Stained Glass Windows Tour

with thanks to Father O'Doherty

Honor your loved one with a lasting legacy.

At St. Joseph’s Catholic Church we have been blessed with an amazing Legacy – our one-of-a-kind, stained glass windows. Each window has its own unique story and we share each with you proudly, here.

The maintenance and restoration of our beautiful and holy Legacy is costly. To offset these costs, we invite you to honor your family and loved ones with a Legacy that will help preserve ours. Dedication of our stained glass windows will provide you with a beautifully appointed plaque mounted for eternity below the window of your choosing and worded to your specifications.


Your cost to honor a loved one and preserve St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Lakeland’s Legacy is $25,000.

Archangel Gabriel

Of the Three angels mentioned by name in Scripture, Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel, it is to be noted that their names all end in “el”. “El” is an ancient name for God and so “Michael” to the best of my knowledge means “Who is like ‘El” or God. Apparently, it is a war-cry. The implication is that Lucifer declares “I am like ‘El” – and the angel whom we know as Michael shouts: “Who dares to say he is like ‘El”, and he rises up to do battle.
The name “Raphael” again to the best of my knowledge means “Healed by ‘El” or God” and Gabriel depicted in our window means “Sent by ‘El” or God.” When I consider this angel of God, inviting Mary to be Mother to God, another image of another angel and a woman comes to mind. “And the serpent Angel invited the man and his woman to disobey God” (which they did).  By Eve’s cooperation with Unholy One, sin and death is in me and you. By cooperation with the Holy Spirit, Mary, the new Eve, gives us Jesus the new Adam who destroyed sin and death in his own person, and can now do so in you and me. In our own day, when we are witnessing a very far-reaching woman’s movement in the world, we should remember that the first woman Eve was liberated even from God while the new Eve, Mary, is a free woman whose dignity comes from her union with God. Every girl child that opens the womb is first and foremost Bride of Christ. Woman’s dignity does not come from her husband, her children, her family, her government, but from the truth that Christ is the first lover and husband of her soul.
Just a point of interest: Colored glass is made by adding metal oxides as coloring to molten glass.  The glassblower gathers an amount of molten glass on the end of a blow pipe and blows a bubble, which he shapes into the shape of a bottle. He next cuts the end of the bottle, slits the remaining cylinder down one side and by special process flattens it into a sheet. However, stained glass is one thing, but arranging it to tell a story in our church window is another.  I almost forgot-if you have another boy child after Christopher, you might call him Raphael or Gabriel or Michael, and if it is girl child-Mary.


In the second of our Stained glass windows, we are invited to contemplate the birth of Jesus, the God-Man. “In the beginning was the Word.” The word came forth from the depths of God and God said, “Let there be light was made. But the darkness came again into the souls of men, and so, in the fullness of time, the Word came forth again from the depths of god and took flesh in the person of Mary. She gave birth to Jesus, the Light.
We are accustomed to thinking of All-Holy One as all powerful:  yet, when He entered our world, He chose to be weak, dependent, and helpless. Who ever heard of the God of infinite space being confined in the womb of a virgin, swimming like and child in the uterine fluid! A God pushed into the birth canal like any baby: a God who was fed at the breast: a God who was diapered!
Everything about Bethlehem teaches us that God chooses the weak to confound the strong.  There was no room in the inn, and so the birthplace was a stable, a dwelling place for animals. I am reminded here of the pastor’s Christmas sermon, when Father Sheedy said that Jesus is still being born in animal dwellings in the sense that Christ finds in us the most savage of animal passions.
Fortunately for us, faith predominated among those persons who were present at the manger where Christ Child lay. We see here Mary, the Virgin Mother of Jesus, the Mother of God. We see St. Joseph, that model Christian who honored God and the State. In obedience to God, he looked after Jesus and Mary: in obedience to the State, he had traveled to Bethlehem to register in the census as Caesar Augustus had ordered. In the Shepherds we see the lowest of the low in attendance at the birth of Jesus. (Shepherds in Israel were not permitted to testify in a court of law, yet they testified to the birth of Jesus.)
Perhaps one could argue that in the presence of the three kings God chose rather that lowly people, men of higher station. The Three Kings, Balthazar, Caspar and Melchior, however if we consider their gifts, symbolize again that Jesus was to be despised and rejected by men. One brought gold, a gift for a king. (Jesus would be lifted up in death with the inscription over his head:  “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews.”) Another brought frankincense, with is used by priests.  (Jesus would be both victim and priest, as He later would cry in consummate pain, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”) The third king brought myrrh. (It may be fresh in the reader’s mind during this continuance of the Easter season that myrrh was among the ointments the women brought to anoint Jesus.)
As our pastor pointed out, Jesus did not despise the animal dwelling of Bethlehem. Neither will He despise your heart and soul if you invite Him in. However, you must admit Him: He will not force His way in. Perhaps that is why Jesus sometimes waits so long to become the welcome Guest.

