Archives: January 2015

As we prepare to celebrate the feast of Saint Blaise next week I am reminded of a chapter in my book “What’s the Smoke for. And other Burning Questions about the Liturgy.” In it I recount how I was approached by someone who described herself as a new Catholic. She mentioned she had noticed how the priest placed candles around people’s throat while whispering something she could not understand. She found it all too strange and decided not to participate.

This made me think of the many rituals we have which might seen strange to people who are unfamiliar with them, and even to some of us who have celebrate them, year after year.

Of course, the woman who approached me must have attended Mass on February 3rd, the feast of St. Blaise, a 4th C. bishop and martyr. On that day we have the traditional blessing of the throats. And just to be clear, the words the priest used while he placed the candles around people’s throat were: “Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, Bishop and martyr may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and any other illness. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

The little we know about St. Blaise comes from descriptions of the lives of saints which were written several centuries after his death. From these writings we learn that Blaise was a celebrated medical doctor when he was elected as bishop of Sebastea, Armenia, today’s Sivas, Turkey. He was brutally martyred around 316 during a wave of Christian persecution.

From the 6th C. on in the East and the 8th C. in the West the intercession of St. Blaise was invoked by people who were ill. By the 12th C. St. Blaise had become one of the most popular saints in Western Europe.

Two stories told about St. Blaise relate to the custom of blessing throats. According to the first story a distraught mother rushed her child to St. Blaise. The child was choking on a fishbone. After St. Blaise said a prayer the fishbone dislodged and the child was saved. Based on this miracle the intercession of St. Blaise is invoked when suffering from ailments of the throat as well as to prevent such ailments.

According to the second story a poor widow’s pig had been saved from a wolf by St. Blaise. Out of gratitude the widow brought 2 candles to prison so St. Blaise could have some light in his dark cell. Blaise is often depicted with two candles held together by a red ribbon. The red ribbon refers to the martyrdom suffered by St. Blaise. Based on this two candles tied together with a red ribbon are used during the blessing of the throats.

Even in our postmodern society, which is suspicious of any hint of superstition this blessing like many other similar rites remains popular among Catholics. They are the visible signs of a deep yet invisible reality. The blessing of the throats is a tangible reminder of God’s healing and saving presence among us. It is also an acknowledgement that we entrust ourselves to God’s providential care.

So, will you join us for Mass at 7:00am or noon on February 3 this year?

 

The character of our community is determined by the way we connect with one another. In our rich, as well as challenging relationships, we each contribute to the nature of our community by our actions. At a time when our local and world community experience deep division and tension, it is important for us to pay attention to the way we connect.

When considered through the lens of faith, our Christian Life offers three significant and distinct ways to connect with others. All three of these ways are important to building a community of hope, trust, and love. As people of faith, we are called to serve, to accompany, and to defend.

  • Call to Serve: With our focus on the common good and a particular care for the most vulnerable, we are invited to recognize and meet the needs of our brothers and sisters. As we reach out to another, it is important that we recognize the times that we, also, need to be served. The words of the Servant Song, by Richard Guillard, seems particularly poignant: “Will you let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you. Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too.” Mutuality and humility are fruits of this service. We understand that everyone has something to teach and everyone has an important role to play in our community. Indeed, we get a glimpse of the community described in 1 Corinthians 12 when all rejoice and suffer together due to the inherent dignity of every part of the body.
  • Call to Accompany: There are times when things cannot be fixed or people changed. Sometimes the most important and compassionate thing to do is to be present with another. Recognizing that God is with us, we can walk with another, practicing active listening. We can know that we are never alone. We can know a deep sense of belonging and a transforming experience of acceptance and love. The call to accompany is hard, as it often bucks against our deep desire to fix and change. Yet it is transforming in its non-judgmental hospitality and acceptance.
  • Call to Defend: The call to defend is an important component to the way we connect in community. There are times when it is not enough to serve or accompany. There are times when we must defend. Pope Francis states that “True mercy, the mercy God gives to us and teaches us, demands justice, it demands that the poor find the way to be poor no longer. And it asks us to ensure that no one ever again stands in need of a soup-kitchen, of make-shift lodgings, of a service of legal assistance in order to have his legitimate right recognized to live and to work, to be fully a person..” Am I ready to speak the truth to power and defend the oppressed? Am I prepared to protect the victims of violence and injustice? Will I put myself in an inherently vulnerable position as I seek to defend the defenseless? These are important questions for each of us. We are called to get to the heart of any reservations or fears, freeing ourselves to defend and protect in love.

