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One Hundredth Anniversary of St. James Cathedral Parish

Feast of Christ the King

November 21, 2004

_______________________

 

The Most Reverend Alexander J. Brunett, Archbishop of Seattle

 

_______________________

 

          It is a great joy for me to be here today to celebrate with you at St. James Cathedral Parish.  It is especially significant since St. James Cathedral is the seat of my bishop's chair and the visible manifestation of my ministry to all the people in this Archdiocese.

 

          I wish to congratulate Father Ryan, the Cathedral staff and all of the people of this parish community, particularly remembering those who have gone before us and contributed so much to the building up of this community and this cathedral church.  All of you should be proud today of your accomplishment as you celebrate your 100th anniversary.

 

  

          One hundred years ago, on November 13, 1904, Bishop Edward O'Dea established St. James Cathedral and blessed the parish's first home, St. Edward Chapel, on the corner of Terry Avenue and Columbia Street.  One year later, with the help of a grand committee of lay advisors and priests of the diocese, Bishop O'Dea laid the cornerstone for this cathedral, a building that embodied his vision for the Church at this time.  The bishop deliberately chose a hill for the site because this cathedral was meant to be a light to the city.  It may even have been intended as a challenge, as if to say, "The Catholics are here!"  Being Irish, Bishop O'Dea had a feisty streak, and he did not shrink from making a bold statement.

 

          One hundred years later, the Cathedral still stands, damaged by a snowstorm and altered by several restorations, but still a witness to the fact that we Catholics are here.  Only we say that today in a spirit of service, service to the city and to all who worship here.

 

          Today, Church and society have entered a new millennium.  We have endured one hundred years of global wars, mass genocides, a world-wide depression, post-colonial nation building, and an unprecedented growth in technologies of all kinds.  The world has been brought closer than ever before, and, at the same time, has been threatened with the danger of nuclear and biological annihilation.

 

          In the past one hundred years, both Church and society have had to rethink their relationship with one another.  At the Second Vatican Council, the Church saw itself to be, above all, the servant of God on behalf of the human person.  The Church proclaimed  that "The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well" (L.G. 1).

 

          It is abundantly clear that the dignity and rights of the human person have been greatly endangered by events of the past century.  And for that reason, the Church as clearly identified its mission in the world to be a mission of service.  In the words of Pope John Paul II, the Church is moved with a greater spirit of urgency than ever to "walk with each person the path of life, with the power of the truth about humanity and the world that is contained in the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption and with the power of the love that is radiated by that truth" (R.H. 13).

 

          St. James Cathedral parish, one hundred years old this week, embodies the age-old and, indeed, eternal mission of the Church, represented by the cathedra of the archbishop.  It is an exciting and important mission, more valuable and necessary than ever, especially when it is opposed or resisted (R.H. 11).

 

          The recent renovations of this Cathedral clearly embody the vision of the Vatican Council and underscore the mission of the Church in our time.  We experience this as we move into the Church from west to east, from the setting to the rising sun.  We move through doors carved with scenes of God's faithful love and God's promise of final victory.  We come to the baptismal font where we were immersed in the story of salvation, the story of self-giving love and final victory, death and resurrection.  In baptism we became one with Christ, members of God's priestly, kingly prophetic people.  We who were blind came to see our God-given human dignity in the light of Christ which shines on us in this sacrament.

 

          Then we move to the altar, the table of life, where celebrate the call and remember the self-giving love of Christ.  Around the altar, we share the bread of God's word and the consecrated bread of the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ, and finally, the bread of fellowship, present in the people and in the presider of the Eucharist.  We become even more the people we are by responding to God's call to life through the celebration of Eucharist - thanksgiving - and service.  We enter into communion with each other, with the bishop, and with the entire Church that is local but is also universal. 

 

          The altar around which we gather is bathed with a light that also illuminates the words: I am in your midst as one who serves.  Those words of Jesus, the servant king, guide the mission of this Cathedral and of the Church itself in the modern world.  That is why the journey does not end at the altar.  From seeing our human dignity in Baptism to celebrating the Eucharist, we are moved to do with love the mysteries we have celebrated.  In this Cathedral, the windows illuminated from the east shine with scenes of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. 

 

          We are called to feed the hungry and to give drink to the thirsty, and parishioners of the Cathedral respond five days a week through the Catholic Worker Family Kitchen.

 

          We are urged to clothe the naked and, by extension, to house the homeless, and Catholic volunteers provide an overnight shelter and support the fund that helps to secure permanent housing. 

 

          We are summoned to counsel and instruct, and we respond through second language programs for immigrants and refuges, a thriving bookstore, and tuition assistance to five Catholic schools in the central area of Seattle, the Rainbow Schools.

 

          We visit the sick, the homebound, and those in prison.  We enrich the cultural life of the city through programs of music and education.  In these and many other ways, the people of the Cathedral bring to a practical point the love we celebrate in the Eucharist.  At the same time, our service returns us to the Eucharist with new reasons for concern and for celebration.  The Cathedral of St. James embodies the mission of the Church, where people of many different cultures and walks of life encounter one another, celebrate the communion we have with God and with one another, and live out our baptismal identity through service.

 

          Very much like Bishop O'Dea, we recognize that the Catholic people are a strong but small minority of the population of this region, something like fifteen percent.  We marvel at Bishop O'Dea's bold vision that placed this Cathedral in the heart of the city and even on a hill so that it could give light.  But today we want to use this place and this location and this occasion to say something not boastful but of humble service to all people of good will.  We want the Church "to walk with each person the path of life, with the power of the truth about humanity and the world that is contained in the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption and with the power of the love that is radiated by that truth."

 

          As only fifteen percent of the population, Catholics may feel at times like that remnant of Israel who were exiled into Babylon.  They had no land, no temple and no king, and so some of them despaired of what would happen to them.  Some thought of going native and of losing their identity in the midst of the dominant culture of Babylon.

 

          Others took the opposite view:  they fell into a kind of nostalgia for the good old days that would never come again.  They refused to face the fact of exile and the challenge of what to do under changed historical conditions.  But to the faithful remnant, the prophet Jeremiah spoke God's word with courage and wisdom:  "Promote the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you; pray for it to the Lord, for upon its welfare depends your own" (Jeremiah 29.7).

 

          The prophet continued by promising the people a far greater good than anything they could imagine:  "I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe!  Plans to give you a future full of hope"� (Jeremiah 29:11).  This theme has been taken up in the bishop�s statement that I have shared with all of the Archdiocese, a statement that will shape and form our vision for the next five years.

 

          We thank God on this feast of Christ the King that for one hundred years this Cathedral of St. James has faithfully served the bishops, the people of this Archdiocese, and the people of this region in the name of the gospel.  It has been a wonderful history of seeing and celebrating and living out our Christian identity.

 

          In God�s name, we will continue to do this.  We will promote the welfare of those to whom we are sent.  We will continue to serve each human person in God�s name.  We will do our part to ensure that all people experience God�s plan for humanity:  a future full of hope.
 

 

 

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804 Ninth Avenue
Seattle, Washington  98104
Phone 206.622.3559  Fax 206.622.5303