He dwells among us: The cathedral of our heart

Holiness is a beauty that exceeds even the most beautiful cathedral in the world

Bishop Richard F. Stika

“You are God’s field, God’s building. …Each one must be careful how he builds upon it” (1 Corinthians 9:9, 10). As I watch the many construction workers laboring daily to give greater form and sacred detail to our new cathedral, these words of St. Paul come to mind. For each of us in our baptism is a temple of God. And just as our cathedral is being built up more and more each day into a beautiful house of God, so, too, must we strive, in our God-given dignity as an image of God, to be built up and adorned, in ever greater fashion, into His likeness.

In our modern age, a cathedral church can be designed and built in a relatively short number of years. But, like many of the world’s great churches in history, work continues for many decades beyond its dedication. Such will be the case after our new cathedral’s dedication on March 3, 2018.

When then-Archbishop Justin Rigali came to the Archdiocese of St. Louis in 1994 to be installed as its eighth archbishop, he and I toured its magnificent cathedral basilica. While groundbreaking for this house of God took place in 1907, the detailed interior work and the installation of its beautiful mosaics weren’t completed until 1988. The mosaics themselves consist of more than 41.5 million tiny glass tiles and more than 7,000 rich colors — the world’s largest mosaic collection.

How much more beautifully adorned than a cathedral should each of us be as a temple of God! Are we diligent or careless laborers of God’s temple? What adorns the interior of our heart’s temple?

Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen once observed that, “Of all the gifts God gives to man, the one He receives back the least is beauty,” for holiness is a beauty that exceeds even the most beautiful cathedral in the world. Holiness is the beauty and life of God Himself that should radiate in our hearts and in all we do. No matter our walk in life, each of us is called to grow in holiness — to allow God’s grace, His action, His holiness, to reign in us — so as to be crafted and fashioned more and more into what He is: love and beauty. Holiness is what builds up the body of Christ, the Church.

Here I find myself thinking of a master craftsman whom God Himself entrusted with a building project even greater than the Temple of Jerusalem that King Solomon built. I am referring to St. Joseph, a simple carpenter who built a humble home of timber and stone for Jesus and Mary in Nazareth. But it was the home that he first allowed to be built up within his heart, in cooperation with God’s will and good design, that was the most magnificent temple for God’s two most precious gifts to us. So, too, should it be with each of us.

Like our churches, we should have an interior crucifix from contemplating Christ’s passion and death for the love of us, and that moves us to say to Jesus, “How much my sins cost you, my Lord.” This crucifix should increase our desire to draw closer to the pierced heart of Jesus so as to drink frequently from the font of His love and mercy; the greater the image of this crucifix within us, the greater our desire to be crucified with Christ.

Is our heart lined, like the walls of our churches, with the Stations of the Cross that help us to journey with Christ, particularly in our sufferings, and that Holiness is a beauty that exceeds even the most beautiful cathedral in the world move us to be Veronicas and Simons of Cyrene in helping others in their struggles and with their crosses in life?

Is there an ambo where the word of God and the holy name of Jesus echoes within our cathedral heart, where we sing psalms to the Lord and intercede for the needs of the Church, of the poor and suffering in our community and in the world?

Is there an altar within our heart’s sanctuary where we make the offering of our very self with Christ, particularly in the holy sacrifice of the Mass? Do we join our sufferings to those of Christ for the love of others?

Do we seek the help of the saints, whose statues within our churches remind us that they are our special helpers in life? Most especially, do we seek the help of Mary, the Mother of God, and St. Joseph to help make a better home of our hearts for Jesus?

Is our cathedral heart adorned with the mosaics of the mysteries of our faith that help bring us closer to the experience of Christ in our lives? Do we desire to gild the tabernacle of our heart with our daily prayers, thanksgiving, and praise of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?

Is our heart a place of sacred silence, as it should be within our churches, where God speaks to us in the peace only He can give? Or is our heart filled with the noise of our worldly distractions? Is there sacred music that resonates our praise and thanksgiving of God, or is our temple filled with the songs of the world?

Is there a confessional in our heart where we make a daily examination of conscience that helps us to regularly seek the healing grace of sacramental confession? For if we do not feel the need to acknowledge and confess our sins, then we have no need of a Savior and Redeemer.

As you endeavor to cooperate with God’s good design for you as a beautiful cathedral where heaven and earth meet, know of my fervent prayers for all of you. May you seek the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, icon of the Church, and of St. Joseph, who helps us as a spiritual carpenter to become a more beautiful house of God.

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