Archives: December 2019

The Promise of Eternal Life

During this past Advent, I got up one Sunday morning around 4:00am to pray and get ready for the day. (Since I am not a morning person, my rule is that I need to get up three hours before I have to talk.) After a cup of coffee (half decaf – half regular), I settled in to pray Morning Prayer. After I prayed the psalms and canticle, and reflected on the reading, I started to read the intercessions. The first three were fine, but when I read the fourth one I was somewhat taken aback. I thought it said: “You are praised throughout the ages; in your mercy help us to live devoutly and temporarily in this life, as we wait in joyful hope for the revelation of your glory.” I read it again, and then again. The third time through, I realized the word was temperately, not temporarily. I had to laugh at myself for my malapropism, as I realized I wasn’t as awake/alert as I thought I was. 

Later that evening, I reflected a bit on my inadvertent substitution of temporarily for temperately. It dawned on me that perhaps there was a message for me in my malapropism. As I continued to reflect it occurred to me how easy it is for me to focus almost exclusively on what is right in front of me and forget that this life is not the end, that there is more. Our existence in this world is not all there is. It is temporary. At every Mass in the embolism the priest says after the Our Father we are reminded that “we live in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” These words call us to remember and believe that as good and blessed as this world is, it is temporary. There is something more. There is the promise and hope of eternal life. 

Now certainly it is our sure and certain hope that our faith offers us the promise of eternal life. At times, though, it is easy to let this belief fade into the background, as we focus our time and attention exclusively on this world. For the vast majority of us, I don’t think this is intentional. Rather, sometimes the tasks and challenges of this world not only distract us, but can engulf us and cause us to lose focus of what ultimately matters. At these times, it is good to remember that while this world offers us many blessings, ultimately it is temporary and transitory. Our final destination is heaven. 

As Christians, we are called to live devoutly and temperately in this life. We do this because we realize that this life is temporarily, and that ultimately we hope to share eternal life with our God. The hope of heaven should both challenge and incentivize us to live in such a way in this temporary and passing life, so that we never lose our focus on the life to come. 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/010520.cfm 
 
For several years I have gotten together with a group of friends during the month of January for a “mini” retreat at a cabin in northern Wisconsin.   One of the things that amazes me anew each year is the clarity and brightness of the stars at night.   When you get away from the illumination of the lights of the cities, the stars seem to shine with brighter clarity and brilliance.  I suspect this is an experience we all have had.   
 
This memory came back to me as I looked at our readings this weekend for the Solemnity of the Epiphany.   Our Gospel this weekend is the familiar story of the visit of the Magi (who were Gentiles) to the new born Christ child.   This story, which is found only in the Gospel of Matthew, reminds us that Christ was born as savior of all people, no exceptions, no exclusions, no restrictions.   
 
As we read this Gospel, it is interesting to note the details that are not included in it, but have been added over the years.   The Magi have been promoted to Kings.   We have identified their number as three.  And we have even given them names.   
 
Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.    It is a description of the city of Jerusalem that awaits the returning exiles.  It reminds them that “upon you the Lord shines and over you appears his glory. Nations shall walk by your light and kings by your shining radiance.”   
 
The second reading for this weekend is taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians.  It reinforces the message of the Gospel and reminds us that “the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise of Christ Jesus through the Gospel.”   
 
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
 
  1. The revelation of a star guided the Magi.  When have you ever received a revelation that guided you in your life?
  2. If Jesus is the savior of all people, what would you say to those people who want to limit the number of those who will be saved?
  3. What do you need to do to let the light of Christ shine in you that you might lead others to Christ?   

We are so grateful for your financial support throughout the year. As we approach the end of 2019, please consider making a special Christmas gift to The Basilica.

Donate now online

 

In order to receive tax-deduction credit for 2019, checks must be postmarked by Tuesday, December 31. Online gifts need to be received by midnight on December 31. The Basilica offices are closed on December 31 and  January 1.
 

If you need assistance with a year-end gift:

December 26-30: contact Char Myhre

December 31: call Audra Johnson at 612.328.3486 (cell). 

World Day of Peace_Dove

Peace as a Journey of Hope

As we approach the year 2020, it seems important to stop and reflect on life. How is it going? Am I living the way I yearn to live—loving my God and my neighbor? Are we, as a society, organizing ourselves as Jesus directed—respecting the dignity of all, making decisions for the common good, offering special consideration to those who are most vulnerable?

