Glass Halo ... A Review
By Mila Glodava
Editor's Note: Colleen Smith a member of the Metro Infanta Foundation Board of Trustees,. We are proud of her accomplishment as a writer and author. Colleen went to the Philippines in 1995 to report on the World Youth Day activities and fell in love with the Filipino people. Thus her interest in Metro Infanta Foundation and its causes.
As a responsible journalist, first I must disclose that I’ve known Colleen Smith, the author of Glass Halo, for more than 20 years. We met while she worked as a communications officer at the Archdiocese of Denver, and I worked for my current employer, St. Thomas More Parish in Centennial, Colorado.
Colleen was serving on an executive design committee convened by then-Archbishop of Denver, J. Francis Stafford. Now a cardinal in the Vatican, His Eminence had convened a group of Colorado Catholic leaders to spawn the Convocation on the Laity in Denver in 1990. Since we both are communicators, Colleen and I quickly connected.
When I first met Colleen, she was a reporter for the Denver Catholic Register. For years, she wrote the DCR’s editorials, as well as in-depth features—on a typewriter. She won a number of Catholic Press Association Awards. I knew she was a pro.
No matter how hard I try, I cannot write like Colleen. It is her gift, and she has nurtured it. In her first novel, we see this talent in a new light. I read a lot, but I do not read a lot of novels. This is a very Catholic novel because Colleen has steeped herself in not only the documents of Vatican II, but also the lexicon of the Church and the dates of the Catholic liturgical year. I’ve worked for the Catholic Church for almost 25 years, and I have never heard of “Whitsun Eve” or St. Enda, but Colleen is so interested as a student of Catholicism that she pulls out these obscure details. In the end, we learn more of the mystery of Holy Mother Church.
We learn a lot about stained glass, too. When I read Glass Halo, I had to afterwards ask Colleen if she is, in fact, a stained glass artist. She is not, but she is an intense researcher into the medium of her subject matter.
English, for me, is a second language. I do not have Colleen’s vocabulary. Words like “sluice” and “striations” “loupe” are unfamiliar to me, but I know Colleen is an English major and not one to dumb it down. She wants us to pick up a dictionary—especially a Catholic dictionary!
One of our common touchstones all along has been stewardship. Colleen’s stewardship booklet published in 2001 by Our Sunday Visitor is one of the mainstays I’ve used in spreading the Good News of Catholic stewardship. Since I knew her writing and design skills, I have contracted Colleen to create stewardship materials for St. Thomas More, one of the largest parishes in the world.
Glass Halo is a story of stewardship because in this novel we see the way the characters use their time and especially their talents. Colleen gives us a stirring story and complex characters we come to care about. We see the value and the redemption in characters that recognize their talents and put their gifts to work for the service of others.
One interesting Glass Halo character is Harry, a man who is homeless. I happen to know that Colleen volunteered at the Denver cathedral’s sack lunch line. She includes Harry as a character we can come to identify with and love as one of the least among us.
Colleen is also a student of Catholic symbols, so I was not surprised that her book’s pages include illustrations that give readers something visual to support her words.
Glass Halo includes plot twists. I did not for see the “encounter” between Nora and Father DiMarco because I am such a prude. Their relationship might raise eyebrows and controversy, but Glass Halo reminds us of our humanity, our sinfulness. Glass Halo reminds us that we are fragile, that none of us live above reproach--and that is precisely why we need the Church as a place of creation and death and rebirth that mirrors the Paschal Mystery at the center of Catholic beliefs. By writing a novel, Colleen has stewarded her talent to create a work that likely will reach people who otherwise would not have bothered to learn anything about the Church, a priest, a parish, a cathedral and its stained glass. With Glass Halo, Colleen has done her work, and she calls us to do our work, too, in a world that is broken, just as we all are broken yet longing to be whole. In Glass Halo, Colleen calls us to do our part to pick up the pieces.
Mila Glodava serves as Director of Communications and Stewardship at St. Thomas More Parish in Centennial, Colorado. She is the co-author of Making Stewardship a Way of Life, (OSV, 2009) and also co-authored MAIL ORDER BRIDES: Women for Sale (1994, Alaken, Inc.)