High on the wall on the Mary side of the Sanctuary is a lunette, or half moon, with a mosaic inscription showing an intertwined AM. Although this might be the first thing the Priest sees each day upon entering from the Sacristy, it is not a reminder that it is morning!
So what does it mean?
Like the S with three staves above the St. Joseph Altar (IHS, the first three letters of Ihsous, or Jesus in Greek), and the chi rho (XP, the first two letters of Christ in Greek) on the main Altar, this is another monogram – but this time, the subject is the Blessed Mother. The AM stands for Auspice Maria (Under the Protection of Mary or By the Favor of Mary). The choice of location is intriguing, not just because it’s opposite the Sacristy doorway, but because it is placed above the words “the beauty of thy house;” and Mary was the “house” for Jesus before he was born!
Several different Mary monograms were used in Byzantine art from 500 to 1450 AD – the inspiration for our church design. In Western Europe, monograms appeared in the 11th century and became popular in the 17th and 18th century with special devotions to the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. Mary monograms became more widespread in this country after Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception was named Patron Saint of the United States in 1846.
Bishop Crane, who commissioned our church, is said to have had a special devotion to the Blessed Mother in all of her incarnations. According to his 1928 memorial in the Parish Monthly Bulletin, he was born “on the Feast of the Nativity of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary.” He began a chapter of the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin at de Sales in 1913, and it was said that “whether walking or riding, his rosary was his constant companion…”
Every design element of our church was carefully planned. Since the pastor who built it had a special dedication to the Blessed Mother, it is notable that the cornerstone was laid on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary in 1907. The Mary-themed window on the St. Joseph side of the church possibly commemorates that feast day and our parish construction. And it should be no surprise that Bishop Crane would want to start each early “before midday” ante meridiem, or AM, Auspice Maria.