Stained glass helps tell the story at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church.
While stained glass windows are known for their aesthetic and symbolic qualities, those who attend Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church in Lakewood Ranch enjoy another benefit.
The windows serve a more utilitarian function — as built-in sunglasses.
It’s an important feature for churchgoers who used to get distracted by the glaring sunlight while trying to worship.
“It's weird to wear sunglasses in the church,” Father Sebastian Szczawinski said. “And some people, they did.”
With the addition of two new panels Dec. 15, Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church has nine stained glass windows, eight of which were added in 2020.
In the past year, the church has added windows depicting the resurrection, the ascension of Jesus, the annunciation from the angel Gabriel to Mary, the assumption of Mary into Heaven, the coronation of Mary in Heaven, the visitation of Mary to St. Elizabeth, the assumption of Mary again and the descent of the Holy Spirit onto the Apostles, also known as Pentecost.
These scenes were chosen because they are all included in the 20 Mysteries of the Rosary. Most of the mysteries are moments in the life of Jesus. But some, many of which are featured at Our Lady of the Angels, center around Mary.
“Because this church is Our Lady of the Angels, we also would like to have Mary in different moments of her life,” Szczawinski said.
The church’s first panel was a Nativity scene added just before Christmas 2019. The goal is to fill in the remainder of the church’s windows with stained glass by the end of 2021.
The windows are made by Conrad Pickel Studio in Vero Beach. Each window typically takes three months from design to approval to production to installation.
Szczawinski said stained glass windows started to become a tradition within the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages. Most people at the time couldn’t read, so stained glass windows were used in part as a way to show churchgoers Bible stories with which they would be familiar. Now they are integral to the religion’s culture.
“They are showing us still the same stories, showing us the life of Jesus and the history of our salvation,” Szczawinski said.
In today’s Catholic Church, Szczawinski said the stained glass windows have a more symbolic purpose as a representation of themes of light, which are common throughout the religion.
“It started in the book of Genesis when God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And then we have Christ who said, ‘I am the light of the world,’” Szczawinski said. “Then we cannot see just the natural light, but when you have stained glass windows, we can see how this light goes through this glass to make it beautiful. Theologically speaking, Christ is the light of our life. ... Christ should shine through us. We should be like those (windows).”