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In a few weeks, from June 18 - June 22, the priests of our Archdiocese will gather at the Kahler Hotel in Rochester for our biennial Presbyteral Assembly. Every other year, for many years now our Archbishops have asked the priests of our Archdiocese to set aside their parish or institutional responsibilities and gather together for a few days to talk about some specific areas of our lives/ministries. This year the various speakers will focus on the Spirituality of the Diocesan Priesthood; Priestly Fraternity; and Affective Maturity. (I’m not at all sure what that last topic means.)
These gatherings are good and important. As priests, we gather in all our diversity and with all our differences, and spend time together in fraternity. During our time together we are well aware of the things that unite us as well as those things about which we disagree. And often times the things about which we disagree are brought up in very public ways. In fact, in the years I have been attending these assemblies, I have often been reminded of an old Phyllis Diller line from many years ago: “Never go to bed angry. Stay up and fight.”
We priests are very much like most other Catholics. We don’t always agree with each other. In fact, if the truth be told, we differ; we disagree; and sometimes we argue. But through it all we stay together. We don’t walk away from each other. I believe the reason for this is that we realize that, at root, the things that unite us are more important than the things that might divide us.
Disagreement and tension have always been a part of the life of our Church. In the Acts of the Apostles, Paul fought with Peter over the issue of Gentile converts. Moreover, through the centuries, disagreement and dissension have been part of more than one Council and/or Conclave. Yet through it all our Church not only has survived; it has thrived. I think the reason for this is twofold.
First, we believe that the Spirit of God has guided and continues to guide our Church. And with the guidance of the Spirit comes the promise and gift of Indefectibility. The gift of Indefectibility tells us that because the Holy Spirit leads and guides our Church, the Church cannot and will not deviate fundamentally from the truth of the Gospel, from the Mission of the Church, or from the Life of Faith. The guidance of the Holy Spirit ensures that despite disagreements that might arise, despite any appearance of division, our Church cannot deviate in fundamental and essential ways from the Gospel, the Mission that Christ entrusted to it, or from the Life of Faith.
The second thing that has ensured that our Church has thrived through the centuries is the grace of God poured out on the Church as a whole, and upon each individual member. I am more and more convinced that God’s grace has enabled and continues to enable us to identify, to discuss, to work through, and/or accept the differences and disagreements that exist within our Church. It is the grace of God that allows us to see beyond the differences that would divide us, to the many and foundational things that unite us. Our Church, both locally, as well as internationally, is very diverse. But diversity does not necessarily need to lead to division. Nor does diversity mean that we can’t stand on the common ground that is foundational for us and that ultimately unites us with God.
“Big God, Big Church” is a phrase that is really a mantra for me. It reminds me that the embrace of our Church cannot be anything less that the embrace of our God’s love. Occasionally all of us—even priests—need to be reminded of this fact. The things that unite us are far more important than the things about which we might differ or disagree. The challenge for all of us is to rely a little more on God’s grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and a little less on our own ideas and biases. As followers of the Lord Jesus this must always be our hope and our goal.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser: https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052817-ascension.cfm
This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of Jesus into heaven. When I was pastor of a parish with a school I loved celebrating Mass with children on this day. After the Gospel I would stand in front of the altar and stare up at the ceiling. Within a few seconds every child in the place would also be staring at the ceiling. After about a minute of this, I would tell them that they were dong the exactly the same thing Jesus’ disciples did when Jesus ascended into heaven.
We read of Jesus’ Ascension in our first reading this weekend which is taken from the Acts of the Apostles. In that reading we are told that when Jesus gathered with his disciples for the last time after his resurrection he told them: “When the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?’ This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”
Our Gospel reading this weekend contains the final verses of Matthew’s Gospel. In it Jesus commands his disciples to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit………” Jesus also reminded his disciples, that “behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Our second reading this weekend is taken from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians. In it Paul prays that the “eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- Sometimes I am like the disciples. I stare off into the heavens looking for Jesus, and forget his promise to be with us always, until the end of the age. Is this true for you as well?
- How are you called to give witness to Jesus in your life?
- How would you explain to someone our belief that Christ is both in heaven and yet with us here on earth?
As a vibrant co-cathedral parish with almost 6,500 families and one priest, we rely on additional priests to assist with the six masses held every weekend. Meet three of The Basilica’s newer weekend presiders.
Fr. John Berger
Originally from North Dakota, Fr. John Berger moved west and was ordained for the Diocese of Honolulu in 1991. He served as Rector at the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu until 2013, when he suffered a dama
ging heart attack and blood clot. He received a medical retirement from that diocese and relocated to the Twin Cities to be near to his sisters.
