Celebrating Mass at St. John Lateran
My recent ad limina visit in Rome included the great honor of being the celebrant of a Mass in the Basilica of St John Lateran. Walking into this magnificent Basilica brought memories of my first Papal Mass at St John Lateran, Holy Thursday of 1975, with Pope Paul VI. Now, 44-years later, for the honor of offering Mass in that same Basilica, among the breathtaking art and architecture, with my brother Bishops, the feeling is almost indescribable.
When I walk through the doors of St. John Lateran, I am always struck by the beauty of the art, the enormity of the space, and the grandeur of the artwork and statues. This Basilica is the most important in the world, as it is the mother church. The church of the Pope—the See of Bishop of Rome; having the unique distinction of being the only church with a feast day within the Liturgical calendar for the whole world. St. John Lateran can not only boast a rich history, including being the first Catholic church in Rome, but also continues to create history within its walls.
During my homily to the Bishops, I made a reference to something we hardly notice while inside this magnificent church. Beyond the beauty of the art is the awe-inspiring technical feat found in engineering the structure. The thoughtful design, solid foundation, and strong columns have kept St. John Lateran in perfect balance for centuries. That perfect balance protects it from tipping, sinking, or collapsing regardless of the forces pushing or pulling against it.
The same need for a solid foundation can be said about our spiritual life, as well. Although we may be pulled in different directions—sometimes pushed ahead or other times held back—our Catholic faith keeps us connected to God. Making time for personal prayer, conversation with God, keeps us grounded. It helps us maintain a perfect balance to keep going with a life of faith.
The Power of Beauty
While at the recent meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (more on that in next week’s blog), Bishop Robert Barron commented on the power of the beauty of our grand churches to draw people into discovering the Catholic faith. For centuries people have been drawn into churches by the beauty of its art or architecture, but their lives were truly changed within those walls by an encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist. He went on to say fewer people are walking into those Cathedrals for these life-changing encounters; we now need to share that beauty with others, particularly through our social media.
Closer to Home, Building Community
This beauty of the Church and its people working on building strong foundations came during my visits to the new Taunton Catholic Churches South and Taunton Catholic Churches North collaboratives. I was very moved by the enthusiasm and hope of the people I met there. I had a great sense of the collaboration between each of the churches, sensed their successful efforts of breaking the history of parishes living in silos and building a true new Parish together.
Furthermore, there was a clear coming together, a sense of “us,” growing within these new collaboratives. I was so encouraged by an emerging spirit of collaboration evident not only in what I heard but also saw. The parishioners of St. Andrew the Apostle, Annunciation of the Lord, St. Anthony, St. Jude, and St. Mary understand what collaboration can do for their churches going forward, and what a blessing it can be in building a stronger church for the future
Next week’s Building Faith will include my experiences at the fall gathering of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha