History of St. Augustine Church’s Stained Glass Windows

History of St. Augustine Church’s Stained Glass Windows

We all realize that stained glass windows add much beauty and charm to a church. Without them, so much seems to intrude on one’s ability to concentrate and appreciate the splendor and silence of the church. We are uplifted by such windows. They also, most times, tell us a story or teach us a lesson. This is true of our own windows.

The windows at St. Augustine Church came in three stages. All the windows in the main body of the church on the ground level, the oval windows in the Sanctuary and choir were installed in 1931 when the church was built. All the exterior doors and their stain-glassed were put in place in around 1970 when Monsignor Jess was Pastor. Finally, in about 1975 during Monsignor Welsh’s tenure, the windows in the clerestory and the various vestibules were added.

The original windows on the ground level give different messages. The two on the east side (ocean side) of the main altar depict the Annunciation and the Child Jesus in the Temple. The two on the west side (bay side) show Jesus raising the child from death and His own Resurrection. The reason for the choices are lost. It must be remembered that these windows were part of the original Sanctuary area.

If one observes the east side of the church and follows the rest of the lower windows, one will see the history of St. Augustine’s life in each succeeding window. Here’s a walkthrough of each window along the sides of the church.

1. Young Augustine

Aurilius Augustine was born in Tagaste, in Numidia, Africa on Nov. 13, 354 A.D. His mother Monica was a devout Christian while his father Patricius was a pagan. Monica taught him the Christian truths of faith as Augustine tells us,

“For . . . this name of my Savior Thy Son, had my tender heart, even with my mother’s milk, devotedly drunk in, and deeply treasured….” (Confessions 3.4.8)

As a young boy Augustine was admitted as a catechumen but not baptized. Why not? He tells us that he heard many times people say, “‘Let him alone, let him do as he wills, for he was not yet baptized”. (Conf. 1.11.18) He was not baptized because in their way of thinking God’s judgment would have been greater had he been baptized and in any event, Baptism took away of sin later on. Augustine comments that this was an unreasonable attitude because , “As to bodily health, no one says, ‘Let him be worse wounded, for he is not healed.’ How much better then, had I at once been healed….” (Conf. 1.11.18)

Augustine disliked having to learn Greek and reading, writing and arithmetic. He was negligent in his studies and so was at times beaten by his tutors. He loved to play and see the classical plays of Greece and Rome. He would lie to his tutors and parents and even steal from home in order to achieve his end.

2. Augustine and Friends

Augustine is shown here with Alypius and Possidius.

Alypius was born in the same town as Augustine and studied under him both in Tagaste and Carthage. They became very close fiends. When Augustine moved from Rome to Milan, Alypius desiring to be close to Augustine, joined him.

In one of their discussions on whether to marry or not, Augustine says, ” Alypius indeed kept me from marrying; alleging that so could we by no means with undistracted leasure live together in the love of wisdom, as we had long desired.” (Conf. 6.12.21) As we shall see later, Alypius was also present at the conversion of Augustine.

Possidius, a friend of Augustine for 40 years, was present at his death and wrote a short life of St. Augustine with a list of his writings. He became the Bishop of Calama in Numidia and like St. Augustine established a monastery.(Vita S. Augustini, xxxi),

3. Monica Admonishes her Son

Augustine tells us that in his 16th year “out of muddy concupiscence of the flesh, and bubbling of youth, midsts fumed up which beclouded and overcast my heart, that I could not discern the brightness of love from the fog of lustfulness.” (Conf. 2.2.2) Monica with great anxiety warned him “‘not to commit fornication; but especially never to defile another’s wife.'” (Conf.2.3.7)

Augustine studied in Carthage from age 17 to 19. While there he had relations with a woman who bore him a son Adeodatus(God-given). He began to believe the teachings Manichean, that is, he believed that there was a God of good and a God of evil and that mankind was caught up in this struggle. The Manicheans believed to be on the side of the good spirit for which they would be rewarded. Meantime, since man was compelled to do evil by evil spirit, he was not responsible for his actions.

