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To the Next 200 Years

June 3, 2021 3 min read
Baltimore Basilica at Night

The first Catholic cathedral built within the United States, now the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption in Baltimore, Maryland, turned 200 years old on May 31, the feast of the Visitation. The brick and mortar present the story of Catholicism in America in a way words alone never could. The old basilica reminds us of Catholicism's ability to stay true to its roots in eternal truths while remaining flexible enough to reveal those truths in particular times and places (even in places uncomfortable with or hostile to the story the Church has to tell).

The story of the Basilica of the Assumption, sometimes known as the Baltimore Basilica, is tied up in the history of the earliest years of the United States: its cornerstone was laid by the first bishop of the United States, Archbishop John Carroll; it was designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who is credited for his design work on the United States Capitol; President Thomas Jefferson offered advice on the design of the dome.

The Basilica of the Assumption has held synods that shaped American Catholicism, perhaps most notably in witnessing the debut of the Baltimore Catechism, which formed American Catholics for over a century.

As we negotiate our way through what it means for so many in positions of political power to declare themselves Catholics – the President, Speaker of the House, and a majority of the Justices of the Supreme Court – it is hard to imagine that Bishop Carroll or Thomas Jefferson could have ever foreseen the influence Catholicism would have on the United States and the influence the United States would have on the Church within her borders. Throughout the history of the United States, the question of how the Church and the State can form a healthy relationship has been constant – and the question shows no signs of being resolved any time soon. So, here's to the next 200 years!


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Perov Vasily's "First Christians in Kiev"

Perov's "The First Christians in Kiev"

Perov's depiction of Christians worshipping under the cover of night reminds us of the generations of Christians who have embraced the conquering spirit of the Gospel through times of uncertainty.

Perov's "The First Christians in Kiev"

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