Archives: May 2015

It is with heavy hearts but great faith that The Basilica of Saint Mary remind parishioners of Deacon Roger Carlson's funeral tomorrow, June 1 beginning at 11:00am at the Church of St. Michael, 611 S. Third St., Stillwater. Visitation at the church will be from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday and from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday.

Deacon Carlson served at The Basilica of Saint Mary, working frequently with engaged couples as they prepared for the sacrament of marriage.

Among other hobbies, Deacon Carlson was most known for his love of running. It was in that hobby where he also passed away. To read more about Deacon Carlson, please see this article in the Pioneer Press or his obituary here.

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/060715.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.   Those of you who are of my vintage will remember that the Latin name for this Feast was:  Corpus Christi.    This Feast reminds us of our belief that the bread and wine that are consecrated at Mass really and truly become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.    We refer to this as the “Real Presence.”     We offer no proof for this; we cannot logically reason to it; there is no rationale explanation for it.   As Catholics, it is for us a matter of faith.  We believe that Jesus Christ is really and truly present in the Eucharist we celebrate and share in his name and memory.   And, as the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us:  “Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for and conviction about things we do not see.”   

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Exodus.  In this reading Moses reminds the people of the words and ordinances of the Lord, and then has them re-commit themselves to their covenant with the Lord.    As a sign of their commitment, Moses sprinkled the people with the blood of the sacrifice.   This sprinkling reminded the Israelites of God’s fidelity to them despite their repeated infidelities to their covenant with God.

Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the Letter to the Hebrews.  It reminds us that Christ is the “mediator of a new covenant.”   Because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ no other sacrificial offerings are needed.   

Finally, in our Gospel this weekend we read Mark’s account of the institution of the Eucharist.    Mark’s account is sparse, but it reminds us that because of Jesus Christ we have a new covenant with God, a covenant that cannot and will not end.    

Questions for Discussion/Reflection:

  1. How would you explain the “Real Presence” to someone who isn’t Catholic?
  2. We believe that the Eucharist strengthens us and nourishes us in this life, but also that it is the foretaste and the promise of eternal life.    If we believe this why do studies show that people are attending Mass less frequency?   
  3. All three readings this weekend remind us that God has made a covenant with us.   How is a covenant different from a contract?            

It has been a noisy last couple of weeks at the Reardon Rectory. The construction team continues their work on the Reardon Rectory's fourth floor as well as well as installing central air conditioning and a fire suppression system throughout the building. Many of The Basilica staff have needed to get creative with their space, as much of the original office space is currently being remodeled. The staff have filled all the available nooks and crannys, with many currently residing in the basements of the rectory and the school.

Every day brings about new projects, and this week has been no exception. Iron workers have been working to install the new staircase from the third to fourth floor and are starting on a structual reinforcement for the fourth floor. The walls on the third and fourth floor have also started to be framed for new rooms and office space; once this is finished, the work on the ceiling can begin. The team continues to work on the old elevator shaft and the floor should be removed by the end of the week.

Amongst some of the bigger projects, two previously private bathrooms have been removed from the third floor, and there is a great deal of drilling and concrete removal in the basement.

We are thankful for the construction team that works diligently as we update the Reardon Rectory. 

Photo provided by: 
Mortenson Construction
Photo provided by: 
Mortenson Construction

Some years ago I was asked to give a tour of The Basilica to a group of lawyers, physicians, reporters and university professors from the Middle East. Most of them were Muslim with the exception of one or two Christians. They had been invited by the State Department to experience our country first-hand. My task was to show them the building and while doing that answer any questions they might have about Christianity. Given the many images and symbols around our building it was rather easy to offer a quick introduction to our catholic faith.

Toward the end of the tour a journalist from Yemen asked me how we could consider ourselves monotheists or believers in one God as we seemingly worshipped three Gods. As fate or better yet, Divine Providence would have it we were standing by the chapel of St. Anthony. Carved in the wall leading to this chapel is a representation of a snake and a clover, the symbolic representation of St. Patrick. The snake refers to the belief that Patrick chased all snakes out of Ireland. The clover was used by Patrick to explain the mystery of the Trinity. Pointing out that a three lobed clover leaf has indeed three lobes but constitutes one leaf he explained that the Holy Trinity is one God but three persons.

