Archives: August 2016

Due to the construction work re-pointing the bell towers the Holy Door will be closed weekdays until September 16th.  The Holy Door will be open on the weekends during this time.

The construction work will remove the decaying mortar between stones and replace it with new mortar, ensuring the integrity of the bell towers and the historic bells within them.

Thank you to the Basilica Landmark for funding the preservation and restoration of our historic building. 



For 21 years, The Basilica has strengthened the community by building affordable homes with Habitat for Humanity. This year, over the course of the “work camp” week, 75 volunteers helped on the project from pounding nails and laying boards to preparing food. 

Throughout the past two decades, The Basilica team has taken part in building a variety of home types including townhomes, duplexes, and single-family dwellings. Volunteers who participate in the “work camp” are treated to complimentary breakfast and lunch each day, provided by generous donors, and many volunteers who return year after year. 

Basilica teams have been instrumental in helping families achieve their dream of affordable home ownership. Basilica volunteers have also played a significant role in assisting to re-build areas of north Minneapolis that were damaged by the devastating tornado which hit the region several years ago. 

In addition to the “work camp” week, each month a crew comes together to work on a home. This dedicated group has worked on homes in both the east and west metro areas and has also pitched-in at the Habitat ReStore in New Brighton. 

Consider this project for a great opportunity to serve with your friends and family in the years to come. For more information please contact Julia

Photo provided by: 
Evan VanHoever
Photo provided by: 
Ben Caduff

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

Our Gospel this Sunday addresses the issue of the “cost of discipleship.”   At the beginning of this Gospel Jesus tells his disciples that: “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”    After telling two brief parables, the first about knowing the cost of building a tower before undertaking this endeavor, and the second about gauging the likelihood of victory before going into battle, Jesus concludes by saying:  “In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciples.”   

What are we to make of these words of Jesus?   Clearly very few of us “hate” our friends and families and/or have renounced all our possessions, and yet we still identify ourselves as followers of Jesus.   Is this a case of selective hearing on our part?    Do we get to choose which words of Jesus to follow and which to ignore?   In response we need to understand that Jesus was using hyperbole to make a point.   We can’t call ourselves his disciples and then live however we want.   Jesus wants us to commit ourselves completely to him.  Nothing is more important than our relationship with him.  We need to let go of anything and everything in our lives that diverts us from that commitment.   

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Wisdom.   It reminds us that God’s ways and thoughts are beyond our comprehension.   “Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends?”  

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Letter of Saint Paul to Philemon.  This is Paul’s shortest letter.  It was written to an individual, Philemon, who was a Christian, and whose slave, Onesimus, had run away.   Onesimus had been converted to Christianity by Paul, and now Paul was sending him back to Philemon with the plea.  “So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.”   This request placed Philemon in a difficult position.  If he didn’t punish Onesimus he could be regarded as “soft” by his peers and by his other slaves.  On the other hand, after Paul’s request, if he punished Onesimus, he could be regarded as not a true Christian.    This brief letter reminds us once again that there is a “cost” to discipleship.

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Many people either ignore or dismiss the words of Jesus in our Gospel today.  Why is this? 
  2. What do you think Christ is asking you to give up to be his disciple? 
  3. Have you ever been in Philemon’s position, where you have had to make a public decision about how to live out your discipleship?   

During this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has spent one Friday a month praying for those who are suffering throughout the world. Today, I watched a video clip of Pope Francis embracing 20 former prostitutes that had been forced into sex trafficking, had escaped, and were now residing in a Catholic Charities Center in Rome. This was part of his “Mercy Fridays.” You could see the tenderness he had for these women, kind of like I imagine that Jesus had for the prostitutes of his time. The Pope embraced them and told them they were loved. He apologized for not praying enough for them and he promised he would pray more for them. He listened to their stories and again told them how much God loves each of them. Then he blessed them and left. It was so touching to see him extend the mercy and love of God to them. I do not know about you, but this Pope constantly amazes me with his compassion and love for our world. I pray for all of us that we could be more like him and more like Jesus to those around us who are truly suffering.

