Creation and redemption depicted in stained glass 

By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator

Step through the chapel doors of the new Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital and through the striking, colorful imagery of stained-glass windows, the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael sweep you up and place you before an altar window vividly depicting the story of creation and redemption. The chapel is expected to open to the public later this year.  

 

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A stunning altar window portrays the story of creation and redemption in the chapel Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital.  Photos provided by Marie Constantin Photography  

 

“Angels on missions from God most often bring fear when they meet humans. The Bible speaks of classes of angels, some with wings, eyes and fire with ceaseless praising voices, others with flaming swords or lances, other simply voices from heaven, or in bright heavenly host choirs. Some are just man-like clothed in white. In every encounter there’s no doubt we of earth are hearing from almighty God our creator,” said artist Steve Wilson, creator of the glass window images.  

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Fish can be seen swimming throughout the stained-glass windows in the chapel at new Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital, which is set to open to the public later this year.  Photos provided by Marie Constantin Photography  

 

St. Michael, who guards the chapel door, is the first angel visitors encounter.  

“Michael, whose medal many in our military wear, through legend and Scripture is the leader of the heavenly host and receiver of departed souls. His name means ‘the one who resembles God,’ ” said Wilson, who used the face of his departed son, Van, a Navy Seal, as his visage.  

In the next window is St. Gabriel, whose name means “man of God” and made some of the most important announcements to human beings.  

“I like the idea that he also helps us understand the impossible, accept the miraculous,” said Wilson. “He was the messenger to Zacharias and Mary of births to come. He is also the cherubim stationed at the east of Eden with the whirring, flashing sword to guard the way back to the tree of life.  

“Gabriel is often depicted with a scroll and here (the window) it is rolling  down from heaven and the disc of the sun, which I placed behind his head as a halo. I’ve used the face of my second son Blake, a former Marine, as his visage.”  

The next angel is St. Raphael, meaning “God heals.”  

Wilson noted that in St. John’s Gospel a man who had been crippled for 38 years laid by the Sheep Pool at Bethesda, where the sick, blind, lame and paralyzed gathered hoping to be in the pool first when an angel, whom they believed was St. Raphael, “troubled the waters” and healed them.  

Jesus himself healed the crippled man, commanding him to “rise, take up your mats and walk.”
“With his right hand pointed toward heaven as if to say, ‘It is God who heals,’ this (window) depiction of Raphael with his feet and other hand troubling the waters has the face of my friend Dr. Richard Carter, a retired physician who loved his patients and is still generous with his time, money and talents for other Christian causes,” Wilson said. 

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St. Gabriel the Archangel, the great communicator and bearer of the most important messages in human history, is present in the chapel through stained glass medium. 

 

 The altar window is inspired by the Genesis creation story, according to Wilson.  

“The Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters, then he said ‘Let there be light,’ ” said Wilson.  

“We know that in the first chapter of St. John, all things were spoken into existence through the Word, Jesus, the light and life of men,” he added.  

“But in many places in Scripture, especially the Psalms, God’s hands, especially his right hand, saves, sustains, gives victory, gives times/seasons, holds our hands and upholds us. That is why I’ve placed his hands above and below creation,” Wilson said.  

Wilson portrayed the darkened, crucified Christ between creation and two crippled children, one helped by a Franciscan sister.  

The signature depiction of Louisiana wildlife throughout the hospital is seen in the chapel as well.  

Swimming in the waters of the windows are fish which were designed and painted by Warren Simmons, who restored all the St. Francis windows in the children’s garden at the hospital.  

“He is the master craftsman who took my watercolor designs and with the help of Colt Hurst, Sarah Lasavio and Ellen Ogden, produced and installed these (chapel) windows,” said Wilson.  

An LSU graduate with a master’s degree in fine arts, Wilson said the hallmark of anyone who studied under LSU professor Paul Dufor is “their exuberant use of color.”  

“In these windows I’ve tried to use the whole spectrum. I’ve also tried to color them as if a child’s coloring book, staying bright at the top, lowering the value (darkening) toward the water,” said Wilson.  

The method creating the stained-glass windows involves fusing the materials in a kiln.  

“It’s been that way for a couple thousand of years,” said Wilson, who noted that “stained glass is the medium of the church.”  

Stating that the chapel definitely has a Catholic presence, Wilson hopes the messages of heavenly accompaniment, protection, healing and comfort will speak to everyone.  

“May all who use this chapel for prayer, song or receiving Holy Communion feel their joy, the presence of strong superhero like angels and especially the presence of the Lord for ‘it is he that has made us’ and loves us,” Wilson said.