Archives: January 2016

Recently a young man approached me following one of our Sunday liturgies. He asked if we needed him for the liturgy. Eager to recruit I immediately said “yes, of course.” He thanked me and walked away. I was surprised he did not ask where he could sign up or how he could be most helpful. Maybe his question was more complex?

Reflecting on this interaction, I was reminded that shortly after the post-Vatican II liturgy had been implemented, Pope Paul VI said that up until then it had been sufficient for lay people to merely assist at Mass. “Before,” he said “being there was enough; now attention and activity are required. Before, everyone could doze or chatter, now all must listen and pray.” (see Documents on the Liturgy, 1963-1979 (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1982) 27, 401, 115).

This most major shift from ‘assisting at Mass’ to ‘actively participating in the liturgy’ has revolutionized our Catholic understanding of the liturgy. No longer is it acceptable for the laity to watch the ordained ministers celebrate the rites of the church. Since this momentous shift, all Catholics are invited, encouraged, and even required to participate in many and various ways in the celebration of the liturgy. 

However, this does not mean that everyone participates in the same capacity. The Pauline image of the Body of Christ, which is one but has many parts, helps us understand how this participation might be best understood. Though the entire Body of Christ celebrates the liturgy, different members of the Body of Christ exercise different ministries in the liturgy. 

Thus, the first ministry is that of the entire Church. We, the Church, celebrate the liturgy as the one Body of Christ. Therefore it is important that the entire Body of Christ be present at the liturgy. And it is important that the entire Body of Christ participate actively, fully, and consciously. 

Second, some members of the Body are called to participate in a more particular way relative to our gifts and talent. Certain members of the Body of Christ, e.g. have been given the talents to lead the community in prayer and are ordained to do so. Other members of the Body of Christ who have been gifted with musical talents are called to lead the community in song. Those who have the talent of public speech are called to proclaim the Word of God, etc.

Talents are entrusted to us by God for the betterment of the world and the church. Liturgical talents are entrusted to us for the betterment of the liturgy and the proclamation of the Gospel. As members of the Body of Christ we are called to use those talents. 

Like the young man who stopped me after Mass, you may wonder if we need you for the celebration of the liturgy at The Basilica of Saint Mary. The answer is plain and simple: “Yes we do!” First of all we need you to participate actively in the liturgy through praying, singing, listening, etc. Second, we need you as a minister of hospitality (usher); as a lector; as an Extraordinary minister of Holy Communion; as a cantor; as a choir member; as a sacristan; as a server; etc. Whatever your talents are, they can surely be put to the service of the liturgy.

As you serve in one of those capacities you will discover a new and deeper appreciation for the celebration of the liturgy; you will learn how to better serve the Church and ultimately you will assist with the bringing about of the Reign of God. And if you think our community is too large, this is a great way to make it smaller. So, do not hesitate. Please go to and start the process. And remember: ‘don’t ask what the liturgy can do for you. Ask what you can do for the liturgy!’

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

There are two scenes in our Gospel this Sunday. In the first scene, we are told that the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and so he got into Simon’s boat and they put out a short distance so that he could continue to teach the crowds.  After he had finished speaking, he told Simon “Put out into the deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”   While Simon initially objected, he did as Jesus suggested and "they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing.”   Such must have been the power of Jesus’ words that experienced fishermen took fishing advice from the son of a carpenter.   

The second scene in this Sunday’s Gospel occurs immediately after the miraculous catch of fish.   We are told that Simon Peter “fell at the knees of Jesus and said, ‘Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.’”  In response “Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid, from now on you will be catching men.’”   At this point we are told “they left everything and followed him.”  Peter is like many of us.  We often focus on our sinfulness, and fail to realize that God calls us as we are, where we are.  And as importantly, the God, who calls us, also gives us the grace to respond to that call. 

The theme of the Gospel is echoed in our first reading this Sunday from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.  God calls Isaiah, but Isaiah is reluctant:  "For I am a man of unclean lips………”     God, however, sent a Seraphim, holding an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar.  He touched Isaiah’s lips with the ember and said: “See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.”   As in the Gospel the message is clear. God doesn’t send the qualified; rather God qualifies those whom God sends.  

In our second reading this weekend, we continue to read from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.  In the section we read this weekend, Paul reminds the Corinthians (and us) of the Gospel he preached:  “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scripture that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. When have you been invited to trust in God?  
  2. Have you ever felt God calling you to do something for which you did not feel qualified? 
  3. Have you ever allowed a sense of sinfulness to keep you at a distance from God?   

