Archives: February 2015

Several months ago, on my way to a meeting, I heard an individual on the radio use a term I don’t recall having heard before. Specifically the individual used the term “compassion fatigue.” Since I had tuned in late to the program, I didn’t hear the full context of the speaker’s comments. From what I heard, though, the individual used this phrase to describe the fact that often people can become so overwhelmed with issues, circumstances, injustices and causes that call for a response of care and compassion, that as a result they simply shut down, tune things out, and turn more and more inward.

I suspect that for all of us there are times when we are so overwhelmed by the terrible nature of something or some things, that we become paralyzed and do nothing. In part this is understandable. As humans, we can only endure seeing so much pain or so many needs before we are overwhelmed and simply shut down for a while. On a permanent basis, I don’t know that we are able to bear the pain, the sadness and the sorrows of the world. Perhaps some of us are called and are capable of doing this—Blessed Mother Teresa comes to mind—but I wonder if this is possible for the majority of us.   Sometimes we do need to simply shut down for a while. I think there is a difference, though, between  those times when we shut down and do nothing, and those times when we give in completely to “compassion fatigue” and simply stop caring. When we let ourselves stop caring by telling ourselves that we can’t deal with all the pain and hardship, something is terribly wrong.

As Christians, our call and our challenge is to be the heart, the hands, the voice, and the face of Christ in our world. We may not do this well. At times we may temporarily give in to “compassion fatigue.” The one thing we cannot do, though, is let this become a permanent condition. We can’t shut our eyes to the pain and need around us. We can’t be concerned only with ourselves.

Yes, with all the pain and hardship in the world, and indeed with all the pain and hardship that exists all around us, it would be easy to give in to “compassion fatigue” on a permanent basis. This is not an option for us as Christians, however. I believe this is the reason why this season of Lent is so important. It challenges us to see beyond ourselves to the needs of others. It calls us to be more caring and compassionate and it invites us to try harder to show and share Christ in our words and actions. We may not do this very well. (I fail at it regularly.) I also know and believe, though, that it is what we are called to do and be as followers of Jesus.

My prayer for us during this season of Lent is that it will be a time for our care and compassion to be renewed and strengthened, so that we might truly be the heart, the hands, the voice and face of Christ in our world.

The Basilica of Saint Mary has cancelled the employment ministry "Tell me about yourself - Why should I hire you?" class scheduled for February 10 from 6:00-8:30pm due to weather. 

Check back here for additional updates and information.

An exciting new ministry has begun at The Basilica, one we hope and pray will continue for many months and years.  We offer many wonderful opportunities for families here; one can see children actively involved with their parents in some of our liturgical ministries (has a child welcomed you to Mass on a Sunday morning helping out with our hospitality ministry?)  They also can be involved in our youth choirs or our faith formation programming that can start as early as age 3 or 4.  

One thing we have noticed is that when parents have a new baby, after their baptism preparation and sacrament, there can potentially be a sense of isolation in our faith community. New parents’ energy understandably has to be focused on their new little one, but how do they continue to work on their spiritual lives and form community within the parish?  This January we began a new ministry for this particular group of parents, primarily with children ages 0-4.  Our goal is twofold: Help parents grow spiritually themselves and in their families, and to help develop community among them.  We have already had one speaker on a Sunday morning, and we are planning for another on February 15 from 10:00-11:00am in The Basilica school.  We plan to mix up the programming with events such as speakers presenting helpful information along with giving parents a chance to meet and build relationships with others in the parish.  For more information or if you have interest in being part of a planning committee for the group, you can email Ben.    

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

Our Gospel this Sunday is the story of Jesus healing a leper.  There are two things deserving comment in regard to this Gospel.  First, when the leper came to Jesus and begged him to heal him, we are told that Jesus: “moved with pity, stretched out his hand, touched him and said to him, ‘I do will it. Be made clean.’”    It is very significant that Jesus actually touched the leper.  Jesus knew that lepers lived lives of loneliness and isolation. By touching the leper Jesus not only cured him of his leprosy, but shared human contact with him.  As a result not only was the leper cured, but he was also healed of his isolation and loneliness when Jesus touched him and brought back into the community.   

The second thing that deserves comment in this Gospel is Jesus’ words to the leper:  “See that you tell no one anything.”  Despite Jesus words, though, we are told:  “The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.”   I suspect the reason for this was not deliberate disobedience on the part of the leper, but rather because he simply couldn’t contain his joy and happiness, and needed to share it.    

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Leviticus.  It provides background information about how lepers were to be treated.   “The one who bears the sore of leprosy shall keep his garments rent and his head bare, and shall muffle his beard; he shall cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean!’”

Our second reading this weekend is from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.  In it Paul urges the Corinthians to “do everything for the glory of God.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  I believe there is a difference between a cure and a healing.   The leper in the Gospel was cured of his leprosy, but also was healed of his isolation and loneliness.   When have you experienced God’s healing presence in your life?  
2. Have you ever had good news that you just couldn’t keep to yourself?  
3. How do you do something for the glory of God? 

