Archives: September 2014

Missa Choralis Series returns

The Missa Choralis, or visiting musical ensemble, series is scheduled to begin Saturday, Oct. 4 during the 5:00 p.m. Mass.

The Basilica is well-known for its robust outreach to the greater community, its welcoming spirit of hospitality, its grand architecture, and its marvelous music and acoustics. The Basilica continually seeks to strengthen and build collaborative artistic bridges with local, regional, and touring choral and instrumental ensembles through the invitation to share their musical gifts in the Missa Choralis series. We thankfully welcome all of our guest musicians and their directors. 

This week we welcome the University of Minnesota Trumpet Ensemble under the direction of Dr. David Baldwin. Next week, we will welcome the Saint Paul Vocal Forum under the direction of Karin Barrett.

Check back to our website for more information on upcoming performances.

 

Fall is a Time of Renewal

In a very simple way, fall is a time of renewal.  Renewed schedules, renewed commitments, renewed faith.  Perhaps it is the lifelong routine of “back to school,” and preparing for class with new books, shoes, and backpacks.  It brings a new routine, new friends, and teachers.  It is a time of change, bringing with it a routine that is predictable and reliable.

This year especially, my family’s renewal was very welcomed after our summer fell into a period of August chaos.   In my naivety, I planned our month to be “free-flowing,” without care, and a chance to embrace those dog days of summer.  I envisioned days at the beach, impromptu ice cream shop visits, and blissful afternoons at the park.  While we did enjoy some of this planned yet unscripted fun, the untold stories in our household looked more like toddler tantrums and childhood meltdowns.

We were out of town many weekends, and fell out of our typical weekend routine, including Sunday morning Mass at The Basilica.  Upon reflection, it occurred to me that part of what we missed in our schedule was the routine of church, knowing that we would be at the same place at the same time each Sunday at 9:30 (or sometimes at 9:35…).

While I am aware we all have times of chaos, making a commitment to our faith in those times might ease our angst.  This might include attending Mass, but also our prayer lives and community service.  I have found that we receive so much when we prioritize our faith in our routine. 

Fall is a beautiful time to consider our commitments.  It’s a beautiful time for renewal; a time to be intentional with our gifts and our resources.  Our Basilica Stewardship volunteers once outlined a way to incorporate financial stewardship into our lives.  They suggested to:

  • Give intentionally by developing a plan and then following through with it
  • Give regularly by establishing a pattern
  • Give generously by recognizing we will have enough because God provides for us
  • Give first by sharing our first fruits and then living off the rest
  • Give proportionally based on the blessings we have received
  • Give cheerfully by recognizing the benefits our offerings provide the parish

I remember the drudgery of my parents as they convinced four children to “get to the car!” so we could get to church on time.  Every Sunday, it was the same argument and the same lead feet pounding into the balcony ten minutes after the service began.  So far, our girls have the gift of a church that is a highlight of the weekend!  We are so blessed to have this place that is a “favorite” in all of our routines.  And it is missed greatly when we’re absent.

This fall, I hope you will not only make The Basilica a part of your schedule, but we ask that you will also make giving of your resources part of your routine.  It is your presence and support that continue to build this great community.

 

What a marvelous week we just had. Being able to enjoy the outdoors in these waning days of September has been an absolute blessing. Personally, I am grateful because they have afforded me some terrific late summer gardening time. And every extra day of gardening before the winter forces us indoors is a bonus.

I simply love to work in the garden. I find it inspiring and rejuvenating; energizing and restorative. That I love to garden should not be a surprise as I come from a family of gardeners. My father was a landscape architect as are two of my brothers and my sister is a master gardener. Growing up we always had the most amazing gardens and we did all the work ourselves.

Having practically been raised in the garden-apart from the occasional foray to the Royal Opera House or Royal Museum of Fine Arts-my daily routine still involves the garden, weather permitting. On busy days this means a simple walk-through. Most days, however I spend at least 30 minutes in the garden often watering plants. Recently, after seeing me go through this ritual day after day, my neighbor suggested I install an automatic watering system. I told her that apart from the cost I would really miss watering the plants. She seemed surprised by my response, but truly, I like to water the plants. In a strange way it allows me to connect with the garden and feel part of creation.

