Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Saint Paul Cathedral is now a Shrine

The Vatican has approved the designation of the Cathedral of Saint Paul (located in Saint Paul, Minnesota -- and yes, the official name of the City spells out "Saint") as a national shrine: It will be the first national shrine to St. Paul in the country. The designation seems, to my wishful-thinking mind, to be most apt. For years, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul-Minneapolis has enjoyed warm ecumenical relationships with Protestants (relations that seemed to have cooled from lack of attention under the current archbishop) -- especially the Lutherans. It seems more than appropriate to have a shrine to the mutually respected St. Paul set by Roman Catholics smack in the heart of Lutheran-land, with our almost hawkish (I want to say "marianist-like") devotion to the missionary-teacher-preacher (or at least to its interpretation of the guy).

The Cathedral is an impressive building and the history of its placement and construction is fascinating. For example, it sits high on a hill overlooking the City of Saint Paul (and naturally a rather ritzy neighborhood grew up around it); it sits higher than the nearby (and also beautiful) State Capitol building and boasts a dome larger than the Capitol's. Dating to 1917, I think, the Cathedral is on the National Register. It is also a popular place for concerts.

Apparently, the point of a shrine is to provide a destination for pilgrims on a journey with "a pious purpose." Perhaps such a purpose should be the reunification of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. In this Jubilee Year of Paul, I hope that this designation will encourage Lutherans (especially) and other separated brethren to make their pilgrimage to the shrine to pray for the fulfillment of Saint Paul's (the man's) urging that there is one Body of Christ and, if that body is fractured, sin is to blame and the members better attend to business, to listen to the Spirit's counsel for unity, and to get over their bitter differences f0r the sake of the Gospel.

Curiously or coincidentally (or perhaps so only in my mind), I have just returned from the annual conference of the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology (which met just off the grounds of Catholic University in DC, home to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception), where we explored the continuing relevance and questions of Vatican II for the life of the churches and of the ecumenical movement. The keynote presenter, Dr. George Lindbeck (who may be the only living official observer of the entire Vatican II Council in the States), quoted from a colleague that "In a divided Church, the Eucharist tastes bitter." It's a phenomenally powerful statement of truth and mission.

Congratulations to the people of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul-Minneapolis (it may be "of Saint Paul and Minneapolis"). As a Lutheran (which I think by definition makes me an evangelical catholic Christian), I now claim an interest in the Archbishop's home church, if not in yet in his cathedra.


Anonymous said...

Your observations in the June 17th edition of your blog about the Cathedral of Saint Paul's designation as a National Shrine, contending that the "Archdioce's ecumenical relationships with Protestants seem to have cooled from lack of attention under the current archbishop" are inaccurate and unjustified.

This was the Archbishop's very first year on the job, required an enormous amou;nt of his time had to be spent familiarizing himself with the 217 parishes and 101 Catholic schools in this 12 county Archdiocese while still staying on top of a myriad of spiritual and liturgical leadership and executive/administrative duties. And he had to do so with the help of an auxiliary bishop until just this month. Despite this, he did indeed participate in ecumenical activities, participating in Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches events, joining with other faith leaders to speal out against State budget cuts on medical care for the needy and remaining a strong voice for the just reatment of immigrants.

He has had a long history of working closely with Protestant and Jewish leaders in Detroit before coming here. He is also a consultlant to the USCCB Committee on Ecumenism and a 10 year member of the dialogue between Catholic bishops and Jewish rabbis.

The Archbishop is not thin-skinned and you will find he accepts valid criticism and differences of opinion. He is, however, partial to fairness in the area of public discourse and commentary.

Dennis B. McGrath
Director of Communications
Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

Anonymous said...
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Dwight P. said...

I accept the brotherly correct and information from the Archdiocese's representative. (I will take the comment to be legitimate, despite the typograpical and grammatical errors that I find odd coming from a Director of Communications -- something I highlight only to show my awareness that someone may be writing "on behalf" of the Archdiocese who is not quite so well-authorized to speak as would be the Director.) I certainly meant no disrespect for the Archbishop either personally or in his office.

Nevertheless -- or perhaps because of this comment -- I will not completely withdraw my comment, but change it to note that it is my impression (and that of many with whom I speak, including numerous Roman Catholic faithful) that ecumenical enthusiasm is not as evident now as it was under prior leaders, notably Archbishop Harry Flynn. I will be happy to see myself disproven in this regard -- as Mr. McGrath indicates I may expect to be. I hope I correctly interpret him to say that the Archbishop understands ecumenical conversation and cooperation to be central to his office as the leader of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.