When he returned home from Carthage, he began to vent his beliefs and Monica threw him out of the house, but due to a dream she had, she changed her mind and allowed him to return home. Monica was sad and cried for many years. One day she went to see a holy bishop in order to beg him to speak to her son. He refused saying that Augustine was not ready to change. As she departed the bishop said to her, “‘Go thy ways, and God will bless thee, for it is not possible that the son of these tears should perish”. (Conf. 3.12.21)

4. Ambrose Awakens Augustine in Faith

So In 384 A.D. Augustine applied for the vacant chair of professorship at the Imperial Court at Milan and was accepted by the prefect Symmachus. This was a prestigious position since at this time Milan was the capital of the Western Roman Empire.

It was in this city that Augustine met bishop Ambrose but could not have a long conversation with him. He was impressed by his eloquence and so went every Sunday to listen to his sermons. Before this time, Augustine thought looked upon Old Testament as nonsense because he read it literally, but now Augustine heard Ambrose reveal the spiritual meaning of scripture. He says; “With joy I heard Ambrose in his sermons to the people oftentimes most diligently recommend this text as a rule, ‘The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.'” (Conf. 6.6.6)

One day Augustine went to see Simplicianus, the father of Ambrose, and told him of his intellectual wanderings and that he had read certain books of the Platonists. Simplicianus was delighted, because as he told Augustine, the Platonists in many way lead to the belief in God and His Word.

Meantime, Monica was pressuring Augustine to marry and a suitable maiden was asked in marriage but she was underage so had to wait for two years.

5. Conversion of Augustine

One day Augustine retired with his friend Alypius to a little garden of the home of one of his friends. Feeling troubled in spirit and sensing tears surging from within, moved away from Alypius, cast himself under a fig tree and began to cry bitterly for his sins.

Then, Augustine heard a child from the neighboring house repeatedly saying, “‘Take up and read; take up and read.'” (Conf. 8.12.29). Augustine understood this to be a command from God, so he opened the gospels and read: “…not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the desires of the flesh.” (Rm23:13) Instantly he became enlightened, peace entered his soul and all darkness and doubt vanished away. with calm countenance he told Alypius what had happened. Alypius asked to see what Augustine had read and read further, “Welcome anyone who is weak in faith”. (Rm13:14) Alypius felt that these words were directed toward himself and was strengthened in his faith and resolve. Next, they told Monica what had happened. She leapt with joy and triumph and blessed God.

Jaques Maritain states: “The dominating characteristic of Augustine’s genius and the true secret of his influence are to be found in his heart, a heart that penetrates the most exalted speculation of a profound mind and animates them with the most ardent feeling.”

Augustine has well written:

Thou has made us for Thyself, O Lord,
and our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee.

6. Baptism of Augustine and Death of Monica

Augustine gave notice that he was abandoning the professorship of rhetoric, wrote a letter to Ambrose denouncing his errors and returned to Milan to prepare for his baptism. Ambrose baptized Augustine along with Alypius and his son Adeodatus on Easter Day in 387 A.D. Monica was most surely present as depicted in this stained glass window.

In 387 A.D. Augustine decided to return with his friends to Tagaste so as to live the religious life. Monica became very sick and unconscious at Ostia. When she regained consciousness, the brother of Augustine asked her where she wanted to be buried. She looked at Augustine and his brother with amazement and said, “‘Here, you bury your mother.'” “And soon after she said to them, ‘Lay this body anywhere; …this only I request, that you would remember me on the Lord’s altar, wherever you may be.'” (Conf. 9.11.27) On the 9th day of her sickness at age 56 her religious soul was freed from her body. “I closed her eyes; and there flowed within me a mighty sorrow into my heart which was overflowing into tears ….” Conf. 9.12.29) Adeodatus, who was only 15 or 16, burst into loud lament. Euodius began to sing Psalm 101:

“I sing of love and justice;
to you O Lord I sing praise”,
and the whole house was answering him.

7. Augustine Established a Religious Community

In 387 A.D. Augustine returned to Tagaste, Africa determined to begin living the religious life with Alypius, Evodius, Possidius and others who joined him. He sold his goods and gave the money to the poor except for his house in which they began to live the common life in imitation of the early Christians.

