Dedication of St. Pius X Church, Granger
During this season of Lent, catechumens here and around the world are completing their final preparations to receive the sacraments at the Easter Vigil, when they will be washed in the saving waters of Baptism and confirmed with the sacred chrism. They will receive the Holy Eucharist and become dwelling places of the Lord. They will be consecrated to God as members of Christ’s Body, the Church.
This building is like our catechumens and today is like the Easter Vigil for this beautiful building made of stone, wood, steel, and tile. Already, the walls and the altar have been sprinkled with the holy water that is used in Baptism. Soon, the walls and the altar will be anointed with the same holy chrism that is used at Baptisms, Confirmations, and priestly ordinations. This building will thus become a church, a house of God. The Holy Eucharist will be celebrated and reserved here, making this place a true dwelling place of the Lord. At this Mass, this church is being dedicated and consecrated to the Lord. It will become a sacred building and reserved for sacred worship. And this block of stone will become an altar which henceforth will only be able to be used for the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Banquet of the Lord. Within it will be placed a relic of your holy patron, Pope Saint Pius X.
The dedication of Christian churches goes back to the early centuries of Christianity and even to the Old Testament. On the day when the great temple was consecrated in Jerusalem, King Solomon asked that the place might be specially blessed by the Lord. He prayed that God’s eyes would be fixed upon the temple and that His ears would be attuned to the prayers that would be offered there. God answered Solomon’s prayer for consecration by displaying His glory in the temple, filling it with smoke and incense, signs of His divine presence. Similarly, after this altar is consecrated today, smoke and incense will rise from it, as our prayers rise up to the Lord like incense. Like King Solomon, we pray that God will look upon this church, this temple, and that His ears will be attuned to the prayers that will be offered here today and for many years to come.
The Lord was present in the Jerusalem temple in the Holy of Holies which contained the Ark of the Covenant with the tablets of the ten commandments as well as the manna which fed God’s people in the desert. In this church, the Lord will be present in an infinitely more glorious way. By the power of the Holy Spirit, He will descend here every time the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered. Here the true bread from heaven, Jesus Himself, His Body and Blood will become present on the altar. And the Eucharist will be reserved in the tabernacle, making this place truly the dwelling place of the Lord, a new and more perfect Holy of Holies.
Tragically, the great temple of Jerusalem was ransacked and destroyed by the Babylonians. The people of God were taken captive and exiled to Babylon. After seventy years, thousands of the Jewish exiles returned to Jerusalem where they found their homes inhabitable and the holy city in ruins. But their first priority was not to fix up their homes or repair the city. Their first priority was to rebuild the temple. Divine worship was at the very heart and center of their community life. They rebuilt the temple first, a great witness to their faith and their devotion to God.
Thankfully, the old Saint Pius church was not destroyed, but will be converted for parish rooms and offices. You are returning from your exile in the school gymnasiums. The building of this new church is a testament to your faith and devotion to God, the centrality of prayer and worship in your parish community life. I am very grateful for your amazing generosity and the sacrifices you have made to build this new house of God, this beautiful temple of the Lord. It was King Solomon who led the people to build the first temple of Jerusalem, fulfilling the dream of his father, King David, who so carefully planned the building and its décor. I am very grateful to Monsignor Schooler who has been both your King David and King Solomon in this wonderful project.
Jesus prophesied that the Jerusalem temple, the second temple, would be destroyed and that He would raise it up in three days. He was speaking of the temple of His Body, Saint John tells us. This church and this dedication ceremony remind us that Christ’s Body is the true temple, the true altar, and the true sacrifice.
Jesus entered this world as man, making the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary His dwelling place, His temple. We can call Mary the true tabernacle of the Lord. Today, the Church throughout the world celebrates the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the day when, at the message of an angel, Mary consented to become the Mother of the Lord. The Holy Spirit overshadowed her and she conceived the Son of God in her womb. Mary became God’s temple in an incomparable way, the new ark of the covenant. What a fitting day for the consecration of this new church, the feast of the Annunciation! We can say that Mary was consecrated, made holy, to become the dwelling place of the Lord at her Immaculate Conception. And at the Annunciation, at the moment of the Incarnation, she truly became that dwelling place when she conceived Jesus in her blessed womb.
This Dedication Mass also reminds us that we who are sons and daughters of God, His holy people, the Church, became His temples when the Holy Spirit overshadowed us at our Baptism and Confirmation. Saint Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?… for the temple of God, which you are, is holy” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
Here in this church, the Word of God will be proclaimed and the divine mysteries will be celebrated in the sacraments. In this holy temple, the liturgy will be celebrated. The earthly liturgy celebrated here is a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the New Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims. The beauty of the architecture and art of this new church reminds us of the holy city, the heavenly Jerusalem, toward which we are making our way on pilgrimage. We heard these words from the letter to the Hebrews in our second reading: “You have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, and God the judge of all, and the spirits of the just made perfect, and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant.” The beautiful art, especially the images of the saints on the triumphal arch, each saint having special significance for this parish community, reminds us that we are on a pilgrimage to the heavenly Jerusalem. They remind us of our call to holiness. The example of the saint encourages us on our way to the Father.
Of course, Saint Pius X, whose image is seen in the beautiful new mosaic, is your special patron. I know you are devoted to this holy successor of Saint Peter. Saint Pius X has been called “the glorious pope of the Eucharist.” He encouraged daily reception of Holy Communion and moved the First Communion of children earlier, to the age of discretion. I am very happy that, in this new church, the chapel in the back of the sanctuary will be open 24 hours a day for visits and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. I know this will bring abundant fruits to Saint Pius Parish. Inspired by the Eucharistic devotion of Pope Pius X, I pray that your parish will be a model and center of Eucharistic piety in our diocese.
At the summit of the triumphal arch is the image of Christ, the Good Shepherd. This beautiful image of the eternal shepherd who never leaves His flock untended, reminds us that He watches over us and protects us always. It also reminds us that the Good Shepherd gives the Church shepherds to share in His mission and to continue His work, beginning with the apostles. Christ established the Church upon the foundation of the Apostles. The images of the Twelve Apostles in the nave and in the crossing remind us of the apostolic origins of the Catholic Church. This ceremony of Dedication recalls for us that the Church was, and remains, built on the foundation of the apostles. The walls of the church will be anointed with chrism in twelve places, signifying the twelve apostles. The Church, the Body of Christ, is apostolic, built on the foundation of the apostles, and continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided through their successors, the bishops.
The beautiful mosaic of Saint Peter and other images in this new church remind us that Christ chose Peter to be the head of the apostles. The Lord made Simon alone, whom He named Peter, the “rock” of His Church, as we heard in today’s Gospel. Jesus gave Peter the keys of the kingdom and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock. The Lord endowed Peter and his successors, including Pope Pius X, with the gift of primacy, to ensure and protect the unity of His Church. Jesus promised Peter that the gates of hell would never prevail against the Church. This church, with its images of Saint Peter and Saint Pius X, reminds us of this consoling promise.
In this beautiful temple of the Lord, you and many generations to come will be blessed by God’s grace and love. You will receive Holy Communion which Saint Pius X called “the surest and safest way to heaven.” You will be strengthened by the Eucharist to live the motto of Saint Pius X: “to renew all things in Christ.” Looking upon the beauty of this church, I pray that the beauty of Christ will shine forth from here, through your witness to Christ in the world. May all who pass by or visit this church and who admire its beauty, also, through your example of holiness, encounter the beauty and joy of following Christ in His holy Church! May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pope Saint Pius X, and all the saints intercede for you and all the generations to come who will worship here in this holy temple!