cor·ner·stone 1. A stone that forms the base of a corner of a building, joining two walls. 2. An important quality or feature on which a particular thing depends or is based.
This weekend’s readings will speak clearly that Jesus is the “living” cornerstone upon whom the Catholic faith is based. However, when you come to church this weekend you may wish to employ a little detective work. Look around the outside of the church and see if you can find a visible cornerstone.
You may find several cornerstones, some of which are not in a corner. Often when a new church is erected, the cornerstone from its previous mother church is removed and incorporated into the new building. Many of us have now had the experience of several of our parish churches being closed and a new parish community being formed that worships in a new building.
The surface of the stone may contain the name of the church or the year it was built. It might contain the names of the bishop and pastor at the time of the construction. Scripture or some other phrase may be inscribed on the stone in English, Latin or in older buildings, in the native tongue of the people that originally founded the church. You may see A.D. or Anno Domine (“the year of Our Lord”). Often the cornerstone has a cavity into which is placed a time capsule containing newspapers, parish bulletins, picture directories, small religious artifacts or possibly coins of the year.
In the Ceremonial of Bishops it is stated that before building a church the foundations are to be marked out and a wooden cross set up to indicate the place where the altar is to stand. The bishop or his delegate blesses the cornerstone and recites the following prayer: “Bless, O Lord, this creature of stone and grant by the invocation of thy holy name that all who with a pure mind shall lend aid to the building of this church may obtain soundness of body and the healing of their souls” (Dedication of a Church and an Altar, English ed.,1978). Remember at Mass those ancestors who by giving of time, talent or treasury gave their aid to the building of the church. Pray also that we too not only follow in their example and give of our treasury to maintain our churches, but also, as we will hear in the first letter of Peter, that we ourselves “like living stones … be built into a spiritual house … acceptable to God.”
Zahorik is director of worship at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Oshkosh.