I take seriously the call of our faith to participate in the pubic arena: In prayer, informed about current events and formed in faith, I seek to engage—to transform society in light of the Gospel of love. 

Yet, it is hard not to become weary. 

Each year, on January 1st, our Pope offers a message to celebrate World Day of Peace. Speaking to the deepest need of our shared humanity, he addresses realities of the day, through the lens of faith. 

In this year’s World Day of Peace message, Pope Francis offers profound hope, even as he articulates the broken and divided world in which we live. His message describes peace as a journey to be undertaken in a spirit of dialogue, reconciliation and ecological conversion. 

Pope Francis affirms that our lives are deeply damaged when we are subjected to conflict, violence or hate in any form. Personally, we are wounded. Collectively we are scarred. “Our human community bears, in its memory and its flesh, the scars of ever more devastating wars and conflicts….The terrible trials of internal and international conflicts…have enduring effects on the body and soul of humanity.”

Pope Francis describes a cycle of fear and division we are all subject to. “War…often begins with the inability to accept the diversity of others, which then fosters attitudes of aggrandizement and domination born of selfishness and pride, hatred and the desire to caricature, exclude and even destroy the other.” 

This cycle of fear and destruction can be self-perpetuating. “Mistrust and fear weaken relationships and increase the risk of violence, creating a vicious circle that can never lead to a relationship of peace.”

Pope Francis asks, “How do we undertake a journey of peace and mutual respect? How do we break the unhealthy mentality of threats and fears? How do we break the current dynamic of distrust?”

To frame these questions, Pope Francis states: Peace is a journey of hope in the face of obstacles and trial. “Hope is the virtue that inspires us and keeps us moving forward, even when obstacles seem insurmountable.”

We must identify and overcome our fears. We must shatter the culture of conflict through encounters with diversity. We must pray and repent of our own failures, finding healing and wholeness.

As we journey through these transformations, we will find hope. We will send ripples of compassion into our community. Together, we will find courage to speak boldly, in love, to power.

“The journey of reconciliation calls for patience and trust. Peace will not be obtained unless it is hoped for.” 

Just in time to move into 2020, we are reminded of God’s incredible love, forgiveness and steadfast presence. Pope Francis prays, “May the God of peace bless us and come to our aid.”

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/122919.cfm  

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family.   Our Gospel this Sunday occurs just after the visit of the Magi to the new born Christ child.   We are told that “When the Magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you.  Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him’”    Joseph did as he was told and “took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.”    They remained in Egypt until Herod died.    

This Gospel and the one we read on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, tell us almost all of what we know about St. Joseph.   While the information is scant, it is clear that Joseph was a man of great faith who was open to God’s will in his life even though he may not always have understood that will.   

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Sirach.   It was chosen because it and our second reading this Sunday from the Letter of St. Paul to the Colossians, talk about the virtues of family life.   In Sirach we read:  “God sets a father in honor over his child, a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.”   And in St. Paul’s letter we read:  “Put on as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.  And over all these put on love,”

Clearly all three readings this Sunday extol the values of family and the virtues we are called to display as followers of Jesus Christ. 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Families today come in all shapes and sizes.   What do you think defines a family?  
  2. I have a friend who has several children, now all adults.   When her children were growing she used to quip that “Of course, it was easy for Mary and Joseph to be the Holy Family.  They only had one child, and he was perfect.”    What makes a family holy?  
  3. What is the biggest obstacle to families being holy? 

Plan to celebrate this joyous time of year at The Basilica of Saint Mary. The music, liturgy, and community create a special Christmas experience for all who pass through our doors. 

Please plan accordingly for parking and accessibility.  There is ample free parking in the lot under I-94 and in the MCTC ramp. 

Christmas Vigil  

Tuesday, December 24
3:00pm  Vigil Eucharist organ, cantor, Cathedral Choristers, Children’s Choir and Cherubs, oboe*
              
Celebrant: Archbishop Bernard Hebda
5:30pm  Vigil Eucharist Mundus & Juventus
8:00pm  Vigil Eucharist piano, cantor, flute, cello

Christmas Midnight  
ASL Interpreted beginning with Choral Music at 11:00PM

10:30pm  Prelude Music for Christmas harp
11:00pm  Meditation Music  Cathedral Choir, organ, harp, flute
11:30pm  Vigil of Lights organ, Cathedral Choir
Midnight  Solemn Eucharist organ, Cathedral Choir, brass, harp                                               

Christmas Day
Wednesday, December 25
7:30am  Eucharist at Dawn organ, cantor, violin
9:30am  ASL Interpreted
             
Solemn Eucharist organ, choir, brass, strings,
              
Celebrant: Archbishop Bernard Hebda                   

Noon      Solemn Eucharist organ, choir, brass, strings
4:30pm   Festive Eucharist music from around the world

 

*The Archbishop has given permission to celebrate the Vigil Masses starting at 3:00pm.

