Archives: April 2016

Nestled in the north-west corner between The Basilica, the sacristy and the rectory sits The Basilica’s Mary Garden, a hidden treasure waiting to be discovered or discovered anew. Last Saturday, Karen Harrison and Wanda Sweeney were busy at work in the garden tidying it up in anticipation of the beginning of the month of May, dedicated to the Blessed Mother. They tend the garden lovingly and faithfully all year long.

The Basilica of Saint Mary is one of only a handful of churches in the United States that has a true Mary Garden. Often people mistakenly think that any garden with a statue of Mary in it is a Mary Garden. Rather, they are much more complex than that and mostly void of a statue.

Mary Gardens originated in Medieval France and its surrounding countries. The basic concept is an enclosed garden known as a hortus conclusus referencing the virginity of Mary. Each flower in the garden represents one of Mary’s virtues. The Lily, e.g. represents Mary’s purity; the Bleeding Heart represents Mary’s sorrow; Solomon’s Seal represents Mary’s wisdom;  Gilly Flower represents Mary’s fidelity; and Violets represent Mary’s modesty, to name but a few. The Garden as a whole thus symbolizes Mary with all her strengths and virtues.

Mary Gardens traditionally do not have a statue of Mary in them as the garden itself is intended to be a representation of Mary. And different from praying before a statue of Mary, believers enter the garden and aided by the colors and fragrance of the flowers they spiritually immerse themselves in Mary’s virtues while praying that her virtues may become theirs. 

The idea for a Mary Garden at The Basilica of Saint Mary was proposed by the Friends of the Basilica of Saint Mary, now known as The Basilica Landmark. After years of study and planning The Basilica’s Mary Garden became reality in 1997. Staying as true as possible to the medieval concept, the original design was done by Stacy Moriarty of Moriarty/Cordon. Given the difference in climate and the specifics of the shady location of our garden the traditional selection of plants did not thrive. Thus, after careful consideration and with due respect to the original design, the Garden was enhanced in 2008 with the help of Brad Agee of the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Minnesota to include more hardy plants. Standing in the tradition of those who assigned Mary’s virtues to the original selection of plants, Mary Ritten recognized and described Marian virtues in the newly selected plants, more suited for our Minnesota winters.

The Basilica’s Mary Garden thus is a reinterpretation of the traditional French Mary Garden adapted to our Minnesota weather, no less inspired and no less inspirational. To give but a few examples, sweet autumn clematis, a vigorous vine speaks to Mary’s tenacity and courage while facing her many trials. The yellow flowers in Mary’s Mantle remind us of the radiance of Mary as a source of consolation. The roses are a clear reference to Mary’s title in the Litany of Loretto as Rosa Mystica or Mystical Rose.

Though originally intended to have no representation of Mary in the Garden, Beckoning, a bronze sculpture by Gloria Tew was installed in the garden in the year 2000. This was in response to multiple requests for a statue of Mary. However, in order to be true to the original concept of a Mary Garden the sculpture is semi-abstract and intentionally ambiguous.

Her placement in the garden and the way she holds her hands can indeed be interpreted as Mary inviting us in. It may also be understood as a more abstract representation of hospitality and invitation. Regardless of whom you might think she is, her goal and ours is that you enter the Mary Garden especially during this month of May dedicated to Mary and spend some time in it. Inspired by its beauty we invite you to meditate on the virtues of Mary represented by the flowers in the garden and to pray that her virtues may become yours.

Are you interested in working on the refugee family committee, but a don't quite know what to expect? Cate Anderson, the Volunteer Coordinator for Refugee Service within Lutheran Social Services, has provided some answers to some of the common questions that volunteers may have.

  • What is something that people might assume about working with refugees that is usually proven wrong?

 One common assumption about working with refugees comes from the image that many of us have of people in refugee camps. It is easy to feel like refugees are weakened by their experiences or think of them as being exclusively sad or damaged. It doesn’t take much to fall into thinking about refugees in a two-dimensional way because of how they are portrayed in the media. While this assumption comes from a place of compassion and care, the reality that we see every day in this work is refugees’ amazing resilience.