Fr. Berger has always been drawn to helping people, and enjoys the unique opportunity afforded to parish priests to restore people's ability to participate fully in the life and liturgy of the Church. Through ministry and his own personal challenges, he understands how “the experiences of human frailty and disappointment can actually become opportunities for growth and, by the grace of God, segues to new perspectives and a renewed purpose.”
He occasionally attended The Basilica over the years during visits with his sisters, and got to know Fr. John Bauer through the bi-annual Cathedral Ministry Conference. Fr. Berger enjoys presiding at weekday and weekend Masses. “Though my time here has been relatively short,” he shares, “I have been glad to get to know parishioners, and to do what we in Hawaii call ‘talk story.’”
Fr. Peter Brandenhoff
Growing up in Duluth and then Fairmont, MN, St. John Vianney parish and school was a central part of Fr. Peter Brandenhoff’s life. It was there that his love of the liturgy grew as an altar server and budding organist. During his sophomore year of high school, a Rochester Franciscan sister gave him a rosary with the instruction: take this to the seminary with you. ”I still have that rosary,” he shares. “God truly does drop hints at unexpected moments.”
Fr. Brandenhoff was ordained for the Diocese of Winona and served as pastor for a number of parishes. IN addition he served as director of the diocesan Office of Liturgy and the Commission on Sacred Liturgy, as chaplain, and as a high school religion teacher. He later received a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Minnesota and worked in a metro area psychotherapy clinic for 18 years. He also served several churches in this Archdiocese as a weekend presider.
“The liturgy has been the highlight and greatest love of my ministry,” Brandenhoff says. “Being a weekend presider at The Basilica of Saint Mary is pure joy because the highest priority is given to the celebration of the liturgy, so beautifully enhanced by the sacred arts and the lively participation of the community.”
In his free time, Fr. Brandenhoff enjoys baking bread, cooking, and outdoor activities including camping, biking, cross-country skiing, and kayaking. He also is taking piano lessons and enjoys playing Scrabble.
Fr. Harry Tasto
Fr. Harry Tasto grew up on a western Minnesota farm near the South Dakota border. He was interested in building and architecture, but his parish priest (and the diocesan Vocations Director) was insistent that Harry go to the seminary.
His father’s cousin was the Bishop of Superior, WI, and Fr. Tasto was ordained in the parish church that had served three generations of his family. At his ordination almost 50 years ago, he invited the pastors from the seven Protestant churches to join in the procession with their spouses. One month later they formed a ministerial association, which still continues today.
Fr. Tasto came to the Twin Cities and earned graduate degrees in Speech and Education from the University of Minnesota. He also completed a doctorate in Communications and Preaching. While in graduate school, he worked at parishes in this Archdiocese and transferred to this Presbytery 36 years ago. He served as pastor at a number of parishes, including St. Timothy’s in Blaine for sixteen years.
Known as a man of a million hobbies, Fr. Tasto enjoys woodworking, home remodeling, vegetable and flower gardening, cooking, and baking, honing these skills over the years. He is also a Harley rider and avid bicyclist who has been bicycling around the world in almost twenty different countries. These international trips can average about 40 miles of bicycling per day.
He retired from active ministry almost four years ago and started presiding at the Monday and Tuesday noon Masses at The Basilica. Last fall, Fr. Tasto began helping as a weekend presider. “I am enjoying my ministry here,” Tasto shares, “and am grateful for the welcome and acceptance I’ve received. I hope that I may be here for years yet to come!”
By Melissa Streit, BASILICA Magazine Editor
Published BASILICA Magazine Spring 2017, A Revolution of Love and Tenderness
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
“Do you love me?” That Tevye’s question to Golde in Fiddler on the Roof. I suspect most of us have asked (or thought of asking) this question at some point in our lives. In our Gospel today, though, Jesus didn’t pose this question. He was more direct. At the beginning of this Gospel he said: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” And toward the end of the Gospel he said: “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.”
In Fiddler on the Roof Golde replied to Tevye’s question by saying: “For twenty-five years I’ve lived with him. Fought him. Starved with him. Twenty-five years my bed is his. If that’s not love, what is?” For Golde love was shown in actions, not words. Jesus asks this same thing of those who would be his followers. We show we are his disciples by keeping his commandments. And Jesus commandments are clear. We are called to love God with our whole heart and soul and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. For Jesus, love is a verb, not a noun. It is an action more than an emotion.
Our first reading this weekend is again taken from the Acts of the Apostles. In it Philip proclaimed Jesus Christ to the city of Samaria. After they had accepted the word of God, Peter and John were sent to them to pray for them that they might “receive the Holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon any of them.” The gift of the Spirit signifies unity with the apostles and the other early Christian communities.
