On October 24, 1906, the solemn consecration and dedication of Saint Paul Cathedral with its patron, Saint Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. With much fanfare and celebration the outside walls were sprinkled with salt and water and the inside walls were anointed with oil – in twelve places – in honor of the 12 apostles – each spot marked with a cross representing the Blessed Trinity and a metal clasp to hold a candle – 12 of them that are lit each year on the anniversary of the dedication – affirming that the Cathedral continues to be the sign of Christ’s light to the world. On October 24, 2017, we celebrate the 111th anniversary of this magnificent Cathedral Church ─ the Mother Church of our diocese. In a special way we remember several groups of people. First, we remember those whose sacrifices have made all of this possible – bishops, our former pastors and clergy, religious, lay faithful, all those whose labors and vision built this Cathedral – and all those benefactors who have helped to sustain it. Second – we remember Bishop Zubik, the Shepherd of this diocese, whose Cathedral this is – his chair stands as a constant reminder to us to pray for him and his ministry – as well as all the faithful of this diocese. Third – we remember today all the members of our parish family who bring such life and vitality each and every day to this Cathedral and to the work of faith. We remember so many who give of their time and talent in service to our parish . So often this work may go unseen but it is so important – each and every act is an act of love, given in service to God and his people.
From the beginning of God’s relationship with his chosen people, there have been those holy places that are filled with divine presence – the tent with the Ten Commandments, the Temple of Solomon, the catacombs, churches and cathedrals over many generations – these are the physical, concrete signs, of God’s almighty presence. The beauty and magnificence speak to the deeper realities for our love of God, of our awe at his majesty, our reverence, and devotion at his care for us. Yes, Saint Paul Cahthedral is a majestic building – architecturally and artistically stunning – but it is first and foremost a house of prayer. It is that place where we are met and embraced by the saving love of God. It is where we are sustained by the sacramental life of the Church : baptisms that bring new life, confession that lifts our sins away through the mercy of God, confirmation that strengthens us in the Holy Spirit; the anointing the sick that heals and strengthens us in our illness; marriage that forms that bond of life-long love, ordinations that configure a man to Christ for service to his people; and the Eucharist that feeds and nourishes us with the Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. This is our spiritual home and it speaks as well, to our eternal home that awaits us in heaven. The Church looks to the final fulfillment that awaits each of us and the whole of creation in the Kingdom of God.
But this feast is more than a commemoration of a building. Buildings come and go – it is hard to imagine that this Cathedral would ever not be here – but they thought the same with the Temple in Jerusalem. St. Augustine said “Every time we gather to celebrate the dedication of the Church, we also recall that we ourselves are temples of the Holy Spirit.” Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” St Peter calls us the living stones, the stones God uses to construct His Kingdom. The foundation or cornerstone is Jesus Christ, but we are his Body, the Church. The Second Vatican Council spoke of us as the people of God, each of us is called to build the edifice of holiness, faith, love and grace in our lives. Buildings are secondary to the faith that underlies them. The Cathedral is a living monument, not a museum. It is alive because it brings us into the presence of God. It leads us to faith in Jesus Christ and to embrace our neighbor in love. The Church invites us into a living, personal encounter with Jesus Christ and calls us to be a chosen race, a holy nation, a people set apart. Our patron Saint Paul is a special source of inspiration and grace to us – both as a parish family and individually. He knew the grace of God that led him to conversion and to faith; he knew his need for God’s grace . He endured many sufferings and trials but was always filled with such joy and courage as he set out to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to everyone. This is the same call of Pope Francis to each of us as believers – to be joyful witnesses of the Gospel – leading others to the mercy and love of God through our conviction and joyful spirit.
Yes we rejoice in the magnificence of this building today as we celebrate the 111th anniversary of its dedication; but in doing so we are challenged to look more deeply into our own hearts. How well are becoming the living stones that Christ needs to build up his Body, The Church, through our faithfulness, our charity, our courage and joy, in giving witness to all we believe as we seek to live our faith each and every day?