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Stained Glass Art Invokes Awe and Curiosity

Brother Martin is a Benedictine monk who spends most of his waking hours in prayer — one form of which involves artwork. Not only does he create stained glass artwork himself, he uses it as a form of meditation.

“When you get up close to them, you see all the detail and the brushwork and the scraping and the painting,” he shares. “There’s something about it that keeps pulling you back for another look — and that’s what the artwork is supposed to do.”

Video Transcript

Meet Brother Martin: Stained-glass artist

Brother Martin, Oerspamer, OSB: You have to know your material, and then you have to kind of let it speak. The more you try and focus on like, “Oh, I hope I don’t make a mistake with this line,” or something like that, the worse it gets. Once you lose that consciousness of this is about me and what I’m doing and you become kind of a tool that some other presence is using, things always turn out better. That’s how the life of the artists and the life of the monk go together.

St. Meinrad, Indiana

I am a benedictine monk. Monastic life in essence is kind of like Christianity for dummies. Every time you go to church, which is six times a day, you’re hearing readings from scripture, and outside of church, we’re expected to do Lectio — Lectio Divina, sacred reading. I do what’s called Visio Divina. I will look at an artwork and try to learn what it has to tell me.

Brother Martin has created art for hundreds of churches across the country.

(Brother Martin, looking at stained glass windows) When you see it far away, they just look big. When you get up close to them, you see all the detail and the brushwork and the scraping and the painting. That’s good liturgical art. There’s something about it that keeps pulling you back for another look. And that’s what the artwork is supposed to do because it’s supposed to be an occasion for your prayer and meditation.

I could spend my entire life investigating this or studying it or making it, and I probably know that much (gestures small space with fingers) of what’s out there. That’s the incredible richness of our Church. I am happy to be part of that continuum. I’m probably not a very important part of that continuum, but at least I’m somewhere in the riverbed that’s flowing by.

They’ll throw a raw potato into the vat of glass, and it vaporizes and fills the batch of class with millions of little microscopic bubbles. When the cutter is cutting that glass and he breaks, you can still smell burnt potato because it’s trapped inside of the glass.

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