It's a beautiful way to celebrate and share our faith in this Easter season, and a fun project for the whole family!
For the past few weeks, every time I log onto social media, I’ve noticed a gorgeous and growing trend sweeping Catholic homes during this time of self-isolation. Friends all over the country are sharing photos of their homemade “stained glass” windows and doors. The results are breathtaking, but what’s even more awe-inspiring is the story behind these masterpieces.
In a time when Catholics are confined to their homes, unable to attend Mass or pray in the churches we love, creating our own stained glass windows is a way to bring the beauty of church into our homes. It’s a visual manifestation of the domestic church that all Catholic homes are called to be. It’s a proclamation of our Easter joy and our love for God, which “raging waters cannot extinguish, and rivers will never wash away”—and defies even the pandemic, which, with all its insidious might, cannot quench our faith.
Best of all, they are easy to make: All you need is painter’s tape, paint, and brushes. Just about any kind of paint will do. One Catholic mom who painted a stained glass front door in her home, Katie Lyon, shares her step-by-step instructions:
- Gather your supplies: paint brushes, painter’s tape, and paint! Get narrow painters tape for the design, and consider using thicker tape for the edges to protect your door or window frame. I’d encourage high quality painters tape to prevent paint from leaking under the tape.
I am using paint left over from previous projects, and based on how each color has turned out, I would strongly recommend pearlescent acrylic paint for the best visibility both inside and out – mine was Martha Stewart Pearl Acrylic, but any brand of pearled paint should work. We also used various brands of matte acrylic paint, Crayola washable finger paint, and Crayola washable kid’s paint. Higher quality paints will, however, require more effort to clean, but since this is on a glass surface, they should easily come off with a safety razor and window cleaner. Crayola Washable Paint Brush Pens do NOT work; they are too translucent and it’s not actually paint … more like markers. [You might consider using window markers for young children.]
- Figure out your overall game plan! Google image search is really useful for this, whether you use it as a specific guide or just for general inspiration.
- Test out your paints on your door or windowduring daytime to make sure you have the colors you want. If you are using pearl acrylic or matte acrylic paints, you might need to thin them with a small amount of water to get them to be translucent. If you are using Crayola washable finger paint or something similar, you might need to do multiple coats to make the color pop. [Others suggested mixing the paint with a few drops of dish soap.]
- Clean your door or window to prepare it for the tape.
- Tape off the edges of your door or window, just as you would for painting your house. You might consider using wider tape on the edges if you have really enthusiastic artists helping you.
- Using the tape, mark out the large items in your design. If you are hand painting a central image, like a sacred heart, either tape a space for it or paint that now and tape a perimeter around it. You can also use decals if you aren’t feeling particularly artsy (there are many options on Etsy).
- Now use tape to break up the large items of your design as you like.
- If you are following a specific color arrangement, use small dots of paint as indicators on the large segments of your design.
- Use tape to break up the remaining portions of the design. Once again, use small dots of paint as indicators if you are following a specific color arrangement.
- Paint away! Tip: if you are using high end acrylic paint, like the pearl acrylics, they are difficult to get off of bowls once dry. Use a disposable container to hold your paints in while using them, and make sure the paint does not dry on your dish if it is not disposable. Despite this, it does come off of glass easily when dampened.
- Once the paint is dry, remove the tape.
Lyon said she was inspired by this call to seal the doorposts and by a friend who painted the Sacred Heart of Jesus in her window.
Another Catholic mom who created a painted “stained glass” window in her home, Chelsea Gibson, described it as the Easter version of a Christmas tree: “It’s bringing us so much joy just 5 hours in.” She used basic tempera paint, and recommended putting a couple of drops of dish soap into the paint. “To give it the stained glass look, I would recommend avoiding geometric grid lines and do lots of angles and varying line lengths,” she said.
Another mom who made a “stained glass” window, Jackie Kerr, said, “We’re a sacramental people. We worship not just with our spirits but with our bodies. Preschoolers and toddlers often can’t read, but you can catechize them through the visual, and try to put before them some of the more beautiful art and artifacts that Christendom has bequeathed us over the past 2,000 years. Bonus, they enjoy it too! What child doesn’t want permission to paint windows?” Kerr recreated the Vatican’s Holy Spirit window in her home.
Another way to add extra meaning to the project is to research the symbolism of various liturgical colors, and incorporate those into your design. Lyon said she was inspired by this Holy Week At Home resource that they used for this past Holy Week.
Each of the women I spoke to who have created one of these “stained glass” projects said they hope to make this a yearly tradition, even though it originally arose out of necessity during the unusual situation of a pandemic.
“I wanted an activity to do with our kids during our state’s stay at home orders,” Lyon said, “but it has turned into a really fun activity and opened up conversations with them about what each color symbolizes.”
The door has been a vibrant reminder to the family of their faith: “It makes the concept of the domestic church really tangible at a time when we are literally participating in the Mass from our homes.”
It’s also a way to share their joy with others, even from afar. “This is a way for us to show what holidays are important to our family … We are called to be visibly Catholic,” she said.
This Easter season, as you continue to celebrate the joy of Christ’s Resurrection, consider gathering supplies and carving out time to paint a “stained glass” window or door in your home. Kids will delight in the novelty of painting or coloring on glass, and the finished project will be a source of joy for all of you. As Catholic homes spread this trend, they make present and visible the reality of the domestic church and Christ’s triumph over sin and death, proclaiming without words, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”