Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

Check out the revised edition of this exciting and unique prayer book, filled with prayers that are sure to nourish the soul as we undertake the New Evangelization.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Homily Dedication of Basilica of Saint John Lateran 9 November 2008

One day around the turn of the 12th and 13th centuries…
while he gazed intently at the crucifix in the Church of San Damiano in Assisi,
lost in contemplation of his life’s struggles, and the mysteries of God,
Saint Francis heard the voice of Christ call to him:
“Francis, rebuild my Church!”

Taking the Lord quite literally, Francis, without permission,
sold goods from his father’s warehouse
to pay for repairs to the church building.
Needless to say, his father was quite upset and confronted Francis.
He even disowned him for what he had done.

Francis, for his part, renounced his father’s wealth,
went before the bishop in the middle of the town square,
stripped himself of all his clothes,
and in this dramatic moment gave his whole life to Christ and the Church.

As he left behind his father’s wealth and embraced poverty,
Francis drew closer to Christ and began to understand His words:
He was not calling Francis to repair the building,
but to spend his life building up the Mystical Body of Christ.

Today, as we celebrate the Dedication of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran,
we are mindful of these two meanings of the word “church”
and how both of them carry great significance for us.
First of all, our church buildings are significant to us:
They are works of art, fashioned by our ancestors, for the glory of God.
They are the sacred places where God dwells in the Blessed Sacrament.
They are the gathering places of the worshipping community
and the sanctuaries where the mysteries of our faith are celebrated.
They stand as monuments of faith and houses of prayer for the people of God.

It has been widely publicized that our diocese is undergoing a process of study
in preparation for a re-ordering of our parishes and schools.
In the end, some parish communities will have to give up their churches,
or combine for worship with another parish.
Priests and bishops are sensitive to the fact that the buildings…
seemingly insignificant…
in fact mean a great deal to the people
who have called them home for generations.

Today we honor one particular church building:
the Basilica in Rome dedicated to Saint John the Baptist,
on the site of the ancient royal palace of the Laterani Family.

Of the four major basilicas in Rome, Saint Peter’s is the most widely recognized,
and yet Saint John Lateran remains the most significant

It is the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome…where the pope is bishop…
as Saint Columba is the cathedral of the Youngstown diocese.

As the Pope’s cathedral, Saint John Lateran stands as a sign
of the love and union shared between all Catholics and the Holy Father.
It is known as the “mother of all churches.”

In our parish in Canton, Ohio, our first church building was built 50 years ago
and our current church was built in the Year of the Great Jubilee.
We remember that the existence of our church depends historically
on the establishment of the Diocese of Rome
and the subsequent spreading of the faith from the See of Peter.
In fact, our first bishop traced his sacramental lineage to a cardinal who lived in Rome.

So, today, we also celebrate our own parish church,
where we gather each Sunday for worship
and where we encounter the person of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

Like Jesus in today’s Gospel, we ought to have passion about this place of prayer,
and zeal for this house of God should consume us.
For it is holy ground, and the meeting place of Heaven and earth.

Our attitude about our church should be one of respect and reverence.
A church should be quiet, so that people are able to pray
freely and without disturbance, any time of day.
It is not a place to chew gum, carry on idle conversation, or appear immodestly.
We should remember that Jesus is present in the Tabernacle
and we should show him due honor.

Secondly, the “Church” is the Body of Christ
and today’s feast draws our attention to our high calling
to build up Christ's body by faithful fulfillment of our own vocations.

The Church…throughout the world and down through the centuries…
is the temple built of living stones,
established by the Lord on the foundation of the Apostles,
with Jesus Christ Himself as the capstone.

Each one of us has a unique role in the mission of Christ to build His Church.
As Jesus spoke to Francis centuries ago, He speaks to each one of us:
“Build my Church!”

The future of the Church depends on holy families,
and forming a holy family requires a tremendous amount of work
and a constant commitment to prioritizing our lives
so that God always has first place.

We all build up the Church within our own lives
by a life of constant, intimate prayer with God, Mary, and the saints.

In these days, many people express dismay at the situation of the world
and of our own nation.
Our Catholic Christian values are under attack.
Now is the time to pray more fervently, love more deeply,
and never give up on what matters most.
The future of the Church requires our intense involvement in her sacred work.
The Church is devoted to the person of Christ in the Eucharist,
and dedicated to working for justice for every human person.
The building up of the Church and the spreading of the Gospel message of Jesus
depend upon us and our posterity.

When ancient church buildings were constructed, they took decades to complete.
Workers died in dangerous conditions.
They labored for a lifetime on a project they did not begin
and would not see completed.
They followed plans they did not create.
They were committed to a project that was not of their own design.

So, too, we are committed to an enterprise begun long ago by Jesus
which will last for ages to come.
The Church of Christ is not our own and we did not create it.
The plans are given to us in the Scriptures and the Catechism.
Serving the Church can be dangerous, and even costs some people their lives.

The Church is the sacrament of unity and the instrument of salvation for all people,
and, despite the challenges and sorrows, to serve and to build up the Church
is an act of love which brings the greatest joy and peace.

The psalms present the question:
“Once the foundations have been destroyed, what can the just do?”
In a time when it seems as though our foundations are being shaken,
Christ offers us a compelling answer to this question.
He looks us in the eye and says: “rebuild my Church!”

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