Let us attend to our relationship with God, practice humility, and listen with our heart. Together, as we serve, accompany, and defend, we can build a community of love and compassion. Our prayer and actions call on the Holy Spirit to transform and heal the nature of our local and global community.

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/020115.cfm    

I suspect we all know people who could be described impolitely as “windbags.”  These people talk a lot, but say very little.  On the other hand, we all know individuals who, when they talk, people listen.  They speak with a wisdom and authority that causes us to take them seriously.  Twice in this weekend’s Gospel we are told that the people were “astonished” and “amazed” at Jesus’ teaching because he taught with “authority.”   What this suggests is that when Jesus spoke or taught people listened because inherently they knew that his words were not mere opinion, but had a depth of meaning and power to them.   

Tucked in between the people’s words of astonishment at Jesus’ teaching is the encounter between Jesus and a man with an unclean spirit.   The unclean spirit recognized Jesus, but Jesus rebuked him and said: “’Quiet! Come out of him!’  The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.”    The exorcism of the unclean spirit helped to demonstrate Jesus’ power and authority.  

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of Deuteronomy.   In it Moses tells the people “A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kin; to him you shall listen.”   In the Old Testament God communicated with the people through the prophets.  In the New Testament, God spoke to God’s people through Jesus Christ.   Jesus, though, was not just another prophet.  He was and is the Word of God, given form and flesh, and spoken into our world and our individual lives. 

Our second reading this weekend is taken from the first letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.    Like the section we read last weekend, this weekend’s reading seems to anticipate the imminent return of Christ.  Given this, Paul tells people he would like them to be “free of anxieties” so they can adhere to the Lord “without distraction.

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. When have you encountered someone who spoke with authority?  How did you feel when you heard their words? 
  2. Have you ever felt the words of Scripture speaking to you with authority?
  3. What anxieties do you need to be freed from?   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/012515.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the third Sunday in Ordinary Time.  Our Gospel this Sunday records the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and the call of the first disciples.  As Jesus began his public ministry his message was clear.  “The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”   And when he called his first disciples his message was equally clear.  “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”   This call must have been compelling for we are told: “…… they abandoned their nets and followed him.”   

Our first reading this Sunday is the story of the call of the prophet, Jonah, to prophesize to the city of Ninevah: “’Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,’   The people of Ninevah took Jonah’s message to heart for  “when the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.”   

Our second reading this Sunday is from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.  At the time it was written there was widespread expectation of Jesus’ imminent return.  Given this mindset, Paul’s message is simple.  “I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out ………………… For the world in its present form is passing away.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  While we might like to receive God’s call in a clear and direct fashion, as did the disciples in today’s Gospel, most often God’s call is quiet and subtle.  When have you felt God’s call in your life?
2.  Jonah was given a very specific call to prophesize to the people of Nineveh.   Have you ever felt a specific call in your life?
3.  Since we are still waiting for Jesus’ return, how should this affect the way we live?    

A few months ago Fr. Greg Skrypek’s brother died. For those of you who don’t know, Greg has been a presence at The Basilica for many years, first as an associate, then as a resident in the rectory, and, most recently, for the past several years, as the presider at the 7:00am Mass on Thursday mornings. Since I was away at the time of his brother’s death, I stopped in the sacristy chapel before Mass one Thursday to express my sympathy. Since both of us have lost a brother, there was a certain comfort and empathy in our conversation. At one point, though, Greg said something that really struck me. Specifically, he said: “Grieving is the privilege that comes from loving someone.”

Now I had never thought of grieving as a privilege, but when he said these words, I knew their truth. We don’t experience grief unless we had some kind of loving relationship with the individual who has died. Certainly we can feel sadness and sorrow when someone dies, but I think grief is deeper than sadness and sorrow. Grief is a profound and deep sense of loss. It leaves a hole in our lives and hearts that had previously been filled by a particular person’s presence and love. 

Grief also reminds us how important the individual was to us. It reminds us that even though they have died they continue to have a place in our lives and in our hearts. Grief calls us to remember that the love we had shared with someone is not ended with death, but continues. If we have never loved or been loved, we can feel sadness and sorrow certainly, but I don’t know that we can experience grief. Grief occurs when we experience the loss of someone with whom we have shared love. It is a privilege, because sadly, not everyone is given the opportunity to love and to be loved. 