I pointed out the carving of the clover in the wall and told the story of St. Patrick. I told them that we have a threefold experience of the one God as Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. I spoke of our God we call Father who created all that is. I spoke of our God we know as Son who redeemed us from our sinfulness and death. And I spoke of our God as Spirit who inspires us to live according to the Gospel.

Hesitatingly admitting that on some level this made sense, the journalist then told me of a picture she saw of the Christian God in the form of three men. How was she to deduce that this actually was an image of one God? I asked her if the three men looked alike.” Indeed they did”, she said, “they looked exactly alike”.  There, of course is a reason for that as the three are actually the one and the same.

Nevertheless, the representation of God as three men, more than likely old and long bearded white men does not necessarily enhance the understanding of the Trinity. In the end, God only became human in Jesus Christ. Depicting the other two persons of the Holy Trinity in human terms may be too much of an anthropomorphic approach to the Trinity. This actually may impede the understanding of our God by Christians and non-Christians alike.

The mystery of our Tri-une God is in essence the mystery of an intimate relationship. In the same way as two humans who love one another are one in their love but separate individuals so the persons of the Trinity are one in their relationship but distinct in their personhood.

As our visitors left The Basilica they thanked me profusely for giving them a better understanding of Christianity. The Yemini journalist said nothing, but just smiled. To this day I am not sure what she ended up thinking about our faith. Of course, thinking is probably the wrong verb as it really is all about believing. After all, as the little boy by the sea told St. Augustine, it is no more difficult to move all the water of the ocean using a seashell than it is to comprehend the Holy Trinity.

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.         
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/053115.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity.   This celebration reminds us that the God we worship has revealed God’s Self as Creating Father, Redeeming Son and Sanctifying Spirit ---- three persons, yet one God, undivided and of one essence.   The preface for this Feast states:  “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord, Holy Father, almighty and eternal God.  For with your Only Begotten Son and the Holy Spirit you are one God, one Lord; not in the unity of a single person, but in a Trinity of one substance.”   While we may not be able to explain how this can be --- that it can be has been our faith since the beginnings of the Church.  

Our Gospel for this Sunday is the last four verses of Matthew’s Gospel.   In it Jesus commands his disciples:  “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”  

In our first reading this Sunday, from the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses reminds the people of all that God has done for them.  He then says:  “This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other.”   

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.  It reminds us that we have received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”  This reminds us that God is not removed from our world and our lives.  Rather, because of Jesus Christ, we are able to call on God with the intimate term of “Father.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
    1.  In the seminary, we had to take a class on the Trinity.   Despite this, (or maybe because of it) at times I still struggle for words to explain/describe the Trinity.   What words would you use to explain/describe the Trinity?  
    2.  In the first reading this weekend, Moses reminded the people of all God had done for them.  What has God done for you?
    3.  When does it mean for you to call on God as “Father?” 

Many, many years ago I was asked to proclaim the first reading on the solemnity of Pentecost. I was about 12 years old and was extremely excited to be asked. Little did I know that this is one of the most difficult readings to proclaim. My dear great-aunt, sister Hildegard worked with me on the pronunciation of the words. I was quite intrigued by the people I had never heard about: who were the Parthians, the Medes or the Elamites? My great-aunt seized the opportunity and enlightened me about all of them. Ever since, I have had a great love for the Acts of the Apostles. And in the spirit of full disclosure, despite my careful preparation, I stumbled. It was Phrygia and Pamphilia that did me in. Embarrassed I solemnly declared I would never proclaim in church again.

 

Despite the embarrassment, I will always be grateful for the experience and especially for my great-aunt’s introduction to the early church. It allowed me to imagine Jerusalem some 2000 years ago. I likened it to the Sunday Market in Brussels, the capital of Belgium and Europe. When my grandmother took me there for the first time I could not believe my eyes. Coming from a small and traditional town in Flanders, the sight of people from all over the world made me dizzy with excitement. I could not believe the exuberant and colorful clothes. Competing music in unknown languages blared from the different booths. I saw vegetables I had never seen before and to this day I remember being overcome with the scent of the many different spices. It was an absolute delight and it felt like I was traveling from country to country in a matter of moments. This is how I imagined Jerusalem in the time of the apostles.

 

Having a vivid imagination I knew exactly where the apostles were. I saw them hiding in the upper room. In stark contrast to the festive market outside, the apostles were laden with angst and burdened by uncertainty. I could see the fear in their eyes and feel the weight on their shoulders. And then, in an instant everything changed. Aflame with the Holy Sprit they threw open the doors and windows, burst into the streets and started speaking of the marvelous deeds of God.

