Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Little Vatican in Texas

St. Peter's Basilica in Rome is one of the best known and ornate churches in the world. Although for many, it's a dream to visit the Vatican, we've discovered a place not far from Houston that's just as grand. It's St. Anthony's, what some refer to as "The Little Vatican." It is the little church in Beaumont, Texas, where every celebration is bigger than life, even bigger than death.

It is the latest church to join the ranks of Basilicas in the state of Texas. St. Anthony's is only the fourth church to receive Basilica status. That means St. Anthony's has now been recognized by the Vatican, and given the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a Catholic church, a Basilica. That's a higher status than a cathedral. On it, will hang the official papal coat of arms. But there is something else that ties this church to its Italian roots. At the heart of St. Anthony's lies the alter, and above it, the Baldachino. It was made to look exactly like the most famous Baldachino in the world. The one in St. Peter's, carved by Bernini.
"You can't go everywhere in the United States and see a church as beautiful as this,". "The grandeur the beauty of it is out of this world. I mean I've never seen anything like it before." But, according to Vatican law, before a church can even be considered for Basilica status, it must be rich in religious history and relics, in other words, human remains. St. Anthony's houses the relics of two Catholic Saints.
Also here, the Zucchetto, or white skull cap worn by Pope John Paul the Second.
"There's so much you could just spend the day here and just walk around and look and pray, it's beautiful.But St. Anthony's is not alone. There are three other Basilicas in Texas like Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine in San Juan . St. Mary's in Galveston, founded in 1847, survived the Great Hurricane of 1900, even serving as a refuge for survivors. And finally, the National Shrine of the Little Flowers in San Antonio. It is surrounded by poverty, but brings a value, worth more than money. "Is something that gives them great pride and it's something that has really boosted the spirit of San Antonio.Much the same for Texas' newest Basilica, St. Anthony, for Catholics, and curious alike.

"People, not just Catholic, people of all denominations, will come to the cathedral to pray to be in solidarity with one another to call upon all mighty God for his guidance and blessings. So it's a very important pastoral center.