History of the Reredos: Excerpt from a 1941 Church Bulletin
For the information of our people, we wish to explain the general theme of the main altar reredos [of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church].
The central [painted] panel is, of course, Christ, showing His compassionate Heart in pictorial representation of His words: Come to Me all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will refresh you.
The statue of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, patron of our parish, is in the upper central niche, flanked by two of the Archangels: St. Michael and St. Gabriel. The four major [painted] panels represent St. Patrick and St. Boniface, to the left and to the right of the central panel, respectively. In the upper panels are represented St. Dominic and St. Francis of Assisi.
The general theme expressed is that of the relation of religion to the social order. St. Patrick and St. Boniface represent the patron saints of the Irish and German immigrants, who before the Second World War formed the great masses of Catholics throughout the country and especially in New York. St. Dominic and St. Francis of Assisi represent the protest of religion against the evils of social order, and the solution offered by the Catholic philosophy of life.
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Associated with St. Patrick are the saints of parish priests. Four have been chosen with this special point in mind: St. John Vianney, the humble Curé of Ars, who by his priestly ministrations transformed his parish from one of the worst in France to a veritable heaven on earth; St. John Nepomucene, the martyr of the seal of the confessional, who gave his life rather than reveal what he heard in confession; St. Charles Borromeo and St. Philip Neri, both of whom are beloved for their pastoral ministrations.
Around St. Boniface are grouped four saints who exemplify our national life and are especially known for their apostolic work in New York State—St. Isaac Jogues, one of the Jesuit martyrs, who gave his life for the conversion of Indians; St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the saintly Indian girl; and two pioneers in Catholic education and charity: St. Frances Xavier Cabrini and St. Elizabeth Seton.
Associated with St. Dominic are those who testified to the point of martyrdom on behalf of the Catholic philosophy of life in opposition to entrenched power and force. They are represented by Pope Gregory VII, and the English martyrs: St. Thomas à Becket, St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher.
In keeping with the spirit of Christian poverty symbolized by St. Francis of Assisi and its protest against entrenched wealth, are associated the apostles of Christian charity: St. Vincent de Paul, St. Camillus of Lellis—the patron of Catholic hospitals—the beggar saint, St. Benedict Joseph Labré, and the modern apostle of the poor and underprivileged youth, St. John Bosco.
The evils against which these heroes of religion fought, and in protest gave their lives, are still the evils of our present social order. The disastrous effects of entrenched wealth and power can be rooted out only by a return to the Catholic philosophy of political, social and economic life. Peace, harmony and order can be reestablished only by man’s acceptance of God. Here in our church, the representation of the heroes of religion and the way of life in which they believed is not only for devotional inspiration but for instruction as well. Everything in the church is intended to teach and express the great truths of our Holy Faith. In the years to come, each succeeding generation will find in our church an undying fount of inspiration and instruction for the enrichment of their spiritual lives.
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