ST. JOSEPH'S BASILICA: THE BISHOP'S CHURCH
A Cathedral Church is not merely another church, distinguished vaguely by greater beauty and more massive proportions. As its very name indicates, it is the seat of the Church’s magisterium. The bishop’s chair of truth stands next to the altar of sacrifice. It is, in an especial sense, the bishop’s church. In fact, the names of ‘Cathedral’ and ‘bishops’ are inseparable in their respective connotations. It is the bishop who presides over public worship. It is the bishop who interprets authoritatively the gospel of Jesus Christ. The authority which he exercises is not arbitrary or self-assumed; neither is it a response merely to historical exigencies. It comes to him in unbroken sequence from the Apostles, to whom it was originally confided by Christ Himself.
That the Church is hierarchical in its structure is abundantly clear from the testimony of the Scriptures. It is built on the foundation of the apostles, with Christ Himself as the chief cornerstone. To know the mind of Christ we need only to recall His own words and actions. It was not to self-appointed men that the message of the gospel was entrusted; nor was it left to some haphazard interpretation; nor were the same power and authority given to all Christ’s followers.
Christ appointed the Apostles, as His duly accredited representatives. To them and their successors He committed the responsibility of giving continuity to His mission. For three years He trained them in His own company; then He identified them: with Himself, giving them charge over His Mystical Body in the power to forgive sins, and over His Eucharistic Body in the power to consecrate the bread and wine. In St. John we read: “As the Father has sent me, so I also send you.” In St. Luke: “He who hears you, hears me; he who rejects you, rejects me, rejects him who sent me.” In St. Matthew: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
Now, what Christ ordained, the apostles faithfully put into practice. In the Acts of the Apostles we read that St. Matthias was chosen to take the place of Judas. At Ephesus, St. Paul instructs the leaders of the Church: “Take heed to yourselves and to the whole flock in which the Holy See has placed you as bishops, to rule the Church of God.” Peter is followed at Rome by Clement. St. Paul appoints Timothy to rule the Church at Ephesus; Titus is sent to Crete. Everywhere it is the same.
The Church lives, moves, and has its principle of unity in the episcopate. Clement, Polycarp, Ignatius Martyr, all bear the same testimony. To the Tralians, Ignatius writes concerning Polybius their Bishop: “It is your entire Church that I contemplate in his person …you and your bishop must have only one and the same thought…for where the bishop is, there also the Catholic community must be.”
Rector of St Joseph’s Basilica from 1949-1965