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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Recalling A Wonderful Experience of Church

St. John Lateran--Main Entrance and Facade
   Yesterday the Church celebrated the Feast of the Dedication of the Arch-basilica of St. John at the Lateran.  For most this probably seemed like one of those liturgical oddities that creep up throughout the year, but for me it evoked beautiful memories.  I ministered there for seven months during the Jubilee Year of 2000.  To understand this church one need only to look at the Latin inscription on the outside of it--: "Sacrosancta Lateranensis ecclesia omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput"--The most holy Lateran Church, the head and mother of all the churches in the city and in the world.  This is the oldest standing Christian Church in the West and perhaps in the world. It is also the Pope's Cathedral as Bishop of Rome. Of course since it was built in 325 or so the Eucharist was celebrated in other places before then.  Nonetheless all other churches are historically connected to this, not only as buildings, but because, as the liturgy of the day tells us, the Church is made up of "living stones".

    I went there to serve as a confessor in three languages--English, Spanish and Italian. Our order has been entrusted with ministering the Sacrament of Reconciliation there for several centuries.  We have friars there permanently, but extras were needed for the jubilee and I volunteered to serve from June, 2000 to early January 2001 when the Jubilee ended.  As the weeks and months moved on my personal experience mirrored the history of the place.

    While I obviously cannot comment on things told to me in the confessional I can truly say that the role of this place as mother of all churches came alive in the variety of people that I met while celebrating this beautiful Sacrament. I literally encountered people from every continent and from countless countries who came there to find The Lord's mercy.   I also found that the structure of the basilica was a microcosm of the Church as a whole.  The pictures here tell some of the story.

 On the left you see the mosaic in the half dome.  At the bottom is the river Jordan, representing the waters of baptism from which the Church, depicted in some of its saints, grows.

    Below one sees the main aisle with immense statues of the 12 apostles, representing the Apostolic foundation of the Church.
Bernini's Pieta"
Confessionals--always busy
   To the left there is another aisle.  I suppose that Pope Francis would call it the Church's filed hospital.  You see in one picture the confessionals where I served during the jubilee and above you see Bernini's Pieta', not quite as beautiful as Michaelangelo's, but a place where women who had lost children to death came to pray.

Finally, I could not fine a picture for the aisle to the right but that was the place where various searchers and seekers milled around and perhaps entered a souvenir chop which is there.

  When you put all of that together you get a wonderful picture of what the Church is--a great mystery uniting in Christ saints, sinners and seekers alike.








Finally, if you would like to visit this basilica as well as others in Rome and Assisi, please join my pilgrimage in October, 2016

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