Archives: January 2017

Join us for the 2017 Catholic Services Appeal (CSA) kick-off Sunday, February 5. Archbishop Hebda will be presiding at the 11:30am Mass with Bishop Cozzens and Fr. Bauer, followed by hospitality in the Teresa of Calcutta Hall on the Lower Level. (Please note, it is not necessary to RSVP for the Mass.)

The mission of the Catholic Services Appeal Foundation is to work with each of the parishes of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis to conduct an Annual Appeal to fund 17 collective Catholic ministries within the Archdiocese that no one parish can support on its own. 

Make a gift to the 2017 Catholic Services Appeal Foundation

Please contact CSA with questions at 612.294.6622



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

“Pass the salt, please.”   How often do we use those words in a given week?   I suspect that even those who are trying to cut down on their salt intake still use these words a fair amount of the time.   Salt is perhaps the most common seasoning.  It is an inexpensive way to give zest and flavor to whatever it is added.  

In our Gospel today for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells his disciples that they are “salt of the earth” and “light of the world.”   In these familiar words Jesus reminds his disciples that they are to live in such a way as to have an impact on the world around them.   Jesus is clear.  No one “lights a lamp and then puts it under a bushel basket;  it is set on a lampstand, where is gives light to all in the house.”   But we aren’t to be “salt” and “light” so that others will think highly of us.   Rather we are to be salt and light so that people “may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly father.”   

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.    In it Isaiah exhorts the people to “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own.  Then your light will shine forth like the dawn.”    Clearly being a “light” requires some concrete and specific actions, not just good thoughts.   

Our second reading this weekend again comes from the first letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.    In it Paul tells the people of Corinth that he “did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom …….... so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom, but on the power of God.”  

Questions for discussion/reflection:

  1. When have you been salt or light to those around you?
  2. When has someone been salt or light to you?   
  3. When has your faith been encouraged not by someone’s words, but by someone’s actions?  
Interior Cross Image

Call for Art Submissions

The Basilica of Saint Mary invites visual artists to submit images of art that reflects the interior or exterior of the historic Basilica of Saint Mary by July 1, 2017. The original art may be any medium including sculpture, painting, drawing, textile, photograph, etc.

A distinguished panel of judges from the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, the Vatican Museums, local artists, and The Basilica of Saint Mary will review the art submissions. Selected pieces will be curated for exhibit in The Basilica’s Pope John XXIII Gallery in addition to being featured in the Basilica’s publications including the annual calendar and award-winning BASILICA Magazine. 

“The Basilica wants to reach out to the talented artist community to recognize artists for original work that speaks to the beauty of The Basilica,” said Johan van Parys, director of liturgy and sacred arts at The Basilica. “Our mission calls us to be a center for the arts in our community and we want to embrace and engage artists.”

Please submit high resolution images (300dpi) of each art piece with an artist statement and contact information to Kathy. For files larger than 12MB please email a file sharing link. Upon selection artist will be contacted to view the original artwork. 


“Let’s go and pray.” Inevitably, these were Sister Eusebia’s words shortly after we greeted one another. She knew the world was in great need of prayer and rather than spend our time in idle chat she was convinced that time spent in prayer was much more valuable.

Sister Eusebia was a Dominican nun who lived in Cologne. I visited her every time I went to the city. She had a beautiful smile and was always joyous and welcoming. Together, we prayed for her sisters in Cologne and abroad. We prayed for the Pope and his intentions. We prayed for the Church. And we prayed for the needs of the world in a rather general way. 

One day I suggested that we should pray for actual needs. “Like what?” she asked. I suggested she read the newspaper before praying. She mentioned she would give it a go. When I saw her next she had stopped reading the newspaper because there was just too much anger in people, she said. So she continued to pray for all the needs of the world in general, but added a prayer for all those whose heart was hardened by anger. 

A couple of weeks ago the newspaper posted the pictures of four young people who tortured a teenager and streamed it online. I was struck by the anger in their faces. It made me think of Sister Eusebia who has long since passed. She was right. We are indeed bombarded with the reality of endless reports of anger and violence in our homes, in our cities, in our countries and throughout the world. And we are verbally assaulted by people literally shouting at one another or doing it virtually through harsh Facebook posts and brassy tweets. Anger and fear are at the basis of all of this. And as we know, anger begets more anger resulting in an endless spiral of violence.

The kind of anger our world suffers from is not limited to any specific group of people. We witness anger between people of different races, religions, classes, genders, sexualities, political affiliations, etc. Anger appears to be pervasive. And often, this anger goes hand in hand with the most extreme forms of individualism, even bordering on narcissism. We are on a very precipitous and dangerous path. 

