From Our Pastor...

Posted on November 09, 2023 in: Pastor

Dear Parishioners:

This past Thursday on November 9, the church celebrated the feast of the dedication of the basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome. According to the breviary, the Church building was originally established by the emperor Constantine and the memorial of its dedication has been celebrated on this date since the twelfth century.

Most Catholics think of St. Peter’s as the pope’s main church, but they are wrong. It is the basilica of St. John Lateran which is actually home to the Pope’s cathedra, or seat of Office. Since St. John Lateran is home to the cathedra of the bishop of Rome, it is therefore the cathedral Church of the diocese of Rome, and thus the Pope’s true cathedral

The basilica of St. John Lateran was built in the fourth century when Constantine donated land he had received from the wealthy Lateran family. The official dedication of the Basilica and the

adjacent Lateran Palace was presided over by Pope Sylvester I in 324, declaring both to be Domus Dei or "House of God." In its interior, the Papal Throne was placed, making it the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. In reflection of the basilica's claim to primacy in the world as "mother church", the words Sacrosancta Lateranensis ecclesia omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput (meaning "Most Holy Lateran Church, of all the churches in the city and the world, the mother and head") are incised in the front wall between the main entrance doors.

The Lateran Palace and basilica have been rededicated twice. Pope Sergius III dedicated them to Saint John the Baptist in the 10th century in honor of the newly consecrated baptistry of the

Basilica. Pope Lucius II dedicated the Lateran Palace and basilica to Saint John the Evangelist in the 12th century. However, St. John Baptist and St. John the Evangelist are regarded as co-patrons of the Cathedral, the chief patron being Christ the Savior himself, as the inscription in the entrance of the Basilica indicates, and as is tradition in the patriarchal cathedrals.

Pope Innocent X commissioned the present structure in 1646. One of Rome’s most imposing churches, the Lateran’s towering facade is crowned with 15 colossal statues of Christ, John the

Baptist, John the Evangelist and 12 doctors of the Church. Beneath its high altar rest the remains of the small wooden table on which tradition holds St. Peter himself celebrated Mass.

In a sense, St. John Lateran is the parish church of all Catholics, because it is the pope's cathedral. This church is the spiritual home of the people who are the Church. St. John Lateran is not simply an ordinary diocesan cathedral on the same level as, say, our cathedral here in St. Louis—it is rather the “mother Church of Christendom.”

This is why the feast of the dedication of St. John Lateran is a feast for the Universal Church, and not just for one diocese (as would be the case for the anniversary of a normal diocesan cathedral’s dedication) or for one parish (as would be the case for an ordinary Church).

Thus, the Basilica remains dedicated to the Savior, and its titular feast is the Transfiguration. That is why sometimes the Basilica will be referred to by the full title of Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior and of Sts. John Baptist and John Evangelist in the Lateran.

Prayer from St. Augustine on this feast day: "What was done here, as these walls were rising, is

reproduced when we bring together those who believe in Christ. For, by believing they are hewn out, as it were, from mountains and forests, like stones and timber; but by catechizing, baptism and instruction they are, as it were, shaped, squared and planed by the hands of the workers and artisans. Nevertheless, they do not make a house for the Lord until they are fitted together through love.”

God’s Blessings!

Msgr. John Shamleffer