Our Lady of Lourdes

Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes

Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes

One of the most famous Marian apparitions is was witnessed by Bernadette Soubirous in 1858 in Lourdes, France. This 14-year-old and chronically ill girl saw the Blessed Virgin Mary standing in a small grotto.

Ballinasloe St. Michael's Church, South Aisle, window depicting Our Lady of Lourdes (left) by William Earley.

Ballinasloe St. Michael’s Church, South Aisle, window depicting Our Lady of Lourdes (left) by William Earley.


Ballinasloe St. Michael's Church, South Aisle, window (detail) depicting young Bernadette at the feet of Our Lady of Lourdes. This window is by William Earley.

Ballinasloe St. Michael’s Church, South Aisle, window (detail) depicting young Bernadette at the feet of Our Lady of Lourdes. This window is by William Earley.

Initially, few believed her account but her steadfast telling of the apparition won some over. Bernadette would see Our Lady of Lourdes eighteen times. Huge crowds gathered for some of the later apparitions as the story of Bernadette spread.

Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes in Brazil

Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes in Brazil


Bernadette was instructed by the beautiful lady to drink from a newly-discovered spring in the grotto; later, many miraculous healings occurred and were attributed to the water at Lourdes.

Our Lady of Lourdes, 2011, painting by Stephen B Whatley

Our Lady of Lourdes, 2011, painting by Stephen B Whatley

Today, Lourdes is a magnificent Marian shrine where millions visit each year.

Conrad Pickel’s  stained glass image Our Lady of Lourdes from Holy Family Parish, Our Lady of Lourdes site, Marinette, WI.

Conrad Pickel’s stained glass image Our Lady of Lourdes from Holy Family Parish, Our Lady of Lourdes site, Marinette, WI.

Conrad Pickel’s  stained glass image of Saint Bernadette from Holy Family Parish, Our Lady of Lourdes site, Marinette, WI.

Conrad Pickel’s stained glass image of Saint Bernadette from Holy Family Parish, Our Lady of Lourdes site, Marinette, WI.

February 11th is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the patron of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Raytown, Missouri.

Pope Benedict visits the Lourdes grotto.

Pope Benedict visits the Lourdes grotto.

Winter 2014 Editorial from The Stained Glass Quarterly


One of the things I like least about my job is having to reject an article submitted for consideration for publication. Sometimes, the article is just not a good fit for the magazine; sometimes it is because a given topic has been covered very recently. Most frequently, though, it is because the photographs that accompany the article are just not any good.

Articles with bad photography are not rejected outright… at least, not if that is the sole reason the article is not a good fit for The Stained Glass Quarterly. I contact the person who submitted the article, explain the problem with the pictures, and invite them to submit new photographs so that the article can be considered again. Less than half of the people given such an option choose to take it. Most — slightly more than half — never respond. I wonder how many of them simply despair of being able to take good pictures of their work?

Interestingly, there are a few each year who try to convince me that I’m wrong and that the pictures are actually good. Their argument usually centers around either “Well, they look fine on my screen” or “They looked okay in the local newspaper.” And both statements may be very true; however, neither one qualifies as any sort of proof that the photograph is printable in a magazine.

The secrets to taking a good picture for publication really are very basic: know how to set your camera for high-resolution images and — this second one can never be stressed strongly enough — use a tripod.

The first one — knowing how to set your camera for high resolution — really is just having a basic knowledge of how your camera works. I am aware of two ways to successfully gain this knowledge: one, work with hundreds of different cameras over the course of three or four decades until you have seen so many different camera systems that you can look at a new camera and know intuitively how to operate it; or, two, read the owner’s manual. Some folks are surprised to learn that the second one actually does work.

The second one — use a tripod — applies to everyone in all circumstances everywhere. I don’t care if you have the newest supercomputer-based Nikon camera with lens gyroscopes and anti-grav. Use a tripod. I don’t care if you’ve done laboratory tests and discovered that you can take rock-solid handheld pictures down to an eighth of a second (and, yes, I did hear someone make that exact claim once.) Use a tripod. I don’t even care if your parents lived near a nuclear power plant and you were born with three legs and so can act as your own tripod…. Use a tripod.

