Atchison Blue – A Different Kind of Christmas

Change is inevitable. While I can adjust most of the time, there is one change I’ve not entirely been able to handle till now. Back in 1959, as a postulant, I walked into the Sacred Heart Chapel and was immediately washed in color. The new stained glass, created by Sister Jacquelyn Dubay, had been installed. Experiencing the windows for the first time created in me a reaction difficult to articulate. I was held in some kind of suspended animation and could not move. The color enveloped me and penetrated my whole self. I wanted this feeling to last forever.

Skip some years. I now was married, had babies, and was standing in the same chapel and the beautiful windows were gone. I felt empty. My face was wet with tears. Change. It seemed like so much of what I loved was gone. S. Jacquelyn, who was not only my art mentor but more of a mother to me and gramma to my kids, had died some years before. Now the windows she created were gone, too. I stood in a puddle of nothingness.

This year, I found myself, same time of year as my postulant discovery of life-giving color in the Sacred Heart Chapel experiencing AGAIN the mesmerizing sacredness of colored windows but in a different place. I was at The Mount, St. Scholastica’s Monastery in Atchison, Kan., to share an Advent retreat. Little did I expect the experience I had there. The sisters’ chapel has a series of stained-glass windows on the life of Benedict. They are mostly in blue and have come to be known as Atchison Blue. The story of these windows is too long to relate here, but if you are reading this and would like to see for yourself, here are two links:

My story does not end with my first walk through and introduction to these incredible windows. One day while there, and with a little free time, I found myself being drawn to the chapel. I walked in and was totally alone. Even though I had already seen these windows, the sun was just right. I was catapulted back in time to being 19 years old and standing in the Sacred Heart Chapel as a postulant. The windows at The Mount swept me up and wrapped me in a sense of love and at the same time, loss. These windows are totally different from Jackie’s abstract colors. Somehow it didn’t make a difference. Atchison Blue and Benedict’s story held me. Then, something else happened. It was if I could hear Jackie say, “Patty, let it go. Yes, you guessed how it hurt and tore my heart to lose the color. We are so much alike. We’ll always have color but we will find it in different places and it will feed our spirit…let your sadness go. Merry Christmas, my sweet artist daughter.”

Pat Pickett, OblSB

Photo: Chapel window at Mount St. Scholastica, Atchison, Kansas. All rights reserved.