For the past several weeks I have been meeting with folks who are interested in learning more about Catholicism. These people will make the journey through RCIA this year. Some will choose to become Catholic, while others will choose to move on. It is beautiful to hear their stories of their faith journeys thus far and what has brought them to this point in their lives. One thing I am sure of is that their faith is important to them. And they truly care about being the best people they can in this world no matter what path they take. I ask for your prayers this coming year as they prayerfully discern God’s call in their lives.  I do hope you get to meet them during the year. 

Many of us in my generation and the one after are attending Church regularly and have been for awhile. But many of us have not had any faith formation since the last time we attended CCD classes or religious education when we were in eighth grade, maybe twelfth grade. We tend to just go through the motions of our worship each Sunday without thinking about what we are doing and what the rituals throughout the Mass really mean. That is why we are beginning a new series this fall called, “Seeing with New Eyes: Rediscovering My Faith.” This program is for those who would like to revisit the basics of their faith in a six-week series. Some of the topics we will consider are: our image of God, our image of Church, what Vatican Council II has done for our church, scripture, and the sacraments. You might just discover some of the more beautiful truths of our faith. Postcards are in the pews during the next couple of weeks. Please take one and register for this series. If you would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact me at the parish office. 

We are all gearing up for a full fall lineup of events and programs that we hope will be fulfilling and nourishing to your spirit. A reminder to all: we are still moving through the Year of Mercy so some of our programming will reflect that intention. We ask that you prayerfully continue to live out God’s mercy to all whom you meet. We all need God’s mercy. Let us be generous to a fault with it in the coming days. 

In the early 1900’s, not that long ago really, my great grandparents immigrated to America from Europe.  They came here with few possessions but big dreams of the opportunities that their new home might give to their children.  As a parent I can imagine the fear of the unknown they felt in coming to a new place so far away from their homeland, but also their hope that everything that they had heard about the great United States was true.  That this was the land where their children would be able to grow up and work towards whatever goals they set for themselves.  Instead of being limited by poverty or an oppressive government, where the choices are few. 

I saw that same hope in the family of refugees that a group of Basilica parishioners welcomed to Minnesota in February.    They had been living in a refugee camp for over 20 years but their hope had not been extinguished.  They knew that they had been given a precious opportunity and they were ready to make the most of it.   The nervousness on their faces when they arrived at the airport was transformed to smiles when they saw the group gathered to greet them waving both American and Somali flags.  

When the Basilica mentor group that I was a part of had our first meeting with them to get introduced, we asked what their goals were in their new home country.  All of the children in the family talked about getting an education and helping to support their family.  They are close knit family.  The two older sons protective of their parents and younger sisters, and the parents nervous about getting settled and being able to make ends meet in a place where they still had so much to figure out. 

The four members of the Basilica mentor team along with the families’ case worker and other staff from Lutheran Social Services kept in touch via email, keeping each other up to date on how the family members were doing and discussing the different needs they had.  We worked together to help them explore and become familiar with their new home.  While they came from a very different world than the US I had a glimpse of just how much young people, from any means, gravitate towards a common love of music and social media.  On a trip to the library to get library cards the “kids” (ages 14-21) had the opportunity to have some computer time.  While they needed a little assistance to start using the keyboard they were all four soon logged onto either YouTube or sites with music videos and totally immersed in the experience with their respective earphones on.  On a family trip to Como Park both parents and kids delighted in the animals they were seeing for the first time.  The parents were pointing out antelope and bison that were similar to those they had known back in Somalia, their homeland, although the children have never seen it having been born in the Kenyan refugee camp. 

The family decided in June to move to southern MN to be closer to family members, but I know that having been a small part of their journey was an amazing gift for me.  I understand better now my history, the great amount of courage it took for my family members to journey to the US from so far away to make a better life, not only for their own children but for generations to come.  We are truly blessed to be able to live here and to have the opportunity to pay it forward and share the American dream with others.  

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

In our Gospel this Sunday we are told that Jesus noticed how those who had been invited to a dinner “were choosing places of honor at the table,”.  In response to this he told a parable about places of honor at a wedding banquet.   After the parable Jesus suggested that “When you hold a lunch or a dinner do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have no repayment.  Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.”   

