Archives: September 2020

It has always been a mystery to me why some priests and bishops seem to find it necessary to make public statements or make public appearances that align themselves with—or worse—seem to endorse a particular political party or a specific candidate. As leaders in the church our role is to advocate for Catholic values and principles, not to endorse particular parties or candidates. Unfortunately, when you listen to some clerics, it almost seems as if the Catholic Church is a wholly owned subsidiary of one major political party or the other.   
 
As a church we articulate and teach moral rights and principles. We then apply these moral principles to specific issues and situations. It is not an exact science, but it does help people to discern, and inform their consciences as they decide which candidate(s) to support. Unfortunately, because we apply our moral teachings to a wide array of issues, Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. How do we make these difficult choices? 
 
In their 2007 statement: “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”, the bishops of the United States put it this way:  “A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism if the voters intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil.  At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.” (Faithful Citizenship #34)
 
In a later version of Faithful Citizenship, the bishops highlight eleven acts that they say are intrinsically immoral: (1) abortion, (2) euthanasia, (3) human cloning, (4) embryonic stem cell research, (5) genocide, (6) torture, (7) wartime targeting of non-combatants, (8) racism, (9) treating workers as mere ends (e,g. subjecting them to subhuman living conditions), (10) treating the poor as disposable, and (11) same-sex marriage. Numerous voters’ guides put out by various Catholic groups tend to emphasize certain priorities from this list. In point of fact, though, “All the life issues are connected, for erosion of respect for the life of any individual or group in society necessarily diminishes respect for all life. The moral imperative to respond to the needs of our neighbor – basic needs such as food, shelter, health care, education, and meaningful work – is universally binding on our consciences and may be legitimately fulfilled by a variety of means.” (Faithful Citizenship #25)
 
Clearly neither of the major political parties or candidates supports all the moral positions of the Catholic Church in regard to a consistent ethic of life. There is no “perfect fit” for Catholics in regard to a political party or candidate. “There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position, even on policies promoting an intrinsically evil act, may reasonably decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons.” (Faithful Citizenship #35) 
 
So where does this leave us? Well I would suggest four things.  
 
First, everyone, and perhaps most especially Catholics in leadership positions, needs to tone down their rhetoric and turn up their Christian charity. If we are to convince people of the rightness of our beliefs, increasing the volume and invective of our words is not the answer. If our words and actions don’t come from a place of love and respect, it will soon be obvious that treating people, particularly those with whom we disagree, with dignity, decency and respect is not an essential part of our Christian beliefs. I think Jesus would weep at this.  
 
Second, everyone, and perhaps most especially Catholics in leadership positions, need to stop judging others.  In this regard, in a recent homily Cardinal Blasé Cupich of Chicago said: “There should never be a time or a moment in which we judge others and their faith journey and say that a person is not Christian enough or Catholic enough.” Jesus was clear about not judging others. I think we need to take his words seriously.  
 
Third, Catholics need to form their consciences. In regard to conscience The Second Vatican Council was clear: “Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, tells him inwardly at the right moment: do this, shun that.  For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. His dignity lies in observing this law, and by it he will be judged.”  (Pastoral Constitution on The Church in the Modern World #16) 
 
Our conscience, however, is more than just what one thinks or feels at a particular moment.  Our conscience must be formed.  In 2017, Pope Francis speaking in a video message to a conference organized by Italian bishops on his 2016 document on family life, “Amoris Laetitia” said “The contemporary world risks confusing the primacy of conscience, which must always be respected, with the exclusive autonomy of an individual with respect to his or her relations,” Pope Francis also said, though: “priests must inform Catholic consciences but not replace them.” 
 
How does one form a conscience? We do it through prayerful discernment, dialogue with others, study of our church’s teachings, spending time in reflection, and by being open to God’s grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 
 
Fourth, and most importantly, everyone—and perhaps most especially Catholics in leadership positions—needs to pray—and pray long and hard.  I am fond of saying that in my own life I have found that prayer changes things, and the thing that it changes the most is me.  When we pray and are open to God’s grace, we can’t help but be kinder, more charitable, more accepting, more respectful, and especially more loving.  
 
When we inform our consciences, pray, and ask for the guidance of God’s Spirit—and if we are open to that Spirit—I believe we will make wise and good choices when we go to the polls. 
 
 

Many of us mourn the changes, big and small, to our everyday life due to COVID-19. We yearn for a return to “normal” and wonder if that is even possible, much less when. We long for our familiar routines, hugs with friends and family, a return to school, work, and serving, and much more. Many grieve the passing of a loved one. The past few months have altered who we are, both individually and collectively.

In times of change and turmoil, one constant is that God is with us and we are able to share all of these feelings and worries with our loving God. The other constant is our faith community. 

While we have had to adapt, The Basilica is the same in many ways. We offer sandwiches, coffee, and a warm greeting to our neighbors in need. We have beautiful liturgies and insightful homilies, with options for in-person and livestream attendance. We share a variety of prayer services online and offer in-person reconciliation. We celebrate music and sacred art in a variety of forms and origins. We commence another year of religious education for our children and youth, plus an updated, flexible RCIA process to accommodate the needs and timing of our candidates. We accompany the unemployed/underemployed, the grieving, and those struggling with the burdens of life. We are offering thought-provoking programming on faithful citizenship, immigration, mental health, and more. We will even offer a drive-up opportunity to get your fall pumpkins, brought directly to your car.

