Westminster Cathedral : the visit of the Italian Carabinieri, 1918,
Drawing by Henry Rushbury (1889-1968),
Drawn in 1918,
Pencil and graphite and white crayon on paper
© Imperial War Museum, London
Feast of the Dedication of Westminster Cathedral
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’
Reflection on the drawing
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Dedication of Westminster Cathedral. It is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales and the largest Catholic Church in the UK. It is the 50th largest church in the world in terms of interior area (5,017m²). The site on which the cathedral stands in Westminster, just off Victoria Street, was purchased by the Diocese of Westminster in 1885 and construction completed in 1903. Designed by John Francis Bentley (1839-1902) in Neo-Byzantine style, it is made almost entirely of brick, without steel reinforcements. The cost of the building was around £150,000. The cathedral opened in 1903, a year after the architect’s death. One of the first public services in the cathedral was Cardinal Vaughan's requiem, who had laid the foundation stone for the Cathedral’s construction in 1895.
The word “cathedral” derives from the Greek word kathedra, meaning “chair.” The chair of the diocesan bishop is the seat from which he shepherds the life of his Diocese. This chair is a symbol of his authority to teach, sanctify and govern the people of Christ. The church in which this chair is housed is consequently known as a cathedral church, the bishop’s own parish church.
The drawing by Henry Rushbury is an interior view of a service taking place in Westminster Cathedral, with men of the Italian Carabinieri present, making their way to the high altar. The congregation is standing and lining the upper side levels of the Cathedral.
As I am part of Westminster Diocese, I want to pray for all the priests of our Diocese in particular, but of course also for all priests worldwide. I would like to share with you a prayer for priests I came across recently on the USCCB website, which is beautiful:
Gracious and loving God, we thank you for the gift of our priests.
Through them, we experience your presence in the sacraments.
Help our priests to be strong in their vocation.
Set their souls on fire with love for your people.
Grant them the wisdom, understanding, and strength they need to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
Inspire them with the vision of your Kingdom.
Give them the words they need to spread the Gospel.
Allow them to experience joy in their ministry.
Help them to become instruments of your divine grace.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns as our Eternal Priest.
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