Have you got another excuse for not using a tripod? I don’t want to hear it… unless it involves being born with three legs. That one would be worth hearing. Or if it’s really, really creative. Then I want to hear it, but it changes nothing: use a tripod.

When 100 people take a stained glass tour and many of them have cameras that are newer, nicer, and more expensive than mine and yet I consistently take better pictures, guess why that is….

I’m the only one who shows up with a tripod.

Seriously, use a tripod. When in Germany, Verwenden Sie ein Stativ. In Paris, Utilisez un trépied. On Kronos, tripod yIlo’. On the Internet: <tripod> srsly. use one lolz i’m srs </tripod>. I don’t want to sound like I’m flogging a dead horse, but I do want to make clear that, were I to do something like that, I would flog the poor, deceased creature with a tripod.

With the camera set on high resolution and firmly attached to a quality, solid tripod, more than half the battle is already won. I will be teaching a class this summer in Portland, Oregon, on taking pictures of stained glass windows. I hope to see you there.
Don’t forget to bring your tripod.

Richard H. Gross, MTS

This editorial appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of The Stained Glass Quarterly, a publication of the Stained Glass Association of America.


Homily for November 9, 2014 — the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

Façade of the Lateran Basilica.

Façade of the Lateran Basilica.

Today is the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica. What, one could fairly ask, is a Lateran Basilica and why do we celebrate it?

A basilica is a specific type of church building; the word itself comes from a Greek term that means “royal house.” There are 1580 minor basilicas in the world and 325 in the Americas. There are 69 basilicas in the United States. My academic preparation before ordination to the Permanent Diaconate was done at Conception Seminary College and Conception Abbey in the northern part of our diocese. Conception Abbey is home to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, which is an incredibly beautiful building and is the heart of both the monastery and the college.

When a church is designated a basilica, it is because of its antiquity, dignity, historical value, architectural and artistic worth, or significance as a center of worship; it is also accorded special ecclesiastical privileges and enjoys a special bond of communion with the Holy Father.

A basilica will have within its space a silk canopy of red and yellow stripes — the traditional papal colors. It will also have a tintinnabulum, which is a bell mounted on a pole. Both of these are carried in procession on special occasions. Minor basilica also enjoy the right to display the crossed keys — the papal symbol — on its banners, furnishing, and seal.

There are four major basilicas in the world, all in Rome. The major basilicas are: St. John Lateran, St. Peter, St. Paul Outside the Walls, and St. Mary Major. These are papal basilicas.

St. John Lateran Basilica, the dedication of which we celebrate today, is the cathedral of Rome. It is the Pope’s cathedral and as such is the mother church of all Christendom and is the first among churches throughout the world. It was dedicated by Pope Sylvester on this day in the year 324. That means for one-thousand, six-hundred, and ninety years the Lateran Basilica has served Holy Mother Church.

"Sacrosancta Lateranensis ecclesia omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput" ("Most Holy Lateran Church, of all the churches in the city and the world, the mother and head.") Inscription on the façade of the Basilica of St. John Lateran (Rome).

“Sacrosancta Lateranensis ecclesia omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput” (“Most Holy Lateran Church, of all the churches in the city and the world, the mother and head.”) Inscription on the façade of the Basilica of St. John Lateran (Rome).

That’s what a basilica is in general and what the Lateran Basilica is specifically. That is the easy part of the question to answer. The second half of the question — why do we celebrate it? — is slightly harder to answer. To answer that, we have to consider not only what the nature of a church is, but what our own nature is.

In today’s Gospel reading, we encounter Christ making a whip to drive people from the Temple and flipping the tables of merchants who were making the Temple a house of commerce. “He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, ‘Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.’”

Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple, by El Greco

Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple, by El Greco

This was enough to cause the disciples to remember the words of Scripture: Zeal for your house will consume me. Christ was passionate about the Temple.

