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Weekly Musings

Breaking Down Our Walls

This June, I was privileged to join a group of women on a three-day retreat in northern Minnesota. This retreat brought together mothers of children who were murdered with mothers whose children are in prison for committing murder. They all carry deep pain in their lives. I was along as support staff, to cook and care for the women.

The three days began with awkward conversations and actions: Each woman trying to settle in, claim safe space, and be strong. They came from two different sides of a tragic experience. They held deep resentment and anger. They had great trepidation, yet, courageously choose to attend together.

Once everyone arrived, the first group activity was prayer. Trusting God, ground rules were set: the women were all in this together. The women were willing, and the retreat unfolded. In various forms, the women were invited to honestly and courageously share their story with one another. They were challenged to respectfully listen and hear one another.

Through the simple, yet profound experience of sharing stories and deep listening, tears were shed and walls broke down. I witnessed a transformation from division and brokenness to solidarity, love, and support. Each woman gained a deep respect and admiration for the other. Each woman understood that there was more in common than different. They were filled with compassion for one another. Bonds were formed that were deep and profound. Grace abound.

This retreat was facilitated by From Death To Life, an organization that brings families impacted by the tragedy of homicide together for healing and forgiveness. Their work offers hope to families and transforms the entire community through healing, reconciliation, and peace. You can learn more at www.fromdeathtolife.us.

The work of reconciliation and healing is happening all around the world. The Catholic Relief Services is doing powerful work in Rwanda with victims of genocide. They are bringing together Hutu with Tutsi to share stories, make amends, and heal communities. Through this sincere work, solidarity is born. You can learn about this incredible work at www.storiesofhope.crs.org.

Reconciliation and healing is happening in current war zones in the Middle East. Organizations such as Churches for Middle East Peace bring together Israelis and Palestinians to hear one another’s story and listen with respect. In this process, they find solidarity and compassion for one another. Participants speak about the power of understanding how the ongoing conflict undermines the lives and livelihoods of both peoples. They aspire to become an advocate for an end to the violence and better futures for all. Learn about this important work at www.cmep.org.

While the specifics of these situations are unique, the experience of division, resentment, or hatred is not. These can be found in our own lives. We all build walls around us to protect and separate us from hurt. Families can be estranged, and siblings can become alienated. Neighborhoods can be destroyed, and churches can become divided.

As we seek to make sense of a world of division and violence, let us look into our own lives and find healing and reconciliation. Where are our walls? Who are we keeping out? Whose story do we need to hear? And who needs to listen to our story? Healing and reconciliation are fruits of the Spirit. Let us be inspired by the women at the retreat. Let us all find ways to recognize our own anger and fear, yet, courageously choose to show up together. God will be there, waiting.

 

For many years I thought of prayer in terms of technique—a technique that could be learned, much like how one learned to play a musical instrument. I thought if I only “practiced” enough, I would become proficient at prayer. When I experienced difficulties with prayer, or when prayer seemed dry or rote, I assumed that I just needed to work on my technique and keep practicing. I also read books on prayer, and kept hoping I would find an expert who could help me with my technique or share a secret that would suddenly help me to be more proficient at prayer.   

I don’t think my experience in regard to prayer is unique. Over the years, I have encountered many people who, like me, were looking for a technique or method that would help them feel more comfortable and proficient with prayer. I have also encountered people who thought they were lacking some secret skill or had some defect in their make up that hindered or even prevented them from praying as well as they would like. And in some cases I have also encountered people who have given up on prayer altogether because they found it too frustrating and unsatisfying. 

Fortunately for me, my attitude toward prayer changed many years ago when I was on retreat. I asked my retreat director for some “tips” on prayer. Initially he suggested things I already knew, e.g. have a regular time and place for prayer, start with some deep relaxing breaths, etc. As we talked further, though, he told me that perhaps I was taking the wrong approach to prayer. He said that while there are a lot of techniques that can help with prayer. When we approach prayer solely as an activity we want to become proficient at or a skill we want to master, we are missing something important and will probably find prayer frustrating.  

My retreat director went on to suggest that I approach prayer more in terms of a relationship. While there are things we can do to enhance our relationships and help them grow, the most important thing is simply being present. If we are not present to someone, if we don’t spend time with them, we shouldn’t be surprised if the relationship feels stilted or stagnant. In order for a relationship to grow and deepen, we need to spend time simply being with another. This presence eventually leads to trust, which eventually leads to deeper and deeper sharing, which eventually leads to love.  

