Archives: July 2014

In August and September we focus on the stewardship of our gifts at The Basilica. We encourage each and every member of The Basilica community to consider what gifts, talents, and skills they have been given, and how they might put those gifts to use for the betterment of our community — our parish, our city, and our world.

At The Basilica there are currently more than 1500 volunteers in more than 300 volunteer positions. As you consider how you might begin or continue your commitment to The Basilica in the next year, we would urge you to consider as a part of your commitment, how you might focus on enriching your own faith life. To fulfill your ministry to the best of your abilities it is essential that you nurture yourself spiritually. Will you commit to daily prayer? Will you attend a retreat? Will you commit, as part of your stewardship pledge, to attend a program or two within our ongoing adult learning offerings on Sunday mornings?

At The Basilica of Saint Mary we strive to provide opportunities for our community to learn and to grow by working with a number of speakers to offer programming on many varied topics. In the upcoming program year, we will learn not only about some of the great saints in our Catholic history, but also about contemporary leaders of social justice in our Catholic tradition. We will delve into end-of-life issues and offer programs on forgiveness, mindfulness, and meditation. We will offer programming on the Bible and the Qur’an and, during Advent, we will have a presentation on waiting for the Messiah from the Jewish perspective. We hope that you will consider these topics as part of your own growth and development in the faith this year and make the pledge to attend at least one. View the various offerings on our website and see what topics speak to you and participate in as many of these programs as you feel called.

Also, as you consider living out your call, you might consider reading the new book, Stewardship: Living a Biblical Call by Bernard F. Evans. Dr. Evans has spoken a number of times at The Basilica on topics of stewardship, and his latest book highlights the six stewardship themes of biblical stewardship that we focus on at The Basilica. The book “ties the Catholic invitation to stewardship to biblical foundations as well as the social teaching of the church.” Dr. Evans will be at The Basilica’s Parish Picnic on September 7 to sign copies of his book and has included a dedication to The Basilica of Saint Mary within his new book.

Please, take some time to consider how you might enrich your faith life in this coming program year and how you might share your gifts with your faith community. We look forward to our work together!

 

We welcome the Jewish Women Artists' Circle exhibit to the John XXIII Gallery at The Basilica.  The exhibit focuses on creation and on the Kabbalah, and features work by the Circle, an artist group from the Twin Cities. The exhibit is called "Creation! And There was Evening And There Was Morning" and "Kabbalah:  Envisioning the Infinite."  The Circle studies Jewish sources with scholars and present exhibits on Jewish themes.  

For the Creation exhibit, the artists explored the first chapter of Genesis, the creation of heaven and earth, of light and darkness, of stars and water, and of living creatures.  In preparation, they read many different translations of the text as well as mirashim, stories that embellish and offer further explanations and interpretations of the Biblical text.  They also  had study sessions on evolution, learning about natural selection and the wondrous diversity of living things.  

The Kabbalah exhibit explores the Jewish text on mysticism, which is at least 1800 years old and presented in the revelations of Ezekiel.  

Members of the Jewish Women's Artists' Circle include Sandy Baron, Jane Bassuk, Rachel Breen, Sandra A. Brick, Gloria Cooper, Lucy Rose Fischer, Bette Globus Goodman, Renanah Halpern, Natalie Halpern (Eichen), Barbara "Boko" Kvasnick-Nunez, Joyce Lyon, Lynda Monick-Isenberg, Aimee Orkin, Paula Leiter Pergament, Dianne Silverman, Sharon Stillman, Anita White, Rochelle Woldorsky

When I was growing up we had images of St. Christopher everywhere. Despite his disapproval, I loved playing with the magnetic image of Christopher stuck to the dashboard in my father’s car. My mom always made sure a medal of St. Christopher was pinned to the inside of my suitcase whenever if left for an overnight. In my grandmother’s home there was a place of honor reserved for St. Christopher, right next to St. Anthony whom she regularly turned to face the wall as she had lost something. When she knew I was traveling she put St. Christopher in front of St. Anthony, almost in line with the Blessed Virgin herself and lit an extra candle

This all happened in the late sixties and the early seventies. We were blissfully unaware of the fact that Christopher had been quietly removed from the Roman Calendar of Saints. I suspect many of us are unaware of this even today. No matter, since we can still honor him as a saint in our local churches and in our daily devotions. Today one of my brothers has my father’s magnetic Christopher in his car while my sister dutifully pins the medal of St. Christopher to my niece’s suitcase. In my house St. Christopher hangs in a place of prominence.

Very little is known about Christopher. The Roman Martyrology which contains the list of all the known martyrs and saints simply mentions that he was martyred for the faith in Lycia during the reign of Roman emperor Decius (249-251). The Golden Legend, a thirteenth C. compilation of the lives of saints and their miracles gives a little more information about St. Christopher.

According to this book ahich was fiercely popular during the Middle Ages, Christopher was a tall and strong man with a severe appearance. His goal in life was to serve the greatest king ever. So he became the servant of the king of Canaan, where he lived. He soon learned that said king feared the devil. As a result Christopher went in search of the devil so he might serve him. After finding someone who identified himself as the devil he went into his service. Having noticed that the devil feared the cross he sought to serve the One who died on the cross. A monk suggested he could best serve Christ through a life of fasting and abstinence. Since this was not something Christopher could embrace the monk suggested that he might serve Christ by helping pilgrims cross a strong river. One day he carried a small child on his shoulders across the river. As he made his way the water became very turbulent and the child very heavy. After a great struggle he made it to the other side. Christopher told the child that he felt like he had carried the entire weight of the world on his shoulders. The child replied that he carried more than that: the very creator of that world. Then the child disappeared. Christopher then realized he was serving the greatest king ever. He went on to preach the Gospel and he gave his life for the faith.