Our second reading this weekend is from the first Letter of Saint Peter. In it Peter challenges us to “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you, for a reason for your hope.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. What are some concrete and specific ways we can show our love for God and our neighbor?
2. In what concrete and specific ways have you experienced God’s love?
3. If someone were to ask you, what reason would you give for your hope?
A few weeks ago the Gospel reading at daily Mass was John’s account of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. In John’s version we are told that Jesus fed five thousand people with five barley loaves and two fish. We are told further that after everyone had their fill, Jesus told his disciples: “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted. So they collected them and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.” (Jn. 6:12b-13)
The story of the multiplication of the loaves and fish is the only miracle story that is found in all four Gospels. And while the details differ slightly in each account, there is at least one element that is common to all of them. In each Gospel, after the crowd had been fed, there were fragments left over that filled several wicker baskets. For some reason this detail caught my attention, so I spent some time reflecting on it. As part of my reflection, two things occurred to me. 1) When God is involved there is always an abundance; and 2) When God is involved nothing is insignificant or lost. I think both of these are important.
Often in our world today and especially in our culture, people live with an attitude of scarcity. We wonder whether there will be enough of “whatever” to go around, and so we cling tightly to our “stuff” because we fear there won’t be enough or that we might run out. This can lead us to hold tightly to certain things because we worry they might become a scarce commodity, and if we let go of them, there might not be enough if/when we need whatever it might be.
In regard to God’s love and grace, though, there is always an abundance. We never have to worry that there won’t be enough, or that someone else will get our share. God’s love and grace are not limited commodities. Since God is love and God is also infinite, it stands to reason that there is an infinite amount of God’s love and grace to go around. With God there is always an abundance. We need never fear that there is a limited supply of God’s grace and love.
As importantly, though, when God is involved nothing is ever lost or too small to be of significance. We know this because God has told us: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget; I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of my hands I have written your name;” (Is 49:15-16) These words remind us that God’s love is so abundant that no one is ever beyond the reach of that love, or too insignificant or unimportant to be loved. God loves us even if/when we don’t love God. No one and nothing is ever lost to God.
Too often, either consciously or unconsciously, we can believe that we are too insignificant to be known and loved by God. Jesus’ concern, though, that the fragments of barley loaves and fish be gathered up, reminds us that nothing escapes God’s notice and no one is ever lost to God. Such is God’s love. It is abundant beyond belief, and because of this, no one is ever beyond the reach of that love.
Youth in grades 4-8 will enjoy a week of Music and Art Immersion Camp, complete with field trips to local arts/theater venues, percussion ensemble and handbell ensemble, and throughout the week prepare a musical based on the book of Esther from the Bible. Breakfast and lunch are served.
The daring, triumphant story of Esther is brought to vivid life in this new musical by composer Erik Whitehill. Through the story of Esther, travel to the citadel of Susa where King Ahasuerus names Esther his new queen—and where Esther faces the decision of her life. Will wicked Haman prevail? Or will selfless Mordecai convince Esther to trust in God and save her people?
With a nod to Broadway, Esther is filled with memorable melodies—from fun and whimsical reprises to expressive, heartfelt ballads.
Cost: $100; Scholarships available.
Contact Teri Larson, email@example.com or 612.317.3426 for more information or for the registration brochure.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/051417.cfm
I have a friend who, whenever he has a bad day, always has tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich for supper. He told me that ever since he was a little boy, tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich has been his “go to” comfort food when he is stressed out or worried about something. I suspect we all have certain “comfort foods” in our lives --- food that comforts us when we encounter difficult or trying days. In addition to comfort food, though, I also believe there are certain scripture passages that provide comfort whenever we read them. I think our Gospel for this Sunday is a case in point. In that Gospel, Jesus reminds us that “We are not to let our hearts be troubled……….. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.” And that he “will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” Jesus also tells us that he is “the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
The above words of Jesus fill me (and I suspect most of us) with great comfort whenever I read them. They remind me Jesus loves us so much that he wants to be with us always --- not just in this life --- but also in the life to come. He is the way that leads to the Father and in his Father’s house there are dwelling places for all of us.
Our first reading this weekend reminds us that roles and responsibilities began to develop in the early church, so that the word of God could “continue to spread.”
Our second reading this weekend is once again taken from the first letter of Saint Peter. In it Peter reminds his audience that because of Jesus Christ they are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- Have you ever had a troubled heart? What/who gave you comfort?
- Are there certain passages from scripture that are “comfort” passages for you?
