From the Pastor: Open Wide the Doors for Christ
When John Paul II was elected pope in October of 1978, he greeted the world in his inaugural homily with these words – “brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power….open wide the doors for Christ.” This message of opening up to Christ and the broader world was also a consistent theme of the Second Vatican Council which was initiated by John XXIII, who when calling the council, a surprise to many at the time, said the Catholic Church needed to throw open its windows so we could look out to the world and have the world glimpse inside the Church. This evocative description was accompanied by the overarching Italian word, aggiornamento which means “update” and provided a clarion call as the ecumenical council began. Notwithstanding the strengths and weaknesses of our modern popes and notwithstanding the disagreements about whether the reforms of Vatican II have been fully realized or integrated, this call – the call for the Church to open up and to go outside of herself has continued. This has also been the consistent message of Pope Francis since 2013, who has called the Church to go out to peripheries—geographical and existential—with the joy of the Gospel.
As I begin my first fall as your new pastor and as we continue our new journey of faith together, the call to open-up, to build-up, and to go out with our message of love and faith has been in my heart and on my mind. Getting to know more and more of you has been a gift—I have remarked to friends, colleagues, and brother priests that the parishioners and friends of The Basilica have been warm, gracious, and welcoming. I remain so impressed with the great care for and beauty of the liturgies, the generous and compassionate outreach to those on the margins, and the commitment to learn and grow in our faith, so that we can live as intentional disciples of Christ. As I continue the process of listening and learning as your new pastor, the call to strengthen and build up our community, especially after the toll that the pandemic has wrought, and the readiness to engage our broader community—outside the doors of our church—has been communicated to me by many of you. Consistently in Scripture, we learn that the Spirit of God is a Spirit of openness, courage, and generosity. Sadly, another spirit at times rules our hearts—one of fear, insecurity, and exclusion. As Christians, we follow a God who calls us to freedom – freedom for God and for others. This Spirit bids us to open wide the doors for all.
In looking back at my first few months as pastor, highlights include getting to know parishioners and friends at lunches, dinners, other gatherings, and over coffee and doughnuts after Mass. What has struck me about these opportunities to engage with you is how proud everyone is to be associated with The Basilica. I also enjoyed the opportunity to enter into days of retreat with The Basilica staff—both at St. John’s University and the University of St. Thomas School of Law. These were important days of prayer, fellowship, and fun. Speaking of our Basilica staff, I admire the commitment to The Basilica and excellence our staff manifests. We are going through an unprecedented shift in the labor market here in the United States and globally. The Basilica is part of our broader society and thus not immune from these shifts. You have no doubt seen that some staff members have moved on to their next adventures—with warm regard in their hearts for The Basilica community—while at the same time we have welcomed new staff members who bring their own passion and unique gifts. Change and transition, which is part of life and can be challenging, also provides opportunity for growth and new life. My installation as pastor was also a highlight—a highlight that was both humbling and inspiring. The liturgy was truly beautiful and friends and family who attended remarked at how special The Basilica is—in the beauty of our liturgies and the warmth of your hospitality. I came away from that weekend with a full and grateful heart.
In looking ahead to the fall, there are so many opportunities for parishioners and friends to engage with one another and with the broader community. The Charles Caldwell exhibit now on display at The Basilica invites us to interact with the Arts in a way that is transformative. Additionally, fellowship opportunities abound this fall, including many opportunities for families and a robust early October celebration of creation and Blessing of the Animals through the intercession of the beloved St. Francis. Please join us for these special events. In the areas of Christian life and learning, a dynamic new series which focuses on Faith, Justice, and Healing invites us to engage with regional and national speakers on a variety of topics related to building a more just and peaceful society. Other ways to become involved at The Basilica include volunteering in important ministries, participating in our beautiful weekend liturgies, and financially supporting The Basilica through Sunday giving and through your support of The Basilica Fund. The call to meet this moment—the call to open-up, build-up, and go out takes all of us as we approach our present and future at The Basilica with confidence and hope that comes from God.