Though we have no historical evidence that Christopher ever lived, his story is a great inspiration to all of us. The name Christopher or Christophoros in Greek literally means Christ bearer. As Christians we are all called to be Christophoroi or Christ Bearers. In other words, we are to be witnesses to Christ in our world. Sometimes it is easy to live according to the Gospel and to testify to the Good News of Christ in word and deed. Other times it is more difficult to do so as we might experience personal conflicts or be challenged by forces that pull us in different directions. However, no matter how heavy the weight, like Christopher we are called to go on and to make it to the other side of the river.

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/080314.cfm 


Our Gospel this Sunday is Matthew’s account of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and the feeding of the 5,000.  We are told that after learning of the death of John the Baptist, Jesus withdrew to a “deserted place by himself.” The crowds learned of this and followed him.   When it was evening the disciples came and said to Jesus:  “This is a deserted place and it is already late, dismiss the crowds so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.   Jesus said to them, ‘There is no need for them to go away, give them some food yourselves.’  But they said to him, ‘Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.’”   Jesus then took what they had blessed it and gave it to the disciples who in turn gave it to the crowds.  “They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over --- twelve wicker baskets full.”  

I have a friend who likes to say:  “See what happens when you pray before you eat.”   And while there is an element of truth to this, I think there are three other things that are important to note in this Gospel.  First, notice that Jesus started with what the disciples had.  Second, after he blessed it he gave it to the disciples to distribute to the crowds.  Third, notice the abundance that was left over.   Taken together these things remind us that amazing things can happen when we allow God to bless what we have.   

Our first reading this weekend is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. It shares the theme of the Gospel.  In the section we read this weekend the Lord invites the people to come to him “without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk ………… Heed me, and you will eat well you shall delight in rich fare.”  

For our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.  In the section we read this weekend we are reminded that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.  

Questions of Reflection/Discussion:
1.  Have you ever felt that you didn’t have the resources/gifts needed to do something?   
2.  Has God ever blessed your efforts so that you were able do something you didn’t think you could do? 
3. Have you ever felt separated from God’s love?  

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.

 

Cellist Daniel McIntosh will play at the 9:30am Mass on Sunday, July 27.  He has served as principal cellist with The Opera Company of Boston, The Norwegian Opera, The New Hampshire Symphony and the Smithsonian Chamber Orchestra.  

McIntosh  brings 45 years of experience to his music making and teaching at the MacPhail Center in Minneapolis. 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072714.cfm

For the past two Sundays we have been reading from the 13th chapter  of Matthew’s Gospel, which contains several of Jesus’ parables.  This Sunday we conclude this chapter with three more of Jesus’ parables.  The first two are very brief.  They are the parable of the treasure buried in a field and the merchant’s search for fine pearls.  In both cases the individuals sell all they have in order to possess the treasure and the pearl.  This reminds us that the kingdom of God is so valuable that we should do all that we can to obtain it.   

The third parable this Sunday is a bit enigmatic.  It is the parable of the “net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets.  What is bad they throw away.”   Jesus then says:  “Thus it will be at the end of the age.  The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace....”  This reminds us that there will be a time of judgment, but the time of that judgment belongs to God, as does the judging.  

Our first reading this Sunday is from the first Book of Kings.  Solomon has succeeded his father David as King.  In a dream the Lord said to Solomon: “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”  In reply Solomon does not ask for wealth or power.  Instead he said: “Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.”  This was my prayer when I was first named a pastor in 1987.  

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.   In the brief section we read today Paul reminds us:  “We know that all things work for good for those who love god, who are called according to his purpose.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion: 
1.  What is important to you?  What do you treasure?  
2.  If you don’t already possess your treasure, what would you do to possess it?  
3.  If God asked you what you wanted, what would ask for? 

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. 

During the summer, The Basilica features instrumental and vocal soloists at our 9:30am Sunday Eucharist.  On Sunday, July 20, classical guitarist Christopher Kachian will provide special  music during the Prelude, Offeratory and Communion.  

A University of Saint Thomas faculty member since 1984, Mr. Kachian has directed one of the largest guitar music programs in the US.  He has performed in concert throughout North and South America, Europe and the Far East.  In 2012, he won recognition as a National Arts Associate and Distinguished member from Sigma Alpha Iota Internationl Music Fraternity.   

For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.   
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072014.cfm 

This weekend there is a long form and a short form of our Gospel.  The short form, (which we will be using at the Basilica) is one of Jesus’ most challenging parables.  We are told that “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.  While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat and then went off.  When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.”   The owner had a difficult decision to make.  Should he have his slaves try to pull up the weeds right away or let them grow with the wheat.   He told his slaves: “……if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.  Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvester, ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”   

The message of this parable is clear.  It is not easy to identity, let alone separate, the weeds from the wheat --- the good from the bad.   This is why judgment is God’s business, not ours.  And judgment will take place in God’s time, not ours.   

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Wisdom.  It shares the theme of the Gospel.  In the section we read today, the author is clear about God’s role.  “There is no god besides you who have the care of all, that you need show you have not unjustly condemned.  For your might is the source of justice; your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all.”  

Our second reading this weekend is a brief excerpt from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.  Paul reminds us:  “Brothers and sisters: The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.”   

 Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1. Why do so many of us feel free to make judgments about others? 
2.  Have you ever made a judgment about someone only to find out later it was inaccurate?
3.  I like the idea of the Spirit coming to our aid when we don’t know how to pray as we ought.   Have you ever experienced this in your life?  

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