Sacred Aedificia + More Invitations

Most Holy Lateran Church, of all the churches in the city and the world, the mother and head

1,687 years ago today: The Pope dedicated his cathedral church building in Roma.

Click HERE for a thorough digest of this event (from the archives), including wolverines.

…Re: the sacred Catholic structures of Franklin and Henry counties, Virginny:

1. His Excellency Bishop Sullivan originally dedicated Francis of Assisi parish church in 1987. The 25th anniversary of this august occasion will fall on Ash Wednesday, which makes for a bit of a buzzkill. In May of 2013, we will festively celebrate the 15th anniversary of the dedication of the expanded church building. Mark your calendars now.

2. The same Bishop Sullivan consecrated the new church of St. Joseph in Martinsville on November 25, 2001! We will celebrate the tenth anniversary of this blessed day on Thanksgiving morning, with a Mass at 9:00 a.m. Then we will dine together to celebrate the anniversary (and the holidays) on Friday, December 9!

All readers are most cordially invited.

Presenting the Nea

Hoyas 3-0! Yeah, buddy.

Speaking of which, it was nice to see our old homeboy Jeff Green on the court against the Wizards last night…

…Looking for an act of devotion in honor of the Solemnity of Christ the King?

Consider adding your e-signature to the Manhattan Declaration

…After I finished high school, I got a job typing the reports of a company of local archaeologists.

The company specialized in pre-historic archaeology–that is, the study of artifacts produced by people who did not have writing.

In our area, you can discover a pre-historic artifact while you are out for a walk. There are still Algonquian arrowheads and potsherds lying on the surface of the earth.

Contrast this with archaeology in the Old City of Jerusalem. On Monday evening, we walked down four flights of steps from street level. We emerged into a cistern that was built to hold water for use in the Temple in the fifth century B.C.

Chiesa Nuova in Rome

There are books written about the building of that temple–they can be found in the Old Testament. My point is: In Jerusalem, archaelogists have dug and dug and dug, and they still have not gotten to the pre-historic level.

And here is some more perspective: In our day and age, since the beginning of the Digital/Organic Era (which began when Bill Gates’ net worth reached $1 trillion), “new” refers to something that came into being in the last half-nanosecond.

In Rome, there is a beautiful church called Chiesa Nuova, the “New Church.” It was completed in 1606.

In Jerusalem, the Nea, the “new” church in honor of Mary the Mother of God, has lay buried beneath the rubble of earthquake and Persian destruction for 1200 years.

Today is the day the Nea was dedicated in A.D. 543.

Our Lady was born in Jerusalem. She was among the girls who cared for the Temple paraphernalia.

When Mary brought the newborn Jesus to the Temple to present Him to the Father, she encountered the priest Simeon and the prophetess Anna. The three of them may already have known each other.

The above is a mosaic map of Christian Jerusalem. It is not easy to read. The Cardo, or main street, runs left to right through the middle of the city. The huge ancient basilica of the Holy Sepulcher is below the main street, the Nea is above it, to the right. There was an annual procession between the two churches.

…I am sorry that I allowed the following “Bests” list to get as stale as five-year-old granola bars. It is retired. An exciting new edition is available behind the Bests tab above.

Continue reading “Presenting the Nea

Ad Limina Apostolorum

Interior of St. Peters by Giovanni Paolo Pannini
Interior of St. Peters by Giovanni Paolo Pannini. This church--the largest on earth--was built to house to tomb of St. Peter.
The Holy Apostles Peter and Paul shed their blood for Christ in Rome. St. Peter died by the cross and St. Paul by the sword under the Emporer Nero in A.D. 67. Ever since then, Christians have come from all over the world to visit their tombs.

Among his other duties, the Pope is the custodian of these holy places. The pilgrimage ad limina apostolorum usually affords an opportunity to see the Successor of St. Peter and receive his blessing.

A group of pilgrims from St. Mary’s parish in Upper Marlboro, Md., will–God willing–reach the Eternal City on the feast of the Dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul, November 18.

St. Paul Outside the Walls
St. Paul Outside the Walls, built to house the tomb of St. Paul
May it please the Lord to pour out many graces upon us when we kiss the earth made holy by the martyr’s blood!

Perhaps November 18 will actually be St. Paul’s 2,000th birthday. It could be, after all.

We are likely within one year of his 2,000th birthday. We do not know the exact date. Perhaps we pilgrims should just assume that his birthday is November 18, and have a canoli or some gelato when we arrive in Rome to celebrate.