This surely is not the path of Jesus and it cannot be the path of a Christian or any follower of God. The readings for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time make this very clear. They stand in sharp contrast to the un-holy ways of our world.

First, the prophet Zephaniah states that the people of God are humble. They seek justice. They do no wrong and speak no lies. They are honest and honorable. And they take refuge in the name of the LORD.

Second, Saint Paul, in the first letter to the Corinthians tells us that “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something.”

Third, Saint Matthew counts among the blessed those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who are merciful, those who are clean of heart, those who are peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. 

These are challenging words. They are almost revolutionary ideas. And yet, this is how we are called to live. So, let us join Sister Eusebia who now prays for us in heaven. Let us pray for our own conversion and for a conversion of heart of those who are chained by anger. Then, emboldened by fervent prayer, let us take up Pope Francis’ challenge and unleash a revolution of love and tenderness on our broken world. For as we know, in the end love always prevails.


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

“It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with cancer that I realized how many people loved me.”   A former parishioner said these words when I visited him in the hospital many years ago.   While no one enjoys it when bad things happen to them, these situations often do help people realize how much their family and friends care for them.  Given this, in a certain sense, perhaps they could be regarded as a blessing.       

In our Gospel this Sunday for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we read Matthew’s account of the Beatitudes. (Matthew’s account of the Beatitudes differs from Luke’s in that in Matthew’s account has 9 blessings, while Luke’s account contains 4 blessings and 4 woes.)   While the Beatitudes are very poetic and beautiful, if we’re honest I suspect that if we didn’t know they were the words of Jesus, most of us would regard them as illogical or even absurd.   Who would believe that those who experience the conditions mentioned in the Beatitudes are “blessed?”   In the Beatitudes, though, Jesus suggests that these are qualities of his disciples.  As importantly, while these conditions are not of themselves occasions of grace, Jesus is clear that, in them, his disciples can find and know God’s grace and love.

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of the Prophet Zephaniah.   We don’t often read from Zephaniah, who was a prophet during the 7th Century B.C.E.   In today’s reading, Zephaniah exhorts the Israelites to remain faithful to the Lord, to observe the law, and to seek justice and humility that they “may be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.”     

Our second reading this weekend is once again taken from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.   In it Paul echoes the theme of the Gospel when he tells the people of Corinth “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something……...” 

Questions for discussion/reflection:

1.  When have you discovered a blessing in what was originally a misfortune?
2.  Which of the Beatitudes speaks most clearly to you?  
3.  Why is God so fond of the lowly and meek?   

University of Minnesota, Humphrey School of Public Affairs fellows will share their perspectives and experiences working with refugees. 

Join us for a panel discussion about the journey of refugees and immigrants. 

Sunday, January 22, 11:00am
Cowley Center, Basilica Campus

  • Mirette Bahgat from Egypt will speak about her work with Syrian refugees in Egypt with Save the Children.  
  • Floro Balato, Jr. from the Philippines has extensive experience in the detection and prevention of human smuggling and trafficking in the Philippines
  • Esmatullah Sahebdil from Afghanistan was the Policy and Planning Advisor for the Ministry of Refugees and Returnees in Afghanistan. 



Just before Christmas, Fr. Welch, one of our weekend presiders, sent me an email that contained a picture that had been published in several newspapers. The picture was that of a 21-week-old unborn baby named Samuel Alexander Armas. The baby was being operated on by a surgeon named Joseph Bruner. The reason for the surgery was that the baby had been diagnosed with spina bifida and would not survive if removed from his mother's womb. Samuel’s mother, Julie Armas, is an obstetrics nurse in Atlanta, and had heard of Dr. Bruner’s remarkable surgical procedure—a procedure in which Dr. Bruner performs these special operations while the baby is still in the womb. 

During the operation, the doctor removed the uterus via C-section and made a small incision to operate on the baby. As Dr. Bruner completed the surgery on Samuel, the baby reached his tiny, but fully developed hand through the incision and firmly grasped the surgeon’s finger. Dr. Bruner was reported as saying that when his finger was grasped, it was the most emotional moment of his life, and that for an instant during the procedure he was just frozen, totally immobile. 

The photograph that accompanied the email captured this amazing event with perfect clarity. The editors titled the picture, “Hand of Hope.” The text explaining the picture began, “The tiny hand of 21-week-old fetus Samuel Alexander Armas emerges from his mother’s uterus to grasp the finger of Dr. Joseph Bruner as if thanking the doctor for the “gift of life.” Samuel’s mother said they “wept for days” when they saw the picture. She said; “The photo reminds us pregnancy isn't about disability or an illness, it’s about a little person. Samuel was born in perfect health, the operation 100 percent successful.”

