Cathedral architecture is ‘a statement of Christian identity,’ keynote speaker at Episcopal dinner says

Friday, September 16, 2022

By Marie Mischel

Intermountain Catholic

SALT LAKE CITY – The 2022 Bishop’s Dinner drew hundreds of people from across the Diocese of Salt Lake City to the Grand America Hotel Sept. 8 in support of the Magdalen Cathedral.

Guests included the Most Reverend Rick Lawson, Dean Emeritus of St. Mark’s Cathedral; D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his wife, Katherine; Khosrow Semnani, his wife, Ghazaleh and their son Taymour from the Semnani Family Foundation; Señor Jose Borjon, Consul of Mexico and his wife, Blanca; Laurel Dokos with the David Kelby Johnson Memorial Foundation; Tom and Mary McCarthey, representing the McCarthey Family Foundation; Msgr. Colin F. Bircumshaw, Vicar General of the Diocese of Salt Lake City; Msgr. J. Terrence Fitzgerald, vicar general emeritus; and many members of the clergy and religious of the diocese.

Msgr. Joseph M. Mayo, former rector of the cathedral, was the master of ceremonies. The Right Reverend Martin Diaz, the current Rector, delivered the opening prayer.

The gathering was “truly a blessing from God, to see church leaders and members of various religious denominations come together in a spirit of charity, friendship and brotherhood for a common and noble cause,” Bishop Oscar said. A. Solis, who delivered the closing address. Remarks. “Your support of the Cathedral of the Madeleine sends a very powerful message not only to this community but to our society and to the world, that of partnership in our common mission to bring the love of God to all, and to help build a better society and humanity together.

In his comments, Fr. Martin Diaz said that the support of those present at the dinner helps preserve the cathedral.

“As I like to say to Mgr. Mayo, we are only in the second centenary, ”said the father. Diaz said, prompting laughter from her audience. “The cathedral will be here in a hundred years. He will be there thanks to your support. It will be here because you have come forward, like the people a hundred years ago came forward and built what we have, so a generation…to the next generation, building and building and building, preserving what we have and taking him into the future.”

The guest speaker for the evening was Bishop Daniel H. Mueggenborg, Bishop of Reno, who spoke on statements made by cathedral architecture.

The legacy of the Magdalen Cathedral dates back more than 1,700 years to the first cathedral, the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, Bishop Mueggenborg said.

A Latin inscription on the basilica “makes a very bold statement”, he said. “It is this: ‘The mother and head of all the churches in the city and in the world.’ If this statement is true – and I believe it is – then every cathedral in the world inherits its identity from this ancient spiritual edifice…”.

For the first 300 years of Christianity, members of the faith could not own or develop property, so when they were finally able to build a cathedral, “they wanted their first place of public worship to be a statement of Christian identity in art and architecture, which distinguishes them from pagan cults and helps form them in mission,” the Bishop said.

One of the ways they did this was through the sheer size of the basilica; in ancient Rome, temples were small because only the priest entered while people stayed outside. However, Pope Sylvester I wanted the basilica to be large enough to hold the community, he said.

Cathedrals are great today “because they have to provide space for everyone”, he added. “It is part of their mission to include both saints and sinners, to welcome and accommodate all who are called by God and respond to that call. … When we exclude others, we are always less and never more.

Early Christians also made a central entrance to the basilica, unlike Imperial Roman temples, which had side entrances. A central entrance sends the message that “we are people on a journey, looking forward with hope to a future reality that we may never fully experience in this lifetime,” Bishop Mueggenborg said.

This message is important in today’s culture, which emphasizes instant gratification, but “we are here today, each of us, thanks to the generations who came before us and spent their lives working in hopeful expectation. … Just as we now enjoy the fruits for which our ancestors labored and sacrificed, we are called to do the same for future generations,” he said.

Another difference between Catholic cathedrals and pagan temples was that pagan temples were heavily ornamented on the outside, “but they were empty inside; dark, empty, hollow, corrupted rooms filled with little more than a lifeless statue of a deity,” he said.

In contrast, the original façade of St. John Lateran was relatively simple, “but the interior was radiant, beautiful and glorious. … When flooded with light from the 20 windows on each side, the Lateran Basilica was nothing less than a glimpse of the brilliance of heaven itself,” the bishop said, and that is become a symbol of the person of Jesus himself, “who appears humble and unassuming to those who pass by, but glorious to those who recognize in him the very presence of God.

In closing, the bishop asked those present to remember these lessons when they see the cathedral of the Madeleine: that its size is intended to offer a place to all, that its long central nave is a reminder of the journey of the life, “and remember, it’s not what’s on the outside that’s most important, but what’s on the inside. This message should inspire us to set our intention and efforts to become beautiful people, people of virtuous character, unwavering conviction and heroic integrity.