In these words, Jesus was not inviting us to feign humility.   Rather I think he was inviting us to engage in humble service of those around us, most particularly the poor and lowly.    An axiom attributed to James Forbes, the pastor of Riverside Church in New York City is: “Nobody gets to heaven without a letter of reference from the poor!”   The humble service we provide those in need is really a measure of our discipleship. 

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Sirach.   It shares the theme of the Gospel.   It exhorts us:  “My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.  Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.”    

In our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the Letter to the Hebrews.   It is composed of two very long sentences.   The opening sentence refers to the Jewish people gathering with Moses on Mount Sinai.   This image is contrasted in the second sentence to the heavenly Jerusalem, where we will be gathered with “God the judge of all” and “Jesus the mediator of a new covenant.”    

Questions for Discussion/Reflection:

  1. Why are the poor so important to Jesus?
  2. Why is our concern for the poor so important?
  3. What’s your image of the heavenly Jerusalem?   

A few weeks ago on the Friday evening of the Block Party, I got home a little after 10:00pm and being too wound up to go to bed, I turned on the television and read the paper. As I was flipping through the channels to see if there was anything worth watching, I came across an old episode of Perry Mason that was just starting. For those of you too young to remember, Perry Mason was a television show that ran from the late 50’s to the mid 60’s. The title character played a fictional attorney, who always got the charges (almost always a murder charge) against his client dropped. The show brought back a wave of nostalgia that swept over me. When I was growing up, watching Perry Mason was kind of a right of passage. It meant that you were too old for cartoons and were ready for more adult things. 

As I watched Perry Mason that night, not only did it bring back memories, but I was also struck by the fact that it was in black and white. I suspect at some point they switched to a color format, but this must have been one of the earlier shows. As I reflected on this, it occurred to me that being in black and white was especially appropriate for Perry Mason. In the show there were good guys and bad guys, and there was never any argument about who was who. The good guys always triumphed and the bad guys were always exposed and punished. 

While there are times today when I would like to go back to that black and white world, the reality is that life was not and still isn’t that simple. Rarely are our motives and intentions entirely pure, and there always seem to be mitigating circumstances to explain inappropriate words and actions. Moreover, I think that seldom do people set out to deliberately do something wrong or bad. Rather we end up making bad choices that often have a negative impact on others. Sadly too, sometimes inappropriate words and actions follow from misunderstanding someone else’s words or actions, or misinterpreting a situation. 

Now certainly there are some things that are always clearly and demonstrably wrong. Taking an innocent life is always wrong. We can’t pretend otherwise. I have come to believe, though, that there are shades and hues in most of our behaviors and words that aren’t immediately obvious. And if we take the time to recognize and appreciate this we would be far more understanding and far more forgiving of others and of ourselves. 

The above is something I have been working on for a while now. Some days I think I am making good progress, but then I will find myself falling back into being judgmental or intolerant. I suspect it will be this way until the day I die. 

Living in a black and white world certainly can make our life easier, but that is not the world we live in. And so, while I suspect there will always be times when I struggle to understand another individual’s as well as my own actions. I trust that the God who created me knows my struggles, accepts my failings, forgives my sins, and continues to love me and all of us in spite of everything.

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

This Sunday’s Gospel opens with someone asking Jesus:  “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”  Jesus, as often is the case, doesn’t answer the question directly.  Instead he told a parable about the master of a house who, after locking the door for the night, refused to open it when someone knocked and said:  “Lord, open the door for us.”   In replay the master said:  “I do not know where you are from.”  And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in in our streets.’ Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.  Depart from me you evildoers.’”    Jesus closes with the words:  “And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.  For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”    

What are we to make of Jesus words in this Sunday’s Gospel?   Well I think they tell us three things.   1.  Despite what some people would suggest, there is no set number of people who will be saved.   2. A passing familiarity with Jesus isn’t enough to assure salvation.   We are called to know Jesus, not just know about Jesus.   3.  There is an amazing breadth and depth to God’s salvific will.  People from every corner of the earth will be offered a place at the table in the kingdom of God --- perhaps surprising those who thought their place at the table was assured.       

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.  Like the Gospel reading it speaks of God’s universal salvific will.   “They shall bring all your brothers and sisters from all the nations as an offering to the Lord…………….”

