Saint John Lateran Basilica, Rome, Vatican City

Feast of the Dedication of the Major Basilica St. John Lateran

ParishWorld.net is taking this opportunity to communicate an important element of our Catholic Faith tradition that we do not often consider. It has to do with the churches that have played an important role in our history as Christians. It may come as a surprise to you that buildings should be so important to our religion. The greater surprise to you, we imagine, is that the churches that we are going to mention here are not local to us. If they were, it would perhaps be easier to understand. After all, we all have a certain attachment to the church that we
attended while we were growing up. We generally feel an emotional link to the church where we were baptized. If we attended a parochial school, we have feelings for the church to which the school was attached. Let's make the jump from those local churches that occupy a corner of our hearts because the are a part of our immediate life experience. Let's jump to Rome. Are you ready? Good.

Rome is home to some very special churches. The most important ones are called Major Basilicas. The largest of them, and the most well-known is St.Peter's Basilica. The other three are St. Mary Major (Santa Maria de las Nieves), St. Paul Outside the Walls and finally St. John Lateran. These churches are very old. All of them had their foundation in the fourth century AD.

All of them have special universal feast days set aside to celebrate their dedication. Their meaning is buried deeply in the consciousness of the Church. It is the mystery of the first and most powerful sign of the Church, UNITY. These churches are our churches. They bring the mystery of our Church's unity to us. every time we are reminded of their durable existence, we are brought closer to the eternal presence of Jesus among us. Most of us love St.Peter's Basilica. It is the one that we know because it is the "star" of the four. It is the spectacular one that is featured in pictures, almost like the ID card of the Latin Catholic church. It is the first one that tourists want to visit. It is the one that is the regular venue of large, public events. It is the one that contains pieces of priceless art that enrich all of humankind.

Yet, it is not the first in line in importance when it comes to its relationship with he more intimate workings, material and spiritual of the Church. That honor belongs to St. John Lateran. It is the oldest Basilica. It is the first "See" (chair) of the Bishop of Rome, who happens to be whomever is pope at the time. This is the First Church in line in the world of the Latin Church because it is the cathedral of the Pope in his official role as bishop of Rome. This means that it is the symbol of our faith not only of the apostolic succession starting with Peter followed by popes, bishops and priests but of David's Temple followed by all the great churches erected by the communities of people who followed the teachings of Jesus.

That is why we celebrate the dedication and consecration of these wonderful temples. We revere them just as we revere and respect other holy people and holy things in our lives as Catholics. We offer you these thoughts because we hope that they will enrich your lives as disciples of Christ who lives on in these signs of His love for us and our love for Him.
Now a little challenge to you all. Without looking it up, in Google or anywhere else, how many more churches that have an impact on the spiritual lives of the Communion of Saints can you name? Put your answer in the comment section and we will give a short comment about the history of the church that you name.