Catholic Cathedrals As “Seers”

November 21, 2010

A REPRINT

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, NY was rededicated by Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, D.D., on Sunday, November 21, 2010. The event provided our Diocese with an opportunity to focus on the meaning of a cathedral in the 21st century. This  article was the last ina series of three written for the parishes and institutions of the Diocese of Albany.

Some decades ago a religious building in downtown St. Louis, Missouri was becoming a victim of urban gentrification. The Christ Church Episcopal Cathedral was not only deteriorating it was losing members because of the socio-cultural changes in the neighborhood. Edwin Lynn described that Cathedral in the title of his book as a Tired Dragon. However, rather than sell and move to the suburbs the Cathedral board decided to stay put, energize the people and invest in the building.

That Cathedral congregation began to imagine the possibilities for the future. It realized it needed a new vision to survive. First, the Cathedral building itself was stabilized and restored, a project that attracted new members. The enhanced and flexible interior made it possible to celebrate liturgies in diverse ways. Along with its many programs, the Cathedral building became a prominent voice in the public square. It was envisioned that the Cathedral could be a place not only for congregational gatherings but also a place for neighborhood meetings, a center for interfaith events and ecumenical discourse.

In many ways the cathedrals of yesteryear were places of imagination — where liturgy, architecture, music and all the arts could flourish; where civic problems could be addressed; where downtrodden people could imagine living anew; where scientists and theologians could wrestle with spiritual and ethical issues and where religion could take its rightful place in the political forum.

Our Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception with its refurbished interior and its proximity to civic, artistic, medical and university centers has the potential to join hands with many allies addressing issues that pertain to the quality of life. Although our Cathedral still requires more work it can be a model for parishes and institutions in our Diocese working together to experience an amazing God.

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Catholic Cathedrals As “Servants”

November 21, 2010

A REPRINT

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, NY was rededicated by Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, D.D., on Sunday, November 21, 2010. The event provided our Diocese with an opportunity to focus on the meaning of a cathedral in the 21st century. This  article was the second of three written for the parishes and institutions of the Diocese of Albany.

Between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries in France tons of stone were quarried for the building of some 80 cathedrals according to Jean Gimpel in his book The Cathedral Builders. These giant edifices were constructed as examples of the powerful presence of the Catholic religion in pre-Reformation times. Funded by wealthy patrons, built by guilds and staffed by religious personnel these cathedrals served as the centers of civilization. In some areas they were so big the entire population of the town could gather inside.

The cathedral of yesteryear was a busy, multi-tasking servant. Many diverse activities took place within its hallowed walls. The primary event of course was prayer. The Eucharist and other sacraments along with the Divine Office were celebrated with the townspeople. Often built like fortresses, the building provided shelter and security especially when the village was raided by bands of outlaws or even large armies. The cathedral was also a hospital where people could be treated for various illnesses. They were packed during plagues. Festivals of crafts, music, drama and food were also held inside and outside these large halls.

Similarly, Cathedrals in the United States continue the tradition of serving the population living in the shadows of their spires, the daily visitors who work nearby and the pilgrims who journey from afar. Along with a vibrant liturgical life many of these modern day servants sponsor education programs, concerts and art exhibits. Outreach programs like food pantries, soup kitchens, counseling services and second hand clothing stores are often housed in the cathedral itself or a nearby facility.

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is in an ideal location in downtown Albany, New York. There it can serve not only its parishioners but also other people seeking day to day sustenance and spiritual nourishment. New life has been breathed into our Cathedral building. Now, new life can be breathed into all the people it serves.


Catholic Cathedrals as “Symbols”

November 21, 2010

A REPRINT

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, NY was rededicated by Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, D.D., on Sunday, November 21, 2010. The event provided our Diocese with an opportunity to focus on the meaning of a cathedral in the 21st century. This  article was the first of three written for the parishes and institutions of the Diocese of Albany.

Did you know that the Pope’s cathedral is not St. Peter’s Basilica but the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome? This building, once a palace owned by the Laterani family, was consecrated in the year 324 CE and has served as the location of the official chair of the pope ever since. The word cathedral is taken from the Latin word cathedra, which is translated as “chair.” There is a cathedral in every Catholic diocese throughout the world. Because of the“chair” each cathedral is a symbol of the unity between the local diocese and the leader of the global Catholic Church. The chair is also a symbol of the local bishop’s ministry as a teacher and pastor. Bishops preside from the cathedra during all liturgies and when they make statements affecting the life of the diocese entrusted to them.

Further, according to The Ceremonial of Bishops, the local cathedral “is a symbol of the spiritual temple that is built up in souls and is resplendent with the glory of divine grace.” (Ceremonial No. 43.) What does it mean for us, the members of this Diocese, to understand our Cathedral as a symbol of who we are? In scripture we read that we are the living stones that build up the spiritual temple on earth (1 Peter 2). In doing so we advance the kingdom of God already here on earth even though it is incomplete.

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is a symbol of the people of God, all the members of the Diocese of Albany. Every baptized person is, in some way, spiritually connected to the Cathedral. Spiritual temples, however, are empty if they are not places where the work of God is evident.

The symbolic and real identity of a Cathedral is energized when all members of a Diocese participate together in the work of Jesus Christ. Even though our Cathedral is far away from many parishes in this Diocese, it stands as powerful reminder of the calling each of us has received from God to put our faith into action.