Archives: September 2015

As someone who identifies himself as pro-life, I have, over the years, attended numerous pro-life demonstrations/rallies. Almost without exception these events have been peaceful and orderly. I have to admit, though, that there have been a few times when I have felt uncomfortable with the emotionally charged atmosphere which, on rare occasions, occurs at these events. I am not someone who thinks loud chanting and waving placards with sometimes graphic pictures and questionable slogans is the best way to get across our message that all life is sacred. I also believe that we cannot call ourselves pro-life when we do not respect others—most especially those with whom we disagree. 

While I am concerned about how the pro-life message is communicated, I also am very concerned with the words and tone used recently by representatives of Planned Parenthood. In many public statements they have sought to portray pro-lifers as extremists whose beliefs are radical, ill-informed, and dangerous. I found this to be especially true the past few weeks with the publicity surrounding the release of several videos regarding Planned Parenthood’s participation in tissue donation programs—the tissue being procured from abortions. In response to a demonstration in St. Paul against this practice Planned Parenthood posted an online statement. In part it read: “The more we learn about this, the clearer it is that it’s part of a much bigger pattern of harassment by extremists whose real goal is to ban abortion and defund Planned Parenthood. The people behind this attack will stop at nothing in their quest—including breaking the law themselves and willfully misrepresenting the facts to the public. The protesters here today are simply an extension of that effort.” 

I am concerned about the use of the words: “harassment,” “extremists,” “attack,” “stop at nothing,” and “breaking the law.” Now certainly there are some in the pro-life movement who could be described as extreme in their views. In this instance, though, Planned Parenthood painted all pro-lifers with the same brush. This is not fair. It is not just. It is not right. Almost all of the pro-life advocates I know are reasonable people who hold firm to their beliefs, but at the same time are not mean-spirited or malicious. They are simply people who believe in the sanctity of life and who want to share that belief—not just with their words, but with their actions. In this regard, I think it is important to mention that today there are about 2,500 Crisis Pregnancy Centers in the United States, compared to 1,800 abortion clinics. For the most part these clinics are privately funded. Their mission is simply to help those who are experiencing a pregnancy in difficult circumstances. These 2,500 centers give concrete witness to the fact that pro-life people do care about individuals facing a difficult and unplanned pregnancy. The aim of these centers is life—for women, for children, for fathers—both now and in the years to come.

For many years now the month of October has been designated by the Bishops of the United States as “Respect Life Month.” Our observance of this month reminds us that, as Catholics, we believe and proclaim that human life is a precious gift from a loving God. Consequently every individual has an obligation to respect and protect life from the time of conception to the moment of death. Further, our respect for life must be evident in the way we treat each other, perhaps most especially those with whom we disagree. Those of who identify ourselves as pro-life need to give concrete witness to this belief in our words and actions. Where we have failed to do this we need to apologize, and we need focus our efforts more clearly, not on demonizing those with whom we disagree, but on finding better and more effective ways of communicating our message regarding the sacredness of life. 
It seems to me that most concretely and specifically we, who identify as pro-life, can do the above by taking the lead in toning down the rhetoric that surrounds the issue of abortion. We need to be open to respectful dialogue with those with whom we disagree and invite them to do the same. Using language that is simple, direct, and non-inflammatory is a step in this direction. If we can do this, perhaps those with whom we disagree will reciprocate, and civil discourse will prevail. I believe that ultimately it is only in this way that we can help each other come to understand the value, dignity, and worth of every human life.



The Basilica of Saint Mary's 2015 Annual Report features the many good things happening here. Our talented volunteers, parishioners, and friends make us a vibrant community of faith; we are excited to highlight just a few these things in this annual report. 

And it is now ready to view online. 

The annual report is focused on providing comprehensive and relevant information to all patrons of the Basilica of Saint Mary. It highlights our community’s work, resources, and financial impact throughout the past year.

If you'd like a printed copy, please contact Stacy to have one mailed to you.

As people were entering The Basilica this morning everyone was eager to speak about Pope Francis. Most had been glued to the TV all week. And all of them mentioned how moved they have been by the words and actions of Pope Francis. It has been quite the week, indeed. Pope Francis’ six day visit to three major US cities has made a lasting impression on all those he encountered either face to face or through the media. Speech after speech he brought the Good News to those willing to listen and most everyone did.  

