Friday, November 9, 2012

Dedication of St. John Lateran

The Latin  title of this Church is Archibasilica Sanctissimi Salvatoris et Sanctorum Iohannes Baptista et Evangelista in Laterano, which translates in English as Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and Ss. John the Baptist and the Evangelist at the Lateran. The Lateran Basilica seems to have been dedicated three times: dedicated originally as The Most Holy Savior in the 4th century on land donated by Constantine; in the 10th century Pope Sergius III rededicated it to St. John Baptist; and in the 12th century rededicated again as St. John the Evangelist by Pope Lucius II. But the Church remains dedicated to Christ the Savior and its feast of title is the Transfiguration. This the Cathedral Church of the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, not St. Peter's Basilica, as many suppose.

But the curious thing is that the old Missals simply give for this feast  the Common of the Dedication of a Church the collect of which Mass says nothing about St John Lateran but refers to the day of consecration of this holy temple sounding for all the world as if what is being commemorated is the Feast of Dedication of the Church where the Mass is being said. This is corrected in the Novus Ordo where a distinction is made between Mass said in the dedicated church and outside it. But I rather like the notion that when you celebrate the dedication of big and grand churches, you are also remembering the dedication of the probably much more modest local parish church. An inscription incised in the front wall between the main entrance doors of  St. John Lateran reads  Sacrosancta Lateranensis ecclesia omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput (meaning "Most Holy Lateran Church, of all the churches in the city and the world, the mother and head") . 

No doubt this inscription is offensive, presumptuous and arrogant to many Christians. But it seems to me that, when we remember this great Church, there are no grounds for envy or resentment, but joy that in some mysterious way we in more humble circumstances share in its magnificence. 

At St. Francis our feast of title is also our feast of dedication and the dedication is inevitably overshadowed by our patron. I have been the parish priest at St. Francis for almost twenty years (twenty years exactly on St. Matthew's day 2013) and today I cannot help but think about what has gone on in this church for more than half a century: Thousands of Sunday and Daily Masses offered for the life of the world, countless confessions heard and absolutions given, men and women joined in Holy Matrimony, Baptisms, Confirmations. Beyond that St. Francis doors are never locked, maybe the only church in Dallas open 24/7 and this building has been a place for many folks where prayer has been valid. I constantly run into people or receive phone calls and notes from people, who tell me how important it was to them to sit and pray in this church. Many of these of course do not know our secret but it is the same secret that maybe many tourists, who visit the Lateran Basilica do not know, the Lord Jesus Christ in the Tabernacle. It is that Divine Presence, not architectural brilliance, which is the secret of both places: the Most Holy Savior: Blessed, praised, hallowed and adored  . . .

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