Many refugees we meet have been strengthened in many ways by their experiences in the camp. Families may have drawn closer in their relationships with one another. A person’s faith within their own religious tradition may have been deepened. I certainly don’t want to underplay the gravity of the difficulties and dangers of living in a camp. However, we also constantly witness the beautiful paradox of refugees who, after going through such loss and suffering, find joy, laughter, and love in their lives. This complexity is hard to imagine until you meet someone who happens to be a refugee. We’re so grateful that your community at the Basilica has courageously said, “Let’s get to know our newest neighbors and challenge our assumptions head on!”

  •  How do you work through language barriers?

 Language barriers often play a big role in the relationships built between co-sponsors and the families they are matched with. Running into this particular issue is a good exercise for those of us who speak English fluently because it shows us how incredibly frustrating it can be. While it is difficult, we do our best to equip the mentoring team with training and tools to work with language barriers. Oftentimes, volunteers remark that after the first couple visits where there isn’t a common language, things get easier. You get used to it and find ways to make it work together. Adults will also be attending English Language Learning (ELL or ESL) classes and the kids will attend public school. The practice with the mentoring group can make a big difference in the progress made by the family in hurdling over a major barrier in their lives.

  •  What's the most rewarding part about doing this work?

 One of the most rewarding parts of working with refugees is that we get to actively participate in building our community together. The connection we make with a family going through the whirlwind transition of rebuilding life here in the United States is a precious one. It’s a privilege to walk alongside families as they figure it all out. It satisfies a moral calling to help those in need – in a different turn of events, we could be in their position and they could be in ours.

But beyond that, working with new Minnesotans gives us the opportunity to learn about different cultures, religions and values and to find our common ground as neighbors. Together, we can make our Minnesota community that much stronger and connected, simply by getting to know each other on a one-on-one basis. The most rewarding part of this work is the opportunity to not only learn about and love your neighbor, but also to grow together and love your community as a whole!

  •  What should people know before they get started? 

 One thing to keep in mind is that sometimes this work gets a bit messy! Coming from a Norwegian-American heritage which likes to keep things organized, timely, and rule-abiding, I’ve learned first-hand how important flexibility and humor are in this line of work. Some of the resettlement program is very black-and-white. For example, there are certain time deadlines for tasks such as applying for a social security number for the refugee within seven working days.

 Most other parts are less clear. We usually only get notice of a family’s arrival about two weeks or so in advance. Language barriers can call for moments of creative problem solving. Poverty presents exhausting Catch-22s. So, as we run into the little things that frustrate us, we can learn a lot from refugee families about what is really important. These experiences (and the messiness, I admit it!) encourage us to let go and “go with the flow” in a way that can be both liberating and rewarding.

  •  What's the most common concern potential volunteers have? And how do you work around that?

 One common concern that potential volunteers have is that they don’t feel quite qualified enough. They wonder if they know enough about the public transportation system, the cultural norms of the family, or the county system. The first step, I remind volunteers, is twofold. We don’t expect you to know everything, and we certainly don’t expect you to fix everything. As long as you’re someone who has lived in the U.S. for a good amount of time and knows how to navigate the basics, you are well-qualified!

 While mentor groups provide lots of good guidance to their mentees, it’s also good to remember that your role is not meant to be a fixer of all problems. Instead, we hope it will be an exchange where both parties learn a great deal. We also work with this worry with the help of our case managers who take care of the human services side of helping out the family. They know how to navigate the system and will perform the core services which range from securing affordable, clean and secure housing to enrolling kids in school.

Nestled in the north-west corner between The Basilica, the sacristy, and the rectory sits The Basilica’s Mary Garden, a hidden treasure waiting to be discovered or discovered anew. Last Saturday, Karen Harrison and Wanda Sweeney were busy at work in the garden tidying it up in anticipation of the beginning of the month of May, dedicated to the Blessed Mother. They tend the garden lovingly and faithfully all year long. 