Last Thursday we hosted a viewing of the address Pope Francis gave to the Joint Session of Congress. We were a somewhat eclectic group. Some people I knew, yet most I didn’t. As the time of the arrival of Pope Francis drew nearer the conversation in the room became more animated. Then at the announcement that the “Pope of the Holy See” was entering the chamber we instantaneously became quiet. It was a momentous day, indeed. Who would have ever thought that the leader of the Catholic Church would be asked to address our political leaders?

His beautiful opening paragraph drew enthusiastic applause from the members of congress and our guests alike. “I am most grateful for your invitation to address this Joint Session of Congress in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. I would like to think that the reason for this is that I too am a son of this great continent, from which we have all received so much and toward which we share a common responsibility.”

Noting that he had come to engage in a dialogue with everyone, his tone was gentle but firm as he reminded our leaders and all of us of our shared responsibility to work for the common good of the entire human family. As was expected, he touched on all the causes he has been advocating but was able to do so without politicizing them, rather speaking about them in the light of the Gospel. And he skillfully tailored his remarks to his audience referencing a beloved president, a revered Baptist minister and two Catholics who were once considered radical, each in their own right.

First, Pope Francis spoke of President Abraham Lincoln as “the guardian of liberty, who labored tirelessly that “this nation, under God, [might] have a new birth of freedom”.” Then, he recalled Martin Luther King’s epic march from Selma to Montgomery as emblematic of his campaign “to fulfill his “dream” of full civil and political rights for African Americans.” Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement was lauded by Pope Francis for “her social activism, her passion for justice” and for her tireless work on behalf of all those who are oppressed.” Of Thomas Merton Pope Francis said that above all he was “a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church.” He went on to say that Merton “was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.”

Citing the strengths, passions and dreams of these four great US citizens Pope Francis spoke about the difficulties our world faces today and he invited us to respond to the needs of our time with the same conviction as our forbearers responded to the needs of their time. So, following Lincoln’s example Pope Francis asked us to be the guardians of freedom for all, a task “which requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.” Like King he asked us to strive for “full civil and political rights” for all. Like Day he asked us to be “passionate about justice” and “defend all those who are oppressed.” Like Merton he asked us to “challenge the certitudes of our times,” to be “open to new horizons,” to be “lovers of dialogue” and to be “promoters of peace between peoples and religions.”

Translating this in some concrete action points he spoke about the urgent need to care for our common home, the earth and he expressed his conviction that our country will play an important role in this. He asked us to be welcoming to immigrants “seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best as we can to their situation.” He called on us to revere all life and to never take anyone’s life because everyone is “endowed with an inalienable dignity” even those on death row. Quoting from his encyclical Laudato Si he praised business as a noble vocation because it produces wealth and improves the world “especially when it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good.” He also stressed the importance of the family. Pointing to the difficulties many families face today especially those trapped “in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair” he said that these are not just “their problems” rather they are “our problems.”

In essence, Pope Francis called us all to restore the relationship we have with one another, with other cultures, creeds and countries and indeed with all of creation. Only when we live in right relationship with all the above will we be able to come back from the brink of complete alienation on which we have been teetering for too long. So, let’s heed Pope Francis’ call and engage in open, respectful and honest dialogue with one another. Let us strive for radical solidarity and profound respect as we extend our hand in love and mercy to one another. And let us build a culture of compassion and care remembering that though we may be different in what we think and in what we believe we are all children of the same God “endowed with an inalienable dignity.”


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

Our Gospel this Sunday is one that always makes at least some people cringe when it is read.  It is also the stuff of most preachers’ nightmares.   It deals with the difficult issue of divorce.   It begins with the Pharisees’ approaching Jesus with the question:  “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”   Jesus responded by asking them what Moses had commanded.  They replied:  “Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.”   Jesus then told them that Moses had done this because of the “hardness of their hearts.”   He then quoted from the book of Genesis (our first reading today) and concluded with the statement.  “Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”    

Since most of our lives have been touched by divorce in one way or another, Jesus words in this Gospel can be hard to hear.  It is important to note, though, both what Jesus said, as well as what he didn’t say.   In this regard, Jesus was reaffirming our belief that God blesses the union of two people who commit themselves to one another in marriage.  God offers them the grace they need to make and live out the commitment of marriage.   Sometimes, though, for whatever reason people are not able to live out the marital commitment and divorce ensures.  In this regard, it is important to note that Jesus does not say that is our place to criticize them or worse to sit in judgement of them.   Prayer for and with married couples and those who have gone through or are going through a divorce is the appropriate response.  

