Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I am writing today as your pastor to share with you an upcoming sanctuary restoration project for St. Mary’s Cathedral. The Cathedral is a beautiful church, and I was impressed with its beauty on the day when I was ordained as your bishop.
Its last complete restoration, in 1996, was the result of the dedication and much loving labor of the faithful and clergy of the Diocese, under the direction of my predecessor, Bishop James Sullivan. I have received numerous compliments from those who visit our diocese about the gift we have in our Cathedral.
The Eucharistic devotion practiced by the faithful of the diocese, and particularly the practice of perpetual adoration of our Lord in the Eucharist which takes place at the Cathedral, clearly indicate the centrality of the real presence of Jesus Christ to the lives of faith for those in the Cathedral parish and for the faithful throughout the Fargo diocese. The project that I present to you today is intended to further express, deepen and nourish our Eucharistic faith.
Church teaching reminds us that a diocesan cathedral “in the majesty of its building is a symbol of the spiritual temple that is built up in souls and is resplendent with the glory of divine grace. . . . The cathedral, furthermore, should be regarded as the express image of Christ’s visible church, praying, singing, and worshiping on earth. The cathedral should be regarded as the image of Christ’s Mystical Body, whose members are joined together in an organism of charity that is sustained by the outpouring of God’s gifts” (Apostolic Consititution Mirificus eventus).
Expanding the teaching
The Ceremonial of Bishops expands upon this teaching. “With good reason, then, the cathedral church should be regarded as the center of the liturgical life of the diocese,” it states. “The cathedral church should be a model for the other churches of the diocese in its conformity to the directives laid down in liturgical documents and books with regard to the arrangement and adornment of churches.”
The Cathedral church draws its name from the “cathedra,” the bishop’s chair, from where he teaches and presides at liturgies. There are four principal points of reference in the sanctuary of the Cathedral. The first three are used in the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass. First and most central is the altar. The altar is a sign for us of Christ and the place where His one sacrifice is made present and offered to the Father. Second is the ambo from which the Word of God, and most especially the Gospel, is proclaimed. Third is the bishop’s chair, the cathedra, from which the bishop presides at liturgy, and by his ordination, presides in the person of Christ, the head, bridegroom and shepherd of the church. The final point of reference is the tabernacle, which holds the real presence of Jesus Christ in the most holy Eucharist throughout the offering of the sacred liturgy and for prayer and adoration by the faithful.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, “The tabernacle was first intended for the reservation of the Eucharist in a worthy place so that it could be brought to the sick and those absent, outside of Mass. As faith in the real presence of Christ in his Eucharist deepened, the church became conscious of the meaning of silent adoration of the Lord present under the Eucharistic species. It is for this reason that the tabernacle should be located in an especially worthy place in the church and should be constructed in such a way that it emphasizes and manifests the truth of the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament” (CCC 1379).
In addition, paragraph 1183 teaches, “The tabernacle is to be situated ‘in churches in a most worthy place with the greatest honor.’ The dignity, placing and security of the Eucharistic tabernacle should foster adoration before the Lord really present in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar.”
To best emphasize visually “the truth of the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament” and to ensure that the tabernacle is placed “in a most worthy place with the greatest honor,” I have authorized the renovation of the Cathedral sanctuary in order to return the tabernacle to its original location at the back center of the sanctuary. Furthermore, the ambo will be given a greater prominence and the cathedra will be moved. These moves within the sanctuary will restore the placement of these symbols to the original design of the Cathedral.
Eucharist is central in design
The Cathedral’s original design, as well as the documents cited above, show clearly the central and unchanging elements of our theology of the Eucharist, both before and after the Second Vatican Council. As part of ongoing maintenance, I have asked that a new sound system be installed and that the architect look at renewing the color scheme for the Cathedral to enhance the beauty of the existing building. A proper railing will also be placed on the choir loft to insure safety.
Through the foresight of a previous bishop and the generosity of a member of the laity whose love for the church reaches well beyond his years of life on earth, the project can be undertaken with little to no financial burden upon the faithful of the diocese or the Cathedral. However, I invite you to consider what you can do, through prayer and resources, to assist with the restoration of the Cathedral.
Enclosed is information explaining the project and funding in further detail. Similar information will be included in the diocesan newspaper, New Earth, inviting the faithful throughout the Diocese of Fargo to join in prayer and support of this visible proclamation of our Catholic faith.
As your bishop, I quote John Paul II with this prayer for all of us: “Sustained by Mary, may the church discover new enthusiasm for her mission and come to acknowledge ever more fully that the Eucharist is the source and summit of her entire life.”
Sincerely yours in Christ, Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila, D.D., Bishop of Fargo