Grieving is also a privilege for us as Christians because it gives us the opportunity to remember and renew our faith. For it is our faith that tells us that despite the sadness and sorrow that accompany death, we believe there is more. For Christians, it is the promise of eternal life that gives us hope even in the face of death. Now, in saying this, I want to be clear. The promise and hope of eternal life doesn’t take away the grief we feel when someone we love has died. Rather it moderates and tempers that grief. It softens it so it is easier for us to hold and carry.  

The pain we experience when someone we knew and loved has died is real. It is important that we acknowledge that pain. And shame on anyone who seeks to minimize it or take it away. We need to recognize and accept our grief, and remember that grief is only possible because we loved someone. Grieving is a privilege that comes from experiencing love.  

The Girl with Dimples

Kao Kalia Yang, a Hmong American writer, joined the Fair Trade Market at The Basilica of Saint Mary on Sunday, December 7, 2014. Her interest in attending this annual event centered around helping people understand her father's song poetry. She has a new book, The Song Poet, being released in January 2015 by Metropolitan Books. Kalia expressed a deep understanding of her Hmong culture and continued journey. The interview helped me understand her feeling of love, growth and spiritual connection to Hmong traditions.

Many refugees search for a place to call home. In Yang’s first book, The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, she explores her personal journey to America. Her book is not just a refugee story. According to the author, her books are an exploration of “what is ever weighing on my heart.” She captures the human experience for each generation in her family. Primarily her first book is a tribute to her grandmother’s remarkable spiritual strength that kept them all together during the years from war-torn Laos to Ban Vinai, a Thai refugee camp, and finally to Minnesota. 

Kao Kalia Yang has a sincere dedication to her family’s story.  In her new book, The Song Poet, she tells the story of her father's struggle to find beauty in the war torn jungles of Loas and refugee camps of Thailand. The author noted that the poetry of her father, Npis Yai-Bee Yang, “carries Hmong words through a hard life, and distills from the sorrows, strength of heart, and appreciation of beauty.” Her father’s song poetry CD was made possible by a Minnesota Arts grant. His songs started developing years ago as he went from neighbor to neighbor in Laos to learn hope. Her father felt that one day all the words in his heart escaped and songs were born.

In one of his poetry songs, Npis Yai-Bee Yang concluded, “In our life time we have loved well and deep, let our love flourish far beyond us. Let us love into time. Let us love with no end, no goodbyes. The universal beauty of life is filled with a spiritual understanding that youth passes and wisdom enters.”

In addition to her books and promotion of her father’s song poetry, Yang created a lyric documentary. The Place Where We Were Born, uses photos from a physician who served in her refugee camp where she was born. The photos became very important to Yang because her birth place no longer exists. When she was six years old, Yang’s family immigrated to America. She is proud of her personal development, family, and Hmong culture. Her name, Kao Kalia, was a gift from her beloved grandmother and means “the girl with dimples.” Learning about Yang’s dreams, wisdom and traditions helps to build a sensitivity to the Hmong refugee experience.

During the months of December and January, The Basilica of Saint Mary focuses on global stewardship and the journey of refugees.

 

Linda Goldetsky has been an active parishioner since 2002.  She co-chaired the Fair Trade Market, and has served on the Global Stewardship Team since 2009. She has also participated in JustFaith, our Mental Health Awareness ministry and been a Basilica Block Party volunteer.

 

 

The Basilica of Saint Mary and the Cathedral of Saint Paul are hosting the 2015 Cathedral Ministry Conference January 12-15.

People from 78 Cathedrals, 38 states, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have come together along with members of the Conference of Roman Catholic Cathedral Musicians (CRCCM) and Association of Consultants for Liturgical Space (ACLS).

This biennial national conference brings together rectors, pastors, staff, and volunteers to strengthen, improve, and appreciate cathedral ministries nationwide.

This year’s conference features keynote speeches by Fr. Thomas Reese, SJ; Sr. Dianne Bergannt, CSA, Ph.D.; and Fr. Jan Michael Joncas. Stunning liturgies featuring the Saint John’s Bible exhibit from Collegeville, Minn., as well as choral and brass ensembles will also be incorporated into the week-long conference.

Bringing Christ to the World

Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord and thus the Christmas season comes to an end. This might come as Christmas outside the church has been forcibly erased from our memories with the red and green of Christmas gradually being replaced by the red-only of the next commercial holiday, St. Valentine’s Day. In the church, though, the evergreens still stand and the poinsettias, though visibly tired, persist.

