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Making the case for stained glass

I know there are some out there who dislike stained glass windows in churches. Even after hearing the “but they make the church so dark” explanation it still makes absolutely no sense to me. But hey, I have quite the capacity to be obtuse, so I’ve generally left it alone as an effort to be nice. Until today.

Through some as-yet unverified miracle my kids and I were able to leave early enough this morning to make it to Mass before school. I’ve always wanted to do this more with them, but school starts very early and Mass therefore even earlier so it’s just never happened. For almost the entire time nothing out of the ordinary happened (it strikes me now just how … obtuse … that sounds) – until Mass was over and we were gathering our things. My daughter looked up at one of the stained glass windows in the church and asked, “Daddy, what is that picture about?” Needless to say, I panicked until I recognized it as the Parable of the Good Samaritan. So I explained told them the story of the Good Samaritan, explained its meaning to them as best I could to kids their ages and then told them that all the windows in this church are made like that, to tell a story that we can and need to learn from.

Far from making the church dark, that window opened a ray of light on the minds of both of my children and provided me a teaching moment I may never have otherwise had. In that one moment, two childrens’ minds were expanded and I was challenged both to display my faith and to make it understandable to others. To be blunt, show me how to do that with a clear pane of glass. If you think stained glass makes the church too dark, ask my kids about the Good Samaritan. If you think it’s too dark maybe it’s because you’ve been staring at the pane too long and not taking in what is going on all around it. Our churches can and should, indeed must, speak to us – there is far too much to revelation to leave it just to words.

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