Archives: May 2016

Sarah Brenes of the Advocates for Human Rights spoke to a group of parishioners about the complex and arduous process that asylum seekers and refugees go through in order to find a legal home in the United States. The talk was titled, “Welcoming the Stranger: Refugees in our Midst.” The number of people across the globe who moved from their home country, either willingly or forcibly, was staggering. According to the United Nations Refugee agency, there were 54.9 million forcibly displaced persons across the globe last year. There were also 14.4 million refugees and 1.8 million asylum seekers. 

Asylum seekers must provide proof that they have a “well founded fear” of being persecuted due to their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. They must provide that proof in immigration court, and it is must hold up to substantial srutiny by the U.S. government. Many times the seekers are suffering from significant trauma related to the violence they faced in their home counttry, as well as the pain or resettling in the United States. For more information on their organization, please visit Advocates for Human Rights

Brenes, the lead attorney at AFHR, also spoke about the work her organization does here in Minnesota. One of the many aspects of their organization is helping provide legal services for those men and women seeking asylum. The AFHR is the largest provider in the Upper Midwest of free legal services to low-income people seeking asylum. Luke Olson, a parishioner and attorney, introduced Brenes as he talked about his work helping a woman from Guatemala who was being threatened by gangs due to her status as an indigenous person. Olson helped her win her asylum case last year. 

Brenes closed out the talk with highlighting the important support work that other organizations, like churches, can do to help those in need— “welcoming the stranger.” The Basilica will have numerous events in the future to get involved with these issues. 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/060516.cfm

In our Gospel this Sunday, Jesus encounters a widow who’s only son had died.  We are told that “As he drew near to the gate of the city, (Nain) a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.”   Certainly the loss of a child is a tragedy, but in this case the tragedy was compounded by the fact that the woman was a widow and it was her only son who had died.  He was probably her sole source of financial support.   We are told that Jesus was moved with pity for the widow so he “stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said ‘Young man, I tell you arise.’  The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.”   In response the people were seized with fear “and they glorified God, exclaiming, ‘A great prophet has arisen in our midst,’ and ‘God has visited his people.’”   

This story is a wonderful illustration of Jesus’ compassion.   A couple things should be noted, though.   First, notice that no one asked Jesus to raise the dean man to life.   Jesus assessed the situation and took the initiative to respond to the woman’s great need.   Second, this story is about resuscitation, not a resurrection.   There is a difference.  The young man was restored to this life.   He was not given eternal life.    

The first reading this Sunday is taken from the first Book of Kings.  It is the story of Elijah restoring to life the son of the widow of Zarephath. While it bears similarities to the Gospel, an important difference is that Elijah did not restore the child to life; rather he prayed to God to restore the child to life.  And God did.  “O Lord, my God, let the life breath return to the body of this child. The Lord heard the prayer of Elijah; the life breath returned to the child’s body and he revived.”   

The second reading this Sunday is taken from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians.  In the section we read this Sunday Paul explains the source of his call.  “I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel preached by me is not of human origin.   For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion: 

  1. Jesus’ recognized and responded to the need of the widow of Nain without her ever having to say word.  Has God ever responded to a need you had before you prayed about it?  
  2. The people in today’s Gospel responded to the raising of the widow’s son with fear and praise.  How do you think you would have responded?  
  3. Have you ever felt called by God to do something?   

As part of our ongoing strategic planning process for ministries and programs,Basilica  parish leadership is conducting research to elicit perspectives of parishioners.  In the next few weeks, you may receive an email from Fr. Bauer asking you to complete an online survey or be asked to participate in a focus group.  Thank you in advance for your participation. Your responses will help shape future plans for our parish.

Our goal is to gather information to qualify and quantify engagement in our parish.  We will look inward with the help of our current parishioners, and also reach out to potential parishioners.  We want to better understand what the needs and barriers to engagement are with these groups. 

Timeline for this research begins in June continues through the summer.  The Basilica last conducted a parish survey in 2010, followed by a strategic planning initiative in 2013.  Questions?  Contact Terri Ashmore

A few weeks ago, while I was on my way to visit someone in the hospital, a car pulled in front of me that had a bumper sticker that read: “Got Jesus.” My immediate reaction was a strong sense of discomfort. Not being particularly pleased with that reaction, I decided the bumper sticker merited a little prayer and reflection on my part.

After spending some time reflecting on the bumper sticker, it dawned on me that the source of my discomfort was the fact that from my perspective it was asking the question the wrong way. The question should not be whether we have “got Jesus,” but rather has Jesus got us. From my perspective this is an important distinction.