“They devoted themselves to the teachings of the apostles and to the common life, to the breaking of bread and to prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

Essentially the life lead by the group consisted of community of goods, study, work, prayer and chastity. In the year 400 A.D. Augustine wrote a rule: The Rule of St. Augustine.

The tranquil life he established was soon broken by the death of his son Deoadatus at age 17 and of his friend Nebridius.

8. Augustine Becomes a Priest

One day Augustine went to Hippo (Annaba today) to take care of some affairs. He was in church listening to Bishop Valerius preaching and his remarks included the need for a fit and holy priest in Hippo. By this time Augustine’s fame as a holy man had spread. The people recognized him and immediately insisted that he would be the ideal new priest.

Augustine was ordained a priest in 391 A.D. Bishop Valerius gave him some property which he used to begin the second monastery. Valerius gave him the task to preach even though this task was usually reserved to the bishop. During his five years as a priest he combated Manicheanism and was obliged to deliver a discourse to the bishops present at the Plenary Council of Africa which became known as the treatise “De Fide et symbolo”.

9. Augustine the Teacher and Preacher

Augustine taught the people primarily through his sermons and doctrinal treatises.

He as an able orator. “The orator must formulate his speech in such a way as to instruct the audience, hold their attention, and to win. By this, Augustine meant that the orator must not only instructed the audience in what is true, he must also convince them of the truth so that they will act on it.”

In one of his sermons Augustine discusses why Christ was born of a woman and not without woman. He says. “If … He had not been born of a woman, women might have despaired of themselves, as mindful of their first sin, because by a woman was the first man deceived, and would have thought that they had no hope at all in Christ.”

In another of his sermons, Augustine discusses the fact that the Father does nothing without the Son. If this is the case, some were saying, that the Father was also born of Mary along with the Son. Augustine quotes St. Paul who wrote, “But, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to ransom those under the law.” (Gal4:4) This shows Christ made man was the work of the Father. Likewise, the incarnation was the work of the Son as stated in scripture, “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God, something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave. (Phil. 2:6-7)

Augustine also warned his hearers to be humble because human nature is limited in understanding the mystery of the Trinity. He says, “Let words be hushed: let the tongue be silent, let the heart be aroused, let the heart be lifted up thither. For it is not of such a nature as that it can ascend into the heart of man; but the heart of man must itself ascend to it.”

10. Augustine Ordained Bishop

Augustine was consecrated as assistant Bishop by Valerius in 395 A.D. and became the actual Bishop of Hippo in 396 A.D. at the death of Valerius. He established common life in his residence and required his clergy to give up their property so as to live the early Christians ideal.

Augustine refuted the Manichians by teaching that God is good and that evil comes from the free decisions of men and angels.

During his episcopacy Augustine faced the Donatists, an heretical group of bishops of north Africa. The Donatists maintained that the Church was the assembly of the just and that the clergy who had in some way cooperated in the persecution and who had lost the grace of the Holy Spirit could not effectively administer the sacraments. Augustine maintained that the real power of the sacraments did not reside in the holiness of the individual but in the God’s power at work through the ministers of the church and its sacraments. In the end, Augustine prevailed over the Donatists.

Another controversy in which Augustine became involved the was error of Pelagianism. Augustine taught that human beings born in Original Sin were incapable of saving themselves without the grace of God. Pelagius instead taught that Adam was just a bad example and not the father of sinful humanity. Pelagius saw salvation as merely the progress from bad behavior to good behavior by following Christ. This heresy was condemned by more Church Councils than any other heresy.

