Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

The Dedication of St. John Lateran

OK, so most of you probably know that St. John Lateran isn't a person, but a place. It is the cathedral of the diocese of Rome, and its last name is in reference to its location: the Lateran hill. It was a government administration building and was given by the Emperor Constantine to Pope Sylvester I in AD 324. The church building is referred to as omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput, which means, "mother and head of all the churches of city and of the world."

Before 324, Christians had gathered for Mass and for community functions in rented facilities or in homes. Anything they had purchased collectively might be confiscated during periodic persecutions. This gift by the emperor marked the beginning of Christianity's stability and security in the world. The gift of the church building to the Church is important because it was the first time that a whole society, in the person of its ruler, gave tribute to the Church. The gift marks the beginning of the period known as Christendom, during which the unifying principle of the West was Jesus Christ and His Church. Christendom would undergo bumps and bruises, to be sure. Barbarian invasions, Viking raids, conquest by Muslims, heresies, conflict between Church and state would all scrape against the Church. For over a thousand years, though, Jesus Christ was the unifying principle, the center of gravity, of Europe. In the last few hundred years, the Nation-State has taken His place in peoples' hearts and minds throughout the West. Now, even more pathetically, it seems that political parties and sporting clubs have taken over.

In celebrating today's solemn feast, we pay tribute to Rome, the head church of the Church, to whom ultimate responsibility is given for governance of the Church and evangelization of the world, who nurtured the Roman Rite celebrated by more than half of Christians worldwide, who provided thousands of martyrs to water the seedbed of faith with blood. As we enter darker times, in which leaders in Europe and America seek to disavow our Christian past so as to shrug off the duties of Christian morality, we can expect to run into the same difficulties that our forebears encountered. We can expect to have church buildings and property confiscated following trumped-up or fraudulent accusations, as happened during Roman days. We shall only be able to endure these things if we nurture ourselves with the love of God and through sincere piety and charity, through commitment to justice and striving for peace. We must, as our times grow darker, bind ourselves tighter to each other and tighter to our head, Jesus Christ, and to His Vicar on earth, the Holy Father.

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