Wednesday, 7th Week of Easter
Mass for the Baltimore Legatus Chapter
Basilica of the Assumption
May 19, 2021
200th Anniversary of the Basilica’s Dedication
It is a pleasure to welcome you once again to the Basilica of the Assumption, first, because we can once again be together, worshipping in person, and second, because this is a special moment in the history of this Basilica. On May 31st, we will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the dedication of this historic structure, America’s First Cathedral. Begun in 1806 by Archbishop John Carroll, the first bishop in the United States, the construction of the Cathedral was delayed by the War of 1812 and, of course, by the perennial problem, a lack of funds. The construction and decoration of the Cathedral was completed in 1821 under the watchful eye of the 3rd Archbishop of Baltimore, Ambrose Marechal, and it was he who consecrated this historic church for divine worship under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Assumption.
As most of you know, much U.S. Church history unfolded in this building, including the consecration of bishops who would serve in new U.S. dioceses, and the celebration of the provincial and plenary councils of Baltimore. In 2006, Cardinal William Keeler, 14th Archbishop of Baltimore restored the Basilica, capturing once again the genius of its original architect, Benjamin Henry Latrobe. When, nine years ago, I began my service as the 16th Archbishop of Baltimore, the Basilica had been damaged by an earthquake in 2011 and to my delight I discovered that the Basilica had earthquake insurance, so this masonry structure was stabilized, strengthened, and repaired.
In these days, another form of renewal is underway, namely, a spiritual renewal that is centered on the Eucharist, “The Source of All Hope”. Since his arrival as Rector, Fr. James Boric has sought in God’s grace to make this place the spiritual heart of the City of Baltimore and he is well on his way toward doing so. Father Boric has brought together young people from various places to lead lives of prayer and go into the streets of Baltimore to serve the homeless. Many people talk about “the problem of homelessness” but these young people actually know and love the homeless women and men who call the streets of Baltimore their home. Father Boric, with great diligence and persistence, has overseen the renovation of the music program of the Basilica, such that, on any given Sunday you would hear beautifully sung chant and polyphony, for the Rector rightly sees the connection between truth and beauty. Not coincidentally, the Basilica has given the Church religious vocations, several religious sisters and several seminarians, with more to come (no pressure there). Finally, on the occasion of its 200th anniversary, the Basilica will launch perpetual Eucharistic Adoration – 24/7 – here in the heart of Baltimore, the first urban parish to do so. Already, some 200 people have signed up as adorers, and I am confident that such continual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament will be the source of many blessings for the Archdiocese, for our City, and for the world. Thus, this building is not merely a monument to history but rather is a living, breathing community of faith that is young in spirit.
Our Consecration in Christ
Even as we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the consecration of this Basilica, we hear the Lord praying to the Heavenly Father on our behalf: “Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.” That prayer which Jesus uttered on behalf his Apostles, he now prays for us – for you and me who are his 21st century disciples, his ambassadors, if you will. To be consecrated in truth means more than giving the assent of our minds to the truths of the faith, vitally important as that is. Rather, just as this venerable building was consecrated, that is to say, wholly set aside and dedicated to the worship of God, so too we have been consecrated by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation, so that we might share in the Eucharist and offer to God spiritual sacrifices. Just as this building needs continual repair, so too the Lord has provided for you a program of maintenance, namely, the Sacrament of Reconciliation which is celebrated here each day, for we are God’s Temple, each of us, and though we have been consecrated in truth, we must keep our spiritual lives in good repair; we must keep ourselves pure and holy.
When we allow the Lord to consecrate us in his truth, in his word of truth, by absorbing the Word of God and by receiving the Eucharist worthily, then, like this venerable Basilica, we become ourselves spiritual centers, women and men of hope who, in turn, impart genuine hope to others, including our colleagues, many of whom are fallen-away Catholics. When, in the Holy Spirit, we are consecrated in the truth, we are able to speak about our faith and bear witness to it among the many people today who are spiritually homeless, many of whom are mired in the angry errors so characteristic of our times.
This evening, I want to thank you for taking your faith so seriously, for engaging in Legatus as a means of bringing to the fore your baptismal consecration to Christ, your call to holiness, your call to be agents and ambassadors of the Gospel in the world today. I pray that just as Benjamin Henry Latrobe made this building beautiful and strong, so too your faith may have a beauty and goodness that attracts and a strength that withstands the challenges of our times. And may God bless you and keep you always in his love!