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Archives: April 2015
“Ask Mother Mary for help.” With these words my grandmother always sent me along, either to school or camp or just on my way home. At first I thought she was telling me I could always ask her for help as her name was Mary. It was not until she was more explicit about it that I learned she was referring to the Blessed Mother.
From that day on whenever my grandmother suggested I “ask Mother Mary for help” I obliged. Without much thought, I usually just repeated what my grandmother told me and prayed: “Mother Mary, help me.” Most of the time, there was no specific need. And while this interaction seemed somewhat perfunctory and almost mindless it was comforting.
One time I remember asking my grandmother how it was that I should request Mary’s help? I clearly had never met her. And since we did not know one another how could I be assured that she would help me? Without saying a word, my grandmother stopped me in my tracks and walked me to the Lourdes grotto in her garden. She told me to “look at her face.” We stood there for a long while without saying anything. At first I thought it strange but as I continued to look at Mary’s face it was as if I no longer saw the plaster statue of Our Lady of Lourdes. I actually had a strong sense that I was gazing into the eyes of Mary herself. I had a veritable “Visio Divina” or “Seeing the Divine” moment before it was named thus.
Mary looked remarkably like my grandmother, though maybe a bit younger and darker skinned. And sounding like my grandmother she assured me that I could always “Ask Mother Mary for help.” I am not sure how long the experience lasted. Suddenly, I felt my grandmother’s hand on my shoulder. I looked at her. She nodded and walked me back to the front door. As we said our goodbyes I told her that Mary looked and sounded just like her. My grandmother smiled, waved me out and said “Ask Mother Mary for help.”
As I am writing this column I am looking into the face of the many statues of Mary that grace my office: Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady Queen of Heaven, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Our Lady of LaVang, Our Lady of Africa, Our Lady of Guadalupe. They all look different. They appear as they were described by those who had a vision of them. And they all remind me of that one moment filled with grace so many years ago and I can hear my grandmother’s voice inviting me to: “Ask Mother Mary for help.”
My response to this invitation is no longer as quick, automatic or evident as it was when I was a young boy. I guess I have become a bit tainted by age and I may have lost some of my ability for spiritual seeing and hearing. Sometimes I wish for that uncomplicated time when I could just ask for help. I also wish for the amazing sense of Mary’s presence I had so many years ago. Maybe I don’t listen well enough? Or maybe I look in all the wrong places?
As we celebrate Mary during the month of May I will be looking for her, not only in the face of the many statues I have in my office but also in the faces of the many women who surround me. They have nourished my faith from the very beginning and they continue to do so until today. Some of them do this from the other side of this life while others do it here and now. And I will ponder the question whether Mary took on my grandmother’s face when she appeared to me or whether my grandmother looked like Mary? In either case, it is an affirmation that all of us are called—not only to become like Christ—but also to become like Mary, this strong Jewish women who dared to say yes to the greatest mystery of all: bearing God to the world.
On Mother’s day I will light a candle for my mother, my grandmother and for all the women who surround me as I think of them and honor them and pray for them. I will ponder their face in that of Mary and Mary’s face in theirs and I will “ask Mother Mary for help.”
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below, or copy and paste it into your browser.
I have never been much of a gardener. Keeping a couple of house plants alive is about as much as I can handle. I do appreciate, though, those who create beautiful flower gardens and those who grace our tables with fresh fruits and vegetables. I suspect it takes not only an interest, but also a special set of skills to create and cultivate a garden. I mention this because the image of a garden is evident in our Gospel today as Jesus tells us: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.”
Friends of mine who are gardeners tell me that if a plant is to produce beautiful flowers or abundant fruit, a certain amount of pruning is necessary. I suspect this is why Jesus told us that his Father “takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.” In addition to pruning, though, if a plant is to bear fruit it must also receive the proper nutrients. Jesus reminded us of this when he went on to say: “Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.”
We continue to read from the Acts of the Apostles for our first reading today. Today’s section is the wonderful story of how Paul (Saul), who had previously persecuted the early Christians, tried to join the disciples. We are told that they “Were afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.” Finally “Barnabas took charge of him and brought him to the apostles, and he reported to them how he had seen the Lord……”
Our second reading today is from the first Letter of Saint John. In the section we read today, John reminds us that we are to “love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. What do you need to allow God to prune in your life in order to become a better Christian?
2. When have you been suspicious of someone’s words or actions only to discover that they were acting in good faith and with charity?
3. How and/or where do you need to love in deed and truth?
Working to end hunger in our country and world can seem overwhelming. Hunger is a complex, age-old human struggle. What can one person do?
