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L. A. Cathedral Web Exclusive
Audio presentation of Cardinal Mahony's cathedral interview and tour. Also, Web supplements related to the St. Anthony Messenger article, "L.A.'s New Cathedral: A Tour With Cardinal Mahony."

By John Bookser Feister


Audio Tour of the Cathedral with Cardinal Mahony
Audio Excerpts From Cardinal Mahony Interview
Brother Hilarion O'Connor, O.S.F.—Cathedral Builder
What's in a Name? St. Francis and Our Lady of the Angels
Links for More on the Cathedral

L.A.'s New Cathedral: A tour With Cardinal Mahony

Photo by
John Bookser Feister

Audio Tour With Cardinal Mahony (choose one):

Windows Media  |  Real Media

Audio Excerpts From St. Anthony Messenger's Interview With Cardinal Mahony (choose one):

Windows Media |  Real Media

Brother Hilarion O'Conner—Church Builder

Brother Hilarion O'Connor seldom gives interviews--"I never toot my own horn," he says. Yet Brother Hilarion is known by every contractor who worked on the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. He hired them.

The Irish-born Franciscan brother became building supervisor for the archdiocese in 1993, after a career of teaching and administration in the archdiocese's school system.
"That was just before the Northridge earthquake," he says ruefully. Several church steeples were endangering the public—it was his job to get a crew in and bring them down, regardless of public outcry. If he had not been out of town at a wedding one weekend in 1996, St. Vibiana's likely would no longer be standing. The demolition crew was in place, with the ball poised above the cupola, he recounts. Neither the cardinal nor the vicar would give the sign to the machine operator without Brother Hilarion's consent. By the time he got their urgent calls, after the wedding, there was a restraining order to save the old cathedral.

Brother Hilarion has plenty of humorous stories about the new Cathedral's construction. One involves the cardinal, known to have had his hands on all aspects of the project. As excavation was underway, Cardinal Mahony stopped by and told the excavation contractor—part of the world-class team that was brought in to oversee construction—that he had changed his mind about the location of the garage: it would need to be moved a few feet over. "The contractor, new on the job, nearly died! The entire plan would need to be revised!" laughs O'Connor. The contractor still laughs about the cardinal's joke that day.

Brother Hilarion is proud that he pulled together a team of hundreds of people who worked together for the entire project, a cathedral that was sorely needed: "We didn't have a heart, we didn't' have a cathedral, really," he says. "If the cathedral succeeds in becoming what the cardinal has set out for, the true center, or heart, of the Archdiocese, for theological teaching and the real role of the archbishop in the archdiocese, I think he'll be happy that it has achieved its mission," says Brother Hilarion.

Does such a vast project go against the spirit of St. Francis? Hilarion's answer is matter-of-fact: a large diocese requires a large cathedral. Thinking about the Poverello, in his comparatively tiny diocese, he adds with a smile, "I'm sure St. Francis would have been quite happy with a much smaller one."


What's In a Name? St. Francis and Our Lady of the Angels

The name of the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels really goes back to the little chapel of St. Mary of the Angels that was the early center of the Franciscan movement. The title is part of the full name of the city of Los Angeles, El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula—"The city of Our Lady of the Angels of the Little Portion." The name was first given to its river in 1769 by Franciscan missionaries Junipero Serra and Juan Crespi. Their expedition arrived on the Feast of Our Lady of the Angels, August 2. Missionaries often named places for that day's liturgical feast. The Archdiocese transferred this feast to September 4, the anniversary of the colonists first arrived. Outside L.A., the feast remains August 2.

The Portiuncula refers to the chapel where St. Francis founded the Franciscan Order. Francis was fascinated with angels. When he rebuilt the small chapel, on a little parcel of land (a "Portiuncula"), he dedicated it to Our Lady, calling it St. Mary of the Angels of the Little Portion. The tiny chapel outside Assisi is surrounded by St. Mary's Basilica today. There will always be a special historical connection between the Los Angeles's new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels and the little chapel near Assisi, which was the spiritual headquarters of the Franciscan missionaries who built the old Spanish missions of California.

Links for More on the L.A. Cathedral

Official Cathedral Web Site

Here's an extensive and beautiful presentation of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, including Flash tours, plenty of photos, biographical information about the artists and interesting historical notes. Flash tour of the Cathedral

Mouseover this cathedral illustration "Cathedral for the Ages" for a good overview of the cathedral complex. The "cathedral detail" link leads to extensive illustrations. View Virtual Tour


John Bookser Feister is an assistant editor of St. Anthony Messenger and editor of He holds masterís degrees in humanities and theology from Xavier University, Cincinnati.



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