August 11, 2006

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul is
mother church of the archdiocese

I love to welcome parishioners from all over the archdiocese to our SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral. We gather from different parish communities from our 39 counties, but we share the same faith.

In the same way that each priest participates in the priesthood of the bishop as successor to the apostles, each parish, when it gathers for public worship, and in particular for the Eucharist, participates in the public worship of the diocesan Church.

In the Eucharist at which the bishop presides, the reality of the Church, as sacrament of Christ, is given its fullest and most complete expression.

The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy from the Second Vatican Council sees the Eucharist as celebrated in the diocesan cathedral (sometimes referred to as the “stational” Mass) as the exemplar of liturgical celebration: “all should hold in great esteem the liturgical life of the diocese centered around the bishop, especially in his Cathedral Church; they must be convinced that the preeminent manifestation of the Church is present in the full, active participation of all God’s people in these liturgical celebrations, especially in the same Eucharist, in a single prayer, at one altar at which the bishop presides, surrounded by his college of presbyters and by his ministers.”

Therefore, the office of bishop as teacher, sanctifier and pastor of his Church shines forth most clearly in a liturgy that he celebrates with his people at the cathedral.

Furthermore, the public worship of each parish is rooted in and depends on the fact that a diocesan bishop regularly presides at Eucharist with at least representatives of the whole diocesan Church present.

If we Catholics believe, as we do, that sacraments make happen what they represent, then we must understand the meaning and importance of the bishop as chief shepherd of a particular Church called a diocese, and we must see diocesan liturgical celebrations as its supreme sacramental representation.

This underscores the importance of the cathedral as the mother church of the archdiocese. In other words, the cathedral church is not just another parish church.

Cathedral celebrations are not just nice ornaments or solemn public displays for the inspiration of those who choose to attend. They are the local Church in action; they are the apostolic Church actualizing its mission in sanctification of the world, and glorification of God. All of us who are the Archdiocese of Indianapolis share a responsibility for the cathedral and for diocesan liturgical celebrations, even if we cannot be present personally at each one.

The cathedral is the place of the bishop’s chair. (Cathedra is the Latin word for chair.) In our Catholic tradition, the bishop’s chair represents the teaching office of the bishop. It is therefore a symbol of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic nature of our local Church. The cathedral belongs to everyone in our diocese.

The diocese is the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church in our 39 counties of central and southern Indiana. The archdiocese is all of us—the whole people of God who reside in these counties.

Every diocesan Church expresses the fullness of the apostolic Church in every part of the world. Since the Diocese of Vincennes was created, by papal decree in 1834, since the bishop’s cathedra was moved to Indianapolis in 1898, since we became an archdiocese in 1945, our particular Church shines forth as a unique manifestation of the unity and communion God seeks for all humanity.

Its archbishop, no matter who he is, stands for that unity and is the primary leader, teacher and priest for its realization. SS. Peter and Saint Paul Cathedral, the church which houses the archbishop’s chair, is itself a symbol of this unity.

Saint Peter and Saint Paul are such appropriate patrons for the mother church of an archdiocese or diocese because they were missionaries whose very blood flowed so that the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ could take root and flourish through the ages. Our cathedral patrons faithfully and courageously proclaimed Christ and his teaching by which our unity continues to be possible.

The austere little cathedral in Vincennes established by our founding bishop, the Servant of God Simon Bruté, was under the patronage of the great Jesuit missionary Saint Francis Xavier who later was named the patron of our archdiocese.

Like Francis Xavier, Bishop Bruté poured out his life as an apostle for the faith in our part of the world.

Since then, many priests, consecrated religious women (like Blessed Mother Theodore Guérin) and men, and lay folks together with our previous bishops, not only kept the Catholic faith, but promoted it under challenging circumstances.

We carry their heritage forward today.

Surely both our patron and our founding bishop are proud of the particular Church of Indianapolis. †


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