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Genesis. It is the story of the creation of a “suitable partner” for Adam.   Jesus referenced this story in our Gospel today.  

For our second reading this Sunday we move from the Letter of St. James, which we have been reading from the past several weeks to the Letter to the Hebrews.   In the section we read this Sunday we are reminded of Jesus’ divinity as well as his humanity.  “He ‘for a little while’ was made ‘lower than the angels,’ that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”  

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

  1. How many people do you know who are divorced?   
  2. How can someone who is divorced find good news in today’s Gospel?  
  3. How would you respond if someone who was divorced asked you about today’s Gospel? 

Pope Francis has emphasized the importance of dialogue in the life of the Church. And in the spirit of speaking and listening in charity, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis is hosting a series of listening sessions. Archbishop Hebda will lead the sessions to hear your input on our strengths, our challenges, and what characteristics are important in a new archbishop. Feedback gathered during these sessions will be shared with those responsible for advising Pope Francis as he makes this important choice and with the new Archbishop whenever he is named. Summaries will be published in The Catholic Spirit.

Monday, October 5:
1 – 3 p.m., Rauenhorst Ballroom, Coeur de Catherine, St. Catherine University, St. Paul
7 – 9 p.m., St. Stephen, Anoka

Tuesday, October 6:
1 – 3 p.m., For women and men in consecrated life, Carondelet Center, St. Paul
7 – 9 p.m., Pax Christi, Eden Prairie

Monday, November 2, 7 – 9 p.m., Saint Peter, Forest Lake

Tuesday, November 3, 7 – 9 p.m., Divine Mercy, Faribault

Wednesday, November 4, 7 – 9 p.m., Woulfe Alumni Hall, Anderson Student Center, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul
Additional listening sessions are being scheduled for Latino Ministry parishes (in Spanish) and priests.

This fall, members of The Basilica will once again be invited to participate in our annual stewardship campaign with a pledge for 2016. Your participation, making a commitment at any level, is a way to express your investment in The Basilica, and the good that is possible in our community through the combined efforts of our parish membership.

By making a financial stewardship pledge to The Basilica, you ensure that every day, all year long, your gifts will be part of continuing the good works The Basilica does in our community. Your prayerful generosity will help us be the light of God’s love and acceptance to all those who come to our doors. Your pledge will keep The Basilica’s heat on and create a warm welcome for everyone who wants to explore, connect, worship, and give thanks. 

I’ve witnessed, time and time again, that The Basilica is a faith-filled community, continuing to demonstrate faith from works. You respond when there is a crisis, both overseas and down the street. You hand out sandwiches from our door to those in need, and shoes or backpacks for kids returning to school. You build up the faith and insights in the children in our parish so their lights might shine wherever they go. You return, Sunday after Sunday, to worship together as a community of faith, greeting visitors with a warm welcome. To me, all of these are the good that continues to inspire us, even through the ups and downs of our Catholic experience. This good hasn’t faltered. And it continues with your love, involvement, and generosity.

The good that is faith formation and education.

The good that is service and caring for those less fortunate.

The good that is found through prayer, meditation and worship.

The good that is possible through a collective volunteer effort.

Each day, you plant the seeds of your faith, and good blossoms. And all of this good today will inspire so much tomorrow, and for years to come. For more than 100 years, Basilica parishioners like you have been a part of the work The Basilica does in our community: sharing God’s love, comforting those who are marginalized, giving thanks, welcoming everyone, and demonstrating what the word “community” can and ought to mean. One can only begin to imagine the exponential impact of this generosity.

Please join us again to keep all of this good work going strong. This fall, please consider a Financial Stewardship pledge to The Basilica for 2016. Your pledge of any size will have a powerful impact—in your own life and in the life of The Basilica community. Please watch for pledge forms in your mail and in the pews, and prayerfully consider making a pledge for the coming year. Thank you for your consideration, and for being a part of this community that gives so much.


