Dear Friends in Christ,
The Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, and in the sacred liturgy this week, we keep four feasts that reveal these four marks:
9 November is the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome, the cathedral church of the Bishop of Rome and therefore the head and mother of all the churches of the world. The land was once owned by the Laterani family who gave their name to the place, and the first church on the site was consecrated by Pope Sylvester I in AD 324. The church is dedicated to Christ the Savior, Saint John the Baptist, and Saint John the Beloved Disciple, but it is customarily called Saint John Lateran. The cathedra or bishop’s seat of the pope – the symbol of his authority to teach in the name of Christ – is in this basilica, making this church a place of universal significance for all Christians who acknowledge the Bishop of Rome to be pastor of the universal Church.
10 November is the feast of Pope Saint Leo the Great, who served as Bishop of Rome from AD 440 to 461. Pope Leo is a pivotal figure in the history of the Church and was the first pope to be called “Great.” Leo decisively intervened in the Council of Chalcedon to preserve the true faith in the divinity of Christ from the heretical doctrine taught by some bishops in the East, and at the Council all of the bishops present, including the Patriarchs of Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople, acknowledged that “Peter has spoken through Leo,” meaning that Peter’s office in the Church continues through the ministry of the Bishop of Rome.
11 November is the feast of Saint Martin of Tours, who was born in Hungary in AD 316. Because his father was a senior officer in the Roman army, Martin grew up in northern Italy, and at the age of 10 he declared his desire to be a Catholic, but his parents opposed this, so he was not baptized until age 18. After brief service in the Roman army, Martin felt called to the priesthood and studied in France under Bishop Hilary of Poitiers, known to us as Saint Hilary, Doctor of the Church. In time, Martin became a priest and the Bishop of Tours, and he was known throughout Europe for his holiness even in his own lifetime, which ended in 397. He is the first canonized saint who was not also a martyr.
12 November is the feast of Saint Josaphat, who was born in 1580 in what is now part of Belarus. He lived at a time of great tensions among Eastern Christians who were bitterly divided over whether or not they should be in communion with the Bishop of Rome. Josaphat became a monk at 24 and in due course became a bishop of the Catholic party among the Byzantine Christians in what is now the Ukraine, leading to the formation of the Greek Catholic Church, which from then until now has been in terrible conflict with the Orthodox Christians of that same area. In 1623, Saint Josaphat was murdered by an Orthodox mob and is therefore a martyr of Christian unity.