We continue to read from the Letter to the Hebrews for our second reading this Sunday.  In this Sunday’s section we are reminded that discipline from God is not a bad thing.   “My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines:”  When speaking of discipline, it is important to remember that discipline and discipleship both share the same root.   It is through self discipline that we become disciples.  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. In the Gospel Jesus doesn’t answer the question as to how many will be saved.   Why do you think this is?  
  2. It is one thing to know about Jesus.  It is another to know Jesus.  How does one come to know Jesus?  
  3. What “discipline(s)” have helped you to be a better disciple? 

Last spring a group of parishioners from the Basilica met with Jim Marx to hear about his work on the desert migrant trails.  Jim and his wife, Maureen, are part of No More Deaths, an entirely volunteer organization founded in 2004 to respond “to a crisis of migrant deaths in the Arizona borderlands . . . as a result of government policies pushing migrants into the most dangerous and remote areas of the border.” 

On their first foray into the desert, they found a man who was so dehydrated that they could not give him water.  Jim said at the sight of the man’s condition, he began to cry.  They alerted Border Patrol about a medical emergency and could only pray they took him to a hospital.   Since 2000 there have been 3,000 recorded deaths in the Sonora desert.

It is almost impossible to cross the desert alone.  On the Mexican side the land is controlled by the drug cartels and migrants have to pay to cross their lands.  Jim said Border Patrol helicopters have been seen deliberately “dusting” groups of migrants to scatter and disorient them.  Once separated from their group and on their own, the migrants have little chance of survival. 

No More Deaths provides water, food and medical aid on private land near Arivaca, Arizona.  Unfortunately, it can be frustrating work as water bottles are regularly slashed and food left in the desert by volunteers is often destroyed.

In addition to their work in the desert, No More Deaths works with individuals on the Mexican side who have been deported.    When our Basilica group visited El Comedor (The Dining Room), a volunteer doctor was there ministering to a mother who was ill while one of our group members held the woman’s baby.  They also convert checks from the detention centers into pesos, because the checks cannot be cashed in Mexico.  Finally, they provide phones so the individuals who have been deported, can contact family.

To learn more about the organization’s work, please go to and follow them on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.   

My grandfather was a professional cyclist. I inherited many pictures of him riding his bike or standing on the winner’s podium. In one photo my grandfather models a hat. He looks quite stunning in his suit, overcoat and hat. A clumsily taped-on note claims that Jules Gurdebeke only wore this one kind of hat. The claim was true. This was indeed the only kind of hat he wore throughout his entire life. But why the note? When asked he admitted that this was an advertising experiment. He claimed he was a reluctant model, advertising his favorite hat. “It is not because I look good in the hat that others will too” he said. And yet, he did it. And he did it well.

I love this picture. I look at it often. The other day I was showing it to my relatives who were visiting from Belgium. All the sudden it struck me that in the same way as my grandfather somewhat reluctantly modeled the hat, I am a reluctant model of the Gospel.

Being a Christian is not always easy, especially today when religion is viewed with suspicion and believers are often considered naïve, antiquarians or worse, extremists. Surely, there are Christian extremists; there are Christians who long for by-gone times; and there are Christians who live a naïve rather than an enlightened faith.

So what are we to do as a community of believers? Do we close our doors and our hearts as we hunker down with like-minded people? Do we allow ourselves to be scared into believing that those who are different from us are intent on destroying us and our cherished traditions? Or do we embrace the reality of our diverse and complicated world and open ourselves up to dialogue and fruitful co-existence?

Our Christian faith commands us to engage in the latter. Fear is not a Christian virtue, neither is fear mongering. We are called to speak of hope and bear witness to love for our message is the message of the Gospel or the “Good News” and not the “Bad News.”

I keep the photo of my grandfather on my desk. It reminds me that though he was a reluctant model of hats, he did it and he did it well. Likewise, though I may be a reluctant messenger of the Gospel, I am called to do it and to do it well. And as I look at my grandfather’s picture I think, Christianity is the hat I wear. Sometimes it fits comfortably, other times it seems too big or too small. Nevertheless, I keep wearing it for it is the only hat I can wear. And like my grandfather, I am fine with others wearing other hats since not everyone looks good in the same hat.