Archbishop Timothy Dolan has called the Crystal Cathedral “a blessing, not only to the Diocese of Orange, but to the entire Church in the United States, and an effective boost to the New Evangelization in our country.” His high praise for what will become America’s newest Catholic cathedral came in a letter to Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.
November 3, 2012 was the first day that Catholic prayer filled the space, as the Magnificat Foundation—in conjunction with the Diocese of Orange—celebrated the Day of Faith, the first major Catholic event in the Crystal Cathedral, the future Christ Cathedral. Moving between the computer and the television set, I watched this day-long get-together of the faithful which included liturgical prayer, outstanding presentations by leading Catholic thinkers, magnificent renderings of sacred music, and much more.
One speaker whose message was compelling was Mrs. Clara Gaymard, President and CEO of GE France and vice president of government strategy and sales at GE International. Mrs. Gaymard is an effective business leader, and a devoted wife and mother. She is also the daughter of renowned geneticist Dr. Jerome Lejeune, close friend of Pope John Paul II. Dr. Lejeune’s scientific research led to the discovery of the cause of Down Syndrome. He served as the first president of the Pontifical Academy for Life; and his cause for beatification was opened in 2007.
I was impressed by what the organizers accomplished with this Day of Prayer.
Catholics who have expressed concern over whether this space, long the home of Dr. Robert Schuller’s famed “Hour of Power” broadcast, could accommodate Catholic worship, saw how easily the Cathedral accommodated the grand music: classical, familiar hymns, Gregorian chant. And while there will be no Mass at the Cathedral until its dedication, the faithful assembled joined in praying the Liturgy of the Hours, the first “official” Catholic prayer to be recited there. And while major renovations are still being planned (the sellers have the right, by contract, to use the space for another three years), there were beautiful Catholic touches: candles, vestments, the larger-than-life painting of Christ on the Cross, and the oversized stained glass windows which hung in front of the building’s well-known glass walls.
Protestants who may have felt uneasy at relinquishing their cherished home to papists must have felt at home hearing some of their own hymns; and the Catholic presenters gently, faithfully explained Catholic teaching: “Some people wonder why Catholics pray to saints; but the Scriptures say….” The speakers cited some of the best Catholic minds in history: St. Augustine, who would be a familiar voice in Lutheranism, and St. Thomas Aquinas.
Throughout the day, I heard no criticism of Protestantism, no “Us/Them” dichotomy, yet no relinquishing of the treasure of the Catholic Faith. It was a grand celebration befitting such a grand edifice.
At the time of the Crystal Cathedral’s sale by Robert Schuller’s ministry, I interviewed Tim Busch, attorney for the Diocese of Orange who played a pivotal role in the negotiations. Read more here and here about the purchase of the property, and the planned renovations which will make this southern California icon suitable for Catholic worship.