Seven Stands for Wisdom

In our third major stained glass window, we are presented with Jesus among the Doctors of the Law, listening to them and asking them questions. The scripture notes that all who heard Him were astounded by his intelligence and His replies. However, behind the scenes, Joseph and Mary were full of worry as Jesus had been missing for three days. Twelve years earlier when the boy Jesus was circumcised. Simeon the priest had told Mary that a sword of sorrow would pierce her heart. I don’t suppose at this early age in the young boy’s life that Mary expected to suffer because of Him, but suffer she did as she sought Him anxiously. Was this in some way a yield prophecy of the three days He would spend buried in the earth?
The suffering of Mary because of Jesus reminds me of an Irish poet who wrote:”O Lord you are hard on mothers, we suffer in their coming and their going.” All who bear children must suffer because of Eve – yet all who bear children should realize that Mary suffered in her child but this suffering is no longer useless. Jesus redeemed the world from death by His passion: Mary shared in his work by her compassion.
In the upper part of our window we see a chandelier with seven candles.  You may never have thought much about numbers or numerology. Did you know that biblically speaking, “7” is the perfect number standing for completion, perfection, fullness, wisdom and God’s rest?
On the seventh day God rested from His work of creation.
Delilah removed seven locks of Samson’s hair Chapter 7 of the Book of Wisdom lists the 21 (7x3) attributes of wisdom.
We should forgive on another according to Jesus 70 times seven.
Mary Magdalene was possessed by seven devils. Jesus spoke seven recorded times for the cross.  The number 7 is mentioned 54 times in the Book of Revelation.
In the church, seven is considered to be the age of reason.
There are seven Sacraments: seven deadly sins: seven gifts of the spirit.
In the world there are seven colors in the rainbow, the owl’s feather has seven bands.
For some reason, too the 7 has an impact in the secular city as a perfect number—the movie “snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” “The Magnificent Seven.” The product seagrams 7 is displayed with a crown on a number 7, and so on.
May you see the seventh heaven.

The Holy Family

In our fourth stained glass window, we are introduced to the Holy Family at work and at prayer.  The very notion of a Holy family suggests an unholy family. Not in truth that any family in itself is unholy but it becomes so by its deeds. Such was the case of the earth’s first family of Adam-Eve and their children. Cain and Abel. Originally, the first man and woman had an easy intimacy with one another and with God, such intimacy the biblical writer describes by saying: “Now the man and his woman were naked and unashamed, but they felt no shame in front of one another.”  Things had obviously changed because of the disobedience that is now the lot of every family by birth and nature. The immediate results of the first family’s disobedience was fear, a genital shame in front of one another, hiding from one another and from God and the man blaming his wife. The long term pay off was that all families must die.
And so there had to be a new family and in the life of this new family all families were to be made holy again. The chief characteristic of the new family was it obedience to the Will of God.  Because Mary said yes to God, Jesus was born. Joseph took Mary as his wife in obedience to God’s messenger and in the life of Jesus; we see obedience brought to magnificent perfection.  Jesus was of obedient to nine months in the womb; He was obedient to being fed at the breast, to being diapered, to learning his prayers, to the trade of a carpenter, till finally He was obedient even unto death, death upon the cross.
Because of His obedience, God rose up Jesus from the dead and gave Him the name that is above every other name so that all of us should accept him as Our Lord. It is only when a man and
Woman allows Jesus to be lord of them that true marital love is possible. It is certainly true that the Scripture teaches that a husband is head of his wife, but the authority of his over his wife is not authority as the world understands it, but the type of authority Jesus showed by becoming a servant of all. A husband should love his wife to the point of death, the wife for her part showing respect for her husband.
As for the children in the home, it is always their place to honor and respect their parents. Not alone did Jesus teach this but He also lived it out by His honoring Joseph and Mary. The fact that the Holy Family was a working class family should encourage us in the realization that no matter how humble, we, too, please the Almighty by an honest day’s work.

