Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran

One of the problems of old age is forgetfulness.  Somehow, I forgot that I would be the principal celebrant for today’s Eucharist, so I didn’t prepare a homily.  But it wouldn’t be right to let this feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran go by without a few words about its importance. 

Why are we celebrating the feast of a building, a church?  Aren’t our celebrations meant to honor saints and our Lord?  Yes, they are.  But today’s celebration is a feast in honor of all Christendom, that means you and me, too.  Because the Lateran is the mother church of all churches, of all the descendants since the time when the Lateran became the first church where the popes celebrated Mass and resided for over a thousand years.  The Lateran was given to the people of God for their place of worship when persecutions ceased in the time of Constantine. It provided a place for Christians to celebrate the sacraments in complete freedom, the same freedom we enjoy in our times.

Today is also the anniversary of Kristallnacht, Nov. 9, 1938.  That was the night when freedom to worship was taken away from the Jews in Germany.  That night hundreds of synagogues were burned to the ground.  Seventy-five hundred Jewish-owned shops were destroyed.  Twenty thousand Jewish men were arbitrarily arrested and half of them were taken to Buchenwald concentration camp.1 Today we are seeing a resurgence of antisemitism around the world.  It forebodes ill for everyone’s freedom of religion.  May this feast of the Church of St. John Lateran remind us of the freedom we enjoy and give us determination to defend that freedom for all people. 

  1. “Give Us This Day” November Liturgical prayers and readings, Collegeville, MN.