The Most Important Building isn’t even on the Tour!

I live in Washington DC on East Capitol Street. If you picture the United States Capitol in your mind, one side faces the long grassy Mall where so many large gatherings and protests take place. Behind the Capitol, on the exact opposite side is a long street that stretches through the Capitol Hill Neighborhood called “East Capitol Street.” My parish is just 14 blocks up on the right. It is a “merged” Parish of St. Cyprian (building lost in 1966) and Holy Comforter (a title of the Holy Spirit).

I want to tell you of the two most important buildings on East Capitol Street. Let me begin with the second most important building, the United States Capitol.

The United States Capitol is the epicenter of the free world. It is the nerve center in the Capital of the most powerful country on this planet. It is here that some of the most powerful people in the world craft legislation and ponder great issues. Presidents have stood in the well of the House chamber to deliver important addresses. Other heads of state have also visited here. In fact people from all over the world travel to this country just to visit and perhaps transact business with the United States Government.

Decisions are made in this building that impact the lives of over 300 million Americans and even more all around the world. Decisions are made here that change world history. Decisions about more money than you can imagine are made in this building on a daily basis.

Perhaps no other building is more identified with this great country of ours than the US Capitol. It’s beauty and grandeur bespeak a powerful and confident land. The US Capitol: the second most important building on East Capitol Street in Washington DC.

What then you ask is the MOST important building on East Capitol Street in Washington DC?! It is Holy Comforter – St Cyprian Roman Catholic Church at 1357 East Capitol Street. In this holy place, some one greater than any head of state, God himself, dwells in the tabernacle. Jesus the Lord and King of the whole universe dwells here, speaks here, ministers here. The prayers and worship that take place in Holy Comforter Church not only change world history but these prayers are also what enable the decisions at the second most important building on East Capitol to have any good effect.

In the US Capitol human work takes place. In Holy Comforter Catholic Church God’s work takes place. In the US Capitol important but ordinary things happen. In Holy Comforter Church miracles happen as ordinary bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus, as sins are forgiven, as heaven is opened. In the US Capitol many words are exchanged and written that impact the day to day activities of America. In Holy Comforter Catholic Church, the Word of God does not just inform, it performs and it transforms.

Many people come to visit the US Capitol. But in Holy Comforter Catholic Church the congregation is joined in worship by myriads upon myriads of angels and a company of saints which cannot be numbered. The US Capitol represents a government that we hope will endure for a long time but Holy Comforter is an outpost of a Church that the gates of Hell will never prevail against. In the US Capitol laws are passed that may one day be changed. But in Holy Comforter Church there is announced each week a law that will never pass away. The Senate majority leader and the Speaker of the House will come and go, changing year by year. But the High Priest, Jesus Christ who ministers at Holy Comforter Church will never die and has a kingdom that will never be destroyed.

Well, OK I suspect you know by now why the US Capitol is the second most important building on East Capitol Street in the Nation’s Capital. Holy Comforter – St Cyprian Roman Catholic Church far outranks in dignity and importance any other building on the street. This is true not because of the human elements involved, but rather the Divine. But I hope you will agree, the US Capitol is the second most important building on East Capitol Street, a distant second!

Funny thing though, all the tour buses drive right past Holy Comforter Church on their way to the second most important building. Wonder what that’s about? You’d think they’d at least stop to take a few pictures and ask to see God. Hmm…. There’s just no accounting for taste is there? Imagine, driving right past the House of God to see “the man” and his house. Imagine that!

In your visits to Washington, perhaps you too missed seeing the most important building on East Capitol Street. It’s probably not your fault. Those silly tour companies just don’t know any better and you depended on them to get you around. But here for you in the video below are pictures, historical and current of the MOST important building on East Capitol Street in the Nation’s Capital.

By the way, when I published a shorter version of this three years ago, I actually got some hate mail from “offended” people. Please, allow a little friendly boasting, the wearing of school (church) colors and know that I write with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. It’s called humor y’all. And while there are elements of truth in what I write, my “excesses” are in good fun. Get it? Humor! 🙂

29 Replies to “The Most Important Building isn’t even on the Tour!”

  1. Please can I ask which piece of music you chose to accompany your video? It’s glorious!

  2. I took a virtual ride around the block of your neighborhood on Google and I know why the tour bus doesn’t stop at the most important place on East Capital Street. Number one, is the lack of parking spaces. Number two is the one way streets bordering the block at 13 th and 14 th streets, and no one wants to go down ‘A’ street with what appears to be dips in the pavement. Number three, Al’s Gourmet Pizza appears to be the only nearby place to get a meal and I don’t think they could handle the tourist crowd. You’ve got a nice looking crib and parish church but it just doesn’t scream ” tourist trap.”

