A Parish Church

Feast of the Dedication of the St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome
November 9, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy,  we celebrate a rare type of feast day – one that marks the dedication of a church building.  For many, that seems a little odd. We are accustomed to celebrating Mary, Joseph and other saints and feasts of Our Lord.

Here’s the thing: we are not actually celebrating a building.  We are celebrating what the building represents – the Body of Christ, the Church, made of living stones – us.

But sometimes it helps to have visible symbols of the things we venerate and celebrate. That’s why we have medals, rosary beads and candles – so that we can SEE something as we try to conceptualize a spiritual reality.

As we pray today, we might take time to remember the parish church of our youth. You might never love another parish like you loved that one – where you and your little friends snuck a whisper in the pews. Or – even now and again – maybe you fell off the kneeler in a stifled giggle as some neighbor lady leaped into soprano at the Miraculous Medal Novena.

Still, it might have been the place where we first prayed and first began to approach the beauty and wonder of God.

My memories are filled with unrepeatable treasures like:

  • our wonderful Sisters of St. Joseph, who at early morning Masses pre-Vatican II,
    mystically lowered their veils over their eyes on the way to Communion.
    I so wondered what their prayer was like!
  • the lingering smell of incense, beeswax, and holiness lingering in every corner,
    speaking a prayer for me that had no words
  • our very faithful and good priests
  • the beautiful Latin chants and prayers during which you had no idea what you were saying,
    but you knew exactly what you meant: God is Wonderful!
  • our old Irish pastor whose brogue was so thick we could not decipher a word except
    “Feast of the Great St. Patrick, boys and girrrrls! No school today!”

St. John Lateran is the Pope’s parish church. Since he is the Bishop of the whole People of God, his physical church has come to symbolize the universal Body of Christ, the world Church.

john lateran

Pope Benedict XVI in his Angelus Address, on November 9, 2008 said this:

Dear friends, today’s feast celebrates a mystery that is always relevant: God’s desire to build a spiritual temple in the world, a community that worships him in spirit and truth (cf. John 4:23-24).
But this observance also reminds us of the importance of the material buildings in which the community gathers to celebrate the praises of God.
Every community therefore has the duty to take special care of its own sacred buildings, which are a precious religious and historical patrimony. For this we call upon the intercession of Mary Most Holy, that she help us to become, like her, the “house of God,” living temple of his love.

st j lateran

As we pray today, we might want to consider the gift of faith on which our own lives are built – a faith whose cornerstone is Jesus Christ. In our second reading, Paul says this:

Brothers and sisters:
You are God’s building…..
Do you not know that you are the temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

And in our Gospel, Jesus speaks of his own body as a temple which, though apparently destroyed by his enemies, will be raised up in three days.

By our Baptism, that same spiritual temple lives in us and in all the community of faith. That same power of Resurrection is alive in us! So in a very real sense, what we celebrate today is ourselves – the Living Church – raised up and visible as a sign of God’s Life in the world.

Happy Feast Day, Church!

Poetry: Sunday Morning – Ruby Archer (1873-1961) was an American port

How sweet to wait within a holy place
The hour of song and prayer,
To yield the heart unto a spell of grace,
Serenely brooding like a presence there. 

The hymns that live within the organ’s heart,
Flow silent o’er the soul;
Unsounded echoes from the memory start,
Like mystic writing from an angel’s scroll. 

Music: Cornerstone – Hillsong

6 thoughts on “A Parish Church

  1. Janet Marshall

    Coincidentally, this Sunday my siblings and I will gather at the church of our youth (Holy Redeemer in Chinatown) in memory of our Mom who died 25 years ago. The memories will be great!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lucille Hillerman

    The church of my youth will always be special. My memories of pre Vatican II worship are very clear. It is also where my father worked for over 40 years. My daughters of course have wonderful memories of OLMC and the wonderful Sisters of Mercy where they grew up, received their sacraments, including Matrimony and buried their father, my husband. I love both parishes! Thanks for the walk down Memory Lane! ❤️🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Maria Heenan

    Nothing like remembering the Church of our youth. Walking to Mass in the midst of a snow blizzard always comes to mind. The Heenans were the only ones in Saint Jerome’s Church besides Father Bartos who said the 9AM Mass.

    Liked by 1 person

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