Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, dedicated the new church and altar of St. Paul's Parish in Richmond June 18. Here is an excerpt of his homily that day.

Dear Monsignor Luterbach, brother priests and deacons, and dear parishioners and friends in Christ of St. Paul Parish:

“I rejoiced when they said to me, ‘Let us go unto the house of the Lord!’” (Ps. 122).

With these words of rejoicing sung as we entered the church, I once again greet all of you taking part in this splendid celebration on “this day [which] is holy to the Lord your God” (Neh 8:9). The Almighty has gathered us here this evening to dedicate this beautiful new church, which rises as a sign of God’s living presence here in Richmond, and as a sign of our confidence that the Lord will ever remain with us.

The words of the Psalmist well describe the emotions filling our hearts. After long years of preparation, under the determined guidance of Monsignor Luterbach, your patient endurance has been rewarded. I wish to thank sincerely all of you: above all Monsignor Luterbach, you, the parishioners, the architects, contractors, workers, members of the Pastoral Council, Finance Council and Building Committee and the countless others who shared in this great undertaking of your parish family. 

Thank you for your commitment, dedication and sacrifice which have brought us to this day. It is the handiwork of the whole parish community, a genuine manifestation of a dynamic laity and pastor working and praying in cordial cooperation for the sake of the Church.

From now on, and for generations to come, this church will serve as the place where the faithful will gather to celebrate the Liturgy, where the self-offering of Christ in the Sacrifice of the Mass will be made present, and where, in your Chapel of Adoration, the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament will dwell.

Here you have a “sacred space,” in which you will ponder in the cycle of the Church’s liturgical year the “sacred time” of salvation history from Creation to the Lord’s Coming in glory. It is a place dedicated to prayer and the worship of God, a place for gratitude, for prayer, for baptizing, for forgiveness, for nurturing, for marrying, for healing, for listening, and, I daresay, a place for silence.

Christ, the One Foundation

While this church is beautiful in its design and noble in its construction, we nonetheless acknowledge that it is Christ Jesus, who is its foundation (1 Cor 3:11) and cornerstone (cf. 1 Pt 2:7). It is he who supports this church building by his grace and power.

This structure serves as a symbol of the living Church, the Christian community, which is the “spiritual building” constructed by God with the “living stones” of believers, each of which is necessary and precious (cf. 1 Cor 3: 9-11, 16-17; 1 Pt 2: 4-8; Eph 2: 20-22). Even more pleasing to the Lord than this splendid edifice are the people who make up the “spiritual house” (1 Pt 2:5), the members of his Body, which is the Church. Here you will listen to the Word of God with the assurance that it is the message that the Lord has given us. Here you will encounter the living Lord in his Sacraments, “which are the open windows through which the light of God is given to us, streams from which we can draw God’s very life.”[1] 

The Altar

The altar is appropriately in the centre of the sanctuary, the centre toward which the congregation focuses its attention. Every altar is a symbol of Jesus Christ, present in the midst of his Church as the priest, altar and victim of the Sacrifice of the Cross. It is here “where heaven is opened up”[2] to us on earth. Here, in the Sacrifice offered, the pilgrim Church on earth meets the Church that is already glorified in the splendour of heaven.[3]

As we consecrate the altar with sacred chrism, we recall that the word “chrism” is from the Greek word for “the Anointed One,” which we translate as “Christ.” It is dedicated, anointed with chrism, incensed, kissed, and venerated.[4]

Upon the altar is placed the Church’s offering, which the Spirit transforms into the Body and Blood of Christ. And from the altar “the Bread of life and the Cup of salvation are given to us, so that we might become “one body and one spirit in Christ.”[5]

At the outset of the Rite of Dedication we shall sing the Litany of Saints for the simple reason that this is their place as well. The relics of Saints Gabriel Lalemant, Francis de Sales, John XXIII, Teresa of Calcutta, a Japanese Martyr join the great multitude of Angels and Saints who will forever accompany your worship around this altar.

Archbishop Miller pours holy oil on the altar.

Go Forth

While we rightly stress the worship celebrated in this church, where you are strengthened by the Sacraments, it is equally true to remember that it is from here that you go forth to heal the spiritual and material wounds of the world, glorifying the Lord by your life. Confessing with Peter that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16) becomes a reality precisely when you leave the church and enter the world with joy as his missionary disciples.

[1] Francis, General Audience (9 October 2013).

[2] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000), 71.

[3] Cf. Benedict XVI, Homily (21 September 2008).

[4] Cf. Francis, Address to the 68th National Liturgical Week in Italy (24 August 2017).

[5] Eucharistic Prayer III.

Msgr. Luterbach, pastor of St. Paul's (left) lights a candle during the dedication Mass.
Women sing during the solemn ceremony.
Archbishop Miller sprinkles holy water on the walls of the new church.