Implied in the question of whether we have “got Jesus” is the idea that somehow Jesus is our personal possession. This in turn can lead us to make Jesus into what we want Jesus to be rather than allowing ourselves to be formed into what Jesus would have us be. In my own life, I have discovered time and again how easy it is for me to confuse God’s will for me with my will. If I let myself believe that I had “got Jesus,” I worry that my will and God’s will for me would be nearly indistinguishable. I suspect this is true for all of us.

On the other hand, when Jesus has “got” us, this causes us to see things from a different perspective, to acquire a new way of thinking. I believe this was what St. Paul was getting at when he wrote his letter to the Ephesians. In that letter, Paul was urging the new Christians at Ephesus to live no longer as the pagans did. “That is not how you learned Christ! I am supposing, of course, that he has been preached and taught to you in accord with the truth that is in Jesus; namely that you must lay aside your former way of life and the old self which deteriorates through illusion and desire, and acquire a fresh, spiritual way of thinking. You must put on that new person created in God’s image, whose justice and holiness are born of truth” (Ephesians 4: 20-24).

We don’t “get Jesus.” Rather our challenge is to allow Jesus to “get” us. We will know this has happened when we find ourselves acquiring the fresh spiritual way of thinking that St. Paul wrote about.

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052916.cfm   


This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.   This feast celebrates our belief that in the Eucharist we celebrate and share in Jesus’ name and memory, Jesus Christ is really and truly present.   We offer no proof for this belief.   This is no logical or rational way to provide evidence for this belief.  For us, as Catholics, the Eucharist is a matter of faith.   And as we read in the beginning of chapter 11 of the Letter to the Hebrews: “Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see.” 

Our Gospel this weekend is from the Gospel of Luke.   It is Luke’s version of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.  Because of the abundance of nourishment provided for the hungry and expectant crowd, this miracle is seen by some as a prefiguring of the Eucharist.   While there is much to comment on in this Gospel, two points in particular stand out.  First, notice that Jesus started with what the disciples had --- “five loaves and two fish.”    Second, notice that he took the loaves and fishes, “said the blessing over them, broke them and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.”    I have a friend who likes to say: “See what happens when you pray before you eat.”    But I think a more important lesson is the way Jesus handled what could have been a difficult situation.  He started with what the disciples had, blessed it, but then gave it back to them to distribute.   I think this is a wonderful illustration of the way God works in our lives.   Often in our prayer we want God to do things for us.   However, in our prayer if we can offer to God what we have (minimal though it may seem), allow God to bless it, God will give it back to us ---------- and marvelous things can happen as a result.    

Our first reading this weekend from the Book of Genesis tells the story of Melchizedek, the king of Salem.  He shared bread and wine with Abram (later Abraham) and together they gave thanks to God.   As with the loaves and fishes, we would see this as a prefiguring of the Eucharist. 

Our second reading this weekend is from the first Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians.  It is Paul’s account of the institution of the Eucharist.   It ends with the words: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. It is our belief that Jesus Christ is really and truly present in the Eucharist ----- not present merely symbolically, or spiritually, or in our memory ----- but really and truly present.   How would you explain this belief to someone?  
  2. Do you pray that God will do things for you, or do you pray that God will give you the grace, courage, insight, and strength to do things?   
  3. What is your favorite memory in regard to the Eucharist?  

Who doesn’t love Pope Francis? she asked. He has such an intimate relationship with God. I so envy him. Since I was young, I have always desired the type of relationship with God that is so close and loving on my part that I would never let go of it, and I would protect it all of my life.

She is a good friend of mine and I have always envied the relationship she has with God.  It’s funny how that works. She doesn’t even realize that she has it already.

This propelled me to look more closely into how Pope Francis speaks about God, and this quote struck me: This may sound like heresy, but it is the greatest truth! It is more difficult to let God love us than to love Him. The best way to love Him in return is to open our hearts and let Him love us. Let Him draw close to us and feel Him close to us. This is really very difficult letting ourselves be loved by Him. This is perhaps what we need to ask today ‘Lord, I want to love You, but teach me the difficult science, the difficult habit of letting myself be loved by You, to feel You close and feel Your tenderness! May the Lord give us this grace’.