The Basilica of Saint Mary is one of only a handful of churches in the United States that has a true Mary Garden. Often people mistakenly think that any garden with a statue of Mary in it is a Mary Garden. Rather, they are much more complex than that and mostly void of a statue.

Mary Gardens originated in Medieval France and its surrounding countries. The basic concept is an enclosed garden known as a hortus conclusus referencing the virginity of Mary. Each flower in the garden represents one of Mary’s virtues. The Lily, e.g. represents Mary’s purity; the Bleeding Heart represents Mary’s sorrow; Solomon’s Seal represents Mary’s wisdom; Gilly Flower represents Mary’s fidelity; and Violets represent Mary’s modesty, to name but a few. The Garden as a whole thus symbolizes Mary with all her strengths and virtues. 

Mary Gardens traditionally do not have a statue of Mary in them as the garden itself is intended to be a representation of Mary. And different from praying before a statue of Mary, believers enter the garden and, aided by the colors and fragrance of the flowers, they spiritually immerse themselves in Mary’s virtues while praying that her virtues may become theirs.  

The idea for a Mary Garden at The Basilica of Saint Mary was proposed by the Friends of the Basilica of Saint Mary, now known as The Basilica Landmark. After years of study and planning, The Basilica’s Mary Garden became reality in 1997. Staying as true as possible to the medieval concept, the original design was done by Stacy Moriarty of Moriarty/Cordon. Given the difference in climate and the specifics of the shady location of our garden, the traditional selection of plants did not thrive. Thus, after careful consideration and with due respect to the original design, the Garden was enhanced in 2008 with the help of Brad Agee of the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Minnesota to include more hardy plants. Standing in the tradition of those who assigned Mary’s virtues to the original selection of plants, Mary Ritten recognized and described Marian virtues in the newly selected plants, more suited for our Minnesota winters. 

The Basilica’s Mary Garden thus is a reinterpretation of the traditional French Mary Garden adapted to our Minnesota weather, no less inspired and no less inspirational. To give but a few examples, sweet autumn clematis, a vigorous vine speaks to Mary’s tenacity and courage while facing her many trials. The yellow flowers in Mary’s Mantle remind us of the radiance of Mary as a source of consolation. The roses are a clear reference to Mary’s title in the Litany of Loretto as Rosa Mystica or Mystical Rose. 

Though originally intended to have no representation of Mary in the Garden, Beckoning, a bronze sculpture by Gloria Tew was installed in the garden in the year 2000. This was in response to multiple requests for a statue of Mary. However, in order to be true to the original concept of a Mary Garden, the sculpture is semi-abstract and intentionally ambiguous. 

Her placement in the garden and the way she holds her hands can indeed be interpreted as Mary inviting us in. It may also be understood as a more abstract representation of hospitality and invitation. Regardless of who you might think she is, her goal and ours is that you enter the Mary Garden especially during this month of May dedicated to Mary and spend some time in it. Inspired by its beauty, we invite you to meditate on the virtues of Mary represented by the flowers in the garden and to pray that her virtues may become yours.

The Cathedral of Saint Patrick in Dublin, Ireland houses a somewhat unusual relic. It is not a bit of bone, a bead of blood or a strand of hair of the most revered saint of Ireland after whom the cathedral was named. Rather, it is an old door with a rectangular cut-out, large enough to put one’s hand through. It is known as the Door of Reconciliation.

Ireland’s history, not unlike that of most countries is characterized by feuds and fights between rival groups in search of power and wealth. The late 15th C. Earls of Kildare and Ormond were great rivals and were constantly at odds. In 1492 this culminated in a veritable fight. The Earl of Ormond, pursued by the Earl of Kildare sought sanctuary in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. When the Earl of Kildare arrived he pulled out his sword and started to attack the door to the cathedral’s chapterhouse where the Earl of Ormond was hiding. Rather than destroy the entire door he merely cut a whole in the door. To everyone’s surprise he then put his arm through the hole as a sign of peace, risking his limb and his life. The Earl of Ormond accepted the Earl of Kildare’s offer and shook his hand, sealing the peace. Hence the expression: “chancing your hand.” Today, the Door of Reconciliation stands in celebration of those who promote peace and reconciliation as well as in defiance to all those who sow hatred and who promote conflict.

