Celebrating Buildings: The Lateran Basilica and Your House Too

When is your house’s feast day? My house’s is November 9, the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, which is the pope’s cathedral in Rome.

Essentially, it’s the feast day of a building. It also happens to be the anniversary of our house’s enthronement to the Sacred Heart. But it is the perfect day to celebrate any house, because it is a reminder from the Church of what a house can be.

The Lateran Basilica is dedicated to St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, but it is named for the Laterani family, whose palace once stood there. That’s significant: A family name can be as significant as a saint’s name, and a house can be as significant as a church. So celebrate yours!

First, celebrate your house because the Church was founded on households.

It happened over and over in the Ealy Church, as recounted in the Book of Acts: people don’t convert, “households” convert.

Peter encounters Cornelius and his righteous household and soon Peter is delivering a message to the Gentiles “by which you will be saved, you and all your household.” Later, Paul and Silas tell their repentant jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.Then, Crispus, a Jewish leader “believed in the Lord, together with all his household.”

After all, says the Catechism, “Christ chose to be born and grow up in the bosom of the holy family of Joseph and Mary,” and “The Church is nothing other than ‘the family of God.’” It stands to reason that the Church would be made up of households. “These families who became believers were islands of Christian life in an unbelieving world.”

Second, celebrate your house as an island of light in the darkness.

As autumn falls and the season of lights approaches, we can remember that Christianity filled homes with a new light.

In ancient Greece and Rome, children could be discarded as newborns who were unwanted, women were mostly barred from worship, and life for men was marked by violence and cruelty. Christianity brought a new dignity to the family, and the good news of Christian family life spread around the world.

Today, family dysfunction, despair and distrust are growing again, and the world badly needs Christian witnesses. “In our own time, in a world often alien and even hostile to faith, believing families are of primary importance as centers of living, radiant faith,” says the Catechism.

When Vatican II called the Church “the light of the nations” it added that the family is “the domestic church” where that light shines in neighborhoods.

Third, celebrate your house as a “school of virtue.”

Families are “the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children,” says the Catechism, and adds, “the home is the first school of Christian life and ‘a school for human enrichment.’”

The way we live our life teaches our family members how to live their lives.

  • Our cheerfulness teaches “endurance and the joy of work.”
  • Our gentleness teaches “fraternal love [and] generous — even repeated — forgiveness.”
  • Our generosity teaches “prayer and the offering of one’s life.”

If all goes well, the family will “encourage … the vocation which is proper to each child,” including religious vocations.

Fourth, celebrate your house as a place of unconditional love.

The family is different in kind from any other place on earth, now more than ever.

“The individual today is often suffocated between two extremes represented by the marketplace and the state,” St. John Paul II pointed out. The world dehumanizes us as either a “producer and consumer of goods, or as an object of state administration.”

We find ourselves only in the family, through “the mutual support of husband and wife and the care which the different generations give to one another.”

The world always wants something from you. Your family doesn’t. They just love you. This is why the favorite stories in human history from the Odyssey to the Wizard of Oz to Toy Story are about characters who struggle and strive, ultimately, to go home.

And this is why I’ll celebrate that house on the corner this November 9, a place where I am always welcomed, accepted, and loved.

 

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Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II, The Fatima Family Handbook and What Pope Francis Really Said, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He lives in Atchison, Kansas, with his wife, April, and has nine children.