Now to be clear, when we think of prayer in terms of a relationship, that doesn’t mean that every time we go to prayer that it is a deep and profound experience. There are ebbs and flows, and peaks and valleys in every relationship. This is certainly true with regard to God. Our prayer, though, helps us to keep our relationship with God open and flowing, even and perhaps especially, at those times when our prayer feels unproductive or even frustrating.  

Occasionally, I will find myself falling back into the habit of trying to find a technique or skill that will help me feel more proficient at prayer. At these times, I need to remind myself that prayer is about relationship and not about technique. At root, my relationship with God — like the other relationships that nurture and nourish me in my life —  is sustained not by doing something, but simply by being present. 

Sin as Our Failure

One Monday morning a few weeks ago I was at my cabin catching up on the Sunday newspaper when I heard a loud “clunk” from the living room. I looked up from the paper and saw a bird fluttering around on the deck in a daze. I realized immediately that the bird must have flown into the  sliding glass door, only to have the glass bring its flight to a rather abrupt end. The bird appeared to be okay, so I went back to reading the paper. 

I hadn’t been reading the paper for more than five minutes when I heard another loud “clunk.” I looked out on the deck and saw the same bird fluttering around once more in a daze just outside the sliding glass door. I watched it for a few minutes, but since it again appeared to be okay, I went upstairs to take a shower, figuring that the bird had learned its lesson this time.

After my shower I had to run some errands and ended up being gone for a couple of hours.  When I returned to my cabin, and began unloading some groceries I had bought, I once again heard a familiar “clunk.” This time when I checked, I wasn’t surprised to see the bird fluttering around outside the sliding glass door.  What did surprise me, though, was the number of small feathers and other telltale markings that speckled the window pane. Apparently the poor bird had spent most of the morning trying to fly through the glass. I couldn’t help but think what a shame it was that it hadn’t learned a lesson from its first few failed attempts.  It occurred to me that if only it had a bigger brain or a stronger memory it might have saved itself a lot of pain and uselessly expended time and energy.

I thought about that bird a few days later, when I caught myself falling back into a bad habit I had been working to change. I couldn’t help but smile at myself as it dawned on me that in this particular case, I wasn’t really all that different from that poor bird. Like that bird, I hadn’t learned from my past mistakes. I had fallen into an old behavior pattern, which was anything but constructive and growthful.   

As I reflected on this situation it struck me that something like this probably occurs in each of our lives. There are times when we continue bad habits or patterns of behavior even though they are counter to our growth. It occurred to me that this is what sin is all about. Sin is our failure to break the destructive habits or behaviors that keep us from growing into the people God has called us to be.      

Now in some ways the above is a depressing thought.  Fortunately for us, though, unlike the bird outside my sliding glass door, we have the ability to recognize our destructive behaviors.  Additionally, though, we also have the means available to help us change those behaviors.   As Christians, we believe that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is always there for us and with us in our lives. If we are open to it, and if we allow it to work in our lives, the grace of the Lord Jesus can help us change our lives and be better people.  

Certainly it is not easy to change habits or patterns of behavior that are sinful and which have become entrenched over the years. Moreover, it may take a considerable amount of effort to do so.  However, the work involved in changing these behaviors is certainly preferable to continuing them. For the reality is that if we don’t make the effort to change, to learn from our mistakes and grow, we aren’t a whole lot better off than some poor bird who keeps bumping its head into a pane of glass.

Our Building of Hope

The Basilica, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was built more than a century ago, and was the first Basilica in the United States. And it hosts a great rock concert each summer.  

The Basilica Landmark has much to celebrate, from the $2.5 matching challenge gift to the 20th anniversary of The Basilica Block Party. When the event started, it funded emergency “right now” needs.  There were about 1,000 registered households, and the building was in great disrepair.

Today, what happens at The Basilica reaches beyond the parish and impacts our community.

  • Programming spans from employment to mental health ministry to religious education, and so much more.
  • Hundreds of thousands visit us each year attending concerts, art exhibits, and other public events.
  • More than 11,000 people attend liturgies on Easter and Christmas combined, and there are 60 weddings each year.
  • Outreach programs serve about 50,000 people each year. We give away 7,000 pairs of shoes, 13,000 sandwiches, and hundreds of bus tokens, gas cards, and rental assistance annually.