As I was gazing upon this old peace of wood, the meaning of which is lost to most uninterested passersby, I was reminder of the Doors of Mercy designated in every cathedral and in many churches throughout the world during this Year of Jubilee. These Doors of Mercy are by necessity Doors of Reconciliation because mercy and reconciliation go hand in hand. Without mercy, there can be no reconciliation.  In turn, mercy presumes reconciliation.

Like the Door of Reconciliation in Dublin, these Doors of Mercy are patient reminders and invitations to each one of us to look at our lives and seek out opportunities for reconciliation and mercy, be they small and easy or large and difficult. The Doors of Mercy also invite us to look beyond ourselves at the greater world, marked by conflicts and divisions. We are to reach across aisles and beyond borders “chancing our hand” thus participating in the Divine quest for human reconciliation and peace.

Pope Francis, since the very beginning of his pontificate has been a champion of mercy, reconciliation and peace. Time and time again, he has modeled how we are to take risks, to “chance our hand” for the sake of mercy, reconciliation and peace. Just remember his first apostolic visit outside of Rome to the Italian Island of Lampedusa, one of the symbols of the current immigration crisis. There, he decried the “globalization of indifference” and invited nations and parishes to reach out to those searching for a better life. On Holy Thursday he has taken to washing the feet of those living on the margins of society regardless of their gender, religion, or ethnic background. This year, after washing the feet of refugees he remarked that though we may come from different cultures and profess different religions we are all brothers and sisters who together must strive for peace. Most recently, Pope Francis, together with Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual head of the world's Orthodox Christians, and Ieronimos II, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Athens visited the Greek Island of Lesbos, another symbol of the Immigrant crisis. Again re-affirming the fact that all of us are sisters and brother, no matter our cultural and religious differences he said: “barriers create divisions instead of promoting the true progress of peoples, and divisions sooner or later lead to confrontations.”

Breaking down barriers, building bridges and reaching out a hand in friendship is not always easy, often involves a risk and always requires a willingness to be vulnerable. Things may go wrong. And yet, we must “chance our hand” if ever there be a chance of reconciliation and peace among the different nations and peoples, for we are all brothers and sisters, no matter our culture or religion.

When you go to Dublin next, do make a pilgrimage to the Door of Reconciliation and when in Minneapolis or St. Paul visit our Doors of Mercy.

 

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/050116.cfm

Today we celebrate the 6th Sunday of Easter.   Next Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension and then we close the Easter season with the celebration of Pentecost.   In our Gospel today we read from what is referred to as Jesus’ farewell discourse.  In movies the farewell scene is often the time when the hero or heroine says something especially important and moving.  I suspect they got this idea from Jesus’ farewell discourse.  

In this Gospel Jesus reminds us of four important things. 1. “Whoever loves me will keep my word.”  2. He will send “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit” to “teach you everything and to remind you of all that I told you.”  3. Peace is Jesus’ farewell gift to his disciples “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world give do I give it to you.”  4.  He has told us this “before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.”   These words are important and they remind us that even though Jesus is not physically present with us, he is still with us nonetheless.   And because of the gift of the Holy Spirit we are enabled and empowered to live as his disciples.  

Once again this Sunday our first reading is taken from the Acts of the Apostles.  It reminds us that differences and disagreements within our Church are not something new.   It tells of a division within the early Christian community as to whether new Christians had to be “circumcised according to the Mosaic practice.”  The matter was resolved when the apostles and elders sent Judas and Silas to tell the people:  “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place any burden beyond these necessities, namely to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage.  If you keep free of these you will be doing what is right.”  