Providing direct assistance to people who are hungry through churches and charities is vital. It feeds many families in immediate need and gives people hope for the future. But even if churches and charities doubled their efforts, they still would not be able to end hunger on their own. Our federal government must play a role. Only government leaders can make economic, social, and political decisions necessary to attack the deep structural causes, and ultimately eliminate widespread hunger and poverty. Just a sentence or two written into a piece of legislation can benefit millions of people in the United States and around the world.
As people of faith and conscience, we must remind leaders of their responsibilities to the people they represent, and offer constructive solutions. We can advocate for changes in public policy that will end hunger and poverty in the decades ahead. Advocating with and for people who are hungry is something each of us can do, and it doesn’t take a lot of time. It just takes the will to act and speak out. Even though the political process in Washington can seem challenging, we remain hope-filled and confident that our voices will make a difference.
Bread for the World is a non-partisan, Christian citizens' movement in the United States that urges our nation's leaders to end hunger at home and abroad. God's grace moves us to help our neighbors, whether they live in the next house, the next state, or the next continent. If we work together and confront the problem of hunger directly, we can end hunger in our time. Everyone, including our government, must do their part. Together, we can build the political commitment needed to overcome hunger and poverty.
The Basilica is joining other churches throughout our country in Bread for the World’s 2015 Offering of Letters. We are mobilizing our entire parish community to write letters and urge Congress to renew our federal government’s major child nutrition programs, including those for school meals, summer feeding, and the WIC nutrition programs for pregnant and new mothers along with their small children.
Every five years, Congress must re-authorize the law that funds these programs, which have helped so many children. Even with all the progress that has been made, only half of children receiving school lunches benefit from breakfast. Summer meals are available to less than 10 percent of those children who count on lunches during the school year. Overall, one in five children goes to bed hungry every night in the U.S.
Now is the time to renew these national nutrition programs. We invite you to be part of the Bread for the World’s 2015 Offering of Letters by taking a few minutes to write letters to your members of Congress. Urge them to protect child nutrition programs from cuts and harmful policy changes, and improve children’s access to school breakfasts and summer meals. Working together, we can be part of God’s will on earth that all children receive the food that enables them to learn, be healthy, and grow strong.
Advocacy on behalf of the most vulnerable is a constitutive part of our faith. As God’s hands and feet in the world, we work toward a beloved community in which every person has an equal opportunity to thrive. The Offering of Letters is one way that we can live out this commitment. It invites us to be good stewards, using our voices to encourage our elected representatives to take the necessary steps to end hunger.
The Basilica will be collecting letters from you, our parish community, throughout the month of May. Place your letters in baskets in the back of church or in the parish Rectory. Before they are mailed, we will gather these letters and bless them in Mass throughout the weekend of June 6/7, 2015. We encourage all members to participate in this call to action. You can learn more at www.mary.org/offeringofletters. Let us act together and make a difference!
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below, or copy and paste it into your browser.
The fourth Sunday of Easter is often referred to as Good Shepherd Sunday because in our three year cycle of readings, the Gospels for this Sunday are always taken from the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, where Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd. In fact in the opening lines of today’s Gospel Jesus says: “I am the Good Shepherd.”
In this Gospel Jesus articulates three qualities of the Good Shepherd. 1. The Good Shepherd “lays down his life for the sheep.” 2. The Good Shepherd knows his sheep: “I know mine and mine know me.” 3. The Good Shepherd is inclusive: “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice.”
Our first reading this Sunday is again taken from the Act of the Apostles. In the section we read today Peter, speaking of Jesus, says: “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” In the past, some have interpreted these words to suggest that only Christians go to heaven. Those who espoused this idea, however, failed to realize that salvation is God’s work. And if God wants people to be saved, God will find a way to do it. For those of us who know and believe in Jesus Christ, however, it behooves us to follow Him who is the sure way to salvation. .
Our second reading this weekend is from the first Letter of Saint John. John reminds us: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he it.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- Which quality of the Good Shepherd do you most appreciate?
- What do you think St. John meant when he referred to us as a children of God?
- What do you think St. John meant when he said we will be like God?
The Basilica of Saint Mary is on the threshold of making a huge difference in our community. We are on the verge of doing something great. Working together, we have an opportunity to effectively put our faith into action—leaving the world a better place for future generations.
What are we doing? What is so grand and effectual? Beginning in early May, when you throw away garbage at the Basilica, you will have three options: Is it recycling? Is it organics? Is it trash? Your choice to sort waste accurately will help change the culture of The Basilica, and save our world. This simple choice can speak boldly and prophetically to our community.
