For some, it’s the saint tapestries that hang on either side of the nave. For others, it’s the mausoleum or the Guadalupe tilma relic. Some say the Blessed Sacrament chapel, or the crypt of St. Vibiana.
Ask the Los Angeles-area Catholics you know about that favorite spot, that go-to place they return to every time they visit the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and you can get a wide range of answers. But 20 years after it opened in 2002, parishioners and regular visitors will agree on one thing about the cathedral.
“It’s home,” said Father Guillermo “Memo” Alonso, who found his vocation attending the cathedral as a teenager. “Not only to me, but I think anyone who comes here, regardless of where they come from or who they are, can get that sense, that feeling that this is their home as well.”
On Sept. 2, the 27-year-old priest was among the several hundred people celebrating the milestone anniversary of the cathedral’s dedication at a noon Mass with Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez. In the crowd were parishioners, benefactors and clergy who have served at the cathedral, and even a couple of first-time visitors, to what is now considered a downtown Los Angeles landmark.
Although Gomez was a young auxiliary bishop in Denver when the cathedral first opened its doors, he’d heard stories about the afternoon of Sept. 2, 2002: How thousands of people with tickets endured scorching heat outside, waiting for the cathedral’s doors to be officially blessed before they could enter for the dedication Mass.
As fate would have it, this year’s anniversary Mass coincided with another historically hot day, marking the start of a brutal weeklong heat wave.
“Today is the same weather, but we are inside!” Gomez said to laughs at the start of his homily.
But as Gomez went on to note, the anniversary was an occasion to give thanks to those “who worked hard and sacrificed to help build this beautiful temple to the living God in the heart of this great city.”
One of those “builders” was Msgr. Terrance Fleming, rector of St. Vibiana’s Cathedral when the Northridge Earthquake heavily damaged it in 1994. When then-Archbishop Roger Mahony began to explore options for a replacement, he tasked Fleming with helping find a location for a new cathedral — and an architect to build it.
Fleming likes to describe the “miracles” that followed: how a surplus lot owned by the county across the freeway became available, and how just 90 days later, the archdiocese owned it.
“There was some kind of impulse to just snap it up,” recalled Fleming, currently the episcopal vicar for the Our Lady of the Angels Pastoral Region, where the cathedral is located.
Then there was the “fascinating” process that led to the selection of Spanish architect Rafael Moneo to build the cathedral. Naturally, none of the candidates considered had built a cathedral before. But Fleming believes Moneo “got the feel of Los Angeles,” drawing on history to build “the first mission of the 21st century” in California, using adobe for the concrete and including a cemetery (the mausoleum), a garden, and even a stable (“we call it a garage,” quipped Fleming).
The dedication Mass was, in Fleming’s memory, not just on the hottest day of the summer, but also “the hottest ticket in town”: Benefactors, clergy, religious, and only a couple representatives from each parish in the archdiocese were among those who made the list. Fleming remembered the requests from friends and even brother priests “who wanted to bring their mothers.”
“If I had sold tickets, I’d be a millionaire today,” joked Fleming, who was vicar general of the archdiocese at the time.
At the time of its dedication, Mahony famously envisioned the cathedral as an ongoing project, one that would grow under the leadership of his successors. In the 20 years since, additions have included a Marian tapestry behind the altar; chapels to Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa; and a popular bronze statue of St. Joseph and the Christ Child.
Cathedral parishioner Maria Elena Catalan remembered being impressed by the cathedral for the first time during a trip from her native Philippines nearly 20 years ago. She later emigrated to Vancouver, Canada, and eventually ended up in Los Angeles three years ago. Since then, she has made a point of choosing to live close to the cathedral, even when her job has taken her as far as Glendale and Gardena.
“I’ve always preferred to come here,” said Catalan after the anniversary Mass. “There’s so much to see, so many places to pray or visit.”
After 10 a.m. Sunday Mass (her favorite, because of the choir), Catalan said she’s made a habit of praying in the Blessed Sacrament chapel and lighting a candle.
And beyond the dozens of major events the cathedral hosts and the thousands of visitors it draws every year, perhaps it is the experiences of people like Alonso’s that speak the most. The recently ordained priest and alumnus of nearby Cathedral High School remembered attending the first chrism Mass at the new cathedral as a 7-year-old with his parish priest at the time. They both arrived late and sat in the back during the Mass.
“Memo: One day you’re going to be altar-serving there,” he remembered the priest telling him.
His words were true on one level. Years later, it was priests serving at the cathedral who mentored Alonso and helped him discern the priesthood. This past June, he was ordained a priest there. And through his years at St. John’s Seminary, he was the “cathedral seminarian….”
