You are God’s building.
According to the grace of God given to me,
like a wise master builder I laid a foundation,
and another is building upon it.
But each one must be careful how he builds upon it,
for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there,
namely, Jesus Christ.
“What makes a church a cathedral?” Fairly often I will ask this question, meeting with volunteer groups in the “Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception,” our parish church. I think part of the reason I bring up the topic is that the word cathedral might sound pretentious. Some guess it has to do with pointed Gothic arches, or high ceilings, or having a pipe organ, or stained glass windows. But a cathedral is simply any building that is the church for the bishop and therefore the church of the whole diocese. I point to the big chair in front that serves as symbol of the bishop’s service to the local Church. I might even mention the the word cathedral comes from the Greek word for chair. So it is not necessarily the largest or most beautiful church. In fact ours is fairly modest in size and style—-for example.
If there is time (and if I really want to impress them with my knowledge and insight) I will ask for the name of the cathedral in Rome. I always warn that this is a trick question; the answer is probably not what they might think. Not surprisingly, volunteers generally guess that it is St. Peter’s Basilica—-probably the most famous Catholic building in the world.
In fact the answer is the Cathedral of St. John Lateran. There is no saint with Lateran as his last name; Lateran derives from the family name of the people who owned the property before it was given to the bishop of Rome around 313AD. Because the Bishop of Rome is the Pope, this year the entire Catholic world gets to celebrate the anniversary day of the dedication of this ancient structure.
All this, the building and the holy day, intend to remind and inspire us to be who we say we are, we Catholic Christians. We are part of a great interconnected community—-divers in every way, including the variety that is a result of the expanse of time from the Lord Jesus, to this moment.
-Do you have a favorite church building?
-Do you experience yourself building on the foundations of those who came before us?
-If you have visited Rome, what was it like to be at a center of Catholic Christianity?