In my article in last week’s edition of The Weekly, I talked about what makes a cathedral a cathedral. Its not about size, beauty, or architecture, which in many cases are prominent features of a cathedral, but what makes a cathedral is one thing: a chair. Now, it is not just any chair, it is the bishop’s chair or cathedra in Latin, from which a cathedral church derives its name and prominence. The cathedra is a symbol of the bishop’s authority over a local church (diocese) and because of the location of the cathedra in a cathedral, it gives a cathedral church its special status in a diocese as the mother church of the diocese. The cathedral in each diocese is “the bishop’s church. ” A cathedral’s place in the life of a diocese is so special that the anniversary of it s dedication is celebrated each year in ever y parish as a feast. This is true in our diocese on December 2nd, formerly October 14th before the restoration and rededication; in the Cathedral parish, the anniversary of the dedication is a solemnity.
A cathedral being the “mother church” means that, generally, certain special events happen within its walls; this is true of our Cathedral church. Important Masses and celebrations throughout the year occur here such as the Chrism Mass during Holy Week when the new holy oils are blessed for the year and the priests of the diocese renew their priestly commitment to God and the Church. The ordination of deacons and priests takes place in the Cathedral as well as the ordination and/or installation of a new diocesan bishop. Other special events in the life of the diocese happen in the Cathedral as well, such as the yearly Mass for couples celebrating 50+ years of marriage, the annual Mission Mass celebrated with school children throughout the diocese, and the Rite of Election for Catechumens and the Call to On-Going Conversion for those who seek to be received into the Church at Easter.
In almost every case, the diocesan bishop celebrates these special celebrations in a cathedral. Having received the sacrament of Holy Orders three-fold, a bishop in his own person is the fullness of the priesthood, being deacon, priest, and bishop. The bishops are the successors of the Apostles and they are the guardians of what is termed “Apostolic Succession,” meaning that they hand on from generation to generation the sacrament of Holy Orders to deacons, priests, and other bishops assuring the on-going sacramental life of the Church. The bishops are also the body of authoritative teachers in the Church called the Magisterium. Collegially and individually, they are to strive to protect and preserve the truth of the Faith as given by the Lord Jesus and revealed by the Holy Spirit.
Most bishops are given the ministry of being a diocesan bishop, meaning that they are charged with shepherding a section of the people of God known as a diocese. As our diocesan bishop, Bishop Paprocki is not the pope’s representative here, but rather, he is the representative of Christ himself. As a successor of the Apostles and as our diocesan bishop, Bishop Paprocki unites us to the greater Church in his obedience to and communion with the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, who is the successor of St. Peter, the apostolic head of the Church as designated by the Lord Jesus.
It is the special ministry of the diocesan bishop, combined with his special relationship with the cathedral church, that gives a cathedral its unique place among other churches, making a cathedral truly the mother church of a diocese
Father Christopher House is the Rector-Pastor of the Cathedral and serves in various leadership roles within the diocesan curia, specifically Chancellor and Vicar Judicial.