One of my roles during COVID-19 is to manage the brief check-in and health screening process for guests on campus. I’ve been moved by people’s support, patience, and graciousness as we adapt to a new way of coming to The Basilica—thank you. Many have expressed gratitude for the extra steps we take to welcome you back safely.

It’s been an honor to meet more parish members and visitors, and to hear your stories. People have been visibly moved by the experience of physically returning to their beloved Basilica. Pre-registered Mass visitors from out-of-state are awed by seeing our beautiful building for the first time. We even welcomed a koala stuffed animal (wearing its own custom face mask!), carried by a young girl wearing her Sunday best.

As our times of uncertainty linger, we invite you to engage with your spiritual home, with your Basilica. We proudly continue to be a place of worship, a place of refuge, and a place of peace—seeking the well-being of our city and world.

Windows_noon Mass video

Noon Mass

In our weekly video series "Art That Surrounds Us," Johan van Parys, Ph.D., our Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts, shares information about a piece from The Basilica of Saint Mary's art collection. This week's installment, in honor of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 14, features information about our processional Icon Cross, created by our iconographer Deb Korluka.

 

 

Sacred Heart of Jesus stained glass window

Our Sins Have Been Forgiven

“It shouldn't be that easy.”  Those are the very words an individual spoke several years just after I prayed the words of absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. “It shouldn't be that easy.”

On the one hand this person was right, of course. From our human perspective, the forgiveness of our sins shouldn't be that easy. We are used to working hard, paying our way, earning our keep. Given this, it only makes sense that we should “do” something to merit the forgiveness of our sins. As humans, we take it for granted that you don't get something for nothing. And isn’t this as it should be? After all, wasn't it St. Paul who said that “those who don't work shouldn't eat?” (2 Thessalonians chapter 3:10)  Shouldn't we have to do something in order for God to forgive our sins?

The answer, of course, is yes. But in order to understand what we have to do, we need to look at things from God's perspective, not from our human perspective. From God's perspective, the forgiveness of our sins is dependent on nothing more—but also nothing less—than our sorrow for our sins. If we are truly sorry for our sins, if it is our will and desire that we try to sin no more, then that is all God asks of us. In return, God offers us forgiveness and the grace we need to rise from our sins to try again to live as God's sons and daughters.

Does this mean that once our sins have been forgiven God expects us never to sin again. Of course it doesn’t.  God made us and God knows us—personally and intimately. As a result, God also knows that despite our best efforts we will continue to sin and fail. But—and this is the important part—there is no sin too great as to be beyond the power of God's grace. In fact the only barrier to the forgiveness of our sins is the hardness of our hearts, and/or our inability to accept the forgiveness that is offered to us.   

When we come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and openly, honestly, and  trustingly confess our sins, our sins are really and truly forgiven. It shouldn't be that easy—but because of Jesus Christ, it is.  

 

 

Basilica Community,

I hope this message finds you and your family continuing to stay well during these very challenging times.

As I mentioned previously, at the present time almost everything we are doing, with the exception of the celebration of the sacraments, is being done virtually. And we anticipate that this will continue for the foreseeable future.

However, given our success in regard to opening The Basilica for daily and Sunday Masses, it makes sense that we explore whether or not we can resume other activities on our campus. In this regard, yesterday we resumed our 7:00am Monday through Friday Mass. You don’t have to pre-register for this Mass, but you will need to register onsite prior to Mass.

One of the ministries we have resumed is the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Confessions will be heard in the chapel from 9:00 to 10:00am. Our protocol for this is posted on our website under the sacraments tab, or you can call the liturgy office for information.

We have also begun to consider resuming some activities on our campus on a case by case basis. Our standard will be ensuring the safety, security, and well being of the participants or attendees. When there are activities on our campus, we will use the same protocols we currently use to check people in for the celebration of daily and Sunday Mass, and weddings and funerals. We will ask for a list of attendees and their contact information ahead of time, in the unlikely event that we need to do contact tracing.

One of the activities that definitely is not taking place virtually is the ongoing maintenance of our beautiful Basilica. This week we began some masonry restoration work on the west exterior wall of The Basilica above the doors near the Mary Garden. This work is needed to seal the mortar and prevent further water damage. As part of this project, we will also install an additional 10-15 moisture monitors in the church interior, and evaluate next steps for moisture testing and work needed to continue to dry out the church interior. We are very blessed and fortunate that this work is being paid for by The Basilica Landmark.

As always, if you would like further information about our protocols or if you have questions or concerns, please contact me at the parish office or send me an email. My contact information is available on our parish website.

Finally, as I have mentioned previously, in the event that there is an outbreak of COVID-19 traceable to The Basilica, we will need to reconsider the decision to open The Basilica for public worship. Also if there is a surge in cases of the Coronavirus, we will follow any directives and restrictions from the city of Minneapolis or the state. I will alert you as soon as possible, should either of these things occur.

Thank you for your continued prayers and your financial support. Please know they are appreciated more than you know.

 

God of life,
you have promised to be with us always,
Help us to be aware of your presence in these difficult days.
Give us
clarity in our minds,
strength in our work and discernment,
rest as we sleep,
peace in our minds and hearts.

Be with those
who need your help
and help us to do share your love our families, our friends, neighbors, our co-workers, and all those we encounter.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Zoom: Beyond the Political Din
Saturdays, September 19 & October 10, 9:00-10:30am
Tuesday, September 29, 6:30-8:00pm

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