The Most Reverend Daniel R. Jenky, C.S.C. (Peoria, Ill.), presided and delivered the homily below at the125th Anniversary Mass of the Consecration of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, University of Notre Dame, on Friday, Aug. 16, 2013.Watch the replay of theAnniversaryMass on iTunes.
Every about God is tremendous and everything God does is extravagant! Our God is simply awesome! There is nothing about God. Think for just a moment, about the miracle of creation. The universe is endlessly vast, almost beyond comprehension. There are countless galaxies of stars, scattered across the unbounded vacuum of space and time. Beside stars and quasars, planets and moons, asteroids and meteors, there is the dust of creation and the black holes of destruction. Our telescopes and satellites capture images of stunning beauty and fascinating complexity. And then there are the bugs and beasts, and that special beauty that Gerard Manley Hopkins, once delighted to call “dappled things,” and also there’s us human beings with our unique capacity for consciousness. You would have to be ‘brain dead’ or as ‘dull as a slug,’ not to feel wonder and awe before the spectacle of the material creation.
That’s why Catholics despite some temporary bouts of iconoclasm or passing moments of spiritual amnesia intentionally build glorious churches like this one. Catholic Christianity is sacramental and incarnational. That is the reason for this place. Down through the march of centuries, and in the many and various changing styles of art and architecture, our churches are outward signs, material icons of inward spiritual realities, where the physical signifies the metaphysical. Glory and beauty are Divine attributes and so believers of both the Eastern and Western traditions of Catholic Christianity, have always tried to build churches as glorious and as beautiful as possible. St. Francis of Assisi, whose image here is painted twice – once on a West Nave spandrel and once more on the ceiling of the Lady Chapel – is rightly famous for his profound love of evangelical poverty. But in his own day he was almost as infamous for his fierce insistence that poverty stop at the doors of the church. Folks often miss the sharp polemic of his witness against the heresies of his era: the anti-sacramental Waldensians and the anti-material Albigensians. Along with his enthusiastic preaching of the Kingdom, his delight in the natural world, and to his direct service to lepers and to the poorest of the poor, Francis continued to collect stones, to rebuild churches and chapels, almost until the very last year of his life. He certainly scandalized some folks by spending a share of the money that he and his friars had begged in order to purchase precious vessels, elaborate linens and expensive sacred art in order to glorify and beautify the House of God. For Francis, and for so many of the Catholic saints that came before and after his time, what is spiritual and interior should be celebrated in this world by what is material and external. Consecrated Sacred Space signifies the beauty and glory of a new Heaven and a new earth in a world that is yet to come.
One hundred-twenty five years ago on the occasion ofFather Sorin’s 50thanniversary of priestly Ordination, this glorious church was gloriously consecrated. Most of the American hierarchy was in attendance, including my predecessor, John Lancaster Spaulding, the first bishop of the Diocese of Peoria. At 6 a.m., Bishop Dwenger, the first bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne, assisted by two other bishops, consecrated this church in a liturgy closed to the public, but open to the clergy, that lasted for three-and-one-half hours! This building was washed with Holy Water; the altar and walls were anointed with the Most Holy Chrism; the sacred linens were laid on; and the candles all lit. To mark the places on the walls that were anointed are the consecration candles that are still in place and lit today. At the same time as the church was being consecrated, Bishop Maurice Burke of Cheyenne, in ceremony very much like the Rites of Initiation, named baptized and anointed, the bells of Sacred Heart’s great peal, including the seven ton bell named in honor of St. Anthony. Next, the doors were opened wide and almost at once, the church was filled with a capacity crowd. A procession began at 9:30 a.m. for a “low Mass” celebrated by Father Sorin – Pope Leo XIII had granted a special Plenary Indulgence to all who assisted at Sorin’ Jubilee Mass. Immediately following, at 10:30 a.m., another procession began including all the prelates, visiting priests and an army of Holy Cross priests that made their way into the sanctuary for a Solemn High Mass celebrated by Cardinal Gibbons. Haydn’s “Third Polyphonic Mass” was sung by a paid choir imported from Chicago.
All the outward signs of glory in any Catholic church and in the Rites of Consecration are intended to signify an inward vocation to holiness to which all the people of God are called. Believers are the living stones that build up the Church of God. Christ is the Head and we are his members, constituting His Body which is His Church. And if we allow this sacred space to do its work with us, there should always be the glorious evidence of our cooperation with God’s glorious grace. Remember all the Baptisms, Confirmations and all the Holy Masses celebrated here. Remember the multitude of sins forgiven and personal conversions continued here. Remember the visits, the prayers and adorations that this holy place invites. Remember the marriages, the Ordinations, the sad funerals and joyful Jubilees, the blessing of new projects and the end of special events that have all taken place within this consecrated space. We all have our own personal stories of praying and feeling and again and again discovering the consoling and the challenging presence of our good God. Because what goes on inside these walls, and inside the other more than 63 chapels of Our Lady’s School, is all for the sake of what should always be witnessed outside these walls – that is living the Christian life of love and service. Notre Dame’s intentional extravagance in this place of worship embodies the University’s hunger for holiness, confidence in learning and commitment to service. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the sacred steward of our best memories and the sacred inspiration for our most audacious dreams. Glory’s Mantle and Notre Dame’s Golden Fame are imprinted everywhere you look in this house constructed for the honor and praise of Almighty God and for the blessing of God’s people!
God is always the Master of His own house and the inherent holiness of this His consecrated dwelling place. Notre Dame’s Basilica images the grandeur of the universe because God fashioned the universe. This Basilica images the beautiful, because God is beautiful. This Basilica images God’s Holy Church because in this church the members of Christ’s Body are taken up through the celebration of the Mass into the very language and love shared by the Persons of the Most Holy Trinity. This Basilica images the Communion of Saints, because we are all called to be saints and all Saints share a vocation to signify the goodness and the glory of God. This Basilica images God and God’s incandescent Heaven because our destiny is to see God face to face in the eternal splendor of heaven.
Right here, 125 years ago yesterday on theSolemnity of the Assumption, the following majestic words of consecration, were pronounced by Bishop Dwenger, I am sure, with some appropriate fear and trembling: “Be magnified O Lord our God, in Your holy place and show Your presence in this temple which was built for You. According to Your will, accomplish all things in Your adopted children, and may You be ever glorified in Your inheritance, through Christ our Lord.‘How awesome and terrible is this place! Truly this is the house of God, and the gate of Heaven.'”(Genesis 28:17) For the Congregation of Holy Cross, and for the entire Notre Dame Family, may this deep conviction of our Catholic faith never be lost, but ever be lived, affirmed and gloriously celebrated!
Most Reverend Daniel R. Jenky, C.S.C., is bishop of Peoria, Ill. Bishop Jenky was received into the Congregation of Holy Cross on July 15, 1966; made his First Profession of Vows on July 16, 1967; made his Final Vows on Feb. 10, 1973; and was ordained to the priesthood on April 6, 1974. He was installed as eighth bishop of Peoria on April 10, 2002.