Well, just how did Pope Francis develop his relationship with God or anyone we consider to be holy and close to God? First of all, it probably took a lot of practice in prayer. We often forget that our prayer life is equivalent to quality time spent with family members and friends. If we didn’t spend time with them, we certainly wouldn’t have a very good relationship with them. So prayer has to be the number one priority if we want God to be so much a part of us and everything that we do.

We need to realize that there are many different types of prayer and prayer forms. Explore them and find one that is a fit for you. Talk with people you know who have solid prayer lives, get their suggestions and seek their encouragement. Don’t lose hope. Prayer grows just as our relationships grow. The more time you spend in it, the stronger your relationship will be.

Find a time of day when you will feel least distracted. For some it may be the morning, for others it will be the evening just before they go to bed. Establish the best time for you and stick to it.

It is important to remember that prayer should be 10% talking and 90% listening. Listen with your heart. Quiet yourself and put all distractions aside for the few minutes you plan to be in prayer. Distractions are part of who we are. They will always be there. One wise person told me not to fight the distractions in prayer. Make friends with them and bring those distractions to your prayer.

One of the things I find beautiful about the above quote by Pope Francis is the truth in it. God wants to love us more than we will ever know. Giving God time to do that will certainly change us. Sometimes there are days when all I can do is say: Here I am, Lord. I open my heart to you. Just pour your love into my heart. Then I just sit quietly for a few minutes as I picture God pouring love into my heart. It’s a simple way to pray, but I have found it to be quite powerful. 

Remember, there is no right or wrong way to pray. It is your relationship with God that you are growing. The words aren’t nearly as important as an open heart and mind. If you have never had the discipline of a strong prayer life, make a promise to yourself to begin soon. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain a beautiful relationship with your God.

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052216.cfm 

This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.   This Feast celebrates our belief that God has revealed God’s Self as loving Father, redeeming Son and sanctifying Spirit.  In the preface for this Feast we read:  “For what you have revealed to us of your glory we believe equally of your Son and of the Holy Spirit.”   How this can be we do not know.  That it can be we do believe.   

While our belief in a Triune God has been at the core of our faith since the beginnings of our Church, the dogmatic statements that articulate this belief are the result of later generations of believers.   

Our Gospel reading for this weekend is from the Gospel of John.   In it Jesus promised to send the Spirit to his disciples.   In making this promise, Jesus is clear that even though he will no longer physically be with them, the Spirit will empower and guide them.  “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.  But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.”   

Our first reading this weekend is from the Book of Proverbs.  We don’t read from this book very often.  At least part of the reason for this is that it is poetic literature, and thus not always easily accessible.  In today’s reading “Wisdom” is personified as being with God from the very beginning.  As Christians, we would see “Wisdom” as a prefiguring of both Christ and the Holy Spirit. 

Our second reading for this weekend is taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans.   While it was probably chosen because it speaks of each member of the Trinity, I found the last few lines to be most poetic and compelling:   “………but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”    

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. We believe in one God, who has revealed God’s self as Father, Son and Spirit.  What explanation of the Trinity has been most helpful to you in understanding this belief?  
  2. How have you experienced the presence and/or action of the Father, Son and Spirit in your life?  
  3. What gives you hope in your life?   

Her hand shows the marks of time: arthritis, wrinkles, veins, cuts and bruises. Her hand is open, extended and inviting. A gesture which is reflective of the mission she serves. This is the hand of a woman who has lived a long life, a dedicated life. This is the hand of a woman who has served the church for many, many years. This is the hand of a woman, convinced that she can continue to contribute to the church despite old age and even beyond death.

Nestled in her hand is a simple rosary, seemingly made of olive wood. It is the string of beads she has fingered thousands upon thousands of times as prayers passed her lips. This rosary was probably passed on to her from another sister as most everything else she uses. Her prayers build upon her sister’s prayers stringing years and years of prayer together. It is this rosary she faithfully returns to at the end of the day. It is this rosary she purposefully reaches for during difficult times. It is this rosary she happily cradles during times of joy. Her dedication to prayer keeps her centered. It keeps her rooted. It allows her to stay the sacred course she embarked on when she took her religious vows.

In this image the rosary is not used for prayer, rather the rosary gently placed in her hand is a form of evangelization. A worn rosary in the hand of an elderly woman speaks to the power of prayer. Without saying a word she shows the rosary as if inviting us to take it from her so we too may enter into the saving chain of prayer. This is her legacy: prayer saves! It is what she hopes to pass on to each one of us.

