November 8, 2017

Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran Basilica, the Ecclesiastical Seat of the Holy Father

St. John Lateran Basilica

November 9th, the Church celebrates the feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome, the oldest and highest ranking of the four major basilicas in Rome. The Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the diocese of Rome, is the official ecclesiastical seat of the Holy Father, not St. Peter's Basilica as many believe. The Basilica is also called the Church of Holy Savior or the Church of St. John Baptist. In ancient Rome it was where most baptisms occurred. The oldest church in the West, it was built under Constantine and consecrated by Pope St. Sylvester in 324. The feast is a universal celebration in honor of the archbasilica, called "the mother and mistress of all churches of Rome and the world" (omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput), as a sign of unity with the Holy See.

Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois explains the feast's significance, "The paradox of this feast is that while it is true that the people are the Church, our buildings are important to us. The milestones of family life often take place within church buildings. Each of us remembers weddings, baptisms, first communions, and funerals in our churches. In them, we have laughed, cried, prayed, been taken to the heights of happiness, and have approached God in the depths of despair."

Indeed, according to Pope Benedict XVI, "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...has the duty to take special care of its own sacred buildings, which are a precious religious and historical patrimony. ...we call upon the intercession of Mary...that she help us to become, like her, the 'house of God,' [a] living temple of his love."

Ever-loving God, who from living and chosen stones prepares an eternal dwelling for your majesty, increase in your most holy Church the spirit of grace you have bestowed, so that by new growth your faithful build up the heavenly Jerusalem. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you. Amen. All churches are sacred places where Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament dwells.

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