Archives: December 2014

One of my favorite activities in preparation for Christmas is the decoration of my house. It has become quite the ritualized activity. At the farmer’s market I carefully select my tree which then is wrapped and tied to the roof of my jeep. Taking side streets I slowly make my way home holding on to the ropes tied around the tree. Then comes the most difficult part: setting up the tree in its stand and making sure it is stable. I also don’t care very much for the placement of the light, yet it is one of these things that needs to be done before the real fun can begin.

As soon as the tree is in place and the lights have been hung it is time to open the Christmas closet. Over the past year, new crèches and Christmas ornaments have been added to the collection and they, together with the one’s I have amassed over the years wait to be rediscovered. I take my time unpacking everything as I recall the history of each ornament and each crèche.  This intentional and careful unpacking of memories is essential to my celebration of the coming holy days. I have a couple of ornaments that were gifted to me by my grandparents and parents, all of whom are now deceased. Handling these allows me to remember them and fills me with gratitude. A set of ornaments was given to me by a friend after he witnessed my tree collapse one fateful Christmas destroying most of the ornaments. Other ornaments remind me of trips I have taken with dear friends. Yet, most important to me is the angel which sits atop the tree. Its story is too long for this article. Feel free to ask me about it when we see one another next.

After I finish the Christmas tree I start setting up the nativity scenes. By now I have collected many from all around the world. Most of them are on display at The Basilica but I do keep some of my favorite ones at home. Setting them up takes time too because I recall the history of each set and most importantly as I place the baby Jesus in the manger I ponder the reason why we do all this: God is with us.

These home activities are treasured by all of us and so are our church activities. Before I even touch my home we decorate The Basilica first for Advent and then for Christmas. This will be the 20th time I celebrate Christmas at The Basilica. Much has changed in our world and in our church over these past 20 years, for better and for worse. But, Christmas at The Basilica remains the same as does the Christmas promise: God is with us.

The Basilica is our home and I ask you to join me in intentionally and carefully unpacking our memories. Let’s treasure fond Basilica moments shared with loved ones. Let’s cherish liturgical highpoints and remember those life-changing moments we experienced in our community. But most importantly let us never forget that at the heart of all of this is Jesus Christ our Savior whose birth we celebrate and whose return we anticipate during this wonderful season. 

At The Basilica during Christmas, the scent of evergreen fills the air, gold ribbon glitters in midnight candlelight and flowers adorn this holy place.

We ask your help in creating a sacred space where joy dances in the eyes of young and old, where memories of loved ones past and present are evoked and well up in our hearts, where Christ – God with Us – dwells. 

Any tribute gift received by December 12 is listed in the Christmas leaflet. You can give online at here.

Thank you for your support!

My immediate response to this question is to name the people that live next door to me. But in scripture, Luke challenges us to look beyond the obvious in the parable of the Good Samaritan, and we are repeatedly called to love our neighbor as ourselves.

During December and January, we invite you to explore Global Stewardship and learn about the challenges faced by our neighbors who are refugees. Historically, Minnesota has been a place of welcome and safe haven and today, Minnesota is home to over 70,000 refugees. 

Our neighbors now include the largest population of Somalis and some of the largest Liberian communities outside of that country. Sudanese, Hmong, Ethiopians, Cambodians, Bosnians, and people from the former Soviet Union now call Minnesota home. They are being joined by refugees from Burma, Bhutan, and Iraq.   

You can hear some of their stories first hand by watching the short film, “Refugee’s Journey to Minnesota” here. Parishioner Dan Baluff embarked on his own journey to film interviews with refugees relocated to Minnesota. Through Dan’s work, you will be introduced to Mariam, Salim, Tha, Hakeem, Abdi, Ogang and others, all refugees who now call Minnesota home.


Their stories compel us to consider how blessed we are and their journeys share many consistent themes. Can you imagine having to flee for your life on foot with only the possessions you could carry? Flight from civil war and violence. Homes being burned to the ground. Separation of children from their parents, of husband from wife. Not knowing where beloved family members are, or even if they are still alive. Years of hard life in refugee camps, where finding food and fear of violence were daily concerns. Children born and growing up in the camps.  Some compared these years in refugee camps to being in jail, with no work, no school, and constant uncertainty about the future.

