We have some interesting celebrations coming up after All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days. One is called “The Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran.” Why do we celebrate the dedication of a church building—what is so important about that? St. John Lateran was the first legal building owned and run by the Catholic Church for the soul purpose of the worship of God and the dispensation of the sacraments.
Why is it called St. John Lateran? Well you are right, there is no person who existed as St. John Lateran. That is an abbreviated form of the complete name: St John the Baptist at Lateran. The Lateranus family was one of the most powerful and influential in Rome, and they opposed the rise to power of Emperor Constantine. So when Constantine came to power, he expropriated them and had many of them put to death. A decade later or so, when Constantine emitted his famous edict that legalized the Catholic Church in 313AD, he gave the Lateranus property to Pope Militiades, who then began the construction of the great basilica which was designated the Cathedral of Rome, and dedicated to St. John the Baptist. Pope Sylvester I and his successor were able to get Constantine to build the original St. Peter’s Basilica over his tomb, and a chapel over St. Paul’s burial place (across the street from St. Paul Outside the Walls). This is also a celebration of the end of the first harsh persecution of the Church. There is a lot to celebrate and be thankful for on November 9th.