The third heresy which Augustine faced was Arianism. Arius, a priest of Egyptian Alexandria, taught that Christ was not equal to the Father. Christ was nothing more a creature more perfect than other creatures. Augustine argued that “whatever is spoken of God is spoken according to substance, then that which is said, ‘I and the Father are one,’ is spoken according to substance. Therefore there is one substance of the Father and the Son.” (On the Trinity, Bk 5.3)

11. Augustine’s Charity

As a pastoral leader, Augustine “Led the community like a father heads a family, adjusting disputes, intervening for prisoners to save them from torture and execution, advocating for the poor, buying freedom for badly treated slaves, and charging religious women with the care of abandoned and orphaned children.” (Web:Great Books 202)

Augustine taught that we must learn to love ourselves in God in order to love our neighbor properly. But on a practical level, he reminds us that “all other men are to be loved equally; but since you cannot be of assistance to everyone, those are especially to be cared for who are most closely bound to you by place, time or opportunity, as if by chance.”

12. Augustine the Writer

Augustine was a brilliant genius and a prolific writer. In his lifetime he wrote 113 books, over 200 letters and more than 500 sermons. His most famous works are his Confessions and the City of God.

In his Confessions, he reveals his sinfulness and conversion ever mindful of the work of God in his soul. It has been read by countless men and women because it speaks to each soul’s sinfulness and need for redemption.

In the City of God Augustine refutes the accusation that the Christians caused the fall of the Roman Empire by their refusal to worship the gods of Rome. In chapter 1 he makes this observation: “If they only had sense, they would see that the hardships and cruelties they suffered from the enemy came from that Divine Providence who makes use of war to reform the corrupt lives of men.” He reveals the Christian view of history by contrasting the city of men, the Roman Empire, which had fallen due to the breakdown of morality and civic virtues, with the City of God, the Church, who’s foundation is Christ who leads men to the heavenly City of God.

Augustine’s third great work De Trinitate (On the Trinity) is not widely read because of its abstract nature which is more suited to study by theologians. In this work, he compares the mind of man with the mind of God. Since man is the image of God, Augustine reveals the Trinitarian structure of human nature. For example, mind, love and knowledge are substantially one, yet each one is present in the other without losing their characteristics. He goes on to discuss different aspects of the Trinity and to refute the errors of the heretics.

13. Our Lady of Good Counsel

Our Lady of Good Counsel was a Church located in the small Italian village of Genazzano about 30 miles from Rome. It was given by Prince Colonna to the Augustinians in the 15th century.They set about to rebuild the ruined Church with the help of a wealthy lady named Petruccia De Geneo.

The people of Genazzano were celebrating St. Mark’s Day on April 25, 1467 outside the Church when at about 4pm they heard strings of exquisite music. Looking up at the clear sky they saw a cloud descending and resting on the unfinished wall of the Church. As it dissipated the image of Our Lady with the Christ Child was seen resting on the unfinished wall. The people believed that it had come from heaven and they gave it the title of Our Lady of Paradise. This image to this day is standing without support even though earthquakes and aerial bombing of World War II have destroyed much of the church.

Where had it come from?

The story is told that during the seige of Shkdra (Scutari) by the Turks in the 15th century, two escaping Albanians, Gjorgji and De Sclavis, stopped by the Church to pray. While at prayer, they noticed the painting of Our Lady moving away from the wall and passing over their heads. They followed the painting outside the church where they saw it rise high into the sky where it became wrapped into a cloud and vanished in the direction of the Adriatic and Italy. Inspired by God they set out for Italy where, while searching from city to city, they heard rumors of the astonishing appearance of a new picture at Genazzano. They went there and found the same image which had left Scutari.

Pope Paul II (1464-1471) ordered a thorough investigation into the miraculous nature of the image. The following conclusions were reached: 1) The painting which had been done of a thin layer of porcelain or plaster, the thickness of an eggshell, could not have been removed by human hand. 2) This thin layer of porcelain or plaster stands upright without any support except for a narrow ledge on which it rests. 3) The image had indeed disappeared from its church of origin and that an empty space of exact dimensions was still present in the Albanian church.

The Augustinians have been responsible for spreading devotion to the miraculous Our Lady of Good Counsel throughout the world.

Prayer to Our Lady of Good Counsel Composed by Pope Pius XII

O Holy Virgin, to whose feet we are led by our anxious uncertainty
in our search for and attainment of what is true and good, invoking
Thee by the sweet title of Mother of Good Counsel. We beseech Thee
to come to our assistance, when, along the road of this life, the
darkness of error and of evil conspires towards our ruin by leading
our minds and our hearts astray.

