04 July 2011

An American history lesson in Cathedral glass

As a comment within a post yesterday, I remarked that Catholics all too often do not know the history of Catholics in the United States of America, either the positive contributions made by Catholics to American society or American society's negative attitude and persecution of Catholics.

When His Excellency the Most Reverend James Aloysius Griffin set out to establish his Seat in the newly erected Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, he looked to the example of his mentor, His Eminence George Cardinal Mundelein, to demonstrate that it is possible to be both a good Catholic (this must always come first for our duty to God is of the utmost importance) and a good citizen at the same time.

Bishop Griffin expressed this reality in the windows of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. 

The windows in the north wall of the Cathedral depict the growth of the growth of the Church in Europe whereas the windows in the south wall depict the growth of the Church in the New World.

Of particular interest to us today are three of these northern windows.

Here, General George Washington is shown commissioning Bishop John Carroll to gain the support of the French Canadian Catholics in the cause of independence.  Bishop Carroll was successful in his mission.  Above the two men stands the angel of peace, signifying God's Providence.

Here, President Abraham Lincoln is shown asking Bishop John Hughes of New York to convince Napoleon III against recognizing the Confederacy.  Bishop Hughes was successful.  (Incidentally, the face of Mr. Lincoln's assistant is the face of Bishop Griffin.)

In this third window, a Catholic chaplain is shown blessing American soldiers from Illinois as they leave Springfield during World War I.  The State Capitol is shown in the background surmounted by the gold star of the Gold Star Mothers whose sons were killed in battle.

It is indeed possible to be a good Catholic and a good patriot, but our faith must always come before our patriotism.  By our prayer and fidelity to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we are also good citizens seeking to build up this nation in morality, in truth and in justice for all.

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