On Monday 11 November, the monastic community at Sant’Anselmo celebrated the 119th anniversary of the Dedication of the Basilica of Sant’Anselmo, with Prior Mauritius Wilde presiding for the community Mass. Mass was celebrated in honor of and thanksgiving for the basilica’s history and its ongoing importance for the daily life of the community.
Prior Wilde’s homily can be found below.
Dear brothers and sisters,
Pope Leo XIII wanted to build the monastery of Sant’Anselmo and also this church. The Pope had financially supported its construction in a very generous way; and was also personally interested in how the work proceeded. Since he could not leave the Vatican at the time, he observed the construction of the building from the Vatican observatory with a telescope.
“The time has come when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father”, says Jesus in the Gospel, and adds: “The time has come, and it is this, in which true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth”.
In reality, all the readings that the liturgy offers us regarding the solemnity of the dedication of a church speak of the fact that the church is more than a place, that the Church transcends the physical place, the walls, and manifests itself in the living stones and in the spirit.
However, meditating on this beautiful festival, I found myself catapulted back, still to the place, still to the walls. As the prophet Samuel asks: “Behold the heavens and the heavens of heaven cannot contain you, the less this house which I have built! But is it really true that God lives on earth”? Yes, it is true. He lives on earth. In the way God lived on earth, God incarnate, so today he lives in his church, even in our physical churches.
Truly, the physical church is a gift to be admired, not to mention the Church that we comprise as living stones, as a community, as the body of Christ, as a spiritual temple. Yes, even the stones, the walls, the space, the concrete house: they were given to us as a manifestation of the presence of God. We must not take for granted the fact that we have this church here, so big, so beautiful, our church, created for us Benedictines, here on the Aventine Hill.
I say this thinking of another reality today: In some parts of the world there are churches that are attacked, and even burned. And, what is more, at least in Europe: many churches are secularized. They are sold or demolished. They are turned into museums, supermarkets, restaurants, or hotels. I have seen confessionals that are now used as bar counters.