The cathedral is a treasure in a diocese and in our tradition. It is not simply a “big church,” as some say; some parish churches are larger. What makes a cathedral is the presence of the chair, called a cathedra (Latin for seat) reserved for the bishop. There are many instances in our country of a local church (diocese) outgrowing a cathedral. In Baltimore and St. Louis, theformer cathedrals are historic treasures in the heart of the old city, but new and larger structures now function as the seat of the bishop. When a bishop dies or retires, itis said that “the seat is vacant,” and when the new bishop is installed, the central ritual is the moment when the decree of the Holy Fatheris read and the new bishop is escorted to the cathedra. No one but the bishop sits in the cathedra during a ritual, but in Los Angeles the cathedra in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels is accessible, and no one seems to mind when a visitor tries the cathedra out for the bishop’s point of view.
-Rev. James Field