As these new Minnesotans work to rebuild their lives and make new homes, courage, strength, determination and resilience are clearly in evidence. Like us, they are looking for opportunities and a little help along the way. Help learning English, how to ride the bus or find educational opportunities for their children and themselves, are some of the simple ways we can help make a difference as new refugees make their way in our community.

As we gather with our families to celebrate Christmas, take a moment to consider how we are called to welcome refugees. Are we ready to open our minds and hearts to the strangers in our midst? Are we afraid, or are we ready to help our new neighbors whose hopes and dreams much like our own, revolve around family, safety, education, and finding good jobs?



In accordance with our ongoing effort to pursue ecumenical and interfaith relationships, The Basilica of Saint Mary is proud to welcome back the National Lutheran Choir for their Christmas Festival Concerts Dec. 12 and 13.

Immerse yourself in the beauty and majesty of the Basilica of Saint Mary for the National Lutheran Choir’s signature Christmas Festival Concert. During this busy season of parties, shopping and rushing around, take time to reflect upon the true meaning of Christmas through sacred song, poetry and readings. 

When:     Friday, December 12, 2014 – 4:30pm & 8pm

        Saturday, December 13, 2014 – 8pm

Where:     Basilica of Saint Mary
        88 N 17th St, Minneapolis, MN 55403

Tickets:     $28 Adult - $25 Senior - $10 Student
17 and under FREE

For tickets or more information:
Call (888) 747-4589


For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 

This Sunday we once again encounter the figure of John the Baptist.   Last Sunday we read Mark’s account of John’s mission.  This Sunday we read from the Gospel of John.   While there are similarities between the two accounts, each evangelist also has their own theological perspective in regard to John the Baptist.   In John’s account some priests and Levites were sent to John to ask him: “Who are you?”   As in last week’s Gospel, John is clear in his response:  “I am not the Christ.”  He also indicated that he was not Elijah or the prophet.   Instead he said:  “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert.  Make straight the way of the Lord.”   Some Pharisees then asked him: “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?”   John answered them, “I baptize with water, but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”   

Clearly John knew his place and his mission.  He was sent to prepare the way for Christ --- the one who was among them, but whom they did not recognize.  

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.  It is a prophecy of comfort as the Israelites return from the their captivity in Babylon.   Isaiah announces that he has been called to “announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God.”   

Our second reading this weekend is taken from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians.  Paul urges them to “Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.  In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1   When asked who he was, John the Baptist was clear in regard to his role and mission.  How would you respond if someone asked you who you were? 
2.   When have you failed to recognize the presence of Christ in your life?
2.   What do you think Paul meant when he told the Thessalonians to rejoice always and to pray without ceasing.   

Shop ethically this Christmas and ensure your purchases provide fair wages and safe working conditions for the artisans and farmers producing the items. Join us in the Teresa of Calcutta Hall on The Basilica's Lower Level this Sunday, December 7, from 8:30am - 6:30pm to shop our annual Fair Traded Market.  Local vendors who work with global communities will be on hand with soup, olive oil, coffee, weavings, mittens, scarves and much more.

On more than one occasion, I have discovered that sometimes people assume that because we share the same religion, we share the same understanding of what our religion requires of us. While most of the time this is the case, it is not universally true. Within our church there are differences with regard to the acceptability of the death penalty and our obligations to the poor and marginalized. And if you really want to see differences, just bring up the issue of immigration among a group of Catholics. 

Now I believe it is important that we not gloss over our differences or pretend they don’t exist. It is equally important, though, that we don’t allow our differences to be a source of division and anger. In this regard, Jesus is a good model for us. In the Scriptures, we often see him disagreeing with people—particularly the Scribes and the Pharisees. For his part, though, he never let these disagreements become a source of bitterness or hostility. Sadly, the same thing cannot be said of the Scribes and the Pharisees. Most often they were very antagonistic to Jesus. What accounts for the difference between Jesus and the Scribes and the Pharisees? Well, clearly it helped that Jesus was divine. I think, though, that as important, Jesus most often had recourse to prayer when he encountered difference and disagreements.  