These programs are all possible because The Basilica Landmark cares for the home for these life-changing and life-saving ministries. The Landmark’s Mission Statement is to “Preserve, Restore, and Advance the historic Basilica of Saint Mary for all generations.”  We will advance this mission through giving opportunities including the matching challenge and the Block Party.

Last November, an anonymous donor made a commitment to match new or increased gifts of $1,000+ made to The Basilica Landmark. If we meet this challenge, we will ensure the transition from reaction into action, paving the way for continued growth with major improvements for our campus buildings and Landmark church. If you would like to participate in this opportunity, please call the development office at 612.317.3455.

The Cities97 Basilica Block Party is a great introduction to thousands of people who attend each year, and it is also a successful fundraiser. Each year, more than 1,600 volunteers and 75 committee members make the event come together. In 19 years, more than 400,000 people have attended and $5.2 million has been raised. These funds are directed two places :

  1. Our St. Vincent de Paul outreach programs, and 
  2. The Basilica Landmark, which is an independent non-profit from The Basilica, specifically dedicated to our mission of caring for the buildings on our campus.

You are invited to be part of this year’s event. Don’t miss the archive exhibit featuring 20 years of block party memorabilia. Raffle tickets are available from volunteers after Mass, and you can purchase tickets and The Basilica Block Party 20th anniversary CD at basilicablockparty.org. The Basilica’s own Choirs are featured on the CD performing with The Jayhawks.

After decades of work and investment and two decades of the “party of a higher order,” we have turned a corner on our campus. Today, we have the opportunity to improve buildings, renovating for growth and the future. This year, The Basilica Landmark will spend more than $2.5 million on campus improvement projects, including the removal of the church insulation which is the first step in the interior restoration. The work we do today paves the way for our dream, the complete restoration of The Building of Hope. 

We’ll know we’ve accomplished our goal when we ensure our building — and all the good that happens here — is forever.  Please accept my appreciation to everyone who has cared for our historic Landmark Basilica.  You have contributed to “The Building of Hope.”

Learn more about The Basilica Landmark.

This coming October, Pope Francis has called for a special Synod on the family. According to Pope Francis, “the Synod will be on the family, the problems it is facing, its assets and the current situation it is in.” In preparation for this Synod, bishops from around the world were asked to seek input and gather information from the people of their respective dioceses. Several individual bishops, as well as conferences of bishops, have released summaries of the input they received. Archbishop Michael Jackels, the Archbishop of Dubuque, Iowa, was one of the bishops who reported on the input he had received.

Additionally, though, he offered his reflections on that input. In this regard, he noted that “the responses reflected positions relative to marriage and the family that were varied and opposing.” He also reported hearing a range of opinions about birth control, divorce and remarriage, same-sex marriage, and other issues. While I don’t think anyone would be surprised at this, I am grateful for and pleased by Archbishop Jackels’ candor in acknowledging it.     
In his reflections on the input he had received, I was struck in particular by one comment Archbishop Jackels made.  Specifically, he said:“The Church is a lot like a family, which is never perfect, often not pretty, sometimes dysfunctional and a source of frustration, even the cause of anger. And yet we still identify with it, claim membership in it, and how dare anyone try and say otherwise.  In the Church family we always hold out hope that other members or things in general will change for the better. And what “better” means varies from family member to family member.”

I think Archbishop Jackels really hit the nail on the head with this comment. As I have mentioned previously, I think Church is like a family. In my own family, we have managed to cancel out each other’s votes in the last several presidential elections.   And yet we realize that when we come together to share a meal, when we all put our feet under the same table, there is something much bigger holding us together than could ever divide us. And so it is with Church. 

When we celebrate the Eucharist we experience the preeminent commitment of God to us. At its deepest level, the Eucharist is a communion of life, a communion of love with our living God. It is a sharing in God’s life, so that our lives can be holy, and we can be united in Christ. In the fourth century, St. Augustine in a homily about the Eucharist said: “So now, if you want to understand the body of Christ, listen to the Apostle Paul speaking to the faithful: ‘You are the body of Christ, member for member.’ (1 Cor. 12.27) If you, therefore, are Christ's body and members, it is your own mystery that is placed on the Lord's table! It is your own mystery that you are receiving! You are saying "Amen" to what you are: your response is a personal signature, affirming your faith. When you hear "The body of Christ," you reply "Amen." Be a member of Christ's body, then, so that your "Amen" may ring true!”  

