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Bishop's Homily for the 175th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Cathedral Basilica

August 16, 2018

Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace
[Isaiah 56:1,6-7; 1 Corinthians 3:9c-11,16-17; Matthew 16:13-19] 

In 1843, the people who so generously gave of their time, talent, and treasure to build this church joined with Bishop Louis Maigret to celebrate its completion by dedicating it to the service of the Lord as the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace.  She was the patroness of the Sacred Hearts Congregation that had come to Hawaii as its first Catholic missionaries.  They built this beautiful place of worship to strengthen the faith of all the people of Hawaii to become the living stones of God’s own dwelling place among us.  They wanted to build on a firm foundation, and that foundation was not just a matter of architecture and engineering, but the rock foundation of Jesus Christ himself.  They also wanted the church to tell one story with many rich facets, so they planned all its elements in order to build on the rock of Jesus and his continued presence with his Church.  They knew that here, more than anywhere else, the risen Jesus could be encountered in an intimate way, and the joy and responsibility of that encounter must be told in the very structure of this beautiful place.  And while the same Jesus Christ was present in the grass hut that first stood on this property to serve as the first Catholic Church in the Hawaiian Islands, our ancestors in the faith wanted to build a lasting legacy from which the faith would go out like the multiplication of the first keawe tree planted in the islands. 

As we thank God for the 175 years of service of this magnificent house of God, we also give of our time, talent, and treasure so that it may continue to tell the story of salvation in Jesus Christ with the greatest eloquence. 

Our faithful ancestors first swam into the ocean off Kakaako to harvest the coral that would become the building materials for its walls, living stones to symbolize the living stones of the temple of God that we are all called to be. 

They crowned the walls with a vaulted ceiling adorned with flowers and angels, reminding us of the ultimate destiny that Jesus came to open for us, restoring us to the Garden of Eden when we are judged worthy to be lifted up into the heavens.  There we will enjoy the fullness of love in the communion of saints, and so they surrounded this heavenly ceiling with figures of the holy women and men who served the Lord and whose example we hope to imitate. 

Later, they commissioned stained glass windows from artists in Germany, so that by shining light into the interior of this space, stories of Jesus, his Blessed Mother, and all the saints could be told in their silent luminosity. 

One enters the Church only when he or she has been cleansed by the saving bath of baptism, and the font that our ancestors used to bury the old self and raise up the new in Christ will be replaced by a larger full immersion baptismal font at the center of the church, so that the womb of Mother Church can continue its virginal fertility by bringing forth many new children by immersing them in the name of God himself. 

They installed the pipe organ to engage not only the eyes but the ears and the heart of all the people in worshiping God through the beautiful music the organ itself would sing and the offering of music by which worshipers would lift their minds and hearts to God in prayer.  We will soon restore this magnificent organ so that it may once again cry out its praise full-throated and unsparingly. 

They hung 14 Stations of the Cross, to remind all who enter here that no matter how difficult, unjust, or painful the road may be, Jesus traveled it before us and arrived finally at this destination of eternal life.  They erected confessionals to make available the healing mercy of the risen Jesus to any of us when we stray away in sin, and we will restore confessionals under the stairways to the choir loft, so that the merciful love of Jesus can still be made available to all of us sinners. 

They built a pulpit or ambo, depicting the Lord Jesus, the four evangelists, and the Apostles Peter and Paul, so that from it could be proclaimed the living Word of God to all who would gather here.  This was made into our present altar, but soon it will once again become the ambo from which Jesus himself can speak his living Word. 

They provided pews and kneelers, so that as many as possible could sit and listen to the Word of the Lord, then kneel in adoration at his presence.  The placed a special chair called a cathedra, so that from it the bishop, who presides over this community of love, this living temple of the Lord, can watch over his flock and feed it with the Word of God. 

They built an altar, which at its consecration was blessed with holy water, anointed with Sacred Chrism, and incensed because it would become the holy of holies on which the Lord of heaven and earth would come down as living bread from heaven to nourish his beloved flock with the finest food imaginable, his own Body and Blood.   On that altar they placed a tabernacle so that Jesus in the Holy Eucharist could be intimately present to us at all hours of the day.  And we, too, will build another altar where the current one now stands, with eight arched panels to represent the eight islands that make up our island diocese. 

Our ancestors built the tombs of the bishops, so that they could be reminded that death is but a step toward the resurrection of the body on the last day, for which we all long, and we have restored and expanded these burial places for the chief servants of the people of God. 

Our ancestors probably did not imagine that two canonized saints would worship here and be forever tied to this sacred place by the placement of at least part of their mortal remains, and so a reliquary chapel will be built to give Saint Damien and Saint Marianne their proper honor, so that they may continue to encourage us in our dedication to one another. 

175 years ago, those who gathered for the dedication of this cathedral would not have known that it would be officially tied to the Successor of Peter, the one who made his profound profession of faith in Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  Yet on May 10, 2014, on the feast day of St. Damien, it would be declared a minor basilica, indicated by the insignia of the bell and the umbrella in Papal colors. 

Of course our ancestors built doors, not only so that we could enter this sacred space, but so that we could go out from here to continue the work of the risen Jesus by teaching, healing, and proclaiming the kingdom of God in our families, our schools, our places of work, and our communities.  They knew that those who entered here would be inspired by its beauty and give glory to the God who made all things beautiful.  They understood that whoever came here to hear the Word of God would be a different person upon exiting, with the fire and the desire to share the Word who was made flesh and continues to dwell among us.  They knew that when we join our own joys and sufferings to the joys and sufferings of the living Lord Jesus on the altar, we would leave as new creatures, transformed by the Bread of Life and the Chalice of Salvation. 

As we thank God for our ancestors who built for us such a magnificent building whose every facet proclaims the glory of God, we thank God now for the opportunity we have to restore it to its glory once again, so that generation after generation will be able to come to this holy temple built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, so that the tottering world, through us, may be firmly anchored to our Rock and our Salvation.