On the feast of the Epiphany, one of the children in our Learning programs asked when we could go back to being “original.” Kelli Kester, who coordinates our children and youth programs asked if he meant “ordinary?” He said “yes, ordinary! Green!” I marvel at this great interaction. Is our “green” season “original” or “ordinary?” As Catholic allegorist Guillaume Durand a 13th C. bishop of Mendes in France suggested the green seasons are neither original nor ordinary, they are “in-between” seasons, nothing less and nothing more.

Up until the liturgical renewal promulgated by the Second Vatican Council there was no “ordinary” time on our liturgical calendar. The two “in-between” seasons we now call “ordinary” were known by different names. First, the Sundays between the end of Christmas and the beginning of Lent were generally known as the first, second, third, etc. “Sunday after Epiphany”. The Sundays between the end of the Easter Season and the beginning of Advent were generally known as the first, second, third, etc. “Sunday after Pentecost.”

The reform of the liturgy initiated by the Second Vatican Council sought to give the liturgical calendar a clearer structure in order to highlight the importance of the Advent-Christmas and Lent-Easter seasons. To that end the time between Christmas and Lent roughly speaking January-February and the time between Easter and Advent, roughly speaking June-November were given a name independent of the preceding season. These two sections of the liturgical year were to be known in Latin as Tempus per Annum or “Time throughout the Year” instead of Sunday after Epiphany and Sundays after Pentecost.

Literally translated the Sundays in Ordinary Time should be known as e.g. “The Fifth Sunday throughout the Year.” Sensing this was a somewhat awkward translation it was decided to translate the Latin more freely as “The Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time.” This may or may not have been a happy decision as the word “ordinary” implies something that is common, not special, or even trite. Moreover, this word says absolutely nothing about the season it names. By comparison, the name of the other seasons either directly or indirectly speaks to the meaning of the season: Advent-Christmas and Lent-Easter. A better name for this season might have Ordered Time or Tempus Ordinarium in Latin as during Ordinary Time we move from one counted Sunday to another in an ordered numerical fashion.

From a theological point of view one could describe Ordinary Time simply as a time ordered by Christian prayer for Christian living. Thus, despite its name there is nothing ordinary about Ordinary Time, either in its content or in its calculation. And as the young lad suggested, “ordinary” or “green” time is indeed rather “original.”


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

“Who do you think you are?”  Often this question is asked derisively when someone who is known and familiar seems to be acting arrogant or big-headed.   In our Gospel this Sunday we are told that Jesus returned to the synagogue in Galilee,  and while people were “amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.   They also asked:  ‘Isn’t this the son of Joseph?’ "  Jesus was known and familiar to the people and they couldn’t imagine that he could be anything other then they perceived him to be.   Jesus, though, challenged their thinking:  “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.”  

In response to this, however, we are told that when “the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury.”   

It is all too easy to lock people into our perception of them and not allow them to be anything other than that.  This is what happened in our Gospel today.   The challenge for all of us is to see people as God sees them, and not simply from our limited human perspective.   

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah.   In the section we read this Sunday God spoke to Jeremiah and reminded him that he need not be afraid of his calling. "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.“   In a similar way all of us have been called and chosen by God, and are precious in God’s eyes.  

For our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians. The section we read this Sunday is Paul’s well known and beautiful reflection on love.    

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. When have you had to change your perception of someone because you have learned something new about them? 
  2. Have you ever felt yourself being called by God to do something?
  3. How does love find expression in your life?  

In a few weeks we will celebrate Ash Wednesday and thus begin Lent. That is the time when Lucinda Naylor’s contemporary Stations of the Cross will be hung beneath the traditional Stations, once again. I know that many of us love these mono prints and are anticipating their return. Others simply tolerate them. And some of us really wish I would forget about them or that I would “donate them to the Vatican Museums” as someone suggested. Since I will neither forget about them nor donate them I thought I might ponder the role of contemporary art in the church in preparation of Ash Wednesday.

For starters, let’s be clear that all artists were contemporary artists at one point and like today’s contemporary artists they were revered by some and reviled by others. Take e.g. celebrated French composer Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). Out of gratitude to his teacher Gabriel Fauré (1845– 1925) Ravel dedicated a newly composed string quartet to him. Fauré told him that this was very kind but that he could not accept since the piece was ugly, had no meaning and was completely unintelligible. Publicly humiliated Ravel doubted his talents and he almost stopped composing. Thankfully, fellow composer Claude Debussy (1862-1918) who loved Ravel’s work encouraged him to continue writing music. Today, String Quartet in F is considered one of the great examples of French string music and Ravel’s work is known and loved throughout the world.

The vision of artists is often experienced as complex by their contemporaries because they are visionaries. Their art can be unusual and is sometimes not inviting. And their style may be abstract or at least stylized. All of this means that it is often more difficult to appreciate and understand contemporary art than traditional art. Traditional art is mostly pleasing and at least on one level more accessible because it is figurative. How often have you heard people say or maybe said yourself: “I don’t understand it.” And that is often why people don’t like the art.  Yet, our inability to understand and our consequent dislike of certain works of art do not make them bad art.

Figurative art has served our church well throughout history as it clearly tells our Christian story. However, figurative art runs the risk of imposing imagery. Take e.g. the Conversion of St. Paul. The most popular depiction of this important moment in Paul’s life shows him falling off his horse. And though Scripture does not make mention of a horse that is how most people visualize Paul’s Conversion. And even those of us who have never seen one of these paintings or sculptures very likely imagine a horse as part of this scene as the horse has become part of our shared memory.

This is of course an innocent example, but what about Mary and Jesus being depicted with blond hair and blue eyes. What does that image do to our religious imagination? How does this “color” Christianity? And how does it perpetuate evil stereotypes?

By contrast, abstract art does not impose images, rather abstract art invites imagination. That makes it less obvious and more difficult. Yet, because of this abstract art enjoys the potential of a deeper and more genuine understanding of the Gospel message.

So, when you see our abstract Stations of the Cross please take some time with them. Read the mediations we post next to them. And while reading these, let the colors, shapes and lines speak to your religious imagination. You might be surprised how much you like them if only you would give them a chance.

[Based on an entry in my book “What’s the Smoke For? and Other Burning Questions about the Liturgy.”]

Ash Wednesday services will be held at The Basilica on Wednesday, February 10 at 7:00am, Noon, 5:30pm, and 7:30pm. A soup supper will be available at 6:30pm on the lower level.

There are plenty of places to park but please allow yourself extra time to find parking.

Free parking
Free parking is available on 17th Street. This street will be available for one-way, northbound traffic only. Parking may also be available in the lots to the west and north of The Basilica school.

Handicapped Parking
Available in the Cowley lot off 16th Street and throughout The Basilica campus, as marked. Please display your permit.

o    Parking lot under the freeway (west side of church, entrance located off 17th Street) 
      o  $4.25 charge on weekdays before 5:00pm and $2.00 after 5:00pm; cash only
      o  Do not park in the "reserved" spots closest to Hennepin Ave.
      o  Parking is also free during funerals, with the exception of the "reserved" spots closest to Hennepin Ave.
      o  "Reserved parking" spots in this lot are marked as "reserved" and are paid spots for nearby businesses only.

o    Minneapolis Community & Technical College Ramp (east side of church, entrance located off Laurel Ave) 
      o  $5.00 for all-day parking; accepts credit cards

Click on the icons on this interactive map to see exact details on parking locations and costs. 

The little things in life can be the most powerful.  

I have witnessed this first-hand while negotiating appropriate school clothes with a pig-tailed, rosy-cheeked three-year-old. Would it be snow gear or the sundress that was more appealing to her that particular morning?

It is days like this that make me especially grateful for the delayed winter this year. But, it’s always inevitable. It got cold. And I don’t mean a little chill in the air, but Minnesota cold: sleeping-bag style, parka-wearing, run—don’t walk—to the car, stay-inside, electric-blanket, bone-chilling cold.  

When the temperature drops below freezing, you can usually expect some complaints to follow. That morning, a few hours after “snow-pants gate,” I was voicing my grievance with our receptionist at The Basilica when she casually reminded me of what the cold brings to The Basilica.  

The doorbell rings more often.  

The common, sometimes constant buzz you hear on the first floor of the Rectory on the cold mornings actually presents the opportunity for small actions to change our community for the better. For decades, we have provided for the basic necessities of those in need who come to our door. 

Little things impact lives for the better at The Basilica. Little things, like a sandwich and a cup of coffee handed out at the door for those who are hungry, or a bus card—or shoes for school.

Really, these “basic” necessities are anything but basic.

The St. Vincent de Paul ministries give authenticity to our faith. It strengthens the outreach, not only to those in need but to those who are searching for a spiritual home on their own faith journey because it demonstrates the love and acceptance so many are hungry to find in their spiritual lives. It is an incredible ministry of our parish, and led by dedicated staff and volunteers. It is when a cup of coffee is not such a little thing.

And there’s the simple message you hear each Sunday. “Wherever you are on your faith journey, we welcome you.” It’s a little sentence but a big statement. It represents the inclusivity that continues to extend an invitation and welcome hundreds of new members to The Basilica each year. 

Its repetition reinforces the meaning behind it—and is not for those who are visiting, but those who might be sitting in the same pew each Sunday. It grows when it is not just spoken, but lived.

This year, my family celebrated Christmas at The Basilica. We usually visit family on the farm in South Dakota, and as much as I love the small white chapel on the prairie, celebrating Mass in the magnificence of our inspiring Basilica was a real treat. In the thousands of people who gathered together, God’s presence was so big. Witnessing thousands of people praying, seeing the children stand in awe of the nativity scene, and to hearing the emotional song of the choir—it all reminds me of the importance of our stewardship at The Basilica. It is all so immense, yet so intimate.