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Book of Revelation.   It is a vision of the heavenly Jerusalem, except there was no temple: “for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. What would be important for you to tell people in your farewell discourse?
  2. What is unique about the peace Jesus offers us? 
  3. Why do you think some people have difficulty accepting differences and disagreements in our Church? 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/042416.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the fifth Sunday of Easter.   At this point in the Easter season, we have read almost all of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection and his appearances to his disciples.   So this Sunday we return to the setting of the Last Supper.   Jesus has just told his disciples that he would only be with them a little while longer.  Then he said:  “I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.  This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”   

Jesus’ “new” commandment reminds us that not only is love to be the defining characteristic of his disciples, but also their love is to modeled after his love for them.   If and when we exhibit this kind of love, then all will know that we are his disciples.   

Our first reading this Sunday is once again taken from the Acts of the Apostles.   We continue to read of the missionary activity of Paul and Barnabas.  One of their messages, while difficult to hear, is very important.   Specifically they told the new Christians that “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”   These words remind us that being a disciple of Jesus may not always be easy, but it is in following Christ --- regardless of the cost --- that will lead to our entry into the kingdom of God.   

For our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the Book of Revelation.     Once again the author of this Book offers a vision of hope and ultimate victory for those who are experiencing hardship and adversity. “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.  He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God.   He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away'.” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. In college one of my floor mates had a poster on his door that read:  “If they were putting Christians on trial would there be enough evidence to convict you?”  While perhaps a bit over the top, it did raise a good question for all of us: if they were putting Christians on trial would there be enough evidence to convict you?  
  2. Why is it so difficult for us to love one another as Christ has loved us?  
  3. Have you ever had to undergo a hardship for the Kingdom of God?   

There are many routes available to visit The Basilica. We encourage you to plan ahead.

Details on road construction projects near The Basilica can be found here. We encourage you to plan ahead and consider alternate routes for your arrival at The Basilica.

Alternate Traffic Routes Hennepin Lyndale Construction

FROM THE NORTH VIA I-94:
Take exit 230 toward 7th Street North.
Merge onto Lyndale Ave N.
Turn left onto 7th St.
Continue onto N 10th St.
Turn right onto Hennepin Ave.
The Basilica of Saint Mary will be on the right.

FROM THE SOUTH VIA I-35W:
Traveling north on I-35W, proceed to the Downtown Exits.
Take the 11th St exit.
Merge onto E Grant St.
Continue onto S 11th St.
Turn left onto Hennepin Ave.
The Basilica of Saint Mary will be on the right.

FROM THE SOUTH VIA LYNDALE:
Turn right onto W. Franklin Ave.
Turn left onto Nicollet Ave S.
Turn right onto W Grant St.
Keep left onto S Marquette Ave.
Turn left onto S 11th St.
Turn left onto Hennepin Ave.
The Basilica of Saint Mary will be on the right.

FROM THE WEST VIA HWY 55:
Remain on Hwy 55/Olson Memorial Pkwy until you reach N 7th St.
Turn right onto 7th St.
Continue onto N 10th St.
Turn right onto Hennepin Ave.
The Basilica of Saint Mary will be on the right.

FROM THE EAST VIA I-94E:
Keep right onto the 11th St exit.
Merge onto E Grant St.
Continue onto S 11th St.
Turn left onto Hennepin Ave.
The Basilica of Saint Mary will be on the right.

 

Kirk Washington, Jr., a well-known Minneapolis artist, was killed in a tragic motor vehicle accident on I-94 April 4. Kirk was an integral part of the Basilica's Spirit and Soul concert, which is held annually with students from the Minneapolis Community and Technical College, where he served on the planning committee and as a performer. 

A memorial service in his honor will be held on Thursday, April 14, at 11:00am at the Harrison Neighborhood Community Gymnasium located at 503 Irving Avenue North. The public is welcome to attend the service.

Please keep Kirk and his many family and friends in your thoughts and prayers.

