Sunday, February 21, 2016

Stained Glass Windows at Mount Michael's Chapel -- Odell Prather -- The John and Patricia Borer Family

Many people who visit our chapel here at Mount Michael often make comments about our stained glass windows. I thought that it might be interesting to use our windows as a blog topic and perhaps give a little explanation and history about our windows.

Odell Prather is the artist who designed our windows in our chapel. She died not so long ago, (2001) but her art work will always remain with us. Some of her work can be found on different websites, if one simply searches on the internet in regard to the artist, Odell Prather.

I, personally, did not meet Odell, but I must admit that I would have loved to have spoken with her about the windows she desgined for us. Speaking to an artist is much like speaking with an author or composer. It is a way to understand the work of art more fully.

Here are the very words Odell Prather used to describe our windows.

The window designs here are abstractions. They are composed of earthy colors in soft tones. While designing the windows, my thoughts were based on the theme of the upward movement of progression both of Nature and of the Spiritual life.

The lower windows suggest a feeling of earth starta, and of rock strata, with mositure elements being drawn toward the skies. The break-up of forms suggests the nature of the atmosphere-- mobility and change.

The windows above these carry on this theme, adding a band of forms suggestive of plant life (shoots of green color).

In more spiritual terms, these designs have meant to me a reminder of the age-old ceaseless movement of simple life toward ever more complex life, toward an ever increasing stage-- higher consciousness, transcending by gradual stages from total earthiness with which we all begin life.

Unfortunately, these are all the words than I can pass on from the artist, herself. Nonetheless, in many ways she says much in the words she has used. The first word I would like to comment about is abstarctions. The designs are abstractions. I, personally, like that very much. I appreciate the artist allowing the common person to form his/her own understanding of the artwork, when viewing it.  

I have taken lots of photos of the chapel windows, but it is very difficult to photograph those windows. Below are 2 photos of most of the windows in the chapel-- first the south side and then the north side of the chapel.

                                                            South Side of the Chapel

North Side of the Chapel

There are several reasons why it is difficult to photograph the windows in the chapel. The first reason would simply be the structure of the chapel. It is a double octagon -- 16 sided structure. It is said that the basic architecture is reminiscent of the Byzantine architecture from the era of Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. Three churches survive today as prototypes: The Church of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy; The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and the baptistery of Sta. Constanza in Salerno, Italy.

The second reason for the difficulty of photographing the chapel windows is lighting. Of course, night time is impossible, and during the day it always seems that it is either too bright, with too much light, or too dark with not enough light.

                                                    Below are some photos of the outside of chapel.

Remember now the chapel's structure is something like a cake -- a wedding cake. The very top of the chapel is much smaller in circumference than the the lower levels. However, it is still 16-sided like the lower levels, but the sides are smaller. (This is observable in this photo.)

There are lots of windows in our chapel. Although the chapel is 16 sided, not all 16 sides have a window. There are 14 windows on the upper level. On the middle level there are 8 sections of windows with each window having 3 parts and then 2 sections near the organ, with each of these windows having only 2 parts.
On the lowest level, (floor level), there are a total of 8 sections of windows with each window having 3 parts to it.

                Below is a photo of one of the windows in the very upper level of chapel.

         This is one of my favorite windows in the upper level. It is repeated twice-- the very same window. And it is the only one that is repeated. I would love to ask the artist why she repeated it two times. For me the upper windows are very much atmospheric. I see wind in this window, whirling wind. And also note the small sections of brown -- earth colors-- dust is blowing in the wind. Abbot Theodore sees a Madonna in this window.

                    Below is another single upper window. It is near the organ on the East side of chapel. I am reminded of a hail storm in this window.

The photos below are of the windows on the middle level of chapel the balcony level. Before we had a pipe organ, the balcony was open all the way around. Now it is open only from either side.

The the photo below, note that the middle level windows (balcony) near the organ (left side of the photo) only have two sections, rather than the others that have 3 sections each.

Below is a photo of The John and Patricia Borer family. This family donated our stained glass windows. The photo below was taken the day we dedicated the windows in 1983.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Groundhog Blizzard

Below are some photos of the aftermath of the Groundhog Blizzard of 2016. Some of the photos were taken around 6:00 am February 3rd. The rest of them were taken around 9:30 am the same morning.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Conception -- Motorcycles -- Mount Michael Alums and Students -- Robert Prisig

Many of those who have followed my blog over the past few years are wondering what has happened to me, for I have not posted any new ones for quite some time. There are numerous reasons why this happened and I do not need to go into all of those reasons, but one would be dealing with new technology and learning a new system.

I can't say that I have mastered the new system, but I may have a good enough grasp of it to continue blogging. I thought that I should have some connection to some older blogs and the material there and where I left off when blogging. So the connection to all of this would be: MOTORCYCLES. That may sound very strange but it is, indeed, the truth.

When I was at Conception Abbey and Seminary year, I met and worked with a seminarian who is enamored by motorcycles and maintaining them. His name is Josh Carroll from the Springfield -- Cape Girardeau Diocese in Missouri. Below is his motorcycle with Conception in the background. Below that photo is Josh and his bike.

In the many visits with Josh over the year, I found out that he was fan of the author Robert Pirsig, most famous for ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE. The minute Josh mentioned this to me, I realized that this author and book were deeply rooted in me as well, but it was not because of motorcycles or maintaining them. The roots would go back to when the book was first published and to my teaching days at Mount Michael. The book was published in 1974. I remember working with it then because I was just finishing my studies in Philosophy. In my teaching days, (it would have been in 1997), one of my students gave me this book with this note written in it. "To: Fr. John as a token of my unending gratitude for all you have taught me." signed Riley McNiff --class of 1997. So I knew I had this book when Josh Carroll started talking about it. I have re-read the book and spent time with it since Josh first brought it up.  

It is always interesting for me to come back to a book I have read and studied years ago and then find how it is even better than I thought it was years ago. I would have to say this is the case with Prisig's book for me. Would I suggest that all seminarians who take philosophy should read it? Yes, I would probably say that. but I would say it should be read by all who are involved with teaching at any level as well. 

One of the great aspects of the Prisig's book is: it makes one think! In the last years of my teaching I saved some material from the students. Here are a few comments that were mentioned: " From watching my classmates, I realized that this class does something that others do not: It forces us to think." -- Josh Cox 2010. And one more: "One quote that has impacted my life is: 'Education is what is left when you forget everything else that you've learned in school.' I believe that you have truly educated us . I have not forgotten much from this class" -- Will Denton--2010.

The point I am trying to make is that true learning and education needs to make one THINK! I feel humbled in some ways that some of my students would say that about my classes and the material that I chose for them to read and study in class. I also believe that we need to do this same thing all of our lives wherever we are and in whatever work we are involved. Working with seminarians would be one of those areas.

So I am grateful to you, Josh Carroll for sharing with me your love of motorcycles and maintaining them. I am grateful that you awoke some of the past in me about my own students and teaching them. As I did last year so I again encourage you to keep this gift alive in you as it will help you in your priestly life in many more ways than you can imagine.

It was a dream of mine last year to make connections between Conception Seminary and Abbey to Mount Michael Bendictine High School students and monks of Mount Michael as well. The drive back and forth every week was a tough thing and I had to admit that it was too hard for me. Hopefully, I can achieve more of a connection via technology. Prisig would encourage such a thing.

Blessings to all at Conception and to all at Mount Michael!