The Loaves and the Fishes

In our fifth stained glass window, the familiar scene of Jesus feeding the thousands from the poor beginnings office barley loaves and two small fish is put before us. So much that God was to accomplish through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, He symbolized in the life and times of the Jews. When God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son on mount Moriah, he symbolized the sacrifice of His own Son on Mount Calvary. The commandments that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai preceded the Beatitudes (holy Attitudes) preached by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount, when he defined the spirit that should animate us if we hope to accept the kingdom of God within us. So too, when our spiritual ancestors were fed with manna in the desert, the miracle was a symbol of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, when Jesus fed the thousands in the desert, and beyond that, when He gave His own Body and Blood to feed the spiritually hungry through all generations, even to the very end of time.
Who could believe what we have heard: that Jesus, raised form the dead, is totally and completely present for our consumption at ever Mass through the ministry of his Priests. When the consecrated hosted is raised at Mass or put on your tongue or hand at communion, it doesn’t look like God: but then. He didn’t look like God as and infant at Bethlehem, or on the cross at Calvary. We must exercise extreme reverence toward the Body of Christ.  Sometimes we might be tempted to doubt whether this host which still looks and taste like bread, is in truth the Body of Christ. In times like this, we may find it consoling to realize that even the twelve apostles found the reality of Christ present under the appearances of bread, Difficult to accept: but they could not leave Jesus since He alone had the words of everlasting life. For myself. I find myself looking at the Host and saying. “I believe, Lord: help my lack of Belief.”
In a church where I once worked, there was a picture of Jesus crucified and beneath it the words. “Priest of God offers their Mass as if it were your first Mass, your last Mass, your only Mass.”
I recommend this practice to you each time you attend Holy Mass.

Little Children in Stained Glass

People brought their little children to Jesus sot that He might bless them, but the disciples scolded them for this. “Let the little children come to me,” said Jesus, “and do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs.” This incident of the life of Christ is the subject of our seventh stained glass window. Perhaps you will consider it exaggerated, but in the window I see Jesus speaking to all parents and letting them know that they must bring their children to Him first and foremost. What good will it do if children gain the whole world and lose their souls? We can not, however, bring the children to Jesus if we ourselves do not know Him.
Again in this incident we are reminded of God’s preference for the weak and lowly when He says: “To such as these little ones, the kingdom of God belongs. “This kingdom is and interior kingdom not touched by hands or explored by space ships. It is a kingdom where Christ sees through your eyes, hears with your ears, speaks with your mouth, touches with your hands walks with your feet. It is a kingdom where Jesus governs your attitudes, your imagination, your memory, your will, your total self. Before this is possible your old worldly self must be put to death and you must become childlike again. It is only when a man empties himself of proud self-reliance, when his heart is broken enough that pride and arrogance flow away from it, then and only then can the power of God and His Christ rush in. But who wants to have his heart broken?
It is a cliché’ that if Jesus returned to us in the flesh, we would crucify him again. Not out hatred of His goodness, although most of us become nervous and even hostile when faced with it in our daily lives. But out of fear of it or fear of something else that seems even more powerful.  Goodness, real goodness, which is holiness, seems frightening. It threatens everything we normally hold dearest, our pleasures, our lusts, our ambitions, our desires. Holiness seems like a scorching wind from the desert, threatening our self indulgence. Holiness is not soft or wooing.  It is hard and terrible as a sword, as burning as a flame. Our flesh shrinks from it in terror.
And if for a moment we overcome that terror, allow ourselves to be drawn towards holiness then a new fear grips us – of what the world will say or do: our friends, our superiors, our families – fear of the world’s revenge on us if we renounce the world and come to Jesus.
Yet come we must, as little children, trusting in His compassion and forgiveness, to make us worthy heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Of Pelicans, Marriages, Christ and Red, Red, Wine

At the very top of this particular window is the mother pelican in the seeming act of feeding her young. Very early in the second century, the pelican became a symbol of Christ. In so far as I can put together the ancient sailors believed that the pelican opened its own breast and fed its young with its own blood. This identifies it easily with Jesus who shed His blood for you and me, that we might have life. Given the pink colored tinge of the inner beak of the pelican and coupled with the blood from regurgitated fish. I can see how they thought it opened its own breast to feed its young and hence the link to Christ who said, “Unless you drink mu blood ye cannot have life in you.”
Moving to the main body of the window, one is immediately shown Jesus and Mary and behind them a bride and groom. Selfishly speaking, this window is my favorite, Jesus and Mary in the midst of a marriage celebration. Did you know that the words “testament”, “covenant” and “Marriage” mean the same thing? In other words, the Bible is divided into the story of the old marriage between God and the Jews and the new marriage consummated once for all when the virgin Christ entered once for all into the heavenly sanctuary not the blood of sheep and goats but with His own blood. St. John says that at the moment Jesus died, the veil in the temple of Jerusalem was torn in two from top to bottom. In Old Marriage Testament Judaism the priest once a year used to enter the Holy Place in the temple and sprinkle the blood of goats or lambs on bulls on the altar and then come out and sprinkle some on the people as a sign that they were renewing their covenant, testament or marriage with God. In truth, the whole Bible is about marriage.
Did you know that in Jewish circles if a man offered a cup of wine to a woman, it was a proposal of Marriage? If she accepted, the marriage was to be. Every Sunday you are offered the cup of the new marriage consummated when Christ entered once for all into the heart of God. Soon, God willing, we will all join Him. Some of the mystic saints of the church like St. John of the Cross. St Teresa of Avila and Solomon, king of Israel would say that the soul of man is feminine.  So the offering to all of the Holy Communion cup is even now an offer of marriage from Christ risen from the dead to each of us.
This stained glass window offers a profound statement of the nature of woman as intercessor. It was Mary who approached Jesus because they had run out of wine. We should pray today that Mary might ask her Son to change us from the way we are to people who would give our life’s blood for Jesus and one another.  
I forgot to mention the symbol of the Blood Bank in Ireland is the pelican and central blood bank is called Pelican House.

