Just as a solid building is fashioned out of many stones, bricks and other materials which were brought together from diverse places and assembled over a period of time, so it is with the Church – the Church is composed of living stones – including you and me – and together we form a temple brought to life by God’s life-giving Spirit and built upon the foundation of the Apostles, with Christ as the cornerstone. And just as a building has to be maintained and repaired, so the living stones, the people of God have to be cared for.
Building a church out of people is much more difficult than building a church out of stone. Stones have nothing to say about how they are shaped or where they will be set. They have nothing to say about how they will support one another and be supported. Building blocks simply fulfil the design of the architect and the placement of the builder.
But living stones do have something to say about how they will be part of the living temple. Each living stone has its own function with the aim of benefiting the whole structure. A church made of people is fragile; it may not be subject to hurricanes or fire but it can be ravaged by indifference, scandal, and lack of orthodox teaching and adequate formation.
Churches – and chapels like this one – are built so that we can worship together as a community. But they are also built to remind us of who we are. Churches stand as pointers to the truth that life is best lived in the conscious presence of a loving God. Amid the activity of our daily lives, churches and chapels help us to retain our focus on God and to learn that God never takes his loving focus away from us. In our public worship we gather here each day to be reminded of our vocation as Catholics and to be strengthened in this identity.
Each single church and chapel is also part of a much wider identity; they remind us that we are part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, established by Christ himself. Just as we are part of our local parish, so we are part of the Diocese of Portsmouth. Each diocese has a mother church – the cathedral – which stands as a symbol of this unity and belonging. Each year we commemorate the anniversary of the dedication of St. John’s Cathedral in Portsmouth, and this reminds us that we are part of a greater identity and reality. Just as we belong to the Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth, so we belong to the Universal Church which Christ established and has placed under the guidance of Christ’s vicar on earth, Our Holy Father Pope Francis I.
And so today, on this the anniversary of the dedication of Portsmouth Cathedral, we remember in our prayers our bishop Philip Egan; we pray for his clergy, the religious and the people of the diocese. May we each remain true to our own particular vocation and may we always seek to build up the living Church of Christ.