The title dates back to the early Greek and Roman times and referred to a type of public building. In the 4th century, Basilicas began to be used as places of worship. It was during this time that construction of the greatest basilicas of Rome were started. Today, the term Basilica is a special designation given by the Holy Father to certain churches because of their antiquity, dignity, historical importance or significance as a place of worship.
Q: Are there other Basilicas in the U.S.?
At the time of the designation of St. Lawrence (04/93) there were 33 other Basilicas in the United States.
Q: What are the conditions necessary for a church to obtain the title of Basilica?
The church must have been consecrated; the liturgical rites (celebration of the Holy Eucharist, sacraments of penance and other sacraments) should be executed in an exemplary way with fidelity to liturgical norms, and the active participation of the people of God (parishioners). It should be large enough and the elements required for liturgical celebration (altar, pulpit, and celebrant's chair) should conform to General Statutes of the Roman missal.
It should have special significance in the diocese. St Lawrence, with its unique dome, is the only church designed and built by the renowned Rafael Guastavino --and is considered the mother church of western North Carolina.
The seasons of the liturgical year should be properly celebrated with frequent Masses, with sufficient ministers and a choir to assist the faithful in sacred music and song.
Q: What are the responsibilities of a Basilica?
Because of the relationship between a Basilica and the Holy Father, Basilicas have the responsibility to promote the study of the documents of the Holy Father and the Holy See, especially those concerning the Sacred Liturgy.
Also, certain days in the liturgical year are to be celebrated with added solemnity. Among those days are: Feast of the Chair of St. Peter (02/22), the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul (06/29) and the anniversary of the election or coronation of the Supreme Pontiff.
Additionally, a Basilica has the responsibility to promote the active participation of the Faithful in the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours, especially Morning and Evening Prayers. Further, approved forms of other devotions should also be promoted.
Other responsibilities include the taking of great care in the preparation for and the execution of the celebrations of the Liturgical year --especially Advent, Christmas, Lent and Paschal Time.
During Lent the Roman custom of Stations should be observed according to local circumstances (see Roman Missal nn. 260-262 regarding Lenten ceremonies).
Since liturgical activities, when sung, have a greater nobility, care should be taken that the Faithful be accustomed to sing, especially those parts found in the Ordinary (Constitution-Sacrosanctum Concilum, n 54; Instruction-Musicam Sacrum, March 5, 1967). The decree also directs that the word of God be faithfully preached in homilies and special sermons.
An outward sign and privilege that comes to a Basilica is the honor and opportunity to display the Pontifical seal. This is the seal of the Papacy and its dominant feature is the crossed keys, which symbolize the keys to the kingdom which are held by the Supreme Pontiff, the successor to St. Peter.
The Pontifical seal may be displayed on the façade (exterior) of the Basilica of St. Lawrence, and in banners, and may also be used in the seal of the Basilica and on stationery.
Q: What are the privileges of a Basilica?
Basilicas have certain privileges such as granting of plenary indulgences to the faithful who come to the Basilica to participate in the celebration of specific days. At the Basilica of St. Lawrence those days are:
Anniversary of the dedication of the Basilica (10/01)
Feast of St. Lawrence (08/10)
Soleminity of St. Peter and Paul (06/29)
Anniversary of the date of granting the title of Basilica (04/06)
Once a year on a day chosen by each individual