This Great Gift

Many years ago an older man from a neighboring parish came to see me. He was distraught and troubled. He said, “Father, one of the priests at my parish told me I that my hands weren’t clean enough to receive communion, and that I should come back after I had washed them. Father, I’m a mechanic, and I work with my hands. I did wash them, but apparently they weren’t clean enough.” He then showed me his hands. He concluded by saying: “I didn’t mean to be disrespectful. Did I do something wrong?” His hands were indeed gnarled, and displayed the signs of years of manual labor. They also bore the telltale traces of grease and grime. 

As I looked at the man’s hands, I thought of St. Joseph. As a carpenter his hands must also have been gnarled, and most likely callused and stained from working with wood. And yet they were the same hands that carried and caressed the infant Jesus. They were the same hands that held and hugged Jesus as a child. They were the same hands that guided Jesus’ hands as he learned to use the plane and chisel. And I suspect Jesus held Joseph’s hands as Joseph was dying. With this image in my mind, I talked with the man about St. Joseph’s hands. I told him that Jesus knew that calloused and stained hands were not the measure of a person’s piety or what was in their heart.

I am continually surprised that there are there are many good and well intentioned people who think it is their responsibility and role to publicly determine who can receive communion and/or how they should receive it. Many years ago when I was in the seminary I attended a lecture on Ecumenism. The priest who spoke was not someone who would have been identified as being “liberal.” He was very kind person, though and quite articulate about our Church’s dogmas, doctrines, and teachings. As importantly, he was able to represent our Catholic beliefs well in an Ecumenical dialogue. During the question and answer period following his talk an individual asked when it was appropriate to deny someone communion. The priest’s answer surprised me. He said: “You don’t know what has happened in that person’s life in the last ten minutes. If you have a concern, you mention it privately.” He was clear that publicly refusing to give someone communion is seldom, if ever, appropriate.

We are told that in his life and ministry Jesus associated with tax collectors and sinners. He was also known to spent time with foreigners and other outcasts from society. Jesus also touched lepers and others who had been marginalized or ostracized because of an illness or other physical malady. Jesus was indiscriminate in regard to whom he touched and with whom he spent time. He accepted people as they were, whoever they were.

In addition to hanging around with some questionable people during his life on earth, Jesus continued this practice when he gave us the gift of himself in the Eucharist. It is in and through the Eucharist that Jesus continues to abide with us as individuals and with our Church. None of us is worthy of this great gift. No one earns the right to receive the Eucharist. And no one has the right to determine the worthiness of someone else to receive the Eucharist. 

On the Feast of Christmas, I can’t help but think of St. Joseph holding the infant Jesus immediately after Jesus’ birth. In his callused and stained hands he held the savior of the world. I suspect that Joseph intuitively knew that Jesus wouldn’t object to anyone who held and received him with love and devotion. Like Joseph, may we who hold and receive Jesus today never forget this fundamental and abiding truth.

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
 
When I was a very small child, we lived in a house that had window sills which were just above my sight line.  I remember having to stand on my tiptoes to see out.   This was especially challenging when we were expecting company, because I could only stay on my tiptoes a few minutes at a time.   This memory came back to me when I read our Gospel this Sunday.   I say this because this weekend we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Advent, and in our Gospel this weekend we read “how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.”   Clearly this Gospel calls us to be on “tiptoes of expectation” as we enter the last week before we celebrate the birth of Christ. 
 
Specifically this Gospel tells the story of how Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant, and that an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said:  “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary you wife into your home.   For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.  She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”    In addition to telling us that Jesus conception was of divine origin, this Gospel also reminds us that God is not limited in the way God communicates with us.   God can speak to us in our thoughts, through the movements of our hearts and spirits, through the people and events of our lives, and even through our dreams.   If we are open to it, God has much to say to us.  
 