The Basilica of Saint Mary and the Notre Dame Club of Minnesota have joined together for our next Sunday Night Live presentation this Sunday, February 8, following the 4:30pm Mass. SNL will feature Dr. Cindy Bergeman presenting on “How Might Faith Make You Well?”

There is no cost to attend and registration is not needed. All ages are welcome.


Sacred Heart of Jesus stained glass window

Believe and Receive?

A few weeks ago I was driving back to The Basilica when I happened to get behind a car with a bumper sticker that read “Believe and Receive; Doubt and Do Without.” My immediate reaction to this bumper sticker was a strong sense of discomfort. It occurred to me that whoever came up with that saying must either have a very strong faith, or had learned to do without a lot of things they had prayed for. Not being very pleased with my initial response, I decided the idea suggested by the bumper sticker merited some prayer and reflection on my part.  

As I reflected on the idea behind the bumper sticker, it struck me that the author of the sentiments behind the bumper sticker had a very different notion of what belief and faith are all about than I did. For me, faith is not about believing that we will get everything we want or need from God. Rather it is about believing that in our want or need, God will be with us.

As Christians, we believe that God is always with us. Because of and in God’s providential love we are constantly watched over and cared for. We are never abandoned or left to face the vagaries of life by ourselves. God is always with us, and in God’s love we are forever held firm. God’s abiding love and care for us—God’s ongoing presence in our lives—is the bedrock of our faith. In saying this, though, I want to be clear. Even though God loves and cares for us, this does not mean that God will give us everything we want or that God will grant our every prayer request, just because we ask for something in faith. 

There have been numerous times in my life when I have prayed about something or prayed for something with great fervor and sincerity only to end up being disappointed because what I prayed for didn’t happen. I am not alone in this. I have known many good and holy people who have prayed and prayed for things, only to see their prayer go seemingly unanswered. In the face of this, what are we to say? An easy answer (and one suggested by the bumper sticker) would be to suggest that we didn’t pray hard enough or that our belief wasn’t strong enough. I have a great deal of difficulty with this. I have known too many people of strong faith, whose lives have been formed and shaped by their beliefs, and yet have suffered great disappointment and pain in their lives. To suggest that they did not believe enough is an affront to them. On the other hand, to suggest that God was somehow capricious in answering their prayers would be an affront to God. 

When prayers go unanswered it is too simple to suggest that we are at fault for a weakness of faith, or that God is at fault because God failed to hear and respond to our prayers. To make these the only responses to unanswered prayers is, I believe, a great error. Rather, I think there are times when we have to settle for simply not knowing. Now certainly “not knowing” runs counter to our cultural and personal values. We have a deep and abiding human desire to know why something is the way it is. I believe though, that it may not be possible for us, as humans to ever know and understand the will, work and way of God. In this life, especially when we are dealing with God, we may have to settle for “not knowing.”  

Now I realize that for many the above may not be a completely satisfying answer to the issue of unanswered prayers. In all honesty, though, I must admit that I am more comfortable with “not knowing” than I am with the idea that we need only believe to receive.  


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.”

Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Blaise, a 4th C. bishop and martyr with the traditional blessing of the throats.

The tradition of the blessing of throats on the feast of Saint Blaise began after he saved the life of a boy who had a fishbone stuck in his throat by ordering the child to cough it up. He is the patron saint of wild animals and those with throat ailments.

The Basilica of Saint Mary will have the blessing of the throats following Noon Mass on the ground level, Saint Joseph Chapel.

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

“Everyone is looking for you.”   These words from this weekend’s Gospel remind us that when Jesus began his ministry of curing the sick, driving out demons, and preaching the Gospel, people began to seek him out.   Jesus was in such demand that the scriptures tell us that he often rose “very early before dawn ……………… and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.”   Jesus knew that his ministry flowed form the time he spent in communion with his Father in prayer.  This is a good model for us.  As disciples of Jesus, our time in prayer helps us to follow Jesus more closely and lead the life of one of his disciples.   

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the book of Job.   This book, perhaps more than any other book in the Bible, has been and continues to be the source of much study and discussion.  It presents us with the eternal question:  “Why do bad things happen to good people?"   In the section we read today Job lamented his life:  “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope.  Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.”  To the casual observer, it must seem odd that this reading is paired with this weekend’s Gospel reading, since the first reading and Gospel are always share a common theme.   The reason the reading from Job is paired, with this Gospel is that this weekend’s Gospel invites us to remember and believe that God is always with us and for us.   God loves us and is always sharing God’s grace with us.   This Gospel invites us to look for the ways in which God is sharing God’s grace with us and helping us deal with whatever we encounter in our lives.   

In our second reading this weekend, we continue to read from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.  In the section we read this weekend Paul talks about his call to preach the Gospel.  He says: “All this I do for the sake of the Gospel, so that I too may have a share in it.”  

Questions of Reflection/Discussion:

1.    Have you ever felt like Job?  
2.    Where have you experienced God’s love and healing grace in your life? 
3.    When is the best time for you to pray --- “very early before dawn” or ??????