Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Dedication of the Basilicas of Ss Peter and Paul: Looking upward


Fr Richard's words for the Optional Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Ss Peter and Paul

Looking upward

Why do we dedicate churches under the patronage of saints? It is a pertinent question to ask on a Feast like today. Some churches are dedicated to Our Lady, to a dogma of the Church, or to a particular title or attribute of Our Blessed Lord (e.g. the Holy Name of Jesus). But most churches are named after a patron saint. Firstly, because they direct us to give honour to those saints; to follow their example. A second reason comes to mind when reflecting on today's reading: the vision St John is given of heaven, where all the heavenly beings give praise to Lord who sits on the throne. For the churches dedicated to the saints direct us to look up; they entice us to seek to join them in the heavenly homeland.

The Papal Basilicas of Ss Peter and Paul have an obvious added significance - they are both built over the tombs of those two greatest apostles of Christ. St Peter's Basilica, originally built in 323, was reconstructed after one thousand years due to structural concerns. The current basilica was completed in 1626. St Paul's Outside the Walls was also built in the Emperor Constantine's time in the 4th century, but was destroyed by a fire in 1823. The present basilica was completed in 1854.

Whenever you step foot into these two monumental structures, your eyes are directed upwards. This is what churches are for - we step out of our world and into a glimpse of heaven, to remind us where we are destined. The central apse of St Paul's even has that stunning, striking, golden mosaic of the apostles on either side of Christ who sits on the heavenly throne. 

These two great basilicas of Christendom remind us to reject sin and stay close to Christ, so that we remain on the path to life eternal. We can ask for the intercession of Ss Peter and Paul, the princes of the apostles and foundations stones of the Church, to guide us to that heavenly homeland.

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