When we gather for Eucharist we come with all our different perspectives, opinions, prejudices, perceptions, views, thoughts and ideas about how things should be. It would be easy for these things to separate and divide us. When we share Eucharist, though, the things that might divide us shrink in significance as we are unified in Christ through the Eucharist that we share in his name and memory. It is the Eucharist that strengthens us, that nourishes and sustains us, and that unites us as we seek to follow Jesus. And in the Eucharist, when we receive the Body of Christ, we become the Body of Christ in the world. We are united in faith, and because of this our differences — whatever they are — dim in comparison to the unity we experience in the Body of Christ.  

A Letter to the Parish

Dear Parish and Friends,

As a parish that strives to live out the vision of Vatican II, we believe that every member is responsible for the well-being of our church as well as our community. The Basilica Vision states this wonderfully as we attempt to be a Home of Spiritual Nourishment, a Beacon of Hope and an Advocate for Change.  We, as Parish Council members, attempt to be your lay voice in carrying out this Vision.

Allegations of sexually inappropriate conduct within our church, and concerns regarding the handling of such allegations by the Archdiocesan hierarchy, continue to be headline news. While we all react differently to this information, each of us as parishioners at The Basilica and members of the Roman Catholic Church must share a sense of compassion for those directly and indirectly impacted by sexual abuse and disappointment that these issues continue to exist within our church.

The Parish Council regularly discusses these issues and supports Fr. Bauer in his regular communications to you and to Archdiocese officials. We discuss what has happened and is happening, both here at The Basilica and at the Archdiocese, and prayerfully ask what more we can or should do as lay leadership to respond to past abuse, minister to those impacted by it, and protect against future abuse within our community and church. Many of you have actively assisted us in this endeavor, through private conversations with Fr. Bauer, staff or members of the Parish Council, and through participation in public listening sessions. Although some parish members have said they’ve heard enough or don’t want to hear anything more from us on this issue, we feel silence does not best serve our Mission at the Basilica.  By continuing to treat the safety of community members as a critical issue, and providing transparency regarding our own actions, we will establish and reinforce a church environment that does not allow such conduct to go undetected and unaddressed.

In communicating our actions to date and our plans going forward, we look to The Basilica’s Vision for our guidance.

The Basilica of Saint Mary aspires to be a:

  • Home of Spiritual Nourishment - We aspire to be a place where all may be touched by beauty, be nourished in their faith, and be inspired by truth. Our parish should be a place of healing and strength realized through both community and individual prayer. We support Fr. Bauer in being open, transparent and at times blunt about what we can do and what the Archdiocesan leadership should be doing.
  • Beacon of Hope - We commit to welcome everyone with respect and dignity and to provide help and care, especially to those most in need. We are proud that the Basilica continues to open its doors to minister to those directly or indirectly impacted by sexual abuse through public listening sessions for our parishioners and private forums for individuals and officials dealing with or protecting others from sexual misconduct. 
  • Advocate for Change - We pledge to work toward justice, peace, and equality for all and to promote the protection of all of creation. We must make certain that our parish remains a safe and welcoming environment for all those who come through our doors. We strive to be an example and disciple of Christ in protecting individuals from misconduct and being forthright, rigorous and outspoken that such standards are adhered to by clergy, staff and volunteers here and throughout the Archdiocese.

 In furtherance of our Vision, concrete steps we have taken as a parish to address arising from sexual abuse and our Archdiocesan response to abuse include the following:

  • Fr. Bauer has regularly extended invitation to individuals and families to share with him their anger and frustrations regarding abuse and our Archdiocesan response to it, through newsletter and bulletin articles, pulpit announcements and extending personal invitation.
  • We held public listening sessions in November 2013 to provide opportunity for prayer, dialogue and healing, and to provide a forum to discuss openly the impact of abuse on our church.
  • We have shared information and feelings heard at the public listening sessions in an open letter from Fr. Bauer to Archbishop Nienstedt to encourage open communication and connection between church members and Archdiocesan leadership.
  •  We have reviewed and updated volunteer and staff policies designed to protect the safety of our community members. This includes policies and practices for conducting background checks, training volunteers and staff in best practices working with children and reporting suspected abuse to law enforcement, and building awareness among children and parents in our parish programs.
  • The Parish Council keeps this topic on its agenda as new information and events unfold, regarding abuse allegations as well as Archdiocesan responses. We regularly ask what more we can and should be doing to support and guide our parish community and what our role should be in the larger church.

