By George P. Matysek Jr.
Six years after the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was restored to its original architectural glory, America’s first cathedral is again stepping into the spotlight.
Cardinal-designate Edwin F. O’Brien unveiled a new video Feb. 9 at the Catholic Center in Baltimore that highlights the basilica’s historical and religious significance. The video, which is accessible on YouTube, is expected to become a major educational resource for parishes, schools and other church and civic institutions.
“We pass that beautiful basilica every day,” Cardinal-designate O’Brien told a morning gathering of archdiocesan employees, “and many of you go into it to pray silently or to join in at Mass. Sometimes, we take very valuable things for granted.”
Cardinal-designate O’Brien said he hoped the video, produced by John F. Ball Productions, Inc., would raise awareness about the basilica’s place in history as a symbol of religious freedom and a model of architectural splendor.
Constructed from 1806-1821, the basilica incorporated natural light and other elements that highlighted the young nation’s embrace of religious liberty. Benjamin Henry Latrobe, architect of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., designed the basilica – incorporating the vision of Archbishop John Carroll.
The basilica was the site for historic gatherings of U.S. bishops. Among those who have prayed there include Blessed Pope John Paul II, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew.
Dr. Barbara McGraw Edmondson , superintendent of Catholic Schools, said the video will be shown in Catholic schools. Lesson plans will be drawn up to help teachers use the video in their classrooms, she said.
“One of the places where it (will have a) wonderful impact would be in our fourth grades,” she said, “because we study Maryland history there.”
Sean Caine, archdiocesan spokesman, said the video may also become a good resource for historic neighborhood associations, tourism groups and more.
Cardinal-designate O’Brien, who has worked on other projects with the production company that made the video, said the cost of the production was funded through a grant.
“They pack a lot in there – verbally and visually,” he said. “That’s its effectiveness.”
Watch the Cardinal-designate O’Brien talk about the video:
Watch the Basilica video: