Archives: October 2015

2015-2016 RCIA Retreat

The Basilica's 2015-2016 RCIA class held their annual fall retreat October 24-25 for a weekend filled with faith formation, discussion, and dialogue. The retreat was held at the Mount Olivet retreat center in Farmington, MN.

Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) is a collaborative process of study, exploration, faith sharing, and faith formation for people who wish to be fully initiated into the Catholic Church. This is done through the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation. You can be non-baptized or a previously baptized Christian.

For more information about RCIA at The Basilica, visit us online.

Many years ago I went on an art historical tour through Italy. The focus was on mosaics. Naturally, Ravenna was on the list of cities to visit. I had studied Ravenna’s many early Christian churches but had never seen them in person. I was completely enamored with their beauty. And though I remember all of them with great fondness, one church left a lasting impression: the church of Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo.

Not only is this church constructed in the elegant early Christian basilica style, the 5th and 6th century mosaics are just splendid. The walls of the nave are divided in three freezes. The mosaics on the top tell the story of the life of Jesus, who is God. The other two freezes depict a grand procession saints, humans who have become like God.

Sitting quietly in Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo I not only succumbed to a true artistic ecstasy but more importantly I had a deep spiritual revelation. As a liturgical theologian I knew and truly believed that whenever we gather for worship we not only gather with our local community but we gather with the entire church, even those who have gone before us and those who are yet to come. Flanked by all the saints depicted so beautifully I had a more profound experience of our communion with the saints than I have ever had before.

Years later and thousands of miles away I had a similar experience in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Holy Angels in Los Angeles. The nave of this magnificent 20th C. building is decorated with beautiful tapestries designed by John Nava. Like the mosaics in Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo these tapestries depict row upon row of saints. Some saints have their names written beneath them. Others don’t, leaving room for those saints living among us and those yet to be born. As I processed toward the altar to receive Holy Communion I had a true sense of Teresa of Calcutta and John Bosco, Bridget of Sweden and Ignatius of Loyola and countless other saints walking with me not only toward this earthly banquet but even to the eternal banquet.

The solemnity of All Saints is the day per excellence that we celebrate our communion with the saints. At The Basilica of Saint Mary we have neither mosaics nor tapestries to assist us in this celebration. However, we do have Icons. Therefore, on November 1st we process the images of the Blessed Mother and countless other saints into the church and we place them in the sanctuary. We do this not only to honor these saints but also to celebrate their presence among us, especially when we gather for Eucharist. We also bring in photos of our loves ones and place them on the side altars. We do this to either celebrate that they belong to the Communion of Saints or to pray that one day they too may be admitted to the Communion of Saints.

The mosaics of the church of Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo, the tapestries of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Holy Angels, the Icons of The Basilica of Saint Mary remind us of one profound reality: we are all on a journey toward sainthood. Some of us get their quickly. Others need more time, sometimes even past our death. And so we march on together, saint and sinner, side by side as we proclaim our faith in God who became human so we may become like God.

For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/110115.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints.  Since this Feast falls on a Sunday this year it supersedes what would have been the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time.   This Feast celebrates all those holy women and men who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith.   While we know the names of many of these saints, those who are unnamed far outnumber those who are named.  This takes nothing away from the sanctity of their lives.  Rather it reminds us of the life of holiness to which we are all called and the eternal life that awaits those who respond to that call.   

Our Gospel for this Feast is the Beatitudes from St. Matthew’s Gospel.   Each Beatitude begins with the familiar words:  “Blessed are.”   These words remind us that we are blessed when we strive to live the Beatitudes as Jesus lived them and conform our attitudes and conduct to his will.   

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Revelation.   This book is written in the style of Apocalyptic literature.  It uses vivid images and symbols, as well as intense language to convey its message.   It is not meant to be taken literally.  Instead, Apocalyptic writing was intended for people who were experiencing some difficulties or trials.  It was meant to comfort, console and encourage those who were undergoing these trials or tribulations. 

Our second reading this Sunday is from the first Letter of Saint John.   John reminds us that even now we are children of God.   “Beloved:  See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called children of God.   Yet so we are.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Which of the Beatitudes speaks most directly to you at this time in your life? 
  2. Apocalyptic literature is not meant to be taken literally, and yet many people do take it that way.   Why do you suppose that is? 
  3. What do you think St. John meant when he described us as “children of God?”

People are still buzzing about Pope Francis’ recent U.S. visit. They are talking about what he said, what he did, who he visited, and even where he ate lunch. Prior to his visit, Pope Francis proclaimed a Year of Mercy. Here at The Basilica we’ve been thinking about what mercy means to us, talking about the Corporal Works of Mercy and the opportunities and challenges we have.


Every day at The Basilica, I witness and experience small acts of mercy happening on our campus and in our community made possible by the generosity of our parishioners. Please consider how you can help us make sure these good works continue by making a commitment to financial stewardship. It’s clear to me—your commitment and involvement makes our ministries and these every day acts of mercy possible. 


Feed the Hungry . . . Teams of Basilica volunteers prepare and serve nutritious meals at The Basilica to approximately 200 men at Catholic Charities Higher Ground shelter. I’ve heard them share their stories of how privileged they are to serve in this way. One family has signed up to serve on Christmas for many years. Together they make the meal festive and special for those without a home to call their own. Other volunteers spend their lunchtimes driving hot meals to seniors in our neighborhood as part of our partnership with Meals on Wheels.  


Bury the Dead . . . Last week, I attended the funeral of a long time Basilica choir member. At his funeral, I listened to his friends, a group he’d been with twice a week for years for rehearsals and Masses, serenade him home to Christ. Grieving families and friends often come together at The Basilica to celebrate the lives of their loved ones.  


Visit the Sick . . . I’ve been moved to tears as I listen to volunteers pray over the prayer shawls they knitted, soon to go to the sick and grieving. After an unexpected death in the family, a parish friend had to fly to the funeral. We sent her with a prayer shawl. On her return, she shared that she wrapped herself up in the shawl on the plane ride. Even though she was far away from her faith community, she felt our presence and support because of that shawl. Many volunteers take the Eucharist to the homebound and those living in care centers. Our Prayer line volunteers offer support to all those who seeking spiritual, physical, and emotional healing.  


Shelter the Homeless. . . . This past summer, a new house went up in North Minneapolis.  I watched our volunteers cut wood, build stairs as they shared their days along with others in the community as part of Habitat for Humanity. By Christmas, a mom and her children will be snug in their newly-built home.


Every day good works . . . At the Basilica, volunteer job coaches assist those struggling with unemployment and seeking a new chance. Other volunteers help in our Pathways program teaching life skills to those committed to stabilizing their lives. Daily at our Reception Desk, volunteers and staff answer our phones and welcome those who come to our doors. Sometimes a caller asks us to connect a priest or an Emmaus Minister to someone sick in the hospital.  Daily, the pleas for help making ends meet come over the phone and face-to-face at the door. Hungry guests are greeted with a warm smile, a cup of coffee and a sandwich. 


Consider how you will participate in the Year of Mercy. There is so much more we are called to do. Please explore the many Year of Mercy opportunities available at The Basilica in the coming months.  You will find opportunities for learning, prayer, service and reflection.  


And please, make a pledged financial commitment to help us create small acts of mercy every day at The Basilica. 

 

Recently I gave a talk at Holy Name Catholic Church in Steamboat Springs on “Beauty that Saves.” I was happy to do so as it is one of my favorite topics. Moreover, the pastor is a university classmate whom I had not seen in years. And I had yet to experience their new parish church.

Minutes before the presentation I was pulled aside by someone who appeared agitated. As a matter of fact he was quite angry. Without any introduction he asked if “they really have to spend so much money on their new church?” Without waiting for an answer he continued “and why did every window have to be stained glass while the poor go without food and shelter.”

My involvement with the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums occasioned a further rant about the church being so rich and the need for the church to “sell all the art and give the money to the poor.” I thanked him for his observations and excused myself as the talk was to begin. He stormed out and somewhat shaken I started my lecture.

The man obviously was very concerned and frustrated with the plight of the many people who live in difficult circumstances. Like many others he directed some of this anger at the church, its perceived riches and lack of care. This was not the first time I faced someone making these kinds of accusations. They always sadden me because though they may come from a place of honest concern they are also somewhat misinformed.

The church is very committed to alleviating the pain of those in need. This is an essential part of our mission. Rather than being an impediment to this art and beauty are considered an important component of the Church’s ministry to those who are in need because “Beauty Saves.”

During the Bosnian war in the early 1990s the so-called Cellist of Sarajevo, Vedran Smailović played Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor in shelled buildings and in abandoned city squares. He also played for funerals, knowing that these were often the target of snipers. He did this because he believed that beauty was so needed in the midst of all this malice. He also did it because be believed that beauty could and should stand up against the ugliness of hatred and the madness of war. And he truly believed that “Beauty Saves.”

Beauty provides much needed cosmos in a world that is often dangerously teetering on the brink of complete chaos and despair. As we try to alleviate people’s immediate needs and work toward structural changes that cause these needs we do that in an environment of peace and beauty. We offer beauty as an antidote to the ugliness experienced by so many people. Beauty truly has the ability to create more beauty. Beauty is contagious.

Much of our outreach at The Basilica of Saint Mary happens in the Teresa of Calcutta Hall. Several of the paintings from our collection hang in this hall. They are there because we believe that their beauty will create more beauty. One painting is particularly striking and a propos: The Hospitality of Saint Julian by Cristofano  Allori. This 17th C. Italian painting depicts St. Julian as he assists a young person in need. The story behind this painting is complex and long. The essence however is that Julian had decided that he was done helping people and from now on would only care for himself and his wife. One day a young person asked him for help. As Julian angrily refused to help the young man he suddenly realized that the young man was actually Jesus. He immediately rushed to his aid and recommitted himself to help those in need.

This painting epitomizes the essential connection between beauty and service. On the one hand it beautifies the room where we help those who are in need thus creating a beautiful and peaceful atmosphere. On the other hand it reminds us of our obligation as Christians to do as Christ did and to do it because in each person we meet, above all those in need we meet Christ himself.

After my presentation in Steamboat Springs I ran into the man I mentioned above. He was less agitated. He mentioned that he had snuck back in after storming off earlier in the evening. After apologizing he asked if I might give him a copy of my presentation. Beauty does save.

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/102515.cfm 

Just prior to my birth my maternal grandfather fell down a flight of stairs and suffered detached retinas in both eyes.   While they tried surgery, it wasn’t successful and as a result he was blind for the rest of his life.   Now as a small child, I just assumed that everyone had a grandfather who was blind.  It didn’t dawn on me until I had started school that this was not the case.   Once I realized that not everyone had a blind grandfather, I also began to realize the challenges and problems that being blind presented.   While my grandfather accepted his situation with great grace, I suspect, given the opportunity, he would have chosen to have his sight restored.    Such an opportunity was given to Bartimaeus, the blind man, in our Gospel today.    

At the time of Jesus those who suffered from blindness or other physical ailments were almost always condemned to life as a beggar.   Bartimaeus had obviously heard of Jesus and thought this might be the way out of his beggar’s life.  So as Jesus was leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus seized the opportunity and cried out:  “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”    While the disciples rebuked him,  Bartimaeus called out all the more:   “Son of David have pity on me.”    Jesus responded to his faith and told him:  “Go your way, your faith has saved you.”    Faith --- here and elsewhere in the Gospels --- is a key ingredient for Jesus’ action.    In this regard, even before his sight was restored Bartimaeus could “see” better than most.  

Our first reading for this weekend is from the Prophet Jeremiah.    In this reading the Lord promised to deliver his people from their exile and return them to the land He had given them.   The people had “departed in tears,” but the Lord promised to “console them and guide them.”  And among those who returned were “the blind and the lame.”     

For our second reading this weekend, we continue to read from the Letter to the Hebrews.   In the section we read this weekend the author of the Letter to the Hebrews compares Jesus to the high priests of the Old Testament.  The difference is clear, though, Jesus is the High Priest begotten by God.   He was not chosen or taken from among men.

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. When I was learning to drive, my instructor had a “mantra” for changing lanes:  “signal, mirror, blind spot”------  turn on your signal; check your mirrors, and then look over your shoulder to check your blind spot.    Have you ever become aware of a spiritual “blind spot” in your life?  How did you deal with it?  
  2. Physical blindness is obvious, but we can also be blind in other ways.  Have you ever become aware of areas of blindness in your life?  
  3. It is comforting for me to know that Jesus is like us in all things but sin.   As high priest, he is always patient and forgiving with us.   Is it possible, though, that we can take advantage of this?   

Each evening, I send our three-year-old out to the mailbox to do her favorite “chore” of the day—getting the mail. She usually reports on what arrived and who it was from, despite the occasional toy catalogue distraction.

Last week, she sorted through the pile and told me we had a Highlights magazine, a couple pieces of unidentifiable (junk) mail, and a letter from Jesus. 

I carried on with cooking dinner until her words registered. 

A letter from Jesus?

Perplexed, I looked over to the pile strewn throughout the kitchen. I didn’t see anything from Jesus, not that I would know what a letter from Jesus would look like. I thought maybe her sense of humor was at work again.

But then the lightbulb went on and I spotted it—a letter from Fr. Bauer asking us for our stewardship pledge. 

I know what you’re thinking: Fr. Bauer is not Jesus. 

Actually, what she had spotted was The Basilica crest in the upper left corner. To her, that stands for Jesus. Forget any fancy branding or marketing plan—for my little girl, The Basilica is Jesus. Isn’t that great? All of those Sundays. All of those days rushing to the car. All of your greetings of peace. All of the singing and prayers. All of our patience (and testing of patience) and encouragement at Mass to be attentive or, at least, not disruptive. All of those visits to the Undercroft mid-liturgy to ensure we don’t have an accident in the pews because someone “needs go potty.” Her timing is impeccable.

In all seriousness though, my heart was warmed hearing her simple thought. You—the community of The Basilica—and all that she sees here is a representation of Jesus. 

No pressure.

We see it, though. You are Christ to the world when you help to feed those who are hungry who knock at the Rectory Door. You are Christ when you give your time as volunteers. You are Christ when you welcome everyone who enters The Basilica, no matter what. You are Christ when you come together as a community to worship and pray. And you continue all of these ministries and extend Christ’s love when you give your time and your money to support the mission of The Basilica. 

Inside that envelope, Fr. Bauer’s letter starts, “For more than 100 years, parishioners like you have been a part of the good work The Basilica does in our community: sharing God’s love, comforting the sick and marginalized, giving thanks, welcoming everyone, and demonstrating what the word “community” can and ought to mean.”

These words describe the good that has been and will continue to be at The Basilica. 

This fall, I hope you will consider that envelope to be an invitation not only from The Basilica to give, but also an invitation to give back to God what you have been given. As Fr. Bauer asks us to make a Financial Stewardship pledge this fall, I hope you will consider all of the good that stems from ministries, service, and worship that spread God’s love throughout our community and continues to put Jesus on our return address. 

 

For this Sunday’s Readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/101815.cfm  

Some times it takes us a while to “get it.”   That was certainly the case with the disciples in our Gospel this Sunday.   In the verses immediately preceding this Gospel Jesus has told his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem where the chief priests and the scribes will “hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him and spit at him, flog him, and finally kill him.”  These are difficult words, made more so by the fact that this is the third time Jesus had predicted his passion and death.   And yet his disciples, in particular James and John, still don’t “get it.”    Even after hearing these words we are told in this Sunday’s Gospel that “James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’    Jesus replied, ‘What do you wish me to do for you?’  They answered him, ‘Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left’”    
Jesus rebuked them and then reminded them that his disciples will find their greatness in suffering and service.    

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the book of the prophet Isaiah.   As was the case several weeks ago, the section read this weekend is part of the Song of the Suffering Servant.   This “song” provided an important basis for our Christian understanding of the mystery of Christ’s suffering and death.  The section we read this Sunday reminds us that life can come out of suffering.   “Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days, though his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.”  

For our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the Letter to the Hebrews.   It reminds us that, although Jesus is our high priest, he is able to “sympathize with our weakness” because he “has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. How would you respond if someone asked you why innocent people suffer?
  2. Have you seen life, or some other good come out of suffering?
  3. Do you believe that Jesus can sympathize with our weakness? 

For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/101115.cfm

Our Gospel this Sunday is very familiar.  A man came to Jesus and asked:What must I do to inherit eternal life?”   Now --- if we are honest --- I suspect we would all like an answer to that question.   And again --- if we are honest --- I suspect what we really would like to know is the one thing we have to do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus is clear, though, that inheriting eternal life involves more than doing just one thing.  Certainly inheriting eternal life involves following the commandments.   In addition to following the commandments, though, there are things that are specific to each of us that we are called to do if we want to inherit eternal life.  For the young man in the Gospel today not only was he called to follow the commandments, but also:  “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, the come follow me.”   

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Wisdom.   In the section we read today, the author prayed: “and prudence was given me, I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.”  The connection between this reading and the Gospel is clear.   What is important in following God is not power or wealth, but the desire to know God and the wisdom to do what God calls us to do.  

In our second reading this Sunday, we continue to read from the letter to the Hebrews.  We will read from this letter for the next few weeks.  In the section we read today we are reminded that the “word of God is living and effective………...” and that “No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.”   

Questions for Reflection and Discussion: 

  1. Following the Commandments is important and essential to inherit eternal life. However, if you were to ask Jesus what else you needed to do to inherit eternal life, what do you think he might he ask of you?  
  2. What are the qualities of a wise person?   What wise people have you known in your life?  
  3. We believe that the word of God is living and effective.   Where has the word of God had an impact in your life?   

Expectations. We all have them. We have expectations that the stock market will be stable, that so-and-so will understand what your needs are, that someone will behave in a certain way, that another will keep their word, that your job will be there tomorrow, or that there will even be a tomorrow. It seems that expectations are a part of our everyday lives. They seem to be the lens through which we all operate.

But what comes with expectations—especially high expectations—can be grave disappointment, resentment, hurt, anger, fear and hopelessness. Each of us knows this from experience. I remember many times when someone I trusted promised me something and didn't come through with it. I also remember when someone I respected and cared about betrayed me in some way.  These experiences are very difficult to overcome, to try to work through, and, especially, to forgive, if at all. Within myself, it is a struggle between my ego and my conscience. It is also a struggle managing all the feelings and emotions that go with it. I can run the whole gamut of emotions within a matter of seconds. But most of the time I am able to settle down after a couple of hours or a day or two. And then I pray that I have the willingness to respond in a way that is respectful of my integrity and values.

What do we do with the person or persons who have disappointed us? Do we move on from that relationship because it is unhealthy? Do we choose not to forgive? Do we approach them with love and understanding for their shortcomings? Can we forgive them? 

But what happens when the persons who have betrayed us are connected to our church and our faith? The sense of loss and betrayal is much deeper. How do we ever recover from it? Where is God in all of this mess? Can our faith ever be the same?

I believe that for most of us, our faith is extremely strong. When you come to church, look around at all those people who have stuck with it despite the ugliness of what happened to thousands of innocent people. Maybe it is because the people realized that they are the church and that their church will continue and come through this crisis and be stronger for it. Many of us realize that our Catholic faith will always be there for us and our community as well. We are all in this together and together we can support each other through listening, caring, and loving each other. And we can pray not only for the victims, but for those of us who could not stick with it because the hurt was so deep. I think we can all understand those who have left. They need our love and prayers as much as the victims do because they also are victims, as we all are.
During the first four Sundays in November, we will have panel discussions and speakers on Responding to Abuse. During these panels, we will hear about all types of abuse, the effect of abuse on the human person, how to remove yourself from abusive situations, resources that are available for victims and families, and how to find spiritual recovery from trauma and abuse. This series will be widely advertised throughout our Archdiocese. If you or someone you know could benefit from this, please spread the word. Flyers will be available throughout the church. Please pick one up and pass it along.

 

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