At the risk of being thought a liturgical nerd I confess to having ritualized my watering routine. Not only do I follow a certain pattern, I also have a liturgical way of measuring the water each plant or planter receives. I gauge the amount of water by the time it takes to pray a Hail Mary. Each plant or planter gets one, two or three Hail Mary’s. Saying the Lord’s Prayer in between flowerbeds it takes at least a whole rosary to water the entire garden. Thus, my watering routine not only connects me with creation it also provides me with some quiet prayer time. Sometimes I wish for a bigger garden so I as to extend my prayer life.

On my day off I spend the better part of the day in the garden, clipping, dead-heading, relocating plants or just digging around. Though now I have taken to wearing gloves, I used to dig in the soil with my bare hands. Feeling the soil between my fingers always reminded me of creation when God at the beginning of time molded Adam out of dirt. Digging in that same dirt, watering the plants, adding another tree, etc. gives me a profound sense of sharing in God’s creation. In a profound sense, gardening has become a metaphor for my sharing in God’s creative work, even outside the garden in my day-to-day life. And more than that the restorative power of time spent gardening affirms, albeit in an earthy way my participation in salvation gained for us by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ.

Who knew that when my father taught me the Latin names for the different plants, showed me how to trim trees and prune bushes and instilled in me a love of gardening he also created a permanent reminder of the share we all have in God’s creation as well as in Christ’s salvation. Tending the heavenly gardens he probably smiles at a job well done.

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.   
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/100514.cfm

In our Gospel this Sunday Jesus told the chief priests and elders of the people a story and then asked their opinion.  The story is simple. We are told that a landowner “planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.  Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.”   Unfortunately, when vintage time drew near and he sent his servants to obtain his produce: “The tenants seized the servants and one they beat another they killed, and a third they stoned.”   The landowner sent more servants, “but they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them thinking; ‘They will respect my son.’”  But when the tenants saw the son, “They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”   At this point, Jesus asked the chief priests and elders of the people: “’What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?’”  They answered him, ‘He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants.’”  Jesus concluded this exchange by saying:  “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”   

Clearly the chief priests and elders were the target of this parable.  They, like the tenants, had rejected the messengers (i.e. the prophets) that had been sent to them and ultimately had rejected God’s Son, Jesus.   The parable challenges us not to reject those messengers God sends into our lives.  

Our first reading this Sunday from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah shares the theme of the Gospel.  It speaks of a vineyard that, despite the loving care of its owner, yielded only “wild grapes.”  In the Old Testament, the “vineyard” was a symbol of Gods people.

 
For our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians.   In the section we read today Paul urges us by prayer and petition to make our requests known to God “Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1.  Has there been a time when you have rejected the “messengers” God has sent into your life?
2.  Can you identify people in your life who have been messengers of God’s love? 
3.   When have you experienced the peace of God that surpasses all understanding? 

Welcome New Staff

The Basilica of Saint Mary is excited to introduce two new members to our staff.

Ben Caduff is our new Young Adult ministry coordinator. He is responsible for programming such as first Eucharist and first reconciliation, Basilica Young Adults, to include the Young Women's and Young Men's groups, and Sunday Night Live. With eight years experience working in campus and social justice ministries, he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to The Basilica. Ben also has a bachelor’s degree in Theology from the University of St. Thomas and a Master of Divinity Degree from St. John’s School of Theology/Seminary in Collegeville. Currently, he is pursuing his Master of Arts in Theology at St. John’s School of Theology/Seminary in Systematic Theology.

Stacy Glaus is our new Marketing and Communications director. She is responsible for internal and external communication for The Basilica, to include social media, event marketing, website, and strategic communication. Stacy comes to us from the U.S. Air Force where she served as a public affairs officer for four years. She has a bachelor's degree in Human Resources from the University of St. Thomas and a master's degree in Communication and Leadership from Gonzaga University. 

Several years ago I decided to make my annual retreat at a Trappist Monastery in Conyers, Georgia. In making this decision, I thought I could kill three birds with one stone. First and foremost, it would give me a chance to make a retreat a quiet and prayerful place. Additionally, though, since I was going on retreat in January it would afford me the opportunity to get away for a week from the cold winter in Minnesota. Finally, at the end of the retreat I could spend a couple days with one of my brothers and his family who live north of Atlanta.  