The two main liturgical celebrations of the church: Christmas and Easter have a time of preparation, respectively Advent and Lent, and a time of celebration, respectively Christmastide and Eastertide. The Christmas season is punctuated by a number of liturgical celebrations, in chronological succession: the Feast of the Holy Family on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s unless January 1 falls on a Sunday when it is celebrated on December 30; the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God on January 1; the Solemnity of the Epiphany mostly observed on the Sunday between January 2 and 8; and the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord celebrated on the Sunday after Epiphany unless Epiphany falls on January 7 or 8 when the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated the next day.

The more ancient of these celebrations, namely Epiphany and Baptism of the Lord, together with the Birth of the Lord, were originally celebrated as one big celebration of the Epiphany of God in Jesus Christ on January 6. This unified feast predates the separate celebration of Christmas on December 25. There is evidence of the celebration of the Epiphany by the end of the second century, while the earliest known reference to Christmas is no older than 354 AD.

The word Epiphany is the English transliteration of the Greek Epiphaneia, meaning appearance, revelation, and manifestation. The Feast of the Epiphany is thus the feast of the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God. It was also known as the Theophany or Theophaneia in Greek, meaning the revelation or appearance of God.

The original Feast of the Epiphany celebrated the four major epiphanic moments in the life of Jesus all bundled in one. The first epiphany being the revelation of Jesus as God to Israel symbolized by the announcement to the shepherds which we now celebrate on Christmas. The second is the revelation of Jesus as God to the gentiles symbolized by the Magi which is celebrated on Epiphany in the churches of the west. The third is the revelation of God as the Trinity which is now celebrated on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The fourth major revelation is God’s desire to make all things new which happened at Cana when Jesus changed water into wine. Though not accorded its own feast, the reading recounting this event is now read on the Sunday after Baptism of the Lord every third year, thus in close proximity to the other three celebrations.

The main theological reason why these epiphanic moments are now spread out over several celebrations is due to the importance of each one of them in its own right. The goal of each celebration is twofold: first, we celebrate each epiphany so we come to know God better, and second, we celebrate each epiphany so we may in turn lead lives that reveal God to the world.

As we conclude the rich celebration of the Christmas season let us re-commit ourselves to reveal to the world in deed and in word what has been revealed to us. May each epiphany of God inspire us to become ourselves an epiphany of God to the world.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/011815.cfm

 

Having concluded the Christmas season, this weekend we return to what is known in our liturgical year as Ordinary Time.   This designation is meant to distinguish this time in our liturgical year from the other seasons of our Church year, e.g. Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter.   Our Gospel this Sunday is taken from the Gospel of John.   It records the call of Andrew, who in turn brings his brother, Simon Peter to Jesus.  

 

There are two things to note in the call of these disciples.   First, notice it is John the Baptist who pointed out Jesus:  Behold, the Lamb of God.”   This suggests that sometimes we need others to point out God’s presence in our lives.  Second, notice that the call did  not come in a dramatic or extraordinary manner.  In fact, quite the opposite, it came in the midst of their ordinary lives.  This suggests that we need to be alert, because God’s call doesn’t always come to us in a spectacular manner. More likely it will come to us in the midst of our everyday and ordinary activities. 

 

Our first reading this weekend shares the theme of the Gospel.  It records the call of Samuel.   At first Samuel thought Eli was calling him and so he went to him.  After the third time, however, Eli realized that God was calling Samuel, and so he told him:  “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”   

 

Our second reading this weekend is from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.   In it Paul challenges the Corinthians to engage in correct moral behavior.  He reminded them:  “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not on your own.”

 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

 

1.  John the Baptist pointed out Jesus to Andrew who in turn pointed out Jesus to his brother, Simon Peter.   Who pointed out Jesus to you?

2.  Samuel needed Eli’s help to recognize God’s call.   Has someone helped you to recognize the call of God in your life?  

3.  What do you think it means to be a Temple of the Holy Spirit?

Due to snow and slippery conditions, the following Basilcia progrmas have been cancelled for Thursday, January 8:

  • BYA Bible Study
  • Mental Health Ministry Film Festival showing of Running From Crazy
  • Employment Ministry "Discover your Best Skill"

Pathways and Employment Ministry's Discover Your Best Skill class will continue as scheduled.

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