Do you see what I see?

The Church of the Immaculate Conception is breath-taking. It is the convent chapel of the Sisters of Providence located at Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind. November 2014, Suzie and I (candidate-associates) stood examining the stained-glass window depicting the Fifth Joyful Mystery (finding of the Child Jesus in the temple). This picture shows Jesus in the temple turning His attention from one young scholar of the law to His mother Mary who is reaching out to Him. In Joseph’s eyes, you can see that worry has been replaced with fatherly love. In the background are two additional scholars staring intently at Jesus. Just who is this young Man with them talking earnestly about all of the law being centered on this radical idea He calls God’s law of love? 

I told Suzie that I thought that the window captured the first moment Jesus felt and understood God’s call. That wisdom prompted Him to say (to Mary), “Why were you searching for Me? Didn’t you know I had to be in My Father’s house” (Lk 2:49)? I shared with Suzie how challenging it could be to get students to understand God has a plan for each of them and also to feel the Holy Spirit touching their own hearts. 

I sighed and said, “I wish I could have a picture of me with that window.” Suzie said that for the proper perspective, I’d have to be on the ledge. I hesitated. Visions of everything that could go wrong danced through my mind. I heard Suzie quietly say, “If you wish the picture to someday use with your students then get up there and handle things responsibly.” In less than a minute she had taken the photograph for me. 

Have you ever thought what image an artist might create for you to represent where you are in your personal journey of faith? We need not limit ourselves to images of our past history. As we approach the New Year, it is a good time to decide what image (story) we would like to live in the upcoming year. In what concrete way(s) do we wish to work to make a reality how we now choose to share the gifts God has given us? Both and provide information on using construction paper and cellophane to make a stained glass window art project. Even if we are at a point in our lives where we feel someone has shattered part or all of our stained glass window, we can still pick up the shards of glass and incorporate them into the edges of our 2015 window. After all, when you examine any stained-glass window, it is the tiny sections at the edges which serve to bring to life the central images. 

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross said, “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” We know that light from within is God shining forth through us. If we take the time to complete a stained-glass window for ourselves, it will serve two functions. First, the light of each sunrise will remind us daily of our personal choice of who we wish others to see in all our daily actions. Second, looking at the image will remind us, even in times of personal distress, that we are each one part of God’s plan for the entire world. That can encourage us to keep moving forward those moments even when we feel in darkness or unsure of the way. 

Jesuit priest Gregory Boyle has run a gang-intervention program (Homeboy Industries) for more than 20 years. In his book, “Tattoos on the Heart,” Father Boyle relays a poignant tale about the emergence of God’s light. One kindhearted but deeply troubled teenager had fallen into drugs and alcohol. Eventually the young man agreed to rehab. A month later, this young man’s brother committed suicide. On the way to the funeral, the young man shared a dream with Father Boyle. 

In the dream, he and Father Boyle were together in a pitch dark room. They did not speak. The young man somehow knew he had to turn on the light. Father Boyle took a flashlight from his pocket and shined it on the switch pad. The young man turned on the light. At this point in the story, he turned to Father Boyle and said, “And the light is better than the darkness.” The young man had the courage to choose to let God’s light shine through him. Father Boyle says, “We all are sometimes in that windowless room. You aim the light this time and I’ll do it the next.”

I smiled as I shared with my students the photograph of Jesus in the temple. Suzie, I owe you one. I’ll keep my light ready.

Anchor columnist Helen Flavin is a Catholic scientist, educator and writer and a member of St. Bernadette’s Parish in Fall River.

© 2018 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing   †   Fall River, Massachusetts