God the Father, Creator of Heaven and Earth: the architect
Christ Jesus: the foundation, the cornerstone, the Exemplar, the Plan
Holy Spirit: the supernatural breath of life within us
Your Body: the structure
Your Soul: the tabernacle, where the Holy Spirit dwells
Your Intellect and Will: the caretaker, the steward
St. Paul asks, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?” A temple is a place of worship, a house of prayer. Christian temples are “churches,” the magnificent ones (seats of the bishops) are called “cathedrals.” Since man is made in the image and likeness of God himself, it makes sense to say that the human person is – or at least was created to be – magnificent. In fact, upon contemplating the presence of the Three Divine Persons in her soul, St. Teresa of Avila says she was “amazed at seeing so much majesty in a thing as lowly as my soul.” Then Our Lord filled her heart with consolation and said, “It is not lowly, my daughter, because it is made in My Own Image.” Yes, we are wonderfully made. In fact, as a Catholic, you are a living cathedral with Our Lord enthroned in your heart.
Historically cathedrals were built so that they could be seen from anywhere in town. They were placed in a central location and built to amazing heights. The sight of the cathedral provided the community with a visual reminder of the physical presence of Christ in the tabernacle. It also inspired awareness of spiritual realities. Much like the cathedrals of stone and marble, you have been created to glorify God with your whole person, testifying to spiritual truths and reaching toward Heaven.
A well-built cathedral is structurally sound and attractive in form, but it also has a sacred function. It houses the Holy Eucharist and is meant to be filled with adoration, prayer, and worship. It is a hallowed place of union between man and God. It was He, the ultimate architect, who designed the cathedral of you – masterfully blending both form and function. Your body is the structure. To the extent that it glorifies God, and to the extent that you are able, it is good to attend to your strength and health. You mustn’t forget, however, that your body is meant to house a rich interior life. This takes precedence over all other forms of personal care. Indeed, the soul is more important than the body. Inside your walls, there must be prayer, contemplation, and joy. You need the Eucharist, adoration, and communion with God. The practices of daily Christian meditation and frequent reception of the sacraments are vital. Keep in mind that without the presence of the Holy Eucharist and an active interior life, even the most magnificent cathedral would be reduced to merely a grand façade. You are called to be much more than a façade. You are called to beauty and splendor in body and soul so that your entire person gives glory to God, as He intended from the beginning.
Despite their original grandeur, many “cathedrals” have fallen into disrepair. Some of us need God’s grace to bear the crosses of aging, accidents, and illness that afflict our structure and assail our physical strength. Through Christ, we can strive to nourish our souls and strengthen our bodies to the degree that we are able. This perseverance greatly pleases and glorifies God our Father. Others of us are in desperate need of care due to our own persistent disordered choices and actions. Overindulgence, extreme schedules, convenience, and a lack of self control are breaking our structures and ransacking our tabernacles. “It is very good for our soul to see ourselves, in Our Lord’s sight, like a bruised reed which needs a lot of care, like a flickering wick which needs the oil of divine love in order to burn as God wants! We never lose hope as long as we realize that we are weak, full of defects and dirt. Our Lord never leaves us; we just need to use the means and not reject the hand that He offers us.” No matter how our structures have been compromised, we must continually repent and begin anew with God’s gift of grace – striving to be the beautiful, dignified, holy temples He created each of us to be.
For many of us, repairs or renovations are sorely needed. St. Francis heard the command, “Rebuild my Church.” Like St. Francis, we are called to rebuild. We should see ourselves – our will and our intellect – as caretakers, realizing that our every action affects this cathedral of mine, as well as the Church at large. Sleeping and eating habits, choices of friends and entertainment, pursuing virtue or neglecting vice all have an impact. In each of your decisions, ask yourself:
- “Am I raiding the church or restoring it?”
- “Am I putting the church at risk, or am I protecting it?”
- “What result will this have on the body of Christ?”
A good caretaker is knowledgeable and adept, providing routine maintenance and repairing minor problems before they become big ones. Ask God for the grace and fortitude to maintain your structure with healthy habits and a balanced lifestyle. Pray too, for the grace and fortitude to maintain your interior life with intellectual formation, Christian meditation, spiritual direction, the sacraments, and acts of mercy and love. The work of a caretaker is constant and never easy, but continual repairs and adjustments are simpler, and less costly than repairing the damage done by neglect.
If each of us begins to take seriously our responsibility to care for our bodies and souls, then we will begin to slowly rebuild not only our own “cathedrals,” but also the kingdom of God. Many cities in Europe have skylines dotted with hundreds of churches, their towers and spires reaching heavenward. Each one has its own unique structure and interior life, yet together they proclaim, “This city belongs to God, and we are his people.” We are like those churches on the skyline of Christendom. As living cathedrals, we must stand together, pointing to heaven and reclaiming our community for God’s kingdom and His glory. Let us rebuild the City of God! It begins with the cathedral of you.