Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica: What's that got to do with closing churches?

Apparently nothing.
Constantine erected the Lateran Basilica in Rome, and it has been venerated as the mother church of Christendom ever since. Catholics celebrate the dedication, consecration of churches - a custom rooted in Jewish custom and liturgy with the feast of the Dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem.  Christ observed the feast himself.  I'm not going into any scholarly, liturgical detail with this except to point out another irony, or paradox in Catholicism.

We dedicate - consecrate - sacred buildings, temples, or in our tradition - churches.  Frequently the edifices are works of beautiful architecture and art, constructed at great expense and sacrifice by the faithful - the real 'living stones' of God's holy temple.  Over the centuries many churches have been sacked through war and revolution, and frequently profaned by anti-Christian, anti-Catholic elements.  Many times the desecrated sanctuaries have been re-dedicated, although in some cases they have become museums.  Less prominent churches have been turned into bars and nightclubs, or businesses.  Others have often been taken over by protestant denominations.

Today Catholic dioceses are closing down churches once consecrated for sacred use - in greater numbers it seems.  Selling off beautiful Catholic churches to the highest bidder.  Some are simply demolished.  I know all the reason put forth; fewer priests, dwindling congregations, expense, etc..  All very reasonable and in full accord with provisions in canon law.

Christian life is full of apparent paradox, isn't it.

No, that wasn't a question.

Photo:  Facade of The Basilica of St. John Lateran.  Check out Wiki for everything you ever wanted to know about the basilica.


  1. It is just a tragedy when a house of worship, a "temple of the Lord" must be shut down or demolished.
    The angels must weep.
    I understand the fiduciary and practical aspects, mostly;
    but what the hell?
    Many of these churches were built, decorated and supported by the pennies of immigrants...and their descendants moved to the suburbs, which created a problem in the inner cities, which is why we have crime and drive-by shootings, drugs, unwed parents...good golly!
    Anyway...before dredging up more "crap", I'll just say, we live in a vale of tears...I await the New Jerusalem with great longing.

  2. It is sad Father.

    But I was just trying to get a reaction from Cathy with this post - they are closing her parish.

  3. I remember the church in my hometown where my parents were married and I had my first Communion as being pretty. But it was in poor condition, and too small for the growing congregation. So they decided it would be more practical to build a new church, which was dedicated in 1960. The "new" church is lovely, and incorporated many keepsakes from the old church. However, the old church building was deconsecrated and used as a basketball gym for the parish school for a short period, until it was declared unsafe and torn down. I was only 9 but I didn't want to go in the old church and see it as a gym, I wanted to remember it as it had been. So I never did go in it after the new church was dedicated and I don't think my parents did, either. I have their wedding pictures and my 1st Communion one to remember it by. (I have to smile when I remember what our air conditioning was. A local mortuary gave the parish cardboard fans on a handle, with a picture of the Agony in the Garden on one side, and the mortuary name on the other.) It's sad when sacred places become not sacred anymore, you just feel they are desecrated even though they're just a building.

  4. When I was in Rome I spent considerable time in St John Lateran and attended several Daily Masses....it is my favorite church there...absolutely AMAZING inside..much bigger than what it appears from the outside.

    There is a statue of Constantine just inside.



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