Is this hyperbole? Well, perhaps. But I suggest that this very simple gesture, multiplied over and over every day, can indeed change our world. This focused attention to the waste stream we create, individually and collectively as a parish community, can make a significant difference in our world.
We can too easily minimize the impact of small, individual efforts in a big world. Yet, we are invited to consider the impact of our collective actions, working together as the Body of Christ, advocating and acting on behalf of the most vulnerable. All it takes is a desire to engage—a willingness to care and act.
Currently, The Basilica sends at least two-thirds of our waste stream into trash, with less than a third recycled. Over and over we put materials that have value into the trash—adding to landfills or incinerator use. Hennepin County was considering enlarging the incinerator just north of The Basilica due to over use. A large proportion of what is being burned has value, and they have refocused their efforts to increase composting. We can help in this effort. As we all help to sort our waste, we will drastically reduce what The Basilica puts into the landfills and incinerators. The goal for The Basilica is to move to 10% trash.
One big change for The Basilica is to begin to collect organics that can be easily composted into rich soil. Did you know that 40% of the waste stream created by each of us every day is organics? Food waste, non-recyclable paper, flowers and plant waste, and other organic items add up to almost half of our garbage. When organics are placed in a landfill, they create methane gas, which is 70 times worse a greenhouse gas than carbon-dioxide. If we divert even 15% of the organics from our landfills, we would realize a reduction of methane gas equal to taking over 23,500 cars off the road. We can make a huge difference. All it takes is a choice: place all organics into the correct waste bin.
Recycling can seem mundane or old-school. Yet, when we choose recycling, we allow our waste to be reconstituted and reused. Some things, like aluminum cans and glass bottles/jars, have no limit on the number of times they can be recycled. They don’t lose their quality when recycled over and over.
Materials like paper do not have an infinite life. The number of times paper can get recycled into new paper is limited. Normal copy paper can go through the recycling process five to seven times. After that, the paper fibers will become too short. Newspaper is already of lower quality. It can be turned into egg cartons.
Our habits are often ingrained in our culture and can easily be dismissed. We are a society that measures our productivity by how much we purchase. We often clear out by throwing away. Our faith calls us to calibrate our lives and actions differently. Our invitation is to take these choices seriously.
The exciting part of this initiative is that it involves each of us. We will have success if we all do our part. Yet, the hard part of this initiative is that success depends on each one of us. Let us, together, find ways to energize our imaginations and engage.
Look for new bins, in sets of three, all around The Basilica campus. Help us be successful in our work to leave the world in a better place for future generations.
The Basilica of Saint Mary and Minneapolis Community & Technical College (MCTC) present Spirit and Soul, A Celebration of Black Performance Styles, which will take place on Friday, April 17 from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at the Basilica of Saint Mary. The event is free and open to all.
This evening of dance, song, and poetry will bring to you performance styles of the Caribbean, West Africa, Brazil, and the United States. There will be an exploration of African musical traditions and how they have blended with different styles and transformed music over time.
It is a night to celebrate the global diffusion of the African Diaspora’s music. Performers include:
Truth Maze – Ovadiel, West Africa-Djembe
Yvette Trotman Troupe, West African Dance
Mestre Yoji Senna, Brazil - Capoeria
Kendra Glenn, US-Spiritual
John Marcus, US-Blues
Wain McFarlane, Jamaica-Reggae
Keah & Emander, US-Soul
Kevin Washington Quartet, US-Jazz
Jack Brass/Wonderland, US-New Orleans Second Line
Coco (Corisha Morgan) Royal Flamez, US-Step Show
Marshunna Clark, US-Spoken Word
Lynval Jackson International Reggae All Stars, Reggae
Kirk Washington, US Spoken Word
Representatives from MCTC groups will assist with back stage and front of house responsibilities: African American Education Empowerment Program (AME), Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB) and Student African American Sisterhood (SAAS). Scholarly knowledge and research for the event provided by MCTC instructors Jay Williams and Charles Watson.
For this Sunday’s Readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
Our Gospel this Sunday records a resurrection appearance by Jesus. It takes place while the two disciples, who had met Jesus on the road to Emmaus, were telling the other disciples about their encounter. Luke tells us: “While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ But they were startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.’”
There are a couple things to note in this Gospel. First, Jesus’ opening words to his disciples were “Peace be with you.” Clearly he knew how distraught and confused they were, so he desired to calm their fears. In this regard it is important to note that the word for peace in this context is not simply the absence of strife or conflict. Rather it is a deeply rooted sense of serenity and tranquility. The second thing to note is Jesus’ emphasis on his physical presence ---- that it is really him. This reminds us that while Jesus’ resurrected body is different from his former body, it is also continuous with it. His death was real, as was his resurrection.