In addition to these actions, many of which are continuing, we have begun planning for a liturgical response dedicated to issues of sexual abuse.  We will be inviting parish and community members to join us in prayer and support for those who have been victims of sexual abuse and their families and for those struggling with the impact such allegations have had on individuals and our church. Our goals are to provide an opportunity for healing and coming together with anyone impacted or concerned with these issues within the church, to remind ourselves of the healing power of Jesus Christ, and to offer prayerful example to all who are hurt and angry.  We will also continue to provide information and feedback to the Archdiocese, to ensure the voices of our parish community are transmitted to Archbishop Nienstedt.

As Parish Council members, we serve you – our parish community.  This is your parish and we welcome and need your input to continue to constructively address and respond to abuse issues our church is facing.  We encourage your involvement and input, through emails, conversations, meetings and other actions. Provide your feedback and let us know what would be helpful and meaningful to you. 

You can contact any member of the Parish Council (including Fr. Bauer) by email.  You may also provide input to the Archdiocese at 226 Summit Avenue, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55102 or online.

If you are aware of abuse or suspect sexual abuse, you should report such information to local law enforcement.

We ask that you continue to pray for all victims of sexual abuse.  We ask further that we all pray for each other as members of The Basilica and the greater Roman Catholic Church in fulfilling our role to make our church and community a better place for all.

Sincerely

Chip Brink, Chair, Liturgy and Sacred Arts

Jill Ahern, Vice-Chair, At Large

Thomas Paul, Secretary, Liturgy and Sacred Arts

Kathy Noecker, At Large

Deborah Pekarek, At Large

Kathleen Andrus, Christian Life

Anne Jaeger, Christian Life

Rebecca Vandenberg, Learning

Paul Herb, Learning

Steve May, Development

Steve Kattke, Finance

Anne Locker Bernat, Trustee

Delia Bujold, Trustee

Terri Ashmore, Managing Director

Fr. John Bauer, Pastor

 

“The only purpose of the Church is to go out and tell the world the good news about Jesus Christ. It needed to surge forth to the peripheries, not just geographically, but to the peripheries where people grapple with sin, pain, injustice, and indifference to religion. 

“But the Church had become too wrapped up in itself.  It was too navel-gazing. It had become ‘self referential’ which had made it sick.  It was suffering a ‘kind of theological narcissism.’ When Jesus said: ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock’ people assumed he was outside, wanting to come in.  But sometimes, Jesus knocks from within, wanting to be let out into the wider world. A self-referential church wants to keep Jesus to itself, instead of letting him out to others.”   

The above quotation is part of a pre-conclave talk given by Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis). Another Cardinal, Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, the Archbishop of Havana, said that this speech, given during the cardinals’ pre-conclave meetings, was "masterful" and “clear.” In fact he was so impressed with the talk that he asked Cardinal Bergoglio for his notes and his permission to share them publicly.  

I too like these words of Pope Francis.  They remind us that our Church does not exist for its own sake and well being.  Rather our Church is meant to bring Christ to the world — to be the face, the hands, the body, and the love of Christ in the world.

This weekend we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first Mass at The Basilica of Saint Mary. That first Mass has been followed by countless other Masses. Additionally, in the 100 years since that first Mass, almost 26,500 babies have been baptized at The Basilica (161 of them were baptized this past year alone); thousands of weddings and funerals have taken place here; as well as Anointings of the Sick and Ordinations. And in recent years The Basilica has been host to hundreds of Confirmation ceremonies for the Archdiocese. In addition to these sacramental celebrations, The Basilica has also educated thousands in our school, and since 1974 in our faith formation programs. Through our various programs, services and ministries we welcome all those who are seeking to know and follow Jesus Christ in their lives. As I mention at the beginning of every Mass, we welcome people to worship with us whether they worship with us regularly or whether they are just visiting. Whatever brings people to The Basilica and wherever people are on their faith journey, they are welcome here.   

In addition to our parish activities, though, for one hundred years The Basilica has also been a beacon of hope on the Minneapolis skyline. The Basilica is a magnet for attracting people from all over the metro area.  Individuals from more than 540 zip codes call this parish their spiritual home. They provide critical funds and volunteer hours to help thousands of people. And our efforts make a difference. Since its beginnings at The Basilica over 25 years ago, our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry has served countless people.  Some are homeless, some on the edge, and some are working families who just can’t make ends meet. Each year, we serve about 50,000 people.  Last year we provided 7,000 pairs of shoes, 13,000 sandwiches, and hundreds and hundreds of bus tokens, gas cards, and rental assistance. The Basilica campus is the home for this life changing and life saving ministry.

