Saint John Lateran is the mother Church of Christianity, the physical sign of the incarnate Word of God in the world and reminder that we are living temples, not yet perfect, but temples nevertheless, to the glory of God.
Christianity was illegal for its first 300 years. Early Christians worshiped underground. They met secretly in private homes, open fields at night and in cemeteries known as catacombs.
The Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and donated part of his palace as the first Christian church in the city of Rome. Smaller and more modest than Saint Peter’s Basilica, it is the cathedral of Rome and thus the seat of the bishop of Rome (the Pope). All popes from the time of Constantine to 1871 lived at the Lateran, except when in exile. When Italy united in 1871, the pope began living at the Vatican and Saint Peter’s.
Why do we celebrate the Lateran? Because it reminds us of our roots, of Peter and Paul and all the martyrs, It reminds us that we are Catholic, in union with Rome, the center from the beginning and now the center of a world Church of more than 1.3 billion souls on all continents.
Through the centuries, the Lateran Basilica was damaged by earthquakes, fires, invaders and vandals. So were many other great churches. Over and over again, the faithful have poured their hope and love into stone, stained glass, tapestries and other works of human artistry to create something beautiful for God.
Finally, like the Lateran, attacked, burned and often in need of renewal, we too are unfinished, imperfect temples. With all our failings, personal and corporate, we are still doing Christ’s work around the globe! We are thousands of Catholic Universities and schools; we are Catholic Relief services, the largest charitable organization on the planet. We are all the Catholic lay and religious in countless Catholic hospitals, clinics, leprosaria, refugee camps, and centers for the homeless. In the name of Jesus, we teach people to read, write and sing; in His name we heal, console, bless, visit the imprisoned and the dying, and bury the dead, day and night.
We are doing Christ’s work. We are one great family in faith and the Lateran is our family home pointing us to our heavenly and permanent home in the new Jerusalem with the Living God.
The readings for today's Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome
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About Father Willy Raymond, C.S.C.
Father Willy Raymond, C.S.C. is President of Holy Cross Family Ministries. He entered Holy Cross Fathers in 1964. He earned a Bachelors in Philosophy from Stonehill College in 1967 and a Masters in Theology from the University of Notre Dame in 1971. In addition to English, Father Willy is conversant in French and Spanish. He's a native of Old Town, Maine and one of 12 children. He remains a diehard fan of the Boston Red Sox, even though he has served as Chaplain for the Los Angeles Dodgers.