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

In our Gospel last Sunday Jesus’ disciples didn’t come across very well as they argued about who was the greatest.  They continue that pattern in our Gospel this Sunday.    They complain to Jesus because “we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”   Notice they didn’t say “because he does not follow you,” but rather “because he does not follow us.”   Clearly, their idea of discipleship was far more restrictive than that of Jesus.   The fact is that Jesus had a far more expansive and inclusive view of discipleship than his disciples did.  We know this because He tells them: “whoever is not against us is for us.”     

In the second part of today’s Gospel, Jesus’ words seem a bit harsh.  He speaks of cutting off a hand or a foot, or plucking out an eye if any of these cause you to sin.   Clearly Jesus is not suggesting amputation or blinding one’s self.  Rather he is reminding his disciples that we need to be aware of those things that lead us to sin, and seek to eliminate them from our lives.

Our first reading this Sunday, from the book of Numbers, shares the theme of the Gospel.  It raises the question of who can speak/act in the name of the Lord.   In this reading God shares some of the Spirit God gave to Moses with “seventy elders.”   Two of the men were not at the gathering where this occurred, yet they too received the Spirit.    Joshua wanted Moses to stop them, but Moses replied:   “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets.” 

In our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the Letter of St. James.   While at first blush this reading appears to condemn those who are rich, a deeper reading reveals that James is reminding the early Christians (and us) of the danger of trusting in wealth as opposed to God.  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Limiting the people through whom God works, or failing to recognize God working through certain people seems to be part and parcel of the human condition.  When have you done this? 
  2. To borrow an old phrase, what are the “occasions of sin” in your life?
  3. It is easy to put our trust in something other than God.  When have you done this? 

Friday night Chorbishop Sharbel Maroun, pastor of St. Maron Maronite Catholic Church in Minneapolis celebrated the Mass according to the Maronite Rite at The Basilica of Saint Mary. Characteristic of this ancient rite is that it is celebrated in the language spoken by Jesus.  

Saturday morning we celebrated the Mass according to the Dominican Rite. This rite was developed in the 13th C. for exclusive usage by the Dominicans. Though it was mostly abandoned in 1968 in favor of the Roman Rite it may still be celebrated with the appropriate permissions.

Sunday we sang hymns, prayed in English and rejoiced in the simple beauty of the Roman Rite, thus in one weekend manifestly celebrating the true liturgical universality of the Catholic Church.

Most of us think that the Roman Rite is the only way in which we celebrate the liturgy. And though most Catholics indeed celebrate the Roman Rite there are many other rites used by Catholics. The Roman Rite itself even is celebrated in two different ways: the “ordinary form” which is the Mass as it evolved after the Second Vatican Council and the “extra-ordinary form” which is the so-called Tridentine Mass.

This liturgical diversity has always been characteristic of the Catholic Church even from the very beginning as the liturgy celebrated by early Christians varied from city to city. In the East this gave rise to different autonomous churches, some of which are part of the Catholic Church while others are not. Today, there exist 23 autonomous churches within the Catholic Church. These include among others the Greek Byzantine Church, the Coptic Catholic Church, the Armenian Catholic Church and the Maronite Catholic Church. And though they are part of the Catholic Church each of these churches celebrates the liturgy according to their own traditions albeit many of them have to some extent conformed to the Roman Rite.

In the west the situation was very similar as major cities had their own unique way of celebrating the liturgy. Among the major rites in the west were the Roman Rite as celebrated in Rome, the Ambrosian Rite as celebrated in Milan, the Gallican Rite as celebrated in Gaul (France) and the Mozarabic Rite as celebrated in Southern Spain, to name but a few. The Roman Rite gradually became the dominant rite in the west as the role of the pope became stronger and the need for unification of the church became more pressing. Nevertheless, even though the Council of Trent declared that the Roman Rite ought to be celebrated universally, certain ancient and revered rites were retained.

To diversify things even more, some of the major religious orders such as the Benedictines, Carthusians and Dominicans developed liturgical custom which were particular to their own order, no matter their location. Though most of these rites specific to religious orders have been abandoned in favor of the Roman Rite some of them may still be celebrated under certain circumstances.

And for those who thought that the diversification of the Catholic liturgy was a thing of the past even in our times new rites have been added. The Congolese Rite was created in the mid-twentieth century to better suit the spiritual needs of the people in Central Africa. And an adaptation of the Anglican Rite was adopted in the 21st C. for use by members of the Anglican Church who sought unification with the Catholic Church.