As you consider your own participation in the small things at The Basilica, keep in mind that even if it seems small to you, it does make a difference. If you are considering volunteering your time or giving a financial donation, please know that when the community comes together, the communal outcome is so big that the outcome can change and even save lives.

Whether it is supporting the parish through stewardship, or a special gift for St. Vincent de Paul or even a donation for The Basilica Landmark, we are grateful for your consideration and support.  



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

This weekend we start reading again from the Gospel of Luke.   As I have mentioned previously we are on a three year cycle for the Sunday readings.   This year is year C so we read from Luke’s Gospel.  We read Matthew’s Gospel in year A and Mark’s Gospel in year B.  We read from John’s Gospel primarily during the Easter season.  It is also used to supplement Mark’s Gospel in year B, since Mark is the shortest Gospel.

In our Gospel this weekend we read the opening verses of Luke’s Gospel.  We then skip the Infancy Narratives (which we read during the Christmas season) and the story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert (which we will read on the first Sunday of Lent) to chapter four of Luke’s Gospel, and the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.   We are told that Jesus returned to the synagogue at Nazareth and read a section from the prophet Isaiah concerning the one who would restore Zion. “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit and news of him spread throughout the whole region.   He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all.”   After reading this section Jesus then boldly proclaimed:  “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”  

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of Nehemiah.   In the section we read today Ezra, the priest-scribe read from the Law from “daybreak till midday.”  He then interpreted the law and reminded the people that “Today is holy to the Lord your God.”  

In our second reading this weekend we continue to read from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians.   The section we read today picks up where last week’s reading left off.  It reminds us that As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.”  

Questions for Discussion/Reflection

  1. In our Gospel today, Jesus had a clear sense of his mission and purpose.   As a follower of Christ do you have a sense of clarity about your mission/purpose?
  2. As Luke begins his Gospel he states:  “I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you most excellent, Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received.”   Theophilus is Greek for Friend of God.  Some scripture scholars suggest that Theophilus was not one person, but all those people who believed in Jesus.  Have you ever thought of yourself as a Friend of God? 
  3. What part do you see for yourself in the Body of Christ?  

Mass will be celebrated at 7:00am in the Saint Joseph Chapel on Monday, January 18. There will be no Noon Mass. The Basilica campus and offices are closed in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day.

Do you believe in miracles?

The Jesuit priest, Fr. Karl Rahner, perhaps the premier theologian of the 20th century, was once asked whether he believed in miracles. He answered: “I don’t believe in them, I rely on them to get through each day!” I thought of these words a few weeks ago when a song by Sarah McLaughlan entitled “Ordinary Miracle” came on the radio. I googled the lyrics when I got home and then downloaded the song. The lyrics are simple, and they reminded me that while we may think of miracles as extraordinary, powerful, and unexpected happenings, there are “ordinary” miracles that occur every day.  

Why, though, is it often so hard to recognize these “ordinary” miracles that occur all around us? I suspect part of it is the age in which we live where we look for logical explanations or clear reasons for the things that happen in our lives. The thing is, though, that there are some things beyond reason and logic. There are some things that defy explanation and/or don’t yield to easy answers. I believe these are “ordinary” miracles that are often overlooked. When people are able to let go of their hurt and pain and are able to forgive, that is a miracle. When someone gives a lot from the little they have, that is a miracle. When we are able to carry on in the face of disappointment, sorrow, and sadness, that is a miracle. When we are able to let go of our selfishness and live in a more selfless manner, that is a miracle. These are “ordinary” miracles that occur all around us every day. 

I believe what helps us recognize the “ordinary” miracles that exist around us is faith. When we look through the eyes of faith, we are better able to recognize those miracles that are present all around us. Faith helps us to realize that sometimes logic and reason can only take us so far. Faith helps us to “see” things in a different way. And faith helps us to understand and accept that God is often working behind the scenes in our lives making “ordinary” miracles happen all around us.   

I believe that those “ordinary” miracles that occur each and every day are a gracious gift from a loving God. When we are able to recognize the “ordinary” miracles that happen all around us, it can make a difference in our lives. They give us hope in the face of darkness, and they help us continue on when the way is difficult and the outcome uncertain. 

Do I believe in miracles? Absolutely. And like Fr. Rahner, I don’t just believe in them, I rely on them to get me through each day. Miracles, though, are not just those extraordinary and astonishing happenings that sometimes occur. They are that, certainly. But there are also “ordinary” miracles that happen all the time. These miracles remind me that God is always at work in our lives and in our world, and inviting us to recognize and respond to the grace God wants to give us.