Now I mention the above because this Sunday, January 22 we celebrate the 44th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. And while many herald this anniversary as a once and for all victory for those who advocate abortion rights, I have to ask, whether in light of the changes in the care we can now offer during pregnancy, and especially given the fact that we can operate on a child while it is still in the uterus, isn’t it time we revisit the issue of abortion? 

I think it is time for us to advance the discussion 44 years and look at the issue of abortion with fresh eyes and open hearts, and not allow it to be discussed simply as a private matter involving freedom of choice. At a minimum and as a starting point, the many advances in medical science demand that we raise and respond to the vital question of when life begins. 

Now, from our Catholic perspective the answer to the above question is clear. Life begins at conception. From our perspective, human life is a precious gift from God. Each person who receives this gift has the responsibility to protect and nurture human life at every stage of its existence. This belief flows from ordinary reason and from our faith’s consistent witness that life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception. 

Legalized as a private act, abortion remains a very public issue. As such it deserves a new discussion, not one that is 44 years old. As Catholics, as people who are pro-life, I think we need to take the lead in this discussion. In doing so, we need the courage and honesty to speak the truth about human life. We need the humility to listen to both friends and opponents. We need the perseverance to continue the struggle for the protection of human life. And we need to ask God for the prudence and grace to know when and how to do all of this. 

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

In our Gospel this Sunday we read Matthew’s account of the call of the first disciples.   We are told that: “As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting their nets into the sea; …………He said to them, “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.’  At once they left their nets and followed him.  He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the Son of Zebedee, and his brother John,………..He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.”   

There are two things to note in the call of these disciples. First, notice the immediacy of the disciples’ response.  There was no hesitancy or questions.   Such must have been the power of Jesus’ presence that they responded without hesitation to his call.   Second, notice that they left everything behind to follow Jesus.   Now despite the immediacy of the disciples initial response to Jesus, we know that later they did have some questions and reservations.  In this, they serve as a reminder that for most of us the decision to follow Jesus is seldom made once and for all, but needs to be made again and again and again.  

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.   It was chosen because it contains a prophecy about the restoration of the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali.  These lands are also referenced in the opening verses of today’s Gospel.   We believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophecy of Isaiah.  

For the next several weeks our second reading will be taken from the first Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians.   In the section we read today, Paul pleads for unity among the people of Corinth “so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.”    

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. When have you heard the call of God in your life?
  2. Looking back, can you see where you were too preoccupied or busy, and may have missed God’s call? 
  3. Why is unity (not uniformity) so important in the Christian community? 

This past All Souls day, I spent some time reflecting on those family members and friends who had died these past few years. I then commended them to God in prayer. In some cases their lives were long and full, and there was much to remember and celebrate. In other cases their passing—at least from my perspective—occurred too soon. There was much that was left unsaid and undone. 

As I continued to reflect on the lives of those people who had touched my life and whose passing occurred much too soon, I found myself feeling not just sad, but also a little irritated. I couldn’t get out it of my mind that they had died before their time. As I continued to pray, though, suddenly two thoughts occurred to me almost at the same time. 

The first was something the Irish pastor I worked with for six years used to say. Specifically he would say: “Sometimes the Lord uses poor sense.” This was his standard response when something happened that he didn’t understand or that seemed nonsensical. I think it was his Irish was of saying that God’s ways are not our ways. And the surprising thing was that once he said it, he was able to let go of whatever it was he couldn’t understand. It was as if having given voice to his lack of understanding, that was all he needed to do. He could let it go and move on. 

The second thought that occurred to me as I prayed were the simple words: “Remember the Blessings.” While I had been caught up in the sadness of loss, these words reminded me that I needed to focus instead on the blessings these people had been in my life. Now in saying this I don’t think I was being called to deny or try to block out the sadness I was feeling. Instead I also needed to remember the blessings these people had been in my life, and then let the healing balm of those blessings sooth and console me. And when I was able to do this, I did find comfort and consolation. 

When we encounter situations that are painful, sad or difficult, we need to remember that God’s ways are not our ways. It is not for us to understand the ways and work of God in this lifetime. Sometimes we will just need to acknowledge and accept this. At these times it may help us to say as my Irish pastor did that: “Sometimes the Lord uses poor sense.” Additionally, though, when we encounter situations that are painful, sad or difficult, it can be helpful to “Remember the Blessings.” The memory of the blessings we have experienced and enjoyed can bring healing and hope to the sometimes difficult and painful situations we encounter. 

In this lifetime none of us can escape having to deal with situations that are painful, sad and difficult. Accepting the fact that we don’t have to understand them and remembering that even in these situations there are blessings that can help us move forward in faith and hope, trusting in our God’s grace and great love. 

