By Peggy Haslar
Sacred spaces silently witness to Christ, lifting our hearts to heaven. Their stories make visiting any church a more prayerful experience. Among the treasures at St. Joseph in Monte Vista are its stained glass windows, created by San Luis Valley artist Kay Malouff.
Malouff worked with Bishop Arthur Tafoya, Father Mike McCleary and members of the parish council on the window’s theologically rich designs. The St. Joseph group gave her a list of images they wished to be interpreted. She produced drawings and discussed revisions before cutting the glass. Malouff then worked with parishioner Art Medina, who donated his construction expertise for the installation. “I was very appreciative of Art and his skills,” Malouff said.
Four windows face east, gathering light at sunrise. Four face west, glowing at sunset. Beams of light within each window represent the movement of the divine into the world. In the Annunciation, it emanates directly from heaven onto the Angel Gabriel. The Blessed Virgin Mary kneels beneath his outstretched wing. In the Nativity, light shines in a diagonal line over the Holy Family. The Virgin Mother holds the Child, haloed in white. In the Baptism of the Lord, light shines directly over Christ while the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove hovers between heaven and earth, completing the Trinitarian image. The Beatitudes show Christ seated on the mountain surrounded by his disciples. The light comes from Christ himself. Gathering the sunset’s rays are four western windows arranged to complement the mysteries aligned to their sunrise companions. Opposite the Annunciation is the Agony in the Garden, where Christ accepts the Father’s will as Mary accepted his will in the first mystery. The light comes from both heaven and from Christ himself, pointing to his two natures, fully divine and fully human. Opposite the Nativity is the Crucifixion, connecting Christ’s birth with his death. The first two west-facing windows are the only ones containing clear glass, a request of parish members who wanted to see the mountains through them.
The Resurrection is opposite the Baptism of the Lord. Golden rays shine over Christ whose head is surrounded with a halo of red-rimmed white. Opposite the Beatitudes is Pentecost. Together they remind us that first we listen to Christ, and then, filled with the Holy Spirit, we are sent to be his witnesses. In the Pentecost window, light beams directly from the Holy Spirit represented as a dove hovering over the disciples whose heads are raised toward heaven, tongues of red fire resting on each one.
Crystal globes sparkle in each widow’s central arc. Malouff bought them on a trip to Europe, not knowing how they would be used. When she decided to use them in this project, she discovered that she’d bought exactly the amount needed. “It was a great pleasure working with St. Joseph’s Parish,” Malouff said. “This commission was the first big one of my career.” She usually signs her work, but in order not to deface the sacred windows with her name, she added a green triangle in each lower corner, in honor of the Holy Trinity.