In our first reading this Sunday we read from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.  In this reading God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, invites the feckless King Ahaz to ask for a sign that he might remember and trust in God’s faithfulness.   Ahaz declines, but God offers a sign anyway.  “Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:  the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”   
 
Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the beginning of the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans.   In it Paul reminds the people that he has been “called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy Scriptures.”  
 
 
Questions for Reflection/Discussion: 
 
 
  1. When have you felt God “communicating” with you?  Was it in your prayer, through other people, through the events of your life, through a dream or?
  2. Ahaz didn’t want to tempt God by asking for a sign, yet God gave him a sign anyway.  Has God ever offered you a sign? 
  3. What do you need to do this last week of Advent to prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ? 

     

During the season of Advent we place a statue of the Blessed Mother at the center of the Advent Wreath in our St. Joseph Chapel. I invite you to visit her during this wonderful season. You will see that this lovely statue depicts Mary, pregnant with the baby Jesus. She has her head slightly bowed and her eyes are closed. There is a faint hint of a smile on her lips. Her hands are folded across her heart. She seems peaceful, humbly yet resolutely accepting her mission to become the Mother of God. I have always wondered what might have gone on under the pious veneer of this statue. What was Mary really doing and thinking while expecting the birth of Jesus.

Advent is said to be the season of waiting. Mary awaiting the birth of her son embodies the kind of waiting we are expected to do. Like Mary’s waiting, Advent waiting is not a passive anticipation for whatever is to come. It is a waiting that is full of hope and expectation. It is a waiting that is marked by some level of consternation and trepidation. And it is a waiting that requires anticipation and preparation. 

And though the kind of waiting is similar, Mary awaited the birth of Jesus while we await his return. For us, the celebration of the birth of Jesus is the anticipation of his return and the fulfilment of the promise he embodies.

During advent we await his promise of light proclaimed to a world spiraling into ever greater darkness. And as we await the fullness of light we must fight the darkness. 
During advent we await his promise of love proclaimed to a world devoured by violence, kindled by rapidly spreading hatred. And as we await the fullness of love we must fight all forms of hatred.

During advent we await his promise of life proclaimed to a world that is consumed by a culture of death and on the brink of ecological collapse. And as we await the fullness of life we must fight the evil forces of death.

Advent is a reminder of our human calling and capacity to embrace light, to foster love and to promote life. However, as human history has proven over and over again these three human and Christian values are not easily attained and come at a cost. So, like Mary who prepared for the birth of her son we need to prepare for his return. We do this with hope and anticipation, preparation and some trepidation. 

As we work together to turn darkness into light; hatred into love and death into life we can be assured that the hope-filled words of the Prophet Isaiah we read on this third Sunday of Advent will be fulfilled: 

“The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.”

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/121519.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the 3rd Sunday of the season of Advent.   Our Gospel this weekend comes in two parts.  In the first section, once again we encounter John the Baptist.   This time, though, John is in prison and will soon face death.   Given this, he is concerned whether Jesus was indeed the “one who is to come.”   At first glance, this question from John may seem strange, but I suspect that as John approached death he wanted to be sure that his mission had not been for naught.   In response, Jesus does not give a yes or no answer.  Instead he said:  “Go and tell John what you hear and see:  the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”   As we will see in our first reading for this weekend, these are all signs of God’s grace and favor --- and a promise of hope for the future. 

In the second section of this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus “began to speak to the crowds about John.”   He concludes by saying:  “Amen I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”  

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.   At the time of this prophecy the Jewish people had been conquered in the north by the Assyrians and in the south by the Babylonians.   Isaiah speaks words of comfort and hope to this conquered people, reminding them there will come a time of vindication when all with see the “glory of the Lord” when God will come “with vindication.”   The signs of the Lord’s return will be the very signs Jesus mentioned in our Gospel today:  “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf will be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.”   

Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the Letter of James.   In it James urges:  “You too must be patient.  Make your hearts firm because the coming of the Lord is at hand.”    While this sentence reflects the early church’s belief that the return of Christ was imminent, it reminds us today that we are called to wait patiently for the Lord’s coming --- whenever that may occur. 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. I suspect there are times for each of us when, like John, we wonder whether our lives are on the right course.   Who do you look to for guidance at these times?
  2. What signs of God’s Kingdom do you see in the world around you?   
  3. How do we wait patiently for the Lord’s coming?     

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