21 August 2021

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
84, Stained Glass in Carmelite Churches

Saint John of the Cross by Phyllis Burke in Saint Teresa’s Church, Clarendon Street, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

Before the day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

My theme this week has been churches in the Carmelite tradition, and my photographs this morning (21 August 2021) are of eight stained-glass windows in two of the churches and chapels I have been describing this week.

The Carmelites as Educationalists (top) and the the Carmelites as Missionaries (below), two windows by Phyllis Burke in the chapel of Terenure College (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The eight stained-glass windows I have selected this morning are from the Chapel in Terenure College and Saint Teresa’s Church in Clarendon Street, Dublin.

Phyllis Burke was born in Newbridge, Co Kildare, and was one of the early students of Johnny Murphy, later of Murphy-Devitt Studios, and her work has been compared with Patrick Pye and Patrick Pollen. She was married to the architect Arthur Gibney.

Phyllis Burke developed a particular interest in Carmelite spirituality. She created windows in the Carmelite churches in Clarendon Street and Loughrea, and when Frances Briggs died in 2006, she completed the final two windows in Terenure College Chapel.

Among her 12 windows in Saint Teresa’s Church, Clarendon Street, this morning’s posting include the windows depicting the Prophet Elijah or Elias (1991), Saint John of the Cross (1993) and Edith Stein or Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (2006), a German Jewish philosopher who converted to Catholicism and became a Carmelite nun.

Her window in Clarendon Street depicting Edith Stein (1891-1942), who was murdered in Auschwitz, sets her within the context of the Holocaust. The images in this window include the ‘Old Testament’ sacrifice; Christ presenting the Cross to Sister Edith, both in the line of Nazi fire; a train going ‘east’ to Auschwitz; the sacrificial Lamb; and a luminous Star of David. Martyr palms and German cornflowers complete her design.

Her windows in Terenure College depict the Carmelites as Missionaries (2007-2008) and the Carmelites as Educationalists (2007-2008), an appropriate theme for a college chapel.

Frances Biggs created a series of windows in the side chapels in Terenure College between 1986 and 2001. This morning’s selection from her windows depict Elijah Prophet of Mount Carmel, Saint John of the Cross and Saint Titus Brandsma (1986).

Frances Biggs was born in Salthill, Galway, and has been described as a ‘musician in glass.’ For 40 years she was a member of the RTÉ Orchestra. Her husband was the sculptor Michael Biggs, and together they created some of the most impressive ecclesiastic art of recent decades – he in stone and she in stained glass or tapestries – in churches such as Saint Macartan’s Cathedral, Monaghan, Gonzaga College Chapel, Ranelagh, and the chapel in Terenure College.

Her window of Saint John of the Cross took me aback when I first saw it last week. This window was presented by the Stafford family in memory of their mother Sadie Stafford, who died on 19 June 1987. I was last in the chapel in this chapel for her funeral, and her son, the late John Stafford, who died last year, had been one of my closest childhood friends.

This window depicts Saint John of the Cross (1542-1591), who ranks among the greatest Spanish poets, and the first of his great poems, ‘Dark Night.’ It shows the lover, in Carmelite garb, leaving his house in darkness, throwing all his cares among the lilies, setting out on the mystical journey. The poem comes to life among vivid colours that describe the light burned in his heart amid the night more lovely than the dawn.

The window of Saint Titus Brandsma (1881-1942) is in the Chapel of the Martyrs, which commemorates Titus Brandsma, Edith Stein, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Maximilian Kolbe, Maria Skobtsova, Martin Luther King, Janani Luwum, Oscar Romero, and Jerzy Popieluszko: ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his holy ones.’

Saint Titus Brandsma, a Carmelite friar, was martyred in Dachau on 26 July 1942. In this window he is shown as a crucified figure, hanging from the bars of his cell window, holding the Eucharistic bread, which he concealed during a severe flogging. Around him is the mantle of Mary and the roses of Carmel. The rectangles at the end of the window suggest newspapers. As chaplain to the Catholic journalists in the Netherlands, he came into conflict with the Nazis when he refused to publish Nazi advertisements. An expert in the Carmelite mystics, he visited Terenure College in the summer of 1935 on his way to lecture in the US.

Saint John of the Cross (top) and the Prophet Elijah (below), two windows by Frances Biggs in the Chapel of Terenure College (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Matthew 23: 1-12 (NRSVA):

1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3 therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practise what they teach. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. 6 They love to have the place of honour at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have people call them rabbi. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. 9 And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father – the one in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.’

Saint Titus Brandsma by Frances Biggs in the Chapel of Terenure College (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (21 August 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, comprising 29 dioceses across South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and the island of St Helena.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Saint Edith Stein by Phyllis Burke in Saint Teresa’s Church, Clarendon Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Prophet Elijah or Elias by Phyllis Burke in Clarendon Street church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

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