Nov 18 – Memorial for the Dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul
The Basilica of St. Peter is located within the Vatican City. It occupies a unique position as one of the holiest sites and as the greatest of all churches of Christendom. It is the burial site of St. Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, and, according to tradition, was the first Bishop of Antioch and later the first Bishop of Rome, and therefore the first in the line of the papal succession.
Catholic tradition holds that St. Peter’s tomb is below the altar of the basilica, which is why many popes, starting with the first ones, have been buried there. There has been a church on this site since the fourth century. Construction on the present basilica, over the old Constantinian basilica, began on Apr 18, 1506, and was completed in 1626.
While St. Peter’s is the most famous of Rome’s many churches, it is not the first in rank, an honour held by the Pope’s cathedral church, the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Contrary to popular misconception, St. Peter’s is not a cathedral, as it is not the seat of a bishop. It is properly termed a basilica.
The Basilica of St. Paul Outside The Walls is one of four churches considered to be the great ancient basilicas of Rome. This basilica was founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine I, over what was believed to be the burial place of St. Paul where it was said that after the Apostle’s execution, his followers erected a memorial over his grave.
In 386, Emperor Theodosius I began the erection of a much larger and more beautiful basilica with a nave and four aisles with a transept. The work, including the mosaics, was not completed till the pontificate of Leo I. Under Pope Gregory the Great (590-604), the basilica was again extensively modified. As it lay outside the Aurelian walls, this basilica was damaged during the Saracen invasions in the ninth century. Consequently, Pope John VIII fortified it, the monastery, and the dwellings of the peasantry forming the town of Joannispolis, which existed until 1348 when an earthquake totally destroyed it.
On 15 Jul 1823, the negligence of a workman repairing the roof resulted in a fire which almost totally destroyed the basilica. Alone of all the churches in Rome, it had preserved its primitive character for 1435 years. The whole world contributed to its reconstruction. The Viceroy of Egypt sent pillars of alabaster, and the Emperor of Russia sent the precious malachite and lapis lazuli of the tabernacle. The work on the principal façade, looking toward the Tiber, was completed by the Italian government, which declared the church a national monument.
The basilica was reopened in 1840 but was reconsecrated only 15 years later at the presence of Pope Pius IX, with 50 cardinals. On 31 May 2005, Pope Benedict XVI ordered the basilica to come under the control of an archpriest. On the same day, he named Archbishop Andrew Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo as its first archpriest.
“My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves”
On the floor of the church I attend here, is the inscription from Isaiah, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples (Isaiah 56:7)”. Against the backdrop of today’s divided America, this simple verse has become loaded with meaning. For such a racially diverse place, LA is surprisingly segregated. There are whole neighbourhoods populated by people of a single race or social demographic. My parish is situated at the intersection of four of these neighbourhoods; as a result, we get a good mix at Mass every Sunday. And though no one actually speaks more than a few cursory greetings and “Peace be with you” to each other, the fact that we are all sitting together in God’s house is itself a victory – we are not as disunited as the media makes us out to be.
Every age has its ‘spin doctors’, its storytellers. They might have different names, but their function is the same. These are the individuals who craft the narrative of the moment. In our age, these people are the influencers, the politicians and the political analysts, the writers and scriptwriters, the reporters, the celebrities. In our age, these people would have you believe that being Catholic automatically makes you a Conservative, and therefore, you must also be a ‘radical’, a ‘denier’, an ‘anti-vaxxer’ and all the other negative labels that are associated with the stereotype. The subversion of God’s Church to fit the identity politics of our time, if you will. This caricature would be funny, if people didn’t actually believe it. But they do. And so, when I say that I believe in God and that I am Catholic, and I believe in the right of every human life to have a chance to live, then according to them, I must not believe in a woman’s right to choose for herself, and I must be a conservative radical, and I must believe the election was stolen, etc. All this excessive extrapolation is exhausting. Our generation has lost its way, but we refuse to own up to it, so we try to find our purpose in politics and political causes. And we find justification in proclaiming this patchworked set of values on social media, as if shouting it loudly and often enough might make it believable, make it robust. Make it real.
There is no peace without God. This much I do know. All of it is empty noise unless it is grounded in God and His Word. If my belief makes me unpopular, then so be it. Spin doctors and their narratives are here today and tomorrow, well who knows, endurance has never been their thing. But the Word will be here long after these false prophets and all their false narratives are gone. We only need to remember not to be swayed and to keep our eyes firmly fixed on Him.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for the fortitude to hold fast to God and His Word, even when it makes us unpopular amongst our friends and families.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the thought leaders in our faith, who have grappled with these existential issues long before us. We give thanks for all the work they have done, so that generations of Catholics after might benefit from their research and their thought.