- What things do you do so that the word of God can continue to spread?
The Immigrant Support Ministry team welcomed the third family we co-sponsor with LSS on February 23rd of this year. They are a Karenni family of five, two parents and three young children. The parents were originally from Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. The family came to the US from a refugee camp in Thailand. The father of the family had lived in the camp for the last 17 years, since he was a teenager. His wife had lived in the camp for nearly as long
With the help of the Basilica four person mentor team the family has been settling into their new home. The first task was to get them warm clothing. Coming from a tropical climate the Minnesota winter was quite a shock. The mentors have taken them shopping for groceries--and they were excited to find a nearby market that has foods similar to those from their home country. The team is also helping to find them a dentist for some needed dental work. They have been available to help get their apartment set up with many necessary items. Coming from the refugee camp, the family came with very few belongings.
The two oldest children have recently started elementary school and LSS will be arranging ESL classes for the adults. Betsy Hasselman, from the mentor team said that she has enjoyed her time with them so far and has been inspired by their determination as they start the their new lives in the US. She looks forward to getting to know them more and being able to be part of their journey.
Something that we, as Catholics, struggle with and find consistency in, is prayer. We come from a tradition that is known for its beautiful liturgy and rich, eloquent prayer that has been spoken and sung for centuries. The practice of praying on our own can be daunting to say the least. It is so tempting to compare our prayers to those found in our many worship experiences, but this is a comparison that does more harm than good. I believe that at the center of prayer is a most important relationship—us and God. In fact, prayer is the relationship.
The words that we articulate are only half the equation. Words are one of the ways we communicate with one another. When spoken in prayer to our God, they often fill what might seem to us to be empty space. There is definitely something more to the practice of prayer than the words. God doesn’t need our words. God already knows what is in the deepest corner of our hearts. The conversation and communion that takes place in prayer happens in the spaces between words. God more often speaks to us in the silence of our prayer. It is in the conversation and the communion that is created with God that is truly where we find God and, in turn, the peace we seek. There is beauty and clarity in this communion with God that allows us to see beyond this world and set our sights on a place of higher ground.
We are called to surrender ourselves to this relationship with God. All we have to do is show up, make time, and set aside 10 or 20 minutes to just “be” in God’s presence. We don’t have to say anything. We can just “be still” and know that God is God. God knows our heart; he knows our deepest desires. He hears our prayers for all of humanity. God always answers our prayers in light of what is the very best for us.
Prayer is a lot like riding a bike. It takes practice and it will not always be easy. It is a continuous process that needs to be addressed daily, just as you would work on your relationship with a family member or close friend. We can’t expect to pray once and have a relationship with God. It is a discipline that requires a lifetime of practice. If we put prayer time into each day, it will be like other relationships in our lives that grow and blossom. To continue with the analogy of learning to ride a bike, you may scrape your knee once or twice. But we need to get up on the bike again in order to learn how to ride it. So it is with our prayer life. We remember that we have a God that is all loving, full of great mercy, and is gentle with us. Jesus told us about God who finds joy in us. The reward at the end is great: a one-on-one relationship with our Creator. What peace and intimacy this relationship can bring to our lives.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/050717.cfm
I would guess that for most of us the words “sheep” and “shepherds,” evoke idyllic images of meadows, flowing waters and pleasant tranquility. The reality is, though, that sheep are not the cleanest of animals and they certainly aren’t very intelligent. And, at the time of Jesus, shepherds were not well paid and shepherding definitely was not an important job. In fact, shepherds were often looked on with suspicion, and were not accorded a great deal of respect. Despite this, in the Old Testament, the images of sheep and shepherds were often used to describe God’s relationship with his people. Jesus too, often used this image to describe his relationship to his disciples. This is certainly true this weekend as we celebrate the 4th Sunday of Easter. Each year in our three year cycle of readings, we always read from the 10th chapter of John’s Gospel on this weekend, and we always hear of sheep and shepherds.
In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus reminds us of four important things. 1. The sheep “hear the voice of the shepherd.” 2. The “shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” 3. The shepherd “walks ahead of them and the sheep follow him.” 4. “A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
In our first reading this Sunday, we continue to read from Peter’s speech on the first Pentecost. In the section we read today, Peter challenges his hearers to “Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children.” The last sentence is important. It reminds us that God’s promise of salvation is universal and timeless.
For our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the First Letter of Peter. In the section we read today, Peter reminds us that Jesus is our model in any sufferings. “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- In today’s world, do the images of sheep and shepherds still work to help us understand our relationship with God?
- What helps you to hear the voice of the shepherd?
- Why do some people better seem to bear “suffering” better than others?