In the first reading, we hear a beautiful description from Ezekiel about water flowing from the Temple. An angel tells the prophet, ““This water flows into the eastern district down upon the Arabah, and empties into the sea, the salt waters, which it makes fresh. Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live, and there shall be abundant fish, for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh. Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow; their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail. Every month they shall bear fresh fruit, for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary. Their fruit shall serve for food, and their leaves for medicine.”

The Temple is where the Israelite encountered God. It was the house of God. In this respect, it is very much like our church today. This church is the House of God. Christ is present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Tabernacle. We receive Him in the Holy Eucharist. This is where we come to encounter God.

Our diocesan cathedral is the mother of all churches in our diocese, and St. John Lateran — the cathedral of the Holy Father — is the mother of all churches in the world. That, in itself, is enough to celebrate it. But let’s take it one step farther.

The Papal cathedra is located in the apse of the Lateran Basilica . The decorations are in cosmatesque style.

The Papal cathedra is located in the apse of the Lateran Basilica . The decorations are in cosmatesque style.

In today’s second reading, Paul writes “Brothers and Sisters: You are God’s building.” You are God’s building. Full stop. Does this mean that God should be inside of me and that others should encounter God Almighty the Eternal Ruler of the Universe when they encounter me? Yes. If I am living the life I am called to live, then yes. Absolutely. This does not mean that I am God, but rather that God dwells within me and within you and within all of the faithful not because of our own merit, but because we have encountered Him in the Church and in the waters of baptism. Just as the prophet saw water flowing from the Temple and renewing the world, so, too, do the waters of baptism flow forth from the Church and renew us, making us the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit and preparing us to renew the world.

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God,” Paul writes, “and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.”

The world may call us consumers, or workers, or voters, but the world is not the final authority. God tells us that we are His Temple, and therefore are holy. The Lateran Basilica is a mirror and a reminder to us; this is true of all churches.

A church should be beautiful and richly decorated because it is the House of the Lord and God deserves the best; it should also be beautiful and richly decorated because it serves as the constant reminder that the life to which we are called is one of great beauty. The beauty of the physical church building reminds us of our Christian dignity and that we are called to the things of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Some would argue that the Church has no business possessing beautiful buildings with priceless murals, fine art, expensive statuary, and rich stained glass. They would argue that those things should be sold and the money used to buy provisions for the poor. Judas once made a very similar argument. The world would be far worse for it.

And so today we celebrate the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica and in a certain way we celebrate all churches throughout the world. These are the houses in which God dwells and in which we encounter our Lord and our God. These are the houses that transform us and are a reflection of us.

Brothers and Sisters: we are God’s building. Because of this, we are called to live a life worthy of our Christian dignity. We are called to live a life of beauty and holiness such that we see our lives mirrored daily by the wonderful art and grand architecture of the finest churches.

The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Conception Abbey, Northwest Missouri.

The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Conception Abbey, Northwest Missouri.

Pope Saint Pius X

“Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to Heaven. There are others: innocence, but that is for little children; penance, but we are afraid of it; generous endurance of trials of life, but when they come we weep and ask to be. The surest, easiest, shortest way is the Eucharist.” — Pope Saint Pius X

pius x pont max

Today (August 21) is the feast day of Pope Saint Pius X and is the 100th anniversary of his death. “For if true love alone has the power to unite the wills of men, it is of the first necessity that we should have one will with Mary to serve Jesus our Lord.” — Pius X, Ad Diem Illum Laetissimum [On the Immaculate Conception], 1904.

Pope Saint Pius X Coat of Arms

Pope Saint Pius X Coat of Arms

“But since the Modernists (as they are commonly and rightly called) employ a very clever artifice, namely, to present their doctrines without order and systematic arrangement into one whole, scattered and disjointed one from another, so as to appear to be in doubt and uncertainty, while they are in reality firm and steadfast, it will be of advantage, Venerable Brethren, to bring their teachings together here into one group, and to point out the connexion between them, and thus to pass to an examination of the sources of the errors, and to prescribe remedies for averting the evil”. — Papal encyclical letter “Pascendi dominici gregis” (“Feeding the Lord’s Flock”) promulgated by Pope Pius X on 8 September 1907.