Now, while the monastery was indeed very conducive to prayer, and while I enjoyed the time I spent with my brother and his family, the weather did not cooperate. A couple of nights the temperature hovered around the freezing point and while there was sunshine during the day, you definitely needed a sweater and coat if you were going outside. This caused me to spend more time in the chapel—which was not a bad thing. 

One of my favorite memories of that retreat occurred each morning when I would join the monks for Morning Prayer. I suspect the chapel was one of the first things the monks built when the monastery was founded. I say this because the heat for the chapel came from a central source, and was not dispersed via a ventilation system throughout the chapel. Thus, the further you got away from that central source the colder you were. In the morning, the younger monks would bring four elderly monks who were in wheelchairs to the chapel. These monks would have their capes and robes wrapped tightly around them to keep warm. When they were brought into the chapel, though, instead of going to the pews these monks would be positioned in front of the central heating vent where it was warmest. When the fan for the heat kicked in and the warm air began to fill the chapel, these monks would open their capes to capture the warmth and draw it into themselves. I looked forward to watching this each morning.  

As I reflected on this experience during the retreat, it struck me that it was a wonderful metaphor for welcoming God into our lives. Often times we can be wrapped up tightly by different things that are going on in our lives. Sometimes past hurts keep us bound up and closed off. At other times it could be our fears or worries. Sometimes it can be excessive busyness or addictive behaviors. At these times, it is difficult for us to be open to God and the grace God wants to offer us. If we can open ourselves to God’s grace, though, it can and will make a difference.  

The issue, though, is where do we find God’s grace? Well, I think we can take a hint from the monks at that Trappist Monastery. They knew that if they went to the source of the heat, not only would that be the warmest place, but when the heating fan kicked in they would be flooded with warmth. In a similar way, when we are feeling bound or at a distance from God’s grace, if we can go to where we have felt and experienced God’s grace in the past, eventually we will find and feel God’s grace anew. And if we open ourselves to it, it will flood over us and warm our souls.  

There are times in each of our lives when we feel bound, or stuck, or at a distance from God’s grace. When these times occur, we should not retreat into ourselves. Instead we need to remember and go to those places where we have felt close to God or where we have experienced God’s grace in the past. In my own life when I have done this, I found God patiently waiting there for me and inviting me to let his grace wash over me and warm my soul.  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/092814.cfm 

In our Gospel this Sunday we read the story of a man who had two sons both of whom he asked to go and work in his vineyard.  The first one said he wouldn’t, but then changed his mind and did go and work.  The second said he would, but then didn’t go and work.  Jesus then asked the chief priests and elders:  “Which of the two did his father’s will?  They answered, ‘The first’.”  

Whenever I read this Gospel the words that come to mind are “Actions speak louder than words.”   Many years ago I worked with an individual who was very amiable and most pleasant whenever we discussed an issue or concern in their work area.   They would agree to a certain course of action, or to follow through on something and then ……………………….. nothing.   Actually there was something:  excuses, rationalizations, and promises to do better next time.   Unfortunately, the next time the same thing would happen.  We would talk; they would agree on what needed to be done; and then ………………….. nothing.  This person reminds me very much of the second son in our Gospel this Sunday.   He said the right words, but his actions didn’t correspond to his words. 

In one way or another all three of our readings for this Sunday remind us that there needs to be a correspondence between our actions and our words.   It is easy to say the right thing.   It is much harder to say, and then to do the right thing.   And the right thing for us as Christians, as St. Paul reminds us in our second reading today, is: “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion 
1.    Has there been a time when your words were bold, but your actions have been inadequate?  What were the consequences?   
2.    In the Gospels, Jesus seems to focus a lot of time and energy on two different groups:  The Scribes and Pharisees, and the Tax Collectors and Prostitutes.   Why do you think that was?  
3.    In regard to the second reading, what does it mean for you to have the same attitude as Jesus Christ?   

Every other year I gather with some of my former classmates from university. They are all priests who serve in dioceses throughout the country. Our routine is always the same. We spend a week in one of our national parks or forests. During the day, we hike, mostly in silence as we rejoice in God’s creation and try to hide our increasing fatigue from one another. In the evening we make dinner and engage in theological debates and discuss church politics.

This year we had the great opportunity to spend a week in Zion national park. The weather was just perfect. The hikes were invigorating. The sights were magnificent. And our conversations were unusually deep.