The above comes from a Sept. 18 story in Crux by Pablo Kay. Kay is the editor-in-chief of Angelus, the online news site of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
terrible loss of a perfectly good parking lot
It is the 20th anniversary!! not the 20-year anniversary.
The date on which an event took place in a previous year. * Anniversary contains the word year.
What is being said is 20-year, year turning event.
The word anniversary is derived from Middle English, from Medieval Latin, from annus (“year”) + vertere (“to turn”)
Source Wiktionary https://en.m.wiktionary.org
The headline also makes it sound like you are celebrating the air-conditioning of the cathedral.
The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels is an architectural curiosity. There is little inside or outside the building that is truly magnificent, and much that is simply not reflective of the best of Catholic ecclesiology, which invites the faithful inside and also says “welcome”. OLOA Cathedral is a curious yellow colored, armored, or plate facade, design, and looks like a Star Wars hangar ready to order louvers shut should the Empire decide to strike. The windows, being alabaster, have no charm. The lack of any direct sunlight with the colors of stained glass adds to eerie nature of the place. The BVM above the door is, well, kind of strange and decidedly non-feminine. It needs to be removed. The doors themselves look like something out of a an Alien vs Predator movie.The tapestries are too “picture” like to have any real affect on my spirituality. One of the them is a profile of Tom Cruise, you know. It strikes me a lonely, barren place with no charm factor at all. To the contrary, everything external and internal, including the art, is designed to shock the senses and leave a person unsettled. In fact, when someone is in Cathedral, if feels like everything is leaning to one side as none of the walls are at a 90 degree plane. Everything is just a little crooked and obtuse or acute. As someone once said,”LA has a Cathedral that looks like a concert hall, and a concert hall that looks like a cathedral” (albeit a very modern one.) What is most disappointing to me is what “could have been.” The place saddens me, and makes me only think that someone without a deep faith designed it. And, this is the case. Rafael Moneo is a Spanish, non-practicing, ex Catholic.
It’s what inside that counts, so I’ll give the Rog Mahal a break. I like the atmosphere created. But outside? I am of an entirely different persuasion. I will leave it at that.
I’ve seen better looking National Guard Armories.
Lotta Parking you are correct.
The Cathedral site was my parking lot, when I was a Detective working out of the Hall of Justice in the 1970″s
Reminds me of the children’s story, “The Emperor Has No Clothes On.” Nobody will admit the ugly truth. People are left spiritually starving, in hopelessly ugly, meaningless, modern, Godless places of worship– heartlessly forced on them. A true Catholic Cathedral uplifts and inspires worshippers with its spiritual beauty and holiness– and often brings many to the Catholic Faith– because it is truly God’s house. A thousand years ago, devout Catholics built beautiful cathedrals that were timeless spiritual treasures, truly reflecting the Glory of God in Heaven. Why are Catholic clerics and their architects and builders of today, incapable of doing the same thing?
In modern America, millions of people are spiritually starving for God and His holiness. Modern man has lost his sense of the sacred, the awe-inspiring, sublinely beautiful holiness of God. Beautiful, uplifting, awe-inspiring churches, religious statues, paintings, sacred music, poetry, etc. that reflect and evoke the sublime, heavenly beauty, holiness, and glory of God, have for centuries helped Catholics in their religious worship, and have brought countless converts into the Church. “A picture is worth a thousand words.” The sublime beauty and holiness of God, and awe-inspiring sense of timelessness, prayerful stillness, holiness and Eternity, experienced in the quietly soaring, heavenly grandeur, of a truly beautiful, holy Catholic cathedral, built by older generations of Catholics– is truly worth it, for the tremendous good it brings to millions of souls.The House of God is truly worth it, to make it truly, exquisitely, Divinely holy and sublimely beautiful, a fitting place of prayer and worship of God, at Holy Mass.
For nobody and all else who like it traditional:
Architecture is a form of art and people like different things. Your criticism of calling a Catholic Church “godless” indicates that your problem is with more than the architecture. To you it is ugly, meaningless. The builders are heartless.
We all can agree it is modern.
My parish is kind of modern (or when it was built it was). I don’t like it that much but every visitor I’ve met talks about how beautiful it is.
I have the right to my opinions. And so do you. Some modern people are not sensitive to God, nor to extremely beautiful sacred architecture and art that evokes His sublime holiness and Divine beauty. That’s life. In some European cities, particularly in a few Italian cities– the old, traditional Catholic sacred architecture and artwork is so stunningly beautiful, that tourists who are not used to it are warned, it will take your breath away, stun you, knock you completely off your feet, might even bring you to tears of joy– or even a religious conversion!– so, be prepared! Modernity is hopelessly crass, ugly, heartless, meaningless and Godless.