By Guest Blogger Kyle Lechtenberg
Et unam, sanctam, catolicam, et apostolicam Ecclesiam
Of all the lines in the Nicene Creed, those words (“and in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church”) resonate with me most frequently. In joyous times they remind me of the unity I share with the Church universal, in times of sorrow I unity for strength, and in times of difficulty I pray those words more fervently, for deeper unity in the Church and among all Christians. Sunday after Sunday, these words walk with me through the seasons of my life and relationship with God and the Church.
For me, praying the liturgy in a cathedral church has been a significant symbol of the communion into which I entered at baptism. I recently traveled with some good friends to North Dakota, which included a brief stop at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck. After the trip, I jotted down a list of the 33 cathedral churches I have been blessed to visit, in addition to the four major basilicas in Rome and Vatican City (one of which is already included in the cathedral count). They are located in the United States, Senegal, France, Italy/Vatican City, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and El Salvador. I’ve been to Mass at 18 of these churches, and the other half were brief tours through the buildings.
Each cathedral church is one place of many in the world where the mystical Body of Christ is reflected in a more intense way. It’s named for the cathedra, the bishop’s chair. I’ve heard my brothers and sisters in Christ whose communions operate without bishops or cathedrals rightly say that God is no more present among a cathedral community than any local parish church. I do add to that the experience of broadening my vision of the Body of Christ. When I’m at a cathedral liturgy, I see people who are from other parishes, from different ethnic groups, language groups, socioeconomic situations, than I see at my own parish. Our system with bishops
Maybe this is all very predictable, coming from someone who works for a diocese! But all the ways the Church strives for and represents visible unity are what drew me to serve in diocesan ministry. I am constantly asking, “How, with all the ‘big Church’ activities, do I remember my distinctive role in the Church, and more importantly, my unique and cherished identity as a child of God?” Not a short order for daily prayer…
Christ is our homeland and the way home
I believe that each human being regardless of religious affiliation experiences a kind of quest of union and communion with something eternal, something beyond themselves. I am reminded of the Greek origin of the word “Ecclesiam,”: “to be called out” or “to be summoned.” As a Catholic, I can rejoice that I have been summoned by the Spirit, called out of my separate life and called into communion with others. Together we are in communion with God in God’s sacred order, a sacramentally-sealed pilgrimage for union with the divine and with one another. A pilgrim is “one who journeys in foreign lands,” and the People of God pray often as pilgrims. “pilgrim Church on earth” (see Eucharistic Prayer III).
I believe we are created by God to enjoy eternal life, an eternal life that begins anew each new day. Christians aren’t waiting for death for fullness of life to begin! I believe that, as we read in John’s gospel, Jesus “came that [we] might have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Our faith in Jesus enables us to glimpse fullness of life here on earth, even as we are headed to our homeland. As Saint Augustine taught, that homeland is Christ himself, even as he has made “himself the road along which we could return home.”
We live that one eternal life with our sisters and brothers who, too, have been “called out of darkness and into God’s wonderful light” (1 Pt. 2:9). Sometimes we of the pilgrim Church have a very clear sense in the Spirit for where we are headed. Sometimes circumstances necessitate seek fresh guidance from God to continue our journey to our homeland, Christ. We have one life, one eternal life, which begins with each moment of our choosing. And we dare to do that together in liturgical celebration and in our daily lives, in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
 Teaching Christianity, St. Augustine, translated by Edmund Hill, O.P. New York: New City Press, 1996 (113).