Being in nature, away from all electronic distractions I always seem to learn something new about myself. This time around, facing the prospect of climbing up to Angel’s Landing I realized I simply could not do it. I was almost dizzy with fear even at the thought of climbing the very narrow path with a steep mountain on one side and a deep ravine on the other. Feeling defeated I sheepishly convinced my friends to turn around and walk back to the trailhead. All the way down we observed our customary silence.  This time, however I did not delight in the sights but rather pondered my fear. It did not take long for me understand my fear of heights to be emblematic of all the fears we face in the course of our lifetime.

There are so many different kinds of fear. On the one hand there are the kinds of fear that impact no-one else but ourselves. On the one hand, there are the fears that impact others, sometimes even in a truly adverse way.

Some of us are afraid of growing old. Some of us fear becoming ill. Others are afraid of losing their job or not finding a new job. Most of us fear the loss of a loved one. And who does not face the fear of death? These kinds of fear are very real and they can consume us entirely if we allow them to do so. These fears, however mostly affect ourselves. My fear of heights, e.g. did not really affect others, apart from the fact that it prevented my friends from reaching Angel’s Landing. They did not seem to mind too much as it provided them with great material for endless teasing.

Other fears include the fear of people who are different from us in race, creed, gender, sexuality. This kind of fear is often translated in hatred and discrimination. Some of us are afraid of speaking up when we don’t agree with something. We may even be afraid of challenging a wrong. Clearly, these kinds of fear do not only affect us, they also affect others.

Overcoming a fear of heights is not easy to do. Overcoming a fear of people who are different from us or overcoming a fear to challenge wrongs is even more difficult to do.

The prophet Isaiah tells us not to be afraid not matter what we are facing as God is always with us. Jesus also teaches us not to fear as he assures us that he is with us until the end of time. So, when facing any kind of fear I recall one of my most powerful mantras as I repeat to myself: “Be not afraid.” It is a great and absolutely freeing mantra. It makes me realize that I am not in this by myself. I have my sisters and brothers who stand by me. And I have God who is on my side.

Though it may not have helped me as I was facing a sure death at the bottom of the deep ravine in Zion National Park I still believe in it. This mantra gives me strength. These words shield me and guard me. They give me peace.

Today I wish I had not given in to my fear of heights but rather would have climbed all the way to Angel’s Landing. Maybe some day I will get another chance. Until then I will try to strengthen my faith in my Biblical mantra as I repeat it over and over again: “be not afraid.”

 

“Nothing is more useful than to look upon the world as it really is, and at the same time to seek elsewhere…for the solace to its troubles,” Rerum Novarum (On the Condition of Labor).

It can be challenging to pay attention to what is going on in our world these days. We hear about war and unrest throughout our country and world. From violence in Iraq and Syria, to local demonstrations against racism and unfair wages, our communities are bubbling over with strife. It is tempting to turn off all media and put everything out of our mind.

Somehow our communities have regressed to a place that disregards respectful civil dialogue. The work that provides a glimpse of the kingdom promised “on earth as it is in heaven” is often hampered by power struggles, intolerance, and exclusion. Walls are built to keep people out. Communities are fractured. Lives are driven by the illusion of scarcity.

Our faith offers a framework to accept the challenges we face each day. Our faith offers us guidelines to maneuver those things that overwhelm us. It is not easy, but we are invited into the journey together, with the support and help of the Spirit.

First, we must pay attention to the world around us. We must know what is going on in our community so that we can respond appropriately and in love. If we don’t know the issues, we cannot be part of the solutions.

Next, it is important to identify and surrender our own biases about the issues in our midst. It has been said that “perception is reality.” In other words, what one perceives is often the reality that drives one’s life and actions. However, the “reality” that is shaped by one’s perceptions may have little to do with what is true. It may be distorted by assumptions that are false. It may be shaped by fear or ignorance.

We are called to look at the world as it is, and understand that our life experience shapes what we see. We are limited and cannot see the whole by ourselves. We are called to engage, learn, grow, and see more clearly.

Finally, our faith invites us to work toward a community shaped in every dimension by the Gospel of love. Can we imagine a world that has no political pressures distorting our discussion on poverty or hunger? Can we conceive of communities that are shaped by a concept of abundance? What would our neighborhoods look like? What difference would it make in our lives and our communities?