Beyond meeting the needs of those in our community to just survive (food, shelter, clothing,) we also provide life skills programs and sessions as well as mentoring. The Basilica’s employment ministry currently serves more than 470 people who are unemployed or underemployed; helping them search for jobs, providing job search guidance, one-on-one counseling and resume building workshops.   

In addition to our social ministry, The Basilica of Saint Mary also plays an important role in the downtown community. For a hundred years The Basilica of Saint Mary has been a center for civic and cultural activities including ecumenical prayer services, concerts, art shows and speakers. We need to ensure that this continues in the future. 

Thousands of activities fill the calendar each year at The Basilica, involving parishioners and the community we serve. From liturgies to our employment ministry, education programs to to sandwich ministry, concerts to outreach programs, The Basilica Block Party, to art exhibits, we are a thriving community. As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first Mass at The Basilica this weekend, let us pray that we will continue the proud tradition of being and bringing Christ, not just to our parishioners, but also and especially, as Pope Francis said, to those on the peripheries — to those people who grapple with sin, pain, injustice, and indifference to religion.

Recently Pope Francis, in an action that didn’t gain a lot of attention, added the name of Blessed Peter Faber, one of the first companions of St. Ignatius of Loyola (the founder of the Jesuits), to the company of the saints, short-circuiting the normal canonization process. In an August interview with Antonio Spadaro S.J. for Civiltà Cattolica, a periodical published by the Jesuits in Rome, Pope Francis spoke of Faber as a "model" for himself, both as a Jesuit and now in the governance of the universal church.  The Pope said he admired Faber for his ability to "dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents; his simple piety, a certain naïveté perhaps, his being available straightaway, his careful interior discernment, the fact that he was a man capable of great and strong decisions but also capable of being so gentle and loving."

When I read the Pope’s words, my immediate reaction was: what a great idea, canonizing someone who was able to "dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents." Holding up someone like Peter Faber as a model of sanctity, and a way of life worth emulating, reminds us that as Catholics we should never disregard or disdain those with whom we disagree. Certainly this runs counter to the way many in our church deal with those they regard as their opponents.  

In our in our church these days there are times when it is not enough simply to disagree with others. Instead, at times we tend to demonize those with whom we disagree, or worse invite them to find another church. This behavior is not limited to a particular group. I have seen people on both ends of the spectrum --- liberal and conservative --- engage in this conduct. Frankly and bluntly, I find this kind of behavior embarrassing at best.   

When Jesus called his first disciples he simply said: "Follow me." There was no litmus test to see if they passed muster. He simply invited them to follow him. And it was in following him that they came to understand what they were called to believe, and how they were called to live as his disciples. And we know from the Gospel that some found his words too difficult and simply left. In fact we are told that as a result of the Bread of Life Discourse in John’s Gospel that "many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him." Notice, though, that Jesus never spoke ill of those who left. He didn’t demonize them. And he never asked them to leave. When people left his fellowship, it was always their decision.

I am excited that Pope Francis has name Peter Faber, S.J. a saint. I am pleased and grateful that he did so because he appreciated Peter Faber’s ability to "dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents."  And I am going to pray for St. Peter Faber’s intercession so that I can be more like him in my life.

I’m a seven year-old Catholic. My memory of baptism at The Basilica ranks a close second to the birth of my daughters. Along with many others who lay prostrate in the sanctuary, I experienced a profound conversion through the R.C.I.A. process, the height of which was the Easter Vigil.

As a new Catholic, I returned to the theme of joy and gratitude time and time again. The Easter season seems to point in this direction. New life is everywhere, and this Easter season is rich in encouragement, inspiration and hope. Each time I attend Mass at The Basilica, the reminders are everywhere: Joy and gratitude are proclaimed in music, our prayers and in our communion with one another.  

Being honest, I’ve needed that reminder. Especially this year.  

Day after day, we hear of the sin, neglect and pain in our local Catholic Church. 
And I’ve asked myself I chose this? This ugliness?

The ugliness of the loss of innocence. The ugliness of perpetuating these sins with lack of candor. The ugliness of losing focus on the true victims: the victims of abuse.

