Honoring the Greatest Name

The feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus on Jan. 3 is a beautiful celebration honoring Our Lord during the Christmas season. Jan. 1 issue feature.

(photo: Joseph Pronechen)

The feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus on Jan. 3 is another beautiful celebration honoring Our Lord during the Christmas season.

Reverence for the Holy Name is found in the Old Testament in Psalms such as 99:3 — “Let them praise your great and awesome name; holy is he!” — and in Mary’s Magnificat, she prays, “… and holy is his name.”

That honor goes to him every day with churches named after this title, including Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Stamford, Conn.

Thousands of daily rail commuters going to and from Manhattan may not realize this church is less than a two-block walk from the Stamford railroad station, but the many parishioners and visitors who do find this church surely get a glimpse into a heavenly anteroom.

One of the oldest churches in the city, Holy Name of Jesus was founded in 1903 to serve many immigrants arriving from Poland. By 1925, the cornerstone for today’s edifice was laid, with the pastor’s plan for a church with a magnificent Romanesque-Byzantine exterior and an Italian Baroque interior.

Henry Ludorf designed the pastor’s vision. Ludorf was an exceptional architect in Connecticut whose major concentration was designing beautiful churches and schools in New England, mostly for Polish Catholics.

With hard work and many sacrifices, the Polish parishioners saw their honey-colored brick-and-stone church rise. By Christmas 1934, the upper church opened for Mass, Msgr. Thaddeus Malanowski told me this December.

As a child he watched the church being built. His parents emigrated from Poland as children, met here, married in this parish as founding members, then baptized and raised 14 children. Msgr. Malanowski said his first Mass in this church on May 18, 1947, at the altar under the Italian baldacchino.

The Italian Baroque interior is a symphony of marble, gold gilding, magnificent mosaics, frescoes, paintings and stained glass that raises minds and hearts into a heavenly sphere. All were imported from Europe and look as dazzling as they must have on the day of their arrival.

The heavenly vision begins the moment one enters. Very wide white marble columns with exquisite gold-gilded capitals lead visitors’ attention to the sanctuary under the vaulted ceiling filled with intricate octagonal and diamond designs in gold, red and green.

Angels are everywhere. Two huge angels in high bas relief float above and across every arch between all the columns. They each hold a wreath encircling a golden cross or a kingly crown.

These angelic duties repeat above the arches of the sanctuary’s side shrines and then in the sanctuary itself, where two tall, winged angels raise globes of light high, and another pair of large sculpted angels pray atop the Baroque Italian baldacchino with its own magnificent carving that includes two saints and scrollwork.

The arches of the baldacchino frame a glorious stained-glass Crucifixion scene where Jesus gives Mary to St. John’s care.

The mosaic filling the baldacchino’s entire underside canopy that depicts the Holy Spirit on a blue background was donated in 1947 by Msgr. Malanowski’s mother in memory of his ordination.

Much ornamentation decorates the sanctuary, as if it were a European cathedral, and highlights the paintings above and around the sanctuary. The expansive ceiling fresco shows Jesus and God the Father with the globe between them and the Holy Spirit sending rays from above.

There are high medallions of Mary and Jesus and large Renaissance-like paintings that include the Nativity, Jesus calming the sea and his transfiguration — all ornately framed in gold.

The superb stained glass radiates with colors, capturing scenes like the betrothal of Mary and Joseph, the Resurrection, Annunciation, Road to Emmaus, the Holy Family in ecstasy, St. Anne and Mary, and saints, including Thérèse and Michael — 16 in the large windows alone. All came from the legendary Munich stained-glass company.

At one side altar shrine, one can pray in awe before a radiant copy of the Madonna of Czestochowa surrounded with brilliant gold and before the compelling painting of the Sacred Heart framed in gold and marble columns at another side shrine.

The 2004 sculpture by artisan/artist parishioner Jozef Witkowski located outdoors near the facade is a magnificent seven-foot bronze statue of Blessed Pope John Paul II. (Witkowski once presented one of his iron crosses to the late Pope.)

The choice is very fitting because, in 2002, John Paul II restored the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus to celebration on Jan. 3.

Before the feast was dropped from the Church calendar in 1970, the universal Church had celebrated the Holy Name feast since 1721. Before that, Sts. Bernadine of Siena and John Capistrano preached devotion to the Holy Name in 15th-century Italy and used “IHS” — the first and last Greek letters for the name of Jesus.

Previously, to counter the Albigensian heresy and other blasphemies, Gregory X and the Council of Lyons resolved the best way to save the world was through the Holy Name of Jesus.

“The Holy Father then begged the bishops to call on the name of Jesus and to urge their peoples to place all their confidence in this all-powerful Name, repeating it constantly with boundless trust,” writes Dominican Father Paul O’Sullivan in The Wonders of the Holy Name (Tan, 1993).

Soon after, Blessed John of Vercelli founded the Holy Name Society. This confraternity still actively promotes love and reverence for the Holy Name of Jesus (HolyNameSociety.info).

As the Catechism (2668) informs us: “The invocation of the Holy Name of Jesus is the simplest way of praying always.”

For this reason, Father O’Sullivan recommends: “Say this all-powerful Name constantly and the devil can do you no harm. Say it in all dangers, in all temptations.”

Over the course of 100-plus years, Holy Name of Jesus Parish has followed St. Paul’s instruction in Philippians 2:9-11: “Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Register staff writer Joseph Pronechen is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.

Holy Name of Jesus Parish

4 Pulaski St.

Stamford, CT 06902


For Mass schedules, you may also call (203) 323-4967.