A Holy Pane in the Butt
Youngstown Ohio - The Reverend Philip Franklin first observed the crosses on his church windows in early September. A maintenance man was cleaning the exterior of the Saint Joseph's Catholic Church when he noticed the image of a cross that had formed on the center stained glass window in a set of 3. He went and told Reverend Franklin who came out to take a look for himself.
"The cross was a small one about 4 inches high," the Reverend told me over the phone. "I climbed up the ladder that the Bill (the maintenance man) was using and looked closer at it but couldn't see any natural reason for it being there. It was not etched into the glass. There wasn't any staining visible and the cross remained even when I cupped my hand and put that section of the window in shadow. You could not see the image when you were standing inside. Still I put it down to some sort of microscopic algae growth or something of a similar nature. I don't think vandals created it since the window is so high off the ground. I thought it was a nice coincidental touch but I did not take it as a miracle."
The Reverend continued to look at the window from time to time and was shocked to find that four more crosses were forming on the same pane of glass in November. Like the first cross these could not be easily explained. By this time local church goers had heard the rumor and one woman, Linda Hrabal, went so far as to take pictures and publish them on the web.
"That story made things a bit more busy around here," says the Reverend. "After it came out people started coming by to look at the window. It started as a trickle but by early December there was quite a crowd coming by and leaving hand written prayers and flowers by the side of the church. On December 10th someone stole one of the holy water basins out of the front room of the church and we were forced to hire a security guard."
Arrows mark the 5 different crosses that have formed
The local Diocese stepped in at this point and asked Hrabal to take down the website for legal and safety reasons, which she did. Other than this action the Catholic Church has refrained from commenting on the appearance of the crosses and if they are a miracle but some people have decided for themselves.
"God has used the church window to remind us that he is watching," says Linda Hrabal in an e-mail interview. "The Lord works in mysterious ways."
This is not the first time a Catholic icon has appeared on a window. A 60 foot tall Virgin Mary appeared on a Clearwater Florida business office in December of 1996. Skeptics of the Clearwater event claimed that it was nothing more than an oily film on the window. But even if the Youngstown crosses can be explained it wouldn't let the faithful stop their belief.
"So what if it is just oil and water," says Linda Hrabal. "Isn't oil and water a part of nature and wasn't nature created by God?"
This cross of light formed in a church window in 1971
A similar event occurred nearly 30 years ago. In 1971 Florida resident James Cain heard about a cross appearing in the window of a small church in Apalachicola Florida. Intrigued he went to the church and saw it for himself. He reported that a light from behind the glazed glass of the window was causing a reflection. The interesting thing was that this window was the only one to cause the reflection to be cross shaped. Other windows of the same material simply showed a slight halo effect around the bulb. The cross image could also be seen no matter which direction or angle you looked at it from.
phone interview with Philip Franklin, January 20th, 2000
E-mail interview with Linda Hrabal, January 21st - 22nd, 2000
phone interview with James Cain, January 22nd, 2000
photo of Reverend Franklin courtesy of the Ohio Theology Institute
photo of window with crossed courtesy of Linda Hrabal
photo of cross of light courtesy of James Cain