It’s hard to feel fresh in your faith when it is hard to distinguish it from the faith embedded in scandal.

Today, I do have great joy and gratitude in my faith, but it isn’t centered so much on people or on the local institutional church. Today, I sometimes worry about the choice I have made to join this church. I chose a church whose focus was not on self, but serving. Whose focus was not on judgment, but on love; a church whose focus guided me to gratitude.

I joined The Basilica.

In this struggle, I found my letter from 2006 regarding why I wanted to join the Catholic Church. Here was part of my response, as I learn about the traditions of the Catholic tradition, I feel encouraged to become a part of this faith community. I love the deep and historical tradition of the faith. I appreciate the necessity of personal accountability. I want to be a part of this community that gives to its parishioners and also gives back to the community. I look forward to participating fully in the worship service and hope to raise my children in this community in the future because of the core values in which it not only believes, but also lives.

To me still today, The Basilica represents what I was searching for, and today, I’m still here by choice. Trying to center on faith, not on those individuals who have made mistakes.  

The real loss in what has happened in our local church is faith. Not faith in the church, but our faith in God. Despite this great distraction, I hope we will continue to choose faith. And I hope we will continue to represent all the good that is at the heart of our Catholic faith.

Perhaps now we can be part of the solution. Be honest. Represent our challenged Church by being public representatives of what we love about it, and why we continue to choose it. I see Fr. Bauer’s honesty and leadership, along with his invitation for open conversation as part of the solution.

The Basilica gives me real hope. People are joining, giving and volunteering. And young people are finding their adult religious home in the pews and in the activities of our church. It still speaks, inviting everyone to believe in the good that God has given us. I am so grateful to our parish for reinforcing all that I know about the church I chose eight years ago.

Thank you for being a part of it, and for the collective voice for good, affirming and encouraging so many. You spread the faith by representing it so beautifully, in the pews at The Basilica and in our community. You are the church.

One does not have to travel to the churches mentioned in the Da Vinci Code in search of intriguing stories. Every cathedral, church and chapel has its own secret codes hidden in the building, even The Basilica.

As you walk around you will notice that every chapel has a small wall carving announcing which saint is honored there. A burning heart surrounded by a crown of thorns leads to the Sacred Heart chapel. A star, symbol of Mary leads to the chapel of St. Anne and Mary. A lily, symbol of St. Joseph leads to the shrine of St. Joseph. Strangely, near the chapel of St. Anthony, patron saint of Italy you will find  a clover and snake, the symbol of St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland. Might this chapel have been intended for St. Anthony and was the wrong symbol carved in the wall? Or was the carving correct and did the parish have a change of heart in terms of selection of saints?

In his 1932 book entitled, The Basilica of St. Mary of Minneapolis, longtime pastor, Mgr. Reardon mentions the St. Anthony of Padua Chapel.  Research in the archives, however reveals that the relic buried in the altar is not of St. Anthony but rather of St. Patrick.

This seems to indicate that the chapel was intended for St. Patrick while today, St. Anthony is honored there. Might this chapel reveal a bit of competition between the Irish and Italian founding families? Today, St. Patrick’s symbol and St. Anthony’s statue coexist peacefully.

Whether there was friendly feuding between our founding families or not, we are deeply grateful to them. Since they celebrated the first Eucharist on May 31, 2014 (Pentecost) over 100,000 Masses have been celebrated at The Basilica while 11,908 couples were married and 26,456 babies have been baptized in our church.

Our community has grown in so many ways since those early days. From a couple hundred families we have grown to over 6000 households. From an Irish and Italian church we have grown to reflect the world church as people from all parts of the globe have joined our church. And from a church marked by an active clergy and passive laity we have grown to be a church where both clergy and laity fully, actively and consciously participate in the life of our church.

On June 8, 2014 (Pentecost) we will mark the centennial anniversary of the first Eucharist celebrated in The Basilica. It will be a celebration of the accomplishments of our founding families. It will be a celebration of all the people who have made us who we are over the course of these 100 years. It will be a celebration of who we are today: great in number, rich in diversity and strong in our faith. And most importantly, it will be a time to call down the Holy Spirit once again to give us the peace, the wisdom and the strength to continue on this rich path for many more years to come.

So, do join us for the celebration of Pentecost on June 7/8. We will have extra music at all Masses followed by festive hospitality. And please wear your favorite red outfit or best ethnic garb.

Come Holy Spirit, Enlighten our hearts and our minds.

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