The meaning of the celebration
+ Today the Universal Church celebrates the anniversary of the dedication of the Basilica of Saint John “on the Lateran,” the cathedral church of Rome.
+ Originally the palace of the Laterani Family, the building was given to emperor Constantine who, in turn, gave the palace to the bishop of Rome. Constantine also oversaw the construction of a basilica dedicated to “Our Savior” and baptistry. Although the exact date is unknown, scholars think it happened sometimes during the reign of Pope Saint Meltiades (311-314). Over the centuries, the cathedral church was also dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist.
+ The present archbasilica is the result of several building and restoration campaigns that expanded the original church.
+ According an inscription placed on the church by Pope Clement XII, this church is “Mother and Head of all the churches of the City [of Rome] and the world.” The annual commemoration of its consecration was included in the missal approved by Pope Saint Pius V in 1570 and has been celebrated throughout the Church since that time.
+ This feast reminds us that each of us is united with the Church of Rome by special bonds of fidelity and obedience. The mother-church of Rome is also our mother and our spiritual home.
Among the relics enshrined in the basilica is a piece of a table that has long been believed to have formed part of a table at which Saint Peter presided as a eucharistic meal. This is housed in the graceful “ciborium” which stands over the high altar. Also enshrined in ciborium are two large busts of Peter and Paul which, according to tradition, contain the skulls of the saints. Various popes and saints are also entombed in the basilica, including Pope Innocent III (who approved the Franciscan Order), Blessed Pope Innocent V, Pope Leo XIII, and Saint John Leonardi.
“Today’s feast celebrates an ever-current mystery: that God desires to build himself a spiritual temple in the world, a community that adores him in spirit and truth (cf. John 4: 23-24). But this occasion reminds us also of the importance of the concrete buildings in which the community gathers together to celebrate God’s praises.”—Pope Benedict XVI
who from living and chosen stones
prepare an eternal dwelling for your majesty,
increase in your Church the spirit of grace you have bestowed,
so that by new growth your faithful people
may build up the heavenly Jerusalem.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.Access our archives of daily saint biographies here