“Truly we are passing through disastrous times, when we may well make our own the lamentation of the Prophet: “There is no truth, and there is no mercy, and there is no knowledge of God in the land” (Hosea 4:1). Yet in the midst of this tide of evil, the Virgin Most Merciful rises before our eyes like a rainbow, as the arbiter of peace between God and man.” — Statement prior to World War I, quoted in Biographical profile at Living Water Community


Instaurare omnia in Christo!

The Springtime of Education

This article originally appeared as the editorial in the Spring 2014 issue of The Stained Glass Quarterly.

As I write this, spring started just a few days ago. There were pellets of ice somewhere between snow and sleet on the windshield when I left the house this morning. Still, that didn’t stop me from picking up (more) seeds and three new seed-starter trays when I went to the home and garden store after lunch today.

Officially, I was there to pick up a few things for the Stained Glass School that will be needed at the next enamels class, which will be held in April. Still, there’s no sense in not making opportunities for multitasking… especially at the lawn and garden store.

Especially in early spring.

If I actually plant all the seeds I have right now, I’ll end up with enough fruits and vegetables to feed a multitude. But that’s not the point. After all, it’s not just about growing fresh fruits and vegetables — although certainly that’s a wonderful side benefit — it’s also about what the seeds represent: possibility. Potential for growth. Potential for the future.

In a certain way, that’s also how I see the SGAA’s Stained Glass School: potential and possibility. After all, the purpose of education is to plant seeds in the mind that will grow into talents and abilities in the student.

In a certain way, anyone can make a stained glass window — not automatically, certainly, but anyone with a reasonable intellect and a reasonable degree of dexterity can be taught to work in stained glass. So what separates just anyone from someone who makes truly beautiful stained glass windows? Raw talent? Temperament? Aptitude?

If success truly is ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration, then the willingness to put in the hours of practice and study and the willingness to strive to become better must certainly constitute the majority share of what makes greatness. True education does not produce the final end product; rather, it plants the seed that the student must water in the field of experience if true growth is to be realized. It gives the student tools to use as he builds on the foundation laid.

I believe in the Stained Glass School because I believe in the value of education. Learning can be its own end; some things a person learns are learned simply for the joy of knowing. However, much more frequently, learning is undertaken as a means to an end: one wants to pursue a career making beautiful stained glass windows; therefore, one pursues an education in stained glass so that one can be successful in that career. The foundation is laid in the classroom.

The Stained Glass School has long been a publishing and scholarship-granting body. It is very gratifying now to see it becoming so much more. The classes it offers are building in both diversity and frequency. No longer are they limited strictly to the SGAA’s Annual Summer Conference. Now workshops are made available throughout the year at the SGAA Headquarters just outside of Kansas City.

The seed has been planted, and it will continue to grow. Quality stained glass education from a reputable school is desperately needed in this country; the Stained Glass School has recognized that need and is working to address it in ever-expanding ways.

It truly is the springtime of education in the field of stained glass.

Saint Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales

Today is the feast day of Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church. “Those who are learned will be as radiant as the sky in all its beauty; those who instruct the people in goodness will shine like the stars for all eternity.” — Lauds Gospel Canticle Antiphon from the Common of Doctors.

St. Francis de Sales Mosaic

St. Francis de Sales Mosaic

“The heart that is taken and pressed with a desire of praising the divine goodness more than it is able, after many endeavours goes oftentimes out of itself, to invite all creatures to help it in its design.”  — St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales Icon

St. Francis de Sales Icon

“You aim at a devout life, dear child, because as a Christian you know that such devotion is most acceptable to God’s Divine Majesty. But seeing that the small errors people are wont to commit in the beginning of any under taking are apt to wax greater as they advance, and to become irreparable at last, it is most important that you should thoroughly understand wherein lies the grace of true devotion; — and that because while there undoubtedly is such a true devotion, there are also many spurious and idle semblances thereof; and unless you know which is real, you may mistake, and waste your energy in pursuing an empty, profitless shadow.” – From the beginning of An Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Francis de Sales.