A Story of Death and Resurrection

If Jesus Christ be not raised from the dead, then my faith and yours is in vain. In the eight stained glass window, we are called on to contemplate the meaning of Christ raised from the dead.
For fruitful meditation, however, we must first ask what is “dead” and where did death originate?  From the ancient folklore of Holy Russia comes this explanation:
Death was born on a flaming day: the flame appeared to be coming from the sword of an angel.  The man and his woman took what was not theirs:  the Knowledge of Good and Evil: and so Death was born. Actually, Death never remembered being born. As far as she was concerned, she always was and would always be, as none could escape her power. Everything and everyone she touched died. Every time there was a war or a famine or and execution, she was there.  So it is no surprise that she was present on Calvary.
But something was different here…the one in the middle, the one they call Jesus, seemed to be summoning her. She couldn’t believe her eyes: men had always avoided her, screened their faces from her, yet every time she look there was this Jesus calling to her, seeming to say to her: “I’ll take your terrible, lonely power from you and death will be the gateway to life.”
Death slipped unnoticed through the crowd and touched His feet: just like all the others, He died.  Before they put the huge stone over the entrance to the tomb, again unnoticed, she slipped in.
On the third day of the death watch, He opened His eyes, took her by the hand, and together they went off to see God. That was the day the Death became Life.
If this is not true, then you or I will not rise. If Jesus be not raised from the dead, then there is no forgiveness of sins: and if He is not raised, then our Holy Communion is no more than a piece of bread. If Christ be not raised from the dead, then our assembly ever Sunday is without meaning, our preaching is in vain and your listening to it is vanity and we are the most miserable of men.
But Christ is raised: and should you desire it enough, He will make you and me into completely new persons. He is raised and His desire is to possess us, to see through our eyes, to hear with our ears, to speak when we speak, to touch with our hands, to sing with our voices. He is the Lord over my sins and yours: He wishes to be lord over our minds, our memories, our imagination, our will. He is a jealous, possessive God:  He wants us totally for Himself, and yet, somehow, in our common assembly, he seems so hidden.
Whoever heard of a lord dressed in the appearance of bread and wine? There is a lovely Spanish story about this—it is called “Marcellino pan y vino,” meaning Marcellino bread and wine.
Speaking of names, I have always admired the Latin American-Spanish custom of naming male children Jesus and the lovely sound of the name in Spanish.       
May the Risen Christ possess us?  

Has-Is-Will in Stained Glass

In our final stained glass window, we are called on to reflect on the meaning of the universal church of Christ. If you reflect back to Catechism days, you will recall learning that the marks of the church were its one-ness, its holiness, its Catholicity, and its universality. But is it so anymore? Should we join those who mourn: “Look what they’ve done to my church Ma, it was the only thing I understood half right, now it’s come out all so wrong, Ma. Look what they’ve done to my church.
The Changes since Vatican ll, if one is prepared to study them long enough, are purely cosmetic.  The Church is still one we have one faith, one Lord, one baptism as we always have had. All seven Sacraments stand as always: it is only the language of the Sacraments which has changed.  The Church will always be Holy because the Church is Christ and all who are His. Even if every last member of the Church denied Christ, the Church would remain holy in its foundation stone, who is Christ.
The Church is Catholic or universal in that it has among its members people of every race and tongue. Jesus when in the flesh said that His kingdom was like unto a dragnet that brought in a haul of all kinds. On our stained glass window the racial types of the earth are represented: The Caucasians are represented by the whit-skinned man: the Indian, the Negroid by the black man, and the Mongolian by the yellow-skinned man. On a given Sunday at St. Joseph’s it is possible to see all three racial types, the white man, descendants of European immigrants: the black man, descendants, of Africa’s black people and the yellow man, our most recent refugee from Vietnam.
The Church is Apostolic because all priests and teachers loyal to the Bishop and the Pope are still teaching the same Gospel as was taught by the early Church.
One could say that our whole faith in Christ is summed up in three little words: has-is-will.  Jesus has died and in his death, sin and death have been destroyed.
Jesus is risen and is with us even now. He continues his work by means of the 7 Sacraments and the preaching of the Gospel.
Jesus will come again in glory soon.