In my life, I have discovered that prayer changes things—and the thing it changes most is me. When I have a difference or a disagreement with someone, and I take it to prayer, this often helps me to see things from a different perspective or to take into account new information. Now as I say this, I need to be clear. I don’t always take differences and disagreements to prayer. There are times when I want to hold on to my anger and resentment. There are other times when I take them to prayer, and my prayer is more a monologue about why God should see things my way. When I am able to honestly and humbly take things to prayer, though, it does make a difference. 

Prayer can help us understand that while our differences and disagreements are real, they don’t have to be a source of anger and division. Rather, with Jesus as our model, and prayer as our weapon of choice, we can remain in contact with each other and engage in a dialogue that is frank, honest, and ongoing.   

We may share the same religion, but that doesn’t mean that we necessarily share the same understanding of what that religion requires of us. This doesn’t have to separate us, though. Through prayer and respectful dialogue we can challenge each other to hear anew, and strive to live out the challenge of Jesus to love our neighbor as our self.

The Basilica of Saint Mary strives to provide excellence in ministry by providing ministries that are inspired by the Gospel and are relevant in our day. During the unique season of Advent in which we observe a spirit of patience and waiting for the coming of the Messiah, The Basilica hosts many events to encourage prayer and participation, some of which are listed below. All advent events can be found here.

Morning prayer
Tuesdays and Thursdays starting December 2 through Christmas, 9:15am in the choir stalls, The Basilica

Eucharist with the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick
Sunday, December 6, 10:30am on The Basilica’s ground level, in the Saint Joseph Chapel
Joy to the World: Crèches from Around the World
This Nativity scene exhibit runs December 6-January 15, on The Basilica’s lower level in the John XXIII gallery and Teresa of Calcutta hall. Discover the uniqueness of our universal Church through various representations of the manger scene.

Advent Learning Series
Sundays, December 7, 14, and 21, 11:00am-12:30pm in the Wagner room of the Cowley Center
Program led by Dr. Charles Bobertz and Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman. During Advent, we celebrate in joyful hope the coming of the Jesus Christ into our lives. Historically, Jesus came into our midst two thousand years ago, and now as we live out our lives, we encounter Jesus frequently in many forms. However, as we live each day, we wait for Jesus to come again at the end of time. Our Jewish brothers and sisters are also waiting for the Messiah. Their prayers and way of life reflect the virtue of waiting. This series explores this patient virtue and the ties between faiths. Register online by December 4 or call 612.317.3414. Scholarships are available for this $20 series.

Solemn Vespers for the Season of Advent
Sunday, December 7, 14, and 21, 3:00pm in the Basilica choir stalls
Led by The Basilica Schola Cantorum, come and pray for the arrival of the Messiah with us at the close of day.
Taizé with Opportunity for Individual Confessions
Tuesday, December 16, 5:30pm, The Basilica’s lower level

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.

This Sunday we celebrate the Second Sunday of our Season of Advent.   In our Gospel this Sunday we encounter the figure of John the Baptist.  We are told that he “appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin.”   John was clothed in camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist.  “And this is what he proclaimed; ‘One mightier than I is coming after me.  I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.  I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’”   

Clearly John knew both his place and his role.   He knew he was not the Messiah; rather he was to prepare the way for Christ.   On this Second Sunday of Advent, John challenges us not just to repent of our sins, but also to prepare our hearts that Christ might find a welcome home there. 

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.   It is prophecy of comfort and hope for the Israelites who were in captivity in Babylon.  “Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God!  Here comes with power the Lord god, who rules by his strong arm; here is his reward with him, his recompense before him.”  

Our second reading this Sunday is from the second letter of Saint Peter.   At that time, people were expecting the imminent return of Christ.   In the section we read this Sunday Peter reminds them (and us) that the delay in Christ’s return is for our benefit.  “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard ‘delay,’ but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  What do you need to do this Advent to prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth at Christmas?  
2.  When you hear Isaiah’s prophecy, do you feel a sense of hope and/or comfort?  
3.  Have you ever felt that God is “delaying” in response to your prayers?