Tony Worner, Leader of Formation at St Agnes’ Catholic Parish joins us this week for our Gospel reflections.
Today with the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, the sequence of reading from Luke’s Gospel is interrupted and Tony reads from the Gospel of John (2:13-22) in which Jesus clear the temple of money changers and market stalls.
The Lateran Basilica, the dedication of which we celebrate today, is also known as the Church of the Holy Saviour or the Church of John the Baptist.
Tony notes that people may ask why the Church has a special day in the liturgical calendar to celebrate a building, albeit a Basilica. Normally, the Church’s liturgical calendar designates feast days, solemnities and memorials to honour something about the life of Jesus, Mary and the saints – people, not buildings.
So, what’s special about the Lateran Basilica or more specifically, the St John Lateran Basilica? Tony says there are three things, among others, we need to know about the Basilica that it gets its own day on the liturgical calendar:
Firstly, it’s the Pope’s Church. Many people think that it is actually St Peter’s that is the Pope’s Church. St John Lateran is the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome where the Bishop of Rome (now Pope Francis) resides. But it’s not just the Pope’s Church. St John Lateran is a parish church for every Catholic in the world, and thus a spiritual home for all of us.
Secondly, it is Christendom’s earliest basilica. Constantine’s rise to power ended the bloody persecution of early Christians in the Roman Empire. The Edict of Milan in 313, allowed Christians the freedom they desired as well as legal recognition. Constantine also restored property to Christians. He ordered the construction of and funded basilicas over the tombs of early Christian martyrs, and this particular Church was where everyone in ancient Rome was baptised.
Thirdly, it holds the unique title of “Archbasilica”, or ‘the Mother of all Churches’, as it the oldest and highest ranking of the four major basilicas in the western world. The others being: St Peter’s Basilica, the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, and the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.
Tony says this feast day reminds us of our Catholic heritage, the significant role the dedication of the Lateran Basilica played in that heritage and the courage of those first followers of Christ and the importance of uniting ourselves to the Holy See. As the pope is our universal pastor, the Lateran Basilica is our universal church.
Tony concludes with an extract from the traditional Anima Christi prayer and invites us to pray…
Soul of Christ, sanctify me. Body of Christ, save me. Blood of Christ, inebriate me. Water from the side of Christ, wash me. Passion of Christ, strengthen me. O Jesus, hear me.