Though somewhat out of focus we can see the pectoral cross she is wearing around her neck. She received it at her profession and has worn it ever since. The cross has given her direction for all these years and continues to do so today. The cross in this image quietly testifies to the love of God for us and it calls us to love one another in turn.  If the rosary invites us to prayer, the cross calls us to love and action. Prayer and love are the two great tenets of our life as Christians: we pray so we may love. This is the mandate Jesus gave us the night before he died when he told us to celebrate the Eucharist and wash one another's feet.

We don’t know her name and we need not know her name for she embodies the millions of women who have carried the church through their prayer and their actions. They are the women who have prayed for our needs, hidden behind the walls of their monasteries or in plain view in our streets. They are the women who have staffed our schools and universities where they have taught our children. They are the women who have worked in our hospitals where they have cared for our sick and our elderly.

They may wear veils instead of miters and they may carry books rather than crosiers but they are the ones who have shaped and molded so many of us into the people we are today. Their impact on our church is beyond measure. We simply would not be who we are as a people and as a church without them.

This image is a quiet testimony to the great work God is accomplishing through our religious and through all women in our church.

 

 

Aztez dancers led a Procession of Nations to open a celebration of Evening Prayer for Archbishop Hebda on May 12 at the Basilica. 

Knocking on the Basilica doors to request entry, Archbishop Hebda was greeted warmly and invited into our community by our Pastor, Rev. John M. Bauer.  The Archbishop's homily rooted us in our faith, and he encouraged us to place human beings over posessions, and have compassion for all. He challenged us to live our faith with outreach to those most in need and his remarks received enthusiastic and sustained applause.  US Senator Amy Klobuchar offered Minnesota cultural tips with humor, and shared our Minnesota traditions of action and service, along with her own story of meeting Pope Francis.  

With inspiring tradional and world music in many languages, words of welcome were also shared by delegations of school children, civic leaders, clergy of all faiths, and Catholic activitists.  Speakers from Native Americans - First Nations including representatives of the Anishinabe and Dakota, shared their welcome and wisdom in word,with drums and song.  They were joined by others from many nations worldwide in colorful ethnic dress.

Celebrations of welcome continued May 13 with the Installation Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul. 

 

Within the past few months I have hosted a couple of priests for dinner, and then they stayed overnight in my guest room. They were both very pleasant and gracious guests, and easy to have around. We had great conversations, and both evenings were very enjoyable. The only complaint I have is that they didn’t do things the way I thought they should be done. One of them only filled up the ice trays half full, and when he put new linens on his bed in the morning, he didn’t make hospital corners. The other loaded the dishwasher all wrong and put the butter dish in the refrigerator instead of leaving it out on the counter. Now I didn’t want to hurt their feelings, so I didn’t tell them about their errors. And the only way they will find out about them is if someone reading this column snitches on me. 
 
Now I know what you’re probably thinking: That man has lived by himself way too long. And, of course, you’re right. I suspect if I were to live with a roommate or God forbid some kind of community, I would be given a severe talking to on a regular basis. No doubt I would also be given time outs on a fairly frequent basis. When we live by ourselves, it is easy to become rough around the edges and perhaps even a little brittle. There is something about being around other people, though, and having to rub shoulders with them on a regular basis that smooths away some of our rough edges and makes us easier to be with. Certainly this is true in the work environment, and while I can’t say for sure, I suspect it is true when you live with others.
 
I think the above is also true in regard to the Christian community. I have long maintained that among the many benefits of the Christian community there are two that are vitally important. Specifically, the Christian community supports us when we are struggling and feeling burdened, and it corrects us when we start to wander off and go our separate ways. Both of these functions are important and, I believe, both are essential in a Christian community.
 
The thing is, though, that in order to enjoy these benefits you have to be part of a community. You have to invest something of yourself in the community. You have to believe that you along with everyone else has a place in the community. For some people this comes naturally. Others seem to struggle with it, and some never seem to be able to make the connection. While I don’t know exactly why this is, I do know that a big part of helping people feel a part of a community is when those who are already established and at home in that community make the effort to invite and welcome new members. Another important piece is just accepting people as they are and where they are, and not expecting them to conform to our expectations.
 
Both of the above are important. Helping people feel a part of our community and knowing they have a home is an ongoing goal. The same is true of working harder at accepting people as they are and where they are. This is certainly true in our parish community. For me personally, though, I think it is also true for overnight guests. To this end, I have deleted the list of rules and regulations for guests I was composing for the back of my guest room door, and I will instead welcome any visitors I might have graciously and overlook their failings silently.

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