Today, November 9, the Church celebrates the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, the cathedral church of the Bishop of Rome. This beautiful temple of the Eternal City, being the Pope’s cathedral, is the Church’s only “archbasilica” and is given the honorific title of “Mother and Head of all churches.”
The celebration of the dedication of a church allows us to meditate on the importance of beautiful churches. The beauty of a church building is meant to reflect the beauty of the Church herself, which is made beautiful especially by the holiness of her Saints. This is an important meditation for us especially as we reflect on the Last Things. We are called to be beautiful in the glory of the Resurrection!
The church building is a marvelous temple consecrated to God, just as a saint is a temple of the Holy Spirit in his soul and in his body. When we celebrate the dedication of a church, we are reminded of this truth of our faith: that each of us is called to be as beautiful as even the Lateran Basilica in our wholehearted love for God and neighbor. In truth, the soul and body of a saint are even more the temple of God, and reflect even more His Beauty, than the most beautiful of church buildings!
We witness the truth that the saints are in fact the temple of God especially in our veneration of their relics, which is also an important part of our November devotion to All Saints. In the veneration of relics, the Church gives honor to a piece of the dead body of a saint. Here the Church is affirming that this saint’s body was holy, that this body has been sanctified by the holy life of the person to whom it belongs. This is the body in which the saint was baptized, confirmed, received the Eucharist, had his sins forgiven, received other sacraments, and went about living out his life of heroic divine love. The veneration of relics bears a unique witness to the beauty and holiness of the Church.
During this final month of the liturgical year, we are aware that we, like those whose bodies we venerate, also are called to become saints. You and I are called to live lives that confirm our souls and bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. You and I are called to live in such a way that, 100 years from now, the faithful will want to venerate parts of our bones! You and I are called to show forth in our own lives the beauty – the splendid beauty! – of our Holy Mother, the Church. See how beautiful she is in her churches, in her liturgy, and in her saints!
Fr. Joseph Previtali