On Jan. 15, the Catholic Church remembers Saint Paul of Thebes, whose life of solitude and penance gave inspiration to the monastic movement during its early years.
Born in approximately 230, the future hermit Paul received a solid religious and secular education, but lost his parents at age 15. During the year 250, the Roman Emperor Decius carried out a notorious persecution of the Church, executing clergy and forcing laypersons to prove their loyalty by worshiping idols. The state used torture, as well as the threat of death, to coerce believers into making pagan sacrifices.
Paul went into hiding during the Decian persecution, but became aware of a family member's plan to betray him to the authorities. The young man retreated to a remote desert location, where he discovered a large abandoned cave that had once been used as a facility for making counterfeit coins. He found that he could survive on water from a spring, and the fruit of a tree that grew nearby.
Forced into the wilderness by circumstance, Paul found he loved the life of prayer and simplicity that it made possible. Thus, he never returned to the outside world, even though he lived well into the era of the Church's legalization and acceptance by the Roman Empire. Later on, his way of life inspired Catholics who sought a deeper relationship with God through spiritual discipline and isolation from the outside world.
One of these faithful was Anthony of Egypt, born in the vicinity of Cairo around 251, who also lived to an old age after deciding during his youth to live in the desert out of devotion to God. Paul of Thebes is known to posterity because Anthony, around the year 342, was told in a dream about the older hermit's existence, and went to find him.
A similar knowledge about Anthony had been mysteriously given to the earlier hermit. Thus, when he appeared at Paul's cave, they greeted each other by name, though they had never met. Out of contact with the Roman Empire for almost a century, Paul asked about its condition, and whether paganism was still practiced. He told Anthony how, for the last 60 years, a bird had brought him a ration of bread each day – a mode of subsistence also granted to the Old Testament prophet Elijah.
After 113 years, most of them spent in solitary devotion, Paul understood that he was nearing the end of his earthly life. He asked Anthony to return to his own hermitage, and bring back a cloak that had been given to the younger monk by the bishop St. Athanasius. That heroically orthodox bishop had not yet been born when Paul first fled to the desert, and Anthony had never mentioned him or the cloak in question. Amazed, Anthony paid reverence to Paul and set out to fulfill his request.
During the return trip, Anthony was shown a vision of St. Paul of Thebes' soul, glorified and ascending toward Heaven. On returning to the first hermit's cave, he venerated the body of its inhabitant, wrapped him in Athanasius' cloak, and carried him outdoors. Saint Jerome, in his “Life of St. Paul the First Hermit,” attests that two lions arrived, demonstrated their reverence, and dug a grave for the saint.
Having given him Athanasius' cloak, St. Anthony took back to his hermitage the garment which St. Paul of Thebes had woven for himself from palm leaves. Anthony passed on the account of his journey and the saint's life to his own growing group of monastic disciples, and it was written down by St. Jerome around the year 375 – approximately 33 years after the death of the first hermit.
Venerated on the same day by Roman Catholics, Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians, St. Paul of Thebes is also the namesake of a Catholic monastic order – the Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit – founded in Hungary during the 13th century and still in operation.
Provided by Bob Walterscheid
Mary is depicted as giving the scapular to mankind and offering assistance to the poor souls in purgatory as she holds her child Jesus, their Savior.
This is the only window with an English inscription: “In memory of John Braitsch.” This gentleman belonged to the parish from its earliest days and owned a prosperous shoe store on East Douglas.
At the very top of the window is a fleur-de-lis symbolizing the human nature of Christ. Immediately below the fleur-de-lis is a lily intertwined with a carpenter’s square. Joseph was a carpenter and passed down his occupation to Jesus. There are more carpentry tools on the wall above Joseph’s head.
Lilies abound in this window; tradition has it that the fragrance of lilies filled the room as Joseph lay dying. Lilies are a symbol of Joseph’s purity. It is said that Christ was present at Joseph’s death and we see him by the bed, along with Mary and two angels. The lamp above the figures has three lights symbolizing the Trinity.
The German inscription translates, “Donated by St. Joseph’s Friendly Society”. That society was the original men’s organization in the parish.
Jesus presenting the rosary to the Dominicans, for it was St. Dominic who instituted the devotion of the rosary. St. Dominic is kneeling on the left and a nun wearing a crown of thorns is kneeling on the right. The Dominicans are dressed in brown Franciscan traveling cloaks rather that in their own black Dominican cloaks.
The German inscription reads, “Given by the Altar Society,” an original parish organization comprised of the married women of the parish.
The banner with the Latin words "Salve Regina" is translated as "Hail Queen". Mary, with angels surrounding her, is being taken up to heaven body and soul as the Apostles watch in awe. It is the teaching of the Catholic Church that at the death of the Blessed Virgin Mary her body was preserved from corruption and that shortly afterwards it was assumed (Latin., assumere, to take to) into Heaven and reunited to her soul. Pope Pius the XII, in 1950, solemnly defined the Assumption as a dogma. It has been a subject of belief for over 1,500 years, being stated by Saint Juvenal of Chalcedon in 451.
The German inscription reads, "To the memory of John Walterscheid". His sons immigrated to Wichita and were among the founding families of the parish.
The heart is encircled with a crown of thorns and has a cross and flames emerging from it. This flaming heart represents religious fervor and devotion to Jesus Christ. She is the patron saint of all South America. Above the Sacred Heart is the fish and loaves of bread. The German inscription reads, "Given by the Young Ladies Sodality".
In the first decades of the parish, the women of the parish had two organizations; the Young Ladies Sodality was for the unmarried young women. A sodality was a charitable church organization.
The ax and tree stump as well as the broken pillar symbolize this event. He was later made a bishop as reflected by his clothing. St. Boniface is holding a book with a dagger in it representing the manner of his death.
Pagans stabbed him to death with a dagger as he was reading the book of Gospels. The German inscription reads, "Given by the family of A. Gittrich",one of the original founders of the parish.