Doctors of the Church Illuminate Aquinas Institute’s Chapel
Aquinas Institute opened in 1925 and included a chapel1 with stained glass windows depicting six Doctors of the Church chosen by Bishop McQuaid, the first bishop of Rochester, New York. The windows were cleaned and restored in the 1990s.
I had the opportunity to tour my old Alma Mater a couple of months ago and to revisit the chapel that I remember from Masses the marching band celebrated there before heading off to a competition.2 I certainly remembered those windows: a huge translucent, heavenly wall depicting four Doctors of the Church (two other Doctors are represented in the opposite windows). Appropriately representing Holy Wisdom and Sanctity are (north window) Saint Thomas Aquinas (naturally), Saint Bernard of Clairvaux,3 Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Ambrose, and (south window) Saint Dominic and Saint Augustine. Reportedly, these were Bishop McQuaid’s favorite Doctors of the Church.
Doctors of the Church are chosen for their eminent learning and high degree of sanctity. The Antiphon for the Canticle of Zechariah for the Common of Doctors of the Church in the Divine Office says this:
Those who are learned will be as radiant as the sky in all its beauty; those who instruct the people in goodness will shine like the stars for all eternity.
What fitting attributes to hold up before Catholic students: Holy Wisdom and Sanctity. You won’t find those attributes stressed in the public schools. And what a fitting medium to represent those attributes: illuminating, colorful glass. If I was a teacher at Aquinas, I would be pointing out those windows to my students at every opportunity.
Thank you to Theodore Mancini, Principal at Aquinas, for allowing me to photograph the windows and for reminding me that while taking my pictures I would be in the real presence of Christ in the Reserved Sacrament, and to act accordingly. Now, there’s an educator you can trust your Catholic kids to!
1 The chapel is named the Martin J. Calihan (’45) Chapel
2 I’m very proud to say that I was the president of the band in 1963. We were the first Aquinas Band to win the New York State Championship. Subsequent AQ Bands went on to earn much bigger contests.
3 Two Doctors represented in the Chapel windows are my patron saints: Bernard and Augustine.
The windows were created by Franz Mayer & Co. (Mayer & Co. of Munich) a famous German stained glass design and manufacturing company, based in Munich, Germany, that has been active throughout most of the world for over 150 years. The firm was very popular during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and was the principal provider of stained glass to the large Roman Catholic churches that were constructed throughout the world during that period. Franz Mayer and Co. were stained glass artists to the Holy See and, consequently, popular with Roman Catholic clients. (Gerry Convery. “Poetry in Stone: Sacred Heart Church.” (Omagh: Drumragh RC Parish, 1999), p.120.)