Three people passing blessings forward 

From BASILICA Magazine Fall 2016, The Spiritual Works of Mercy—Practicing mercy in our lives

We are often told “be the best you can be.” But can we go it alone and be the best possible person? Scripture calls us to admonish one another, yet hold each other up. Bob Christenson and David Erb have been busy doing just that. Since playing high school football and hockey together, Bob and Dave have been friends, but not continuously connected. Interestingly, it was through some suffering that they came back together. Now they use the blessings they received to pass it forward.

Bob and Dave attended Highland Park Catholic School in St. Paul; they became fast friends, playing sports including football and hockey. Dave states their parents were friends and basically interchangeable. Both of the mothers were church-going, rosary-praying women. Bob will tell you his success can be tied directly to his parents, his father, a teacher, and his mother who partnered in raising the 11 children, instilling the importance of a faith-filled life with gifts of hope, centered in love. His father studied with him nightly making sure he could pass high school. With his dad’s encouragement, Bob overcome the struggles of dyslexia long before it was a diagnosed condition. Through hard work and parental support, he got into college and eventually medical school. When Bob speaks of his wife, he says he would not be here if not for her. After retiring from a wonderful career, Bob wanted to pass on the blessings he received. He chose to become a volunteer at The Basilica’s Outreach Program.

Dave’s story takes him to college and 18 years in the Army Reserves. He worked as an Engineering Manager at Lockheed Martin before retiring. After retirement he decided to head home to Minnesota. He will tell you his life had turned into a wreck; he drank hard, stumbling back, barely able to carry his luggage.

The story between the two friends is a journey through recovery. Thirty eight years ago Bob Christenson found it. Six years ago he helped Dave embark on his path to sobriety. Dave will tell you that Bob saved his life; that was the beginning of a strong bond, rooted in the past with a focus on the future, a reconnection that would help others. When asked, they will tell you their friendship is built on history, but mutual respect is what helps keep it centered. Bob and Dave have nothing to hide from each other. That means there’s been a time or two when one had to get in the other’s face; calling him out to be the best he can be.
Dave was on the way to the liquor store when Bob and a few others called him to a lunch meeting. They sternly told him it was time; time to get his life in order. Dave says it was a unbelievable miracle that he never made it to the liquor store that day and has not had another drink. Life isn’t always smooth in recovery. There have been bumps in the road for Bob. But then he remembers to slow down. Sometimes while driving his car! But typically to remind himself he doesn’t always have to be first. He works on being present, focusing on his emotional sobriety, whichhelps maintain his chemical sobriety.

It wasn’t enough for Bob and Dave to help each other. They felt the need to help others and have done so through the Outreach Program at The Basilica. As they worked on their recovery and their outreach they have encountered others with similar struggles. One of those people was Brenda Winder. Brenda was in recovery after being homeless, a drug and alcohol abuser estranged from her family.

With the help of the gentlemen, Brenda joined the Next Step program. With a bit more than a gentle push from many people including Mary Beth Chapel from Next Step, Brenda eventually agreed to become a volunteer. Early on she helped set up for the Thursday morning Outreach meetings. Later on, Brenda was trained as an advocate for the homeless. Brenda connects with others by sharing her past, which helps participants in the program.

All three can tell you what Proverbs 11:25 says, “Whoever brings blessings will be enriched and one who waters will himself be watered.” The blessings they have received are countless. Brenda is no longer homeless, she has advanced her education at MCTC and most importantly she has reconnected with her family. Brenda proudly states she is a grandmother who cherishes time she spends with her grandchildren.

Brenda gives credit to Bob and Dave. She says the two don’t mince words when it comes time to admonish. They praise her progress and also let her know when she needs to improve. She appreciates their honesty and continues to do more than just agree to disagree. She takes action when they let her know it’s best. She also gives credit to Mary Beth for keeping her on the right path.

The key to the success for all seems to be community. Without support and encouragement from others along the way, the walk would be more difficult. Walking a difficult journey with someone beside you can make each step more bearable. Knowing others are pulling for you helps keep things in perspective.

Brenda will tell you that Dave and Bob let her know she was worth it. She says she now has hope and that is a wonderful thing. Dave is proud to say that he was able to tell his mother he had come back to the Church and quit drinking before she passed a few years ago. They will all tell you it is blessings that each one of them get from the other. Blessings Repeated. 


Judy Ring is a wife, mother, grandmother, and volunteer who works at Xcel Energy as an Account Manager. She is a member of the finance committee and Spiritual Gifts Team at The Basilica.


Basilica Magazine Fall 2016