San Fernando Cathedral: Soul of the City

Elizondo, Virgilio P. and Timothy M. Matovina. San Fernando Cathedral: Soul of the City. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1998.

San Fernando Cathedral: Soul of the City, by Virgilio Elizondo and Timothy Matovina, invites the reader to enter the life and witness of San Antonio’s San Fernando Cathedral by exploring the mystery of God’s presence in the sensus fidelium, that is, the actual and living faith of its people. The authors’ conviction is that in the memory, traditions, rituals, processions and other personal and public expressions of faith, “God’s presence is seen, touched, felt, smelled, heard, and tasted.” The book further demonstrates how San Fernando serves as the unifying center or soul of San Antonio, offering insight into the way cathedrals can and do function as sacred space in the midst of today’s secular city. <p> Eight chapters form the content of the book, with a Foreword by James P. Wind, formerly of the Lilly Endowment, and an Afterword by David P. Garcia, San Fernando’s current rector. Chapter 1, entitled “Exploring the Faith of a People” and co-written by Matovina and Elizondo, relates the authors’ own experiences as parishioner and pastor respectively at San Fernando. Matovina authors Chapters 2 (“Memories Create a People”) and 3 (“Development of a Tradition”), setting the cathedral’s story in its personal and historical contexts and bringing its history into the present. <p> Elizondo pens the remaining five chapters, focusing on the life and faith of the people of San Fernando Cathedral. Chapter 4, “Icons of the Sacred,” illustrates how the cathedral’s faithful, mostly though not exclusively poor Mexican-Americans, reveal in their lives and witness the presence and mystery of Christ. In “Conversations with God,” Elizondo dedicates the fifth chapter to the cathedral’s language of prayer and praise, while in Chapter 6, “The Gospel Unveiled and Proclaimed,” he surveys the general contours of the biblical message heard and received at San Fernando. Chapter 7, “The Sacred in the City,” briefly explains the cathedral’s public ritual celebrations. Elizondo concludes with Chapter 8 entitled “Imagining the City of God.”