 

This happened with so much energy that it quieted the market gathering. And miraculously, everyone could understand what the apostles were saying, no matter their native tongue. By the power of the Holy Spirit, all the sudden the differences between all these people were overcome as they all received the same Good News.

 

Our world today is very complex and extremely diverse. Yet, unlike my image of the Jerusalem market where there was a certain harmony within the diversity a dangerous fog of fear and anger seems to linger over our world today. These days, diversity of any kind often leads to division and rather than experiencing it as something exciting and enriching diversity is met with suspicion and apprehension while the gap between the many groups and factions is widening at an alarming pace.

 

The political world is particularly affected by this. Yet, our church is not immune to this either. Rather than welcoming the richness that comes from respectful dialogue between diverse opinions we seek safety in uniformity. And rather than listening to one another it seems like we just speak louder and louder in a desperate attempt to be heard and to win whichever battle we are waging. Sadly, we lack the inner peace and the mutual respect needed to listen intently to one another and learn from one another and together, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit continue to weave the richly diverse tapestry of Christianity and humanity.

 

I look forward to the day when it will be said: “We are republicans, democrats and independents; rich and poor; liberals, conservatives and moderates; women and men and children; gay and straight; Africans, Asians and Americans; Australians and Europeans yet we hear them speaking in our own tongue of the mighty acts of God.” We are very different, and yet, we are one. What a great market place that will be. May that day come soon! 

I sometimes catch myself fantasizing about how wonderful it would be to be a monk in a Trappist monastery where I could spend lots of time in prayer and reflection. In this fantasy, I would be much holier, much more tolerant and understanding, and certainly kinder and more caring than I am. The reality is, though, that most likely within a couple of months at the monastery, the Abbot would be calling me in to his office to chastise me for talking excessively and breaking silence, sleeping in and missing Lauds, and hiding a cell phone in my room. While some people are called to be a Trappist monk, I am not one of them. And my fantasy about being a better and holier person if I were a Trappist monk is just that—a fantasy. It is my way of justifying those times when I fail to live and act as a follower of Jesus.  

I suspect all of us have our own version of the: “I would be a much holier and better person if only ----” (You can fill in the blank). In part, these fantasies are understandable. There are times for all of us when pettiness, meanness, or even spitefulness finds expression in our lives, and we tell ourselves that it would not have happened—“if only.”  

The above is not a new problem. It has been around at least since the beginnings of our Church. We even have a name for it. We call it sin. Now we need to be clear. Christians didn’t invent sin. We do believe, though, that because of and in Jesus Christ, we have found the remedy for sin. In Jesus Christ, God is continually offering us the grace we need to resist sin and/or to repent of our sins. The only hitch is that God never forces God’s grace on us. Rather God offers us God’s grace. It is always our free choice to accept that grace or to reject.

To be a better and holier person we only have to accept the grace God offers us. Now some days, I do this fairly well. There are other days, though, when it is a real struggle. I suspect the reason for this is that there is a certain attractiveness about sin. The reality is, though, that the attractiveness of sin is short lived, and it merely distracts me from the more difficult task of accepting my faults and failings, and acknowledging my need for God.  

I don’t have to become a Trappist monk to be a better person. I do need to be open, though, to the grace God is continually offering me. I used to think this would get easier as I got older, but sin runs deep in our lives and isn’t easily rooted out. God’s grace, though, is constant and ever present, and this gives me hope that some day I will be that better person I want to be. 

For this Sunday’s reading click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052415-pentecost-day.cfm

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost.  This Feast reminds us of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the early church.    It also celebrates our belief that the Holy Spirit continues to guide our Church. 

There are different options for the Gospel and the second reading for this Feast.   The first reading, though, is always taken from the Acts of the Apostles.  It recounts the descent of the Holy Spirit on the first disciples.   “And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.   And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…………”  

The Gospel we will use for this Feast is a resurrection appearance by Jesus.   We are told that Jesus appeared to his disciples and said to them:  “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.   And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”   

The first reading reminds us that sometimes the Spirit comes to us in a powerful and dramatic manner, but our Gospel reminds us that sometimes the Spirit comes in a more subdued and quiet manner. Regardless of how the Spirit comes, it is given to us for a purpose.  This was Paul’s message in our second reading today from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.  “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.  To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. When and/or how have you felt the Holy Spirit working in your life?  
  2. When have you seen the Holy Spirit working in someone else’s life?
  3. What gifts of the Spirit have you been given? 

