“Today’s feast, brothers, ought to be all the more devout as it is more personal. ….It is ours because it concerns our church, ours because we ourselves are its theme. You are surprised and even embarrassed, perhaps, at celebrating a feast for yourselves. … Your souls are holy because of the Spirit of God dwelling in you, your bodies are holy because of your souls and this building is holy because of your bodies.” St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor
I have visited many churches in many places. Once when I visited Bogota, I was asked by my hosts what I wanted to do while I was there. I told them anything is fine so long as I went to Mass every day. I was flabbergasted at the number of beautiful churches I saw in Colombia. It surprised me not because of the beauty but because anywhere I went, there was a sacrifice made to God to build these Churches. There is such a beauty.
From the book, “Is it Possible to Live this Way,” by Luigi Giussani, there is a humorous story about a visitor to Milan and a taxi driver. “I’m not talking about the joke about the American in the taxi who passes various places in Milan and asks how long it took them to build certain places and the taxi driver responds each time about how long it took to build these places. The American tourist said it would take them a week or a few days or some short time to build such places. When they passed the Cathedral the American asked, what is that? He was asking about the Cathedral or Duomo of Milan. The taxi driver says, “Oh I don’t know, it wasn’t there this morning.” Yes, it is only humour, but it has been amazing to visit such great cathedrals that the architects did not like see the completion. Upon my visit to Barcelona, Sagrada Familia was amazing, but the same can be said of Cathedrals in Cologne, Prague and Milan. About 600 years was needed to build such great cathedrals and I think about the sacrifices that were made to make the dream of a cathedral a reality. Financial donations, labour, prayers all were needed to come together to build such majesty for God. As I was at mass on the feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran, I thought about the church I was in that morning. Who built it and why was such care taken? St. John Lateran is the Pope’s cathedral. It is not St. Peter’s Basilica. Built centuries ago; when I visited this church in Rome, I thought about the blood of the martyrs and anguish that the early Christians suffered to gain recognition in the empire. When I visit places in Quebec, I see the opposite. I see churches being closed and sold and even churches in my town turned into condominiums. This is sad since we do not know what was sacrificed to build such places of worship. When I told someone during the pandemic that the churches were closed in my area, they scoffed and said who cares. I cared! This is the house of the Lord.
I asked my friends in the Carmel Cloister about the feast of the dedication of St. John Lateran and they reminded me of Divine Office that day and how it referred to the feast day.
“This is God’s dwelling place, and he has made it holy; here we call on his name, for Scripture says: There you will find me.” Magn. Antiphon at Vespers the feast day.