Orvieto
Orvieto
May the Holy Apostle pray for us, that we will have a safe journey and will profit from our pilgrimage as God wills.

Everybody else, please pray for us! We leave the U.S. on Saturday. We will be stopping in Assisi and Orvieto on the way to Rome.

Speaking of the way to Rome, Hillaire Belloc wrote a thoroughly enjoyable book about his pilgrimage on foot from France to Rome.

Dedication of St. John Lateran

facade1Today’s feast is very important. It is so important that we even keep it on a Sunday. Last week we kept All Souls on Sunday, because it is such an important day. Usually, if a feast falls on a Sunday, we do not keep it that year. So the Dedication of St. John Lateran must be an important day. The problem is that a lot of people have no idea what this means.

Let’s go over the name of today’s feast word by word, so that we can be sure that we understand what we are celebrating.

naveFirst word: Dedication.
Generally speaking, we human beings do what we need to do IN BUILDINGS. Don’t get me wrong—it is nice to get outside, go for a walk, take a bikeride. But we are not like birds, or tigers, or wolverines. We cannot live outside. We need shelter from the elements.

As a general rule, we cannot have Holy Mass outside. Maybe occasionally, like Pope John Paul II’s funeral 2 ½ years ago in St. Peter’s Square. But, generally speaking, we need a church for Mass.

A church building is not like any other building. A church building is itself a symbol of invisible realities. Both the exterior and the interior of the church building express the reality of God, His angels, and His saints. For any prayerful Catholic, his church is a precious fixture in his interior life.

Because a church is a sacred building, set aside for divine worship, it must be solemnly dedicated after it is built. Then, every year on the anniversary of the dedication, we can thank God again for the gift of the church building, and for all the grace that He pours out in it.

Today, then, is the anniversary of the dedication of a church building. Which church? St. John Lateran. Ever heard of it?

St. John Lateran is a church in Rome.

The Pope's cathedra in the apse of the Lateran Basilica
The Pope's cathedra in the apse of the Lateran Basilica
Now, of all the churches in a particular city, there is one that is especially important, namely the cathedral. The “cathedral” is the church which has the cathedra in it. The cathedra is the bishop’s seat of office. The cathedra symbolizes the bishop’s authority to teach and govern his diocese.

Here in Washington, many people think that the cathedral of our diocese is the National Shrine. The Shrine is the grandest church in the city. But the Archbishop’s chair is not in the Shrine. The cathedra is in St. Matthew’s on Rhode Island Avenue, downtown. St. Matthew’s is the cathedral.

Washington is not the only city where people get confused about which church is the cathedral, as we shall see.

Of all the dioceses in the world, there is one that is uniquely important. All the bishops in all the cities of the world are successors of the Apostles of Christ. The Bishop of Rome is the Successor of St. Peter, the chief of the Apostles. Therefore, the Bishop of Rome is the Pope, the chief shepherd of the whole Church.

The Baldacino over the High Altar, containing the heads of Sts. Peter and Paul
The Baldacino over the High Altar, containing the heads of Sts Peter and Paul
The cathedral in Rome is the most important church building in the world. In the cathedral in Rome, the Pope sits in his cathedra and teaches and governs all the Catholic people on earth.

The National Shrine is the largest Catholic church building in the western hemisphere, but it is not the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Washington. St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is the largest church on earth, but it is not the cathedral of Rome.

“Lateran.” What does this word mean? We have to go back seventeen centuries. Christianity was legalized by the Emperor Constantine in A.D. 313. For the first time, it became possible to build churches.

The Emperor’s family owned a large piece of property that had previously belonged to a prominent Roman family, the Lateran family. The Emperor gave it to the Pope, and the Pope built his cathedral church on that piece of property.

In 324, this cathedral church of Rome was solemnly dedicated and placed under the patronage of St. John. Because it was on land that had belonged to the Lateran family, it came to be known as St. John Lateran.

aerialSo today is the day that the Pope’s cathedral was dedicated, the day the most important church building in the world was dedicated.

Now, most people think of St. Peter’s Basilica as the Pope’s church, and of course it is his church. For the past 700 years, the Pope has lived at St. Peter’s instead of St. John Lateran. The truth is that the Pope has four Basilicas in Rome: His cathedral, St. John Lateran, the basilica at the tomb of St. Peter, the basilica at the tomb of St. Paul, and a basilica dedicated to our Lady.

May God be praised for giving us such splendid churches in which to worship Him!