It is absolutely amazing how liturgically diverse we are as a church. And though our liturgies may be different, we are all part of the same Catholic Church no matter what language we pray in or which rituals we follow.

With the gift of diversity also comes the danger of division. Therefor, let us rejoice in our liturgical richness and diversity, avoid all division and together work on the up-building of the Body of Christ.

It’s hard to believe how fast a year can fly by in a blink of an eye. And yet, that’s exactly what has happened to me. Just one year ago I was sitting in these very pews thinking about how my life would change as a staff member at The Basilica. I had just stepped down from my position in the U.S. Air Force and my husband and I drove our three-month-old daughter across the country to our new-again home. While we grew up in the region, we weren’t the same people who lived here years ago. We were now a family. We owned a home. Life now carried a new meaning.

And it was hard.

We’ve all experienced some sort of transition in our lives. Maybe it’s a move across the country, the loss of a loved one, meeting your life partner, a miscarriage, or a loss of a job. Any transition is hard. The minute we think we have everything together, we are quickly reminded we don’t. 

For my family and I, I was fearful of my inadequacies. I was worried my military life had changed me from who I once was and that perhaps my talents weren’t really what was needed in a staff member at The Basilica. On the other hand, I was scared. This new job meant new faces, new tasks, new stress. With my new family, I felt overwhelmed and fearful that we had just made the worst decision of our lives by leaving behind our stable careers, reliable health insurance, and support system from our last home.

As the days passed and fall turned into summer seemingly overnight I found out that we survived the transition just fine. There were plenty of bumps along the way, but we made it. And I am so grateful.
As I reflected on the readings today, the psalm reminded me that “God is my helper…the Lord upholds my life” (Ps 54:6). Why didn’t I remember this a year ago when everything seemed crazy and out of control? Because I’m human. And sinful. And I forget just how great our God really is.

I also found out God wanted me to use my gifts here and it is incredibly humbling to know that I have been given the gift to call this Basilica family my home. If you know any of the staff here, you know they are all incredibly talented. I feel humbled to just say I am part of the team. But then there are the volunteers. They give so much of their time, talent, and treasure. There’s so much good happening in and around The Basilica. 

And there’s so much good yet to come. This week Pope Francis will come to the U.S. I am confident his visit will be nothing less than incredible. But I also know it will be challenging. I expect he will deliver a message that is not easy for us to understand or even carry out. But I pray that we can all remember the psalm from today: “God is my helper…the Lord upholds my life.”

After the Pope’s visit, we as a global Church will begin the Year of Mercy—another challenging topic but an important one—important to our global Church, local Church, and every single person we meet. This will be an opportunity for all of us to reflect on how we give mercy and receive it as well as how it can change our lives and the lives around us.

For now, I simply pray that we all take the time to listen to the call in our lives and trust in God as our helper. Because through God, all things are possible.


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

In our Gospel last Sunday we heard the first of Jesus’ three predictions in Mark’s Gospel of his suffering and death.  We heard the second of these predications in our Gospel this Sunday.  Jesus’ disciples, though, seem blithely unaware of the significance and seriousness of Jesus’ words.  I say this because after Jesus predicts his suffering and death, his disciples got into a discussion about “who was the greatest.”   In response to this we are told that Jesus “sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, ‘If anyone wished to be first, be shall be the last of all and the servant of all.’”   Jesus then placed a child in the midst of his disciples and told them:   “Whoever receives one child such as this in m name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me, but the One who sent me.” 

As background to the above, it is helpful to know that at the time of Jesus, children had little status or worth.   Thus when Jesus said:  “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.”  he was clearly identifying himself with the lowly and those of no account.  And he was reminding his disciples that they were not to seek after power, position and status. Rather service to and care for one another was to be the hallmark of his disciples.  

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Wisdom.  In the section we read today, we are presented with the figure of the “just one.”   The wicked “beset the just one” and seek to “put the just one to the test.”  Their motive for doing this is simply that the just one “is obnoxious to us;  he sets himself against our doings.”      

Once again we read from the Letter of Saint James for our second reading this Sunday.  In the section we read today James exhorts us to put aside bad thoughts and behaviors and seek the “wisdom from above.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. When have you put someone else’s needs ahead of your own and become their servant? 
  2. What is the difference between being child-like and being child-ish? 
  3. When have you sought the wisdom from above?