Our first reading this Sunday is from the Acts of the Apostles. It is an excerpt from a speech by Peter. In the section we read today, Peter is clear: “The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.”
Our second reading this Sunday is from the first Letter of Saint John. In the section we read today we are reminded. “But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins, and not only for our sins but for those of the whole world. The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- When have you felt the “peace” that Jesus wished for his disciples in today’s Gospel?
- How are you called to give witness to Jesus Christ?
- What does it mean to you that Jesus Christ is you Advocate with the Father?
He is Risen
One of my most treasured memories of the Easter Season goes all the way back to my years as an altar server. On Easter Monday, after celebrating the many Holy Week Liturgies, our 30 or so servers were separated in groups of four and assigned sections of our parish. We were to go from home to home, ring the door bell and wish whoever opened the door a Happy Easter. Since most everyone in our town was Catholic we were blissfully unaware of the potential interfaith implications of our actions. Most people were expecting us and returned our greeting with a gift of chocolate Easter eggs. At the end of the day we all returned to our parish church and divvied up what was left of the chocolate loot, having indulged in some of it before making it back to church.
Though I did not realize it at the time, this was an important evangelization tool. Our mission really was to bring Easter Greetings to those people who had not celebrated Easter in church. This kind of living-out of our faith in the market place has lost much of its luster as we have become an increasingly pluralistic society with accompanying demands of political correctness. Much of what I took for granted, from processions through our streets, to the ubiquitous Marian chapels and saints’ shrines, to this Easter Monday activity has disappeared. Thus we have lost some of the concrete expressions of our faith outside of our churches.
Though, of course, it is not our desire to insult people with our outward expressions of faith. We always need to respect where people are at in their own faith journey even as proclaim to the world what we believe and in whom we believe. If our church is to be healthy and thrive our faith must be celebrated in our churches as well as in the market place.
So, what do you think, should we have our servers and by extension all our liturgical ministers knock on doors to wish people Happy Easter? In our days, a good alternative might be to do this via social media. So, lets tweet and post away that Jesus Christ is Risen. He is risen indeed!
The Basilica Landmark’s mission is to “Preserve, Restore, and Advance the historic Basilica of Saint Mary for all generations.” Our organization was founded more than 20 years ago by some very good friends who saw the importance of maintaining The Basilica for generations to come through a foundation dedicated to this specific mission. Then, like today, it was important for these leaders to establish a separate 501 (c) (3) organization from The Basilica and separate from the Archdiocese.
We have a great responsibility and privilege in this mission. We are the stewards of America’s first Basilica, and as historic architectural treasures have been demolished, it is still at the heart of Minneapolis and has defined the skyline for more than 100 years.
This past year has been anything but typical for The Basilica Landmark. In November of 2013, we were offered an unprecedented matching challenge gift of $2.5 million. To receive the match, we had to have $2.5 million given by December 31, 2017. As you have probably heard, we met this challenge this January, three years ahead of schedule. We are so grateful for the outpouring of generosity shown to The Basilica Landmark at this exciting time.
This is wonderful news, and $5 million will fund many important projects on our campus, including the 2014 replacement of the church and school HVAC system and replacement of the original boiler from 1913 (finally central air in the school). This year, we will begin the renovation of the Reardon Rectory fourth floor and the installation of sprinklers and central air throughout the building.
Today, we are a thriving organization, investing more than $2 million each year in our campus. And through 2017, significant projects planned on our campus will end our limitations for service and programming expansion. Major projects planned between 2016–2018 include Church tuck-pointing and roofing work, an expansion of the Cowley Center, and tuck-pointing and new window installation in the School. For more information on these projects, visit us online at www.thebasilicalandmark.org.
You can feel the momentum on our campus and the progress paves the way for wonderful things in our future.
To make these projects possible we still need your support, and are thrilled to announce yet another wonderful opportunity to increase the impact of your gift. In 2015, a challenge gift has been made to The Basilica Landmark. For each new annual fund gift of any size this spring, a $100 donation will be made to The Basilica Landmark. Please watch your mailbox for information about the annual fund, and join others with a gift to the annual fund the weekend of April 25 and 26.
We are preparing this building of hope for the future, for the outreach services, for the growing programs on our campus, for the inspiring liturgies, the 20+ concerts available to the public, the inspiring art, and so, so much more. The Basilica Landmark ensures the home for beautiful things that happen there each and every day.
Please also mark your calendar for The Basilica Landmark Ball on May 16, which will be held at The Basilica! Tickets and tables are selling now; reserve your spot by calling Meghan Gustafson at 612. 317.3455.
Easter services took place on April 5 at The Basilica of Saint Mary.