  3. Not to put a damper on the light side of your post, we are all too serious all the time, but I knew a priest who had a tendency to slip into cynicism in noting the fact that in a certain college town all the students and sophisticated intellectuals would pass by the local Catholic Church in utter disdain for Him whom they ought to have known dwelt inside in physical Presence. Yes, they knew what Catholics believe, but they were just too sophisticated for such a humble Emmanuel. Such gesturing, such statue worship, such curious bodily piety is for the unenlightened simple folk. “You Harvard snobs,” he called them, “you wouldn’t go to the manger of Bethlehem if you lived next door to it 2000 years ago.”

  4. I didn’t think there were any excesses in the post. I think the post only hints at how true it really is. Beautiful video.

  5. Well, if I am ever in Washington (by no means unlikely over the next year or two) I will certainly stop in!

      1. I know a lot of this thread is tongue in cheek, but do you leave the light on? I have found that most inner city DC parishes, except around the time of the daily Mass are either totally locked up or very hard to figure out how to get in. The only exceptions I have found are the National Shrine and St. Matthews since they are pilgrimage locations.

        1. Don’t forget the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land at 14th and Quincy. It’s got to be one of the most beautiful sites in Washington and is really unique, with its Holy Land and Marian shrines, and incredible gardens. It’s also a Year of Faith pilgrimage site so you can get a plenary indulgence.

  6. Please don’t feel obliged to apologize, or even to squirm, for averring that the Real Presence puts the self-asserted importance of everything else in the shade. “Powers and principalities” doesn’t exempt the USA.

  7. Love this post! I know it will be our first stop in DC when we make a visit. Now if only our leaders would step into the most important building first before stepping into the other …

  8. great! And what order are the nuns in the photo? I didn’t recognize the habit. Thanks be to God you have deacons and nuns to serve your parish, too!

  9. Excellent post! If I find myself in Washington DC again, I will make it a point to visit the acme of East Capitol Street.

    One nit to pick: if the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church, then the Church must be the one attacking. You’re not an outpost so much as a spearhead.

    1. Gates are usually built to keep others out, for protection, not used for attack against an outside force. The gates of hell protect the domain of Satan from attack, but the Church will prevail and his dark kingdom will be consigned to isolation forever. Light will prevail over darkness, Truth over lies, Life over death, Eucharist over sin.

  10. The church building should indeed be central to our lives. It is where we congregate, worship Our Lord together, and meet Jesus through the Eucharist. I love that most Catholic churches have an architecture rooted in theology – and that they are not anonymous slabs like some other religious groups.

    One push-back point, Msgr. – too many of us Catholics think that our Catholicism begins and ends in the physical church building. We don’t take to heart that “Go in peace, the Mass has ended” means “live your lives as you heard Jesus tell you in here” and not “see you next week for your next class!” An hour a week in the church doesn’t cut it (or, as I have experienced at St. Cyprian, 2 1/2 hours 🙂 ) – the hours outside matter as much.

  11. Monsignor Pope,

    I was born in Washington, DC, on June 7, 1942, and baptized at St. Joseph’s Church on Capitol Hill in June 28th, 1942. I couldn’t agree with you more that Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian, St. Joseph’s Church, and St. Peter’s Church, are the most important places on Capitol Hill, much more important than the US Capitol.

    Thanks for your wonderful post today, and for all your wonderful posts.

    God bless,
    Gerry McMurray

  12. Beautiful! Perhaps I’ll try to stop by during the March for Life this year!!

  13. I have visited your parish a few times and I love it! The parishioners are very friendly. Unfortunately I live rather far away to attend on a regular basis. I often say I wish your parish was in the country by me! I also wish that for those that want to visit that there was a bit more parking, but it’s the city, so I don’t see anything like that in the near future.

  14. Remind me of the time when I was at mass a few months ago and the rector called for prayers for those in need such as the homeless, the chronically ill and those who egotistically wield great worldly power from huge office towers because, they didn’t have the experience of realizing God’s power.
    I can’t recall the exact words but, see it as a worthy challenge to face up to our Saviour’s challenges to love.

    1. Upon reflection, it seems that we were given such large challenges to love because He knew that we are worthy of taking on those challenges – unlike the people who give “put downs” to try & trick us into believing that we are unworthy of such challenges.
      I wonder, are they badly in need of real love, instead of the adulation which they seem to crave?

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