Updated: Jun 22, 2022
You may have noticed the new skylight at Sacred Heart Church, courtesy of Hurricane Ida.
Gazing up at this notorious window during our weekly school-wide masses at Sacred Heart Elementary, I remember thinking: it’s gotta be a clown. Or Darth Sidious. That’s the best I could speculate as a child.
Window in 2019. Lots of clown vibes. Recalls Godspell.
Window in 2021. Lots of Palpatine vibes. Recalls the The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis The Wise.
One explanation I got from a parishioner is that it’s supposed to be the Holy Spirit, qualified of course by “...I think?” (And maybe there’s something to be said about post-conciliar Church artwork if it confuses a child’s distinction between the Holy Spirit and a sideshow character or a Star Wars villain, but we’ll save that discussion for a Catholic Answers Focus podcast or whatever).
Clown, Palpatine, Paraclete, whatever--it’s a window that harrows you with fear and wonder no matter what. And seeing it broken and battered does that too.
But the broken can’t be separated from what the Sacred Heart of Jesus really is in Catholic iconography--here is Christ, pointing through His clothes and torn flesh at a burning heart encircled with thorns and pouring out blood. This is the suffering Godhead, a divine person willing to part His human flesh in order to connect with and redeem His beloved. It’s heroic heartbreak. It’s a bloody mess!
After one of our disaster relief events in the parish, my sister carefully gathered some of these shattered pieces from the debris outside the Church building. All the proceeds from these art pieces go toward our recovery efforts at Sacred Heart. Trying to keep these available to parishioners first, but if I come across more of this stained glass, I’ll create more pieces!
“Come, let us return to the Lord,
For it is he who has torn, but he will heal us;
He has struck down, but he will bind our wounds.” (Hosea 6:1)
***Fun fact that I think is pretty cool--because y’all know I’m obsessed: did you know that Flannery O’Connor’s home parish in Milledgeville is Sacred Heart Catholic Church? I checked it out here: http://www.sacredheartmilledgeville.org/
It looks like there are no circus freaks or grotesque old villains in the sacred windows there, but that doesn’t mean O’Connor never saw the sacred in circus freaks and grotesque old villains around her.
See? Here's a cover of Wise Blood.