Editorial from the Winter 2013 Issue of The Stained Glass Quarterly

Research: It’s What to Do With Winter

Right now, I’m working on a project that involves tracing the development of iconography in certain key Biblical scenes relevant to the life of Christ and frequently depicted in visual art from their earliest origins to their most recent presentation, with the goal of closely examining the spiritual truths presented in these scenes and of coming to a fuller understanding of how those truths are communicated to the viewer in a meaningful way that further develops an understanding of the relationship between the substance of the message and the style of its presentation. This will, I imagine, at some point, result in an article. Although, if it doesn’t — if, ultimately, my working premise cannot be either supported or modified to produce a meaningful result and I end up abandoning the project entirely — well, at least the research is worth doing. Besides, I write this on a morning when the weatherman said we can expect our first winter weather, with possible minor accumulations of snow and ice overnight tonight and tomorrow morning. It could be a long winter, and I really can’t think of a better way to spend it than working on a few research projects.

There’s a nice research article in this issue. Bryant Stanton’s The Dark Age of American Stained Glass: The Tiffany Glass Company 1888 – A Productive Year (which begins on page 272) takes an in-depth look at a group of Good Shepherd-themed windows from Tiffany produced in 1888 and installed in churches across the country. I know Bryant personally, and I know he put a lot of time and effort into producing this article. It’s quite an article; I enjoyed reading it and am very glad to be able to include it in this issue of the magazine. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

I would love to be able to print more research articles in the coming issues of The Stained Glass Quarterly. If there’s something you’d like to know more about — a window, a theme, a style, a particular artist, windows from a particular region or period — really, anything you want to know more about — I would strongly urge you to consider doing the research and presenting what you find in an article for publication. The fact that you want to know more about a certain topic probably means that others do, too. Doing in-depth research and presenting one’s findings is a great way to advance everyone’s understanding of stained glass, or religious art, or painting techniques, or even the history of how stained glass windows are sold.

One of the great things about pursuing a research article is that you don’t have to start out an expert… but you might end up one, if you carry the research far enough. It is amazing what one can learn if one is willing to collect the pieces and connect the dots. Besides: education is its own reward; it’s not possible to waste time when that time is spent in learning something new or in coming to a deeper understanding of something already learned.

If what I’ve written here inspires you to pursue such an article, I look forward to reading it and hope I can include it in a future edition of this magazine. Of course, I’m looking for other types of articles as well. I would very much like to be able to print more articles about the business of stained glass written by stained glass businesspeople. Technical articles — articles about how to do specific craft techniques, or a new way of approaching a task — are always something very much in demand.

The thing about the readership of The Stained Glass Quarterly is that the people who read it are the experts in the field. That’s the nature of a professional trade journal: Its readership includes the very people who should be sharing their knowledge, experience, and skills with others in the form of articles. Winter is upon us. Won’t you take a little time this winter and consider writing an article?


The Good Shepherd

“The Good Shepherd” by Frederick James Shields

“Where the design for a window is ordered and paid for by the purchaser of the window, it is of course impossible to secure a duplicate; but where a picture that is already common property is reproduced, the work may be several times repeated.

“Thus “The Good Shepherd,” a very satisfactory figure of the Christ taken from the well-known painting by Frederick J. Shields, has been reproduced in glass three times, and now adorns as many churches in different parts of the country. It is too beautiful a conception to be rendered any less pleasing by this repetition. In all cases the patterns and other needed guides are preserved, so that, should the occasion arise, a picture-window once executed may be readily duplicated.”

— from the 1889 Popular Science Monthly article by C. C. Hanford Henderson entitled “History of a Picture Window”