This fall there are many wonderful opportunities at The Basilica to learn about our faith. Consider attending the Sunday morning “Voices of Catholic Spirituality” series uncovering the teachings of Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Catherine of Sienna and Vincent de Paul. Growing in faith shapes our thoughts and actions.

This fall there are also powerful opportunities at The Basilica to learn about the world around us and engage in action shaped by politically unbiased and faith-filled discussion. Consider attending Basilica events on Economic Inequality in the U.S. and Creating A Climate For Solidarity.

We worship together and God’s love changes us. We open our eyes to the world around us, and courageously commit together to changing the world. This is our call. This is our challenge. This is our opportunity.

 

The Exaltation of the Cross

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14) on the one hand celebrates the profound reality that “by the cross we have been saved” and on the other hand it speaks to our evolving understanding of the meaning of this statement as reflected in the diverse depictions of the cross throughout Christian history.

Early Christians refrained from depicting the cross as they wrestled with the reality of Jesus’ horrific and humiliating death. Rather, they focused on Jesus’ resurrection and our salvation. Thus the earliest artistic references to Christianity are not crosses, but sacred initials such as IC being the first letters of the name of Jesus Christ in Greek; or sacred symbols such as a fish. The latter was adopted as a Christian symbols because the Greek word for fish, Ichthys also happens to be the acronym for: Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter, meaning, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.”

The first crosses do not appear until the mid third and early fourth century, although there is at least one earlier depiction of the crucifixion which was however satirical in nature, making a mockery of Christianity. After the discovery of the True Cross by Empress Helena during her pilgrimage to the Holy Land between 326 and 328 the depiction of the cross quickly gained in popularity. Often a victory wreath or other Christian symbol decorated these early crosses. The depiction of the crucified Jesus remained extremely rare.

In the late fourth century the portrayal of Jesus on the cross became more widely accepted. However, in these early rendition of the crucifix Jesus is depicted as completely in charge, standing on the cross using a wooden footstool that is attached to the cross. Both hands and both feet are nailed to the cross. His eyes are wide open and he looks directly at the beholder. The emphasis of these depictions was on the resurrection and salvation gained for us, rather than on the suffering Jesus endured.

After the fall of the Roman and then the Carolingian empire, Europe sank into the so-called dark ages which were characterized by political anarchy; war and violence; famine; and diseases such as the plague which decimated more than half of the population of many cities. Suffering was an overwhelming reality for most people in the Middle Ages. It is during these times that a shift took place in the depiction of the crucifixion and the underlying theology as the feelings of despair and suffering on the part of the people were clearly reflected in the way they depicted Jesus. Rather than standing on the cross, Jesus hangs from the cross. His feet are placed on one another and one nail is used for both feet. His body shows signs of torture and he often wears the crown of thorns as described in the Gospels.

The Renaissance with its interest in realism keeps depicting the suffering Jesus but with less of the exaggerated gore so typical for many of the medieval depictions. Although Christ still is shown as dying on the cross there is a quality of stillness surrounding the cross. And although there is realism in the depiction there is also rational restraint.

The Baroque renditions which were part of the counter-reformation efforts of the Catholic Church are all about the drama of the moment as they show Longinus, one of the Roman soldiers, piercing the side of Jesus. Mary, the mother of Jesus faints into the arms of John, the beloved and Mary of Magdala embraces the foot of the cross. The sacrifice of the cross is emphasized in these depictions to support the theology of the sacrifice of the Mass.

The late 18th and 19th century which are characterized by a return to earlier artistic styles embrace the medieval depiction in the Romanesque and Gothic style but the neo-versions lack the over-emphasis on the suffering of the images they are inspired by. Rather there is a romantic softness and a form of idealized spiritualization in the crucifixes that are typical for this period

The 20th and 21st centuries have all of the above and much more, for better or for worse. Though there was a clear trend in the Catholic Church to move away from the crucifix in favor of a simple wooden cross which may or may not have had a risen Christ it, new directives indicate that a crucifix needs to be placed in each sanctuary and processional crosses need to actually be processional crucifixes.

As we celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross let us remember the words we sing every Good Friday: “Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the salvation of the world.” That is the essence of the theology of salvation and should be the inspiration for our depictions of this profound reality.

 

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