Do Thou, O Seat of Wisdom and Star of the Sea, enlighten the doubtful
and the erring, that they be not seduced by the false appearances of
good; render them steadfast in the race of the hostile and corrupting
influences of passion and of sin.

O Mother of Good Counsel, obtain for us from Thy Divine Son a great
love of virtue, and, in the hour of uncertainty and trial, the strength to
embrace the way that leads to our salvation. If thy hand sustains us,
we shall walk unmolested along the path indicated to us by the life
and words of Jesus our redeemer, and having followed freely and
securely, even in the midst of this world’s strife, the Sun of Truth
and Justice under they maternal star, we shall come to the enjoyment
of full and eternal peace with Thee in the heaven of salvation. Amen.

14. Death of Augustine

Before he died, Augustine caused the clergy and people to select the deacon Haraclitus as his auxiliary and successor.

The Vandals invaded Africa and Count Boniface along with many bishops took refuge in the fortified city of Hippo. A short time after the Vandals besieged Hippo, Augustine became mortally sick and after three months of admirable patience and fervent prayer died ( August 28, 430 A.D.) at the age of 76. Possidius, his friend of 40 years who was present at his death has this to say, “He died with his body intact. He could still see and hear and his mind was clear to the very end. As we looked on and prayed for him he passed in sleep into the land of his ancestors, well-nourished in good old age”. From the moment of his death Augustine was praised as a Saint and became a Saint by tradition and local determination. He was declared Doctor of the Church by Pope Boniface VIII on Sept. 20, 1295 A.D. St. Augustine tomb is located above the altar of the Church of San Pietro in Ciel D’Oro in Pavia, Italy.

Return to the center aisle and observe the stained glass window over the Tabernacle (Augustine and Monica). Turn to the choir loft and admire the wagon wheel-shaped window on the rear wall depicting symbols of the twelve Apostles. The meaning and beauty of these windows enhances the church as well as our spiritual welfare.

As our attention swings from the front wall to the rear wall, we notice the clerestory windows, the last ones put in place. Their story is self explanatory. The east windows symbolize the days of Creation, and other Old Testament events. They also trace Jesus to the royal family of David. The west windows feature the fifteen mysteries of the Holy Rosary recalling events in the lives of Jesus and Mary.

There are a number of smaller windows in the front vestibule which were installed at the same time (1975). The four windows in the northeast honor four American Saints: Martin dePorres, Frances Cabrini, John Neuman, and Elizabeth Ann Seton. In the northwest, the windows highlight New Testament events. Finally, at that same time, new windows were placed in the sacristies and are easily identi­fied.

This brings us to the final and most difficult set to explain: the doors. The very modern symbols are difficult to explain without the artist’s input. Notice that each door has a number of symbols in the three panels: one overhead and two along side each other.

The explanation below is for the parallel panels:

Door 1 – Westside (Bayside of Church)
Flower/AR … apparently panels to honor BUM- as Ave Regina and Flower
Door 2 – Northwest corner
Chalice and Host/Wheat and Grapes
Door 3 – Front Door
Symbols of Christ and Cross
Door 4 – Front Central Door
Door 5 – Front Door
New Testament (Gospel Book) Old Testament (10 Commandments)
Door 6 – Northeast Corner (Oceanside)
A/ -m Alpha -Omega the beginning and the end …… Peacock/ Peter’s Denial
Door 7 – Eastside
St. Joseph Windows / Tools/Lily

Overhead Panels on Doors:
1, 2, 6, and 7: Four Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John [their names are to be found in the panels (look closely)]
3: Lamb (Jesus)
4: Star of David
5: Dove (Spirit of Jesus)

As indicated earlier, the latter group of windows challenges a person’s imagination and knowledge.

By presenting this history to you, we hope to have enhanced your appreciation of the beauty that surrounds you as you worship in St. Augustine Church. May God bless you all.