.C.J. - Missionary to Native Americans, Blessed Sister Miriam Teresa, S.C. - Sister of Charity of St. Elizabeth, Blessed Father Stanley Rother - Martyr, Missionary to Guatemala, and Blessed Father Solanus Casey, O.F.M. Cap. - Capuchin Franciscan, Humble Servant will be depicted most clearly in the murals that will adorn our sanctuary and the ceiling. Those specific images will be covered in detail in the coming months.

“Authentic art is integral to the Church at prayer because these objects and actions are ‘signs and symbols of the supernatural world’ and expressions of the divine presence.” (BLS §146)

The Stained Glass Windows

The theme of the windows, after much prayer and discussion, led to a consensus to include windows around the theme of the 12 Apostles as well as holy men and women who have inspired us in our faith. We begin with the transepts of our church building.

1.THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY

The Immaculate Heart of Mary signifies, first of all, the great purity and love of the heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary for God. This purity is manifested in her “Yes” to the Father at the Incarnation, Her love for, and cooperation with, the Incarnate Son in His redemptive mission, and her docility to the Holy Spirit, enabling her to remain free of the stain of personal sin throughout her life. Mary’s Immaculate Heart, therefore, points us to her profound interior life, where she experienced both joys and sorrows, yet remained faithful, as we, too, are called to do.

2.THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS

The “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” quoting Pope Pius XII’s beautiful encyclical “Haurietis Aquas” (1956), states, “[Jesus] has loved us all with a human heart. For this reason, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced by our sins and for our salvation, ‘is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that... love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings’ without exception (No.478). To appreciate this rich symbolism of the heart, we must remember in that Judaism the word heart represented the core of the person. While recognized as the principle life organ, the heart was also considered the center of all spiritual activity.

3. THE ARCHANGELS

These four Archangels include St. Michael, St Gabriel, St. Raphael, and St. Uriel. The Sacred Scriptures have revealed the proper names of only three Angels, all of whom belong to the Choir of the Archangels. The names are well known to all, namely: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael. Ancient apocryphal literature of the Old Testament contains several other names of Archangels in addition to the three just mentioned. Names like Uriel, Raguel, Sariel, and Jeremiel are not found in the canonical books of Sacred Scripture, but in the apocryphal book of Enoch, fourth book of Esdras, and in rabbinical literature.

If you would like to be a part of this historic moment in the life of our parish, please go to our website (www.saintbernadette.com) or contact our parish office to see how you can financially contribute to making our dream a reality.

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