Watching the Clock

In the years since I have been ordained I’ve always made it a practice wherever I’ve lived to designate a special area for prayer. Usually this area is in a corner of my bedroom. I have my “prayer chair” there as well as a small table on which I keep my Breviary, various scripture commentaries, a candle, and sundry other items. One of the items that I added about ten years ago was a small digital clock someone had given me. I use this clock when I’m at prayer—especially in the morning—to make sure I don’t lose track of time. A few weeks ago I noticed that the display on the clock was getting dimmer and dimmer, so I knew it was time to replace the batteries. 

Now resetting this clock has become increasingly problematic the past few years. When I first got it, I was able to reset the time by pressing my finger on the display. Unfortunately over the years, the screen has become less and less responsive to my touch. And after replacing the batteries, I couldn’t reset the time no matter how many times I touched, pressed, pushed, or manipulated my finger on the screen. It occurred to me that it might be time to replace the clock, but since it had served me well for ten years, I just let it sit for a few days to see if it would eventually respond to my touch.  


Now I have to say that while initially it wasn’t a problem that I couldn’t reset the clock, after a few days it did begin to bother me. I liked being able to glance up when I was reflecting on the scriptures and know how long I had been at it. I took a certain pride in the fact that at times I thought I had been praying for 15 minutes only to glance at the clock and realize it had actually been 25 minutes. At other times, of course, I would glance at the clock only to realize that what I thought had been 15 minutes was only 5 minutes.


After about a week of praying without knowing the “right” time, I had a sudden insight that perhaps I had turned what was initially a convenience, into a “measure.” Further, it occurred to me that God might be trying to tell me that the time I gave to God in prayer shouldn’t be measured or timed. It should be God’s time. And it should take as long as it takes. Timing my prayer not only wasn’t being very respectful of God, but more importantly it was turning what should have been a relationship into a duty. 


A few days after the above revelation, I was telling another priest about it. He suggested that perhaps I needed to re-think how I approached my prayer time. Then in passing he said: “And you know you might want to try using a stylus to reset your clock.” He then gave me an extra stylus that he had. And when I got home, voilà—problem solved. I was able to reset the clock. The other problem remained, though, of checking the time during my prayer. I ultimately decided that the clock could stay, but that I would only check it once during my prayer time. So far this seems to be working, and it has made me more conscious of the fact that prayer is time with God, and that since God is more concerned that I pray, than with how much time I spend in prayer, perhaps this should be my goal too.

For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041716.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Easter.  This Sunday is often referred to as Good Shepherd Sunday since we always read from chapter 10 of John’s Gospel which contains Jesus’ Good Shepherd discourse.   The section we read this Sunday, Jn. 10:27-30, is just three verses long, but they tell us four very important things.   1.  First, the sheep know the Good Shepherd and hear his voice.   2.  The Good Shepherd offers the sheep eternal life.   3. No one can snatch the sheep out of the Shepherd’s hand.   4.  The Shepherd and the Father are one.   

This Gospel reminds us how important we are to the Good Shepherd, and how protective the Good Shepherd is of his sheep.  Given this, the challenge for us, as sheep, is to listen to the voice of the Shepherd and follow where he leads.   

We continue to read from the Acts of the Apostles for our first reading this Sunday.   In the section we read this Sunday Paul and Barnabas continue to preach about Jesus Christ.  They preached originally to a Jewish audience, but soon their focus shifted to the Gentiles.   We are told that when the Gentiles heard Paul and Barnabas, they were delighted and “glorified the word of the Lord.” 

Our second reading this Sunday is again taken from the Book of Revelation.  The Book of Revelation was written to Christians who were enduring hardship and persecution.   In colorful and vivid apocalyptic language it reminds them that ultimately “The one who sits on the throne will shelter them.  they will  not hunger or thirst anymore, ……………For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”   

Questions for Discussion/Reflection:

  1. When have you heard the voice of the Good Shepherd in your life?
  2. What has helped you to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd? 
  3. While apocalyptic literature is not meant to be taken literally, in times of stress/conflict there is comfort to be found in knowing that ultimately everything will be alright. Has there been a time when you have needed to hear this message?   

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