Archbishop Lori’s Homily: First Vespers; 200th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Basilica

First Vespers
200th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Basilica of the Assumption
August 14, 2021

The Basilica as a Sign 

Thank you for your presence as we begin the celebration of the patronal feast of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Bl. Virgin Mary, in short, America’s First Cathedral. I greet those present and those joining us via EWTN and livestreaming. We are blessed by the presence of Cardinal Dolan and Cardinal O’Brien, my brother bishops and priests, seminarians and religious, our Source of All Hope Missionaries, Members of the Basilica Historic Trust, Shelonda Stokes and Sofia Darsin of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, and the faithful of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and beyond.

In this bicentennial year, we celebrate not merely a building but that of which the building is a sign – and this Basilica is rich in meaning. To look at it from the outside, it a solid building with roots sunk deep in American soil, and with a neoclassical form appropriate to the spirit of our republic. In spite of its solidity, however, this Basilica is not earthbound. Gazing at the massive dome that is above us, we see it as a source of light, not mere earthly light, but the light of the Holy Spirit that filled the heart of Mary by whom she conceived the Word and then followed the Incarnate Savior as his first and best disciple – followed him to the foot of the Cross, to the joy of the Resurrection, to the table of the Eucharist, and thence to the glory of heaven. So, gazing again at the dome, it lifts our spirits upward, as if to say to us with wordless beauty that, if we follow Christ on earth, we, not unlike Mary, will reign with him in heaven.

This Basilica is no mere monument to history but is rather a living breathing parish, a place of reverent worship, Eucharistic adoration, intense missionary activity – a place where new generations are inspired, lifted up, and sent forth. This evening, as Cardinal Dolan sheds light on the history of this venerable place, let us pray that this historic basilica will continue to shed rays of divine glory on us, on every member of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and on our nation. And let us humbly ask the Virgin Mary, who has been exalted above all the heavens, to intercede for us before the Throne of Mercy and may God bless us and keep us always in his love.

Archbishop William E. Lori

Archbishop William E. Lori was installed as the 16th Archbishop of Baltimore May 16, 2012.

Prior to his appointment to Baltimore, Archbishop Lori served as Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., from 2001 to 2012 and as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington from 1995 to 2001.

A native of Louisville, Ky., Archbishop Lori holds a bachelor's degree from the Seminary of St. Pius X in Erlanger, Ky., a master's degree from Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg and a doctorate in sacred theology from The Catholic University of America. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Washington in 1977.

In addition to his responsibilities in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archbishop Lori serves as Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus and is the former chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.