Owen's Landmark Gift

In the fall of 2007 I was hired as The Basilica Block Party Intern.  If you would have asked me as a college senior if I would still be working at The Basilica more than seven years later I probably would have said no.  I loved my internship, but it was not until I began working elsewhere that I realized what a truly unique and rare place The Basilica and the community it services are.

In the spring of 2009, I returned as a full-time employee in The Basilica’s development office. Six years later, I am grateful to be a staff member and to experience The Basilica’s beauty on a daily basis.

Even as seeing the building has become part of my daily routine, I am constantly reminded by all those that enter its doors how important this building is to so many people.  It is a beautiful and historic landmark, but it is more than that, it is a spiritual home to thousands, a center for the arts, a refuge for those in need and a beacon of hope in our community. 

I was reminded of this again last fall, when 7 year old Owen came to visit the Basilica with his Grandmother.  Like so many of us, Owen fell in love with what he saw and wanted to know how the Basilica was cared for.  His Grandmother told him it takes donations from thousand of people each year to care for this historic building.

Upon hearing this Owen decided to donate from his piggy bank - $2.03 to The Basilica Landmark.  But Owen did not stop there.  He then turned to his family and asked them if they would join him in making their own donations, collecting an additional $45.25. 

What makes Owen’s gift even more special is that it qualifies for our Participation Challenge.  For every NEW Annual fund gift received, a generous anonymous donor will donate $100 to The Basilica Landmark up to $70,000.  No minimum gift is required, which means Owen’s $2.03 immediately turned into $102.03.

Now we turn to you; please join Owen by making a gift to The Basilica Landmark today.

With your help, The Basilica Landmark can continue its work to address the growing needs of our parish, steward our buildings, and ensure The Basilica can continue to service our community.

This spring, we have begun construction on the Reardon Rectory to convert the unfinished space on the 4th floor to offices, archives and art storage space.  Now nearly 90 years old, the Reardon Rectory cannot accommodate current and future space needs for our growing parish.  Upon completion of the project the Basilica’s extensive art and archive collection will finally have proper storage as well as space for individuals to visit and view the collection.  In addition to adding space to the rectory, the entire building will also receive central AC, replacing 35 individual wall units for added energy efficiency as well as updated fire suppression for added safety. 

Tuck-pointing the bell towers will also take place. The featured project in this year’s Fund-a-Need auction at the Basilica Landmark Ball, The Basilica’s bell towers are in desperate need of repair. In 2011, a 300-pound exterior stone came loose from The Basilica’s west bell tower, falling from the façade and crushing the front steps. Thankfully, no one was injured, but this incident heightened the need for new mortar on these towers.  Beginning in 2015, and every five years thereafter, tuck-pointing of the bell towers will be required to keep them in a safe condition and to ensure the integrity of the towers.

These are just two of many projects The Basilica Landmark will address this year, investing more than $2 million in The Basilica and its campus in 2015.

I feel deep gratitude for Owen and all those in our community for your ongoing investment in our beautiful historic landmark and campus projects.  It took many hands to build the Basilica more than 100 years ago and it continues to take all of us to care for it. I ask you to please join Owen by making a gift to The Basilica Landmark today.  To find more information on any Landmark projects or to make a gift please go to thebasilicalandmark.org.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/051715-ascension.cfm

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord.   Both our first reading and our Gospel tell the story of the Ascension.   In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we are told that “………. as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.”   Similarly, in our Gospel today we are told that:  “So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.”  

Now while this Feast celebrates Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, it is also celebrates what the disciples did after the Ascension.  Both our reading from Acts and our Gospel tell us of the commission that Jesus gave his disciples before he ascended into heaven.   In Acts we are told:  “and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  And in our Gospel Jesus told his disciples:  “Go out into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”    And we know that empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, this is just what the early disciples did.   The task of being witnesses of Christ and proclaiming his Gospel now falls to us.   

Our second reading for this Sunday is from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians.  In it Paul prays for the people of Ephesus “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the  surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Who was the first person to tell you about Jesus Christ?
  2. What is one concrete and specific way you could be a witness for Christ and proclaim his Gospel?
  3. I love the words: “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened.”  What do these words mean to you?   

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