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Fr. Bauer's Blog
At daily Mass a few weeks ago, the Gospel focused on John the Baptist. After reading the gospel, I told the story of a priest in our diocese many years ago who loved to talk. I had only been ordained a year or so when I first experienced this priest. At any and every opportunity he never missed the chance to share his thoughts and ideas concerning just about anything. He liked to think of himself as akin to John the Baptist—a prophetic voice for his time. It didn’t take me very long to realize, though, that he really wasn’t much of a prophet. Rather he was just an irascible man who, I think, enjoyed irritating people. I never learned the backstory of this priest. I suspect, as with all of us, there was a reason for his behavior. I did learn, though, never to sit anywhere near him whenever there was a gathering (large or small) of priests.
I do believe that prophetic voices still exist in our midst. These voices call to us in each of our lives. In helping to distinguish these voices, I’d like to suggest that there are at least three things that are common to these prophetic voices. The first is that their call comes from God. To be a prophetic voice it isn’t enough that an individual has something to say. Rather the impetus to say something comes from outside themselves. It comes from God. And if the prophets from the Old Testament are any indication, most often the person who receives a call to be a prophet is, at least initially, reluctant to respond to that call.
The second thing that is common to prophets is that while their message may irritate or upset people, there is a sense that there is something “right” about what they are saying. For myself, there have been numerous times in my life when I have not much liked what someone has told me, yet in the depth of my heart, I knew what they were saying had a truth for me and that, much as I disliked it, I needed to hear it.
The third thing about prophets is that they call people to see things in a new/different way, or to see a bigger reality. It is very easy for us to get so locked into a particular perspective or view of things/people. Prophets, though, call us to set aside our beliefs and presumptions, and to see things differently. They invite us to reformate our way of thinking/living and see things from a new perspective.
Now I mention the above, because as we begin a new year, I would like to suggest that it would be a good resolution for all of us to try to be open to those prophetic voices that speak and call to us in each of our lives. These are the voices that come to us from God. They call us to go beyond our comfort zones, to see things differently and to make some changes in our lives. And as noted above, we don’t have to like those prophetic voices that God sends into our lives. I do believe, though, that we will be better people if we hear and respond to them.
Last month the Bishops of the United States approved a document on the Eucharist entitled: “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church.” The document is divided into two sections: “Christ’s gift of Himself in the Eucharist and our response to that gift.” The debate over the document was not without controversy, particularly around the issue of who is eligible to receive communion. In the end, however, the bishops decided (wisely) not to wade into those waters.
I very much liked the title of the document. In my initial reading of it, I was struck in particular by two sentences: “Having been sanctified by the gift of the Eucharist and filled with faith, hope, and charity, the faithful are called to respond to this gift. Indeed, it is only natural that we give thanks to the Lord for all that He has given to us.” I think the recognition of the Eucharist as a gift is not just significant, but of ultimate importance.
As Catholics, we believe that Jesus Christ is really and truly present in the Eucharist. Not present just in memory, not present just symbolically, and not present just spiritually, but really and truly present. How this can be we don’t know. That it can be is our abiding belief. It is an act of faith. And faith as we read in the Letter to the Hebrews is: “Confident assurance of what we hope for; conviction about things we do not see.” (Hebrews 11.1) In the Eucharist we receive the Body of Christ so that we might be and bring the Body of Christ to the world.
The Eucharist is truly Christ’s gift of Himself to us. And as we all know - or should know - we don’t earn gifts; we don’t merit them. We can only accept them graciously and with gratitude. Perhaps most importantly, though, we should never judge another person’s worthiness to receive a gift. Specifically regarding the Eucharist we need to remember that Christ is the host of the table. We are all guests. At best, priests are just part of the wait staff, and as John Whitney, a Jesuit priest in Seattle, wrote back in June: “The wait staff doesn’t get to exclude those who want to come.”
Now, I want to be clear. I am not suggesting that priests should invite anyone and everyone to receive communion. I am suggesting that priests (and others) should not make judgements about the worthiness of those who present themselves for communion. As a wise priest told me many years ago: “You don’t know what has happened in someone’s life in the past five minutes. It is not up to you to judge someone’s worthiness to receive communion.”
A few weeks ago a friend sent me a copy of an essay from The New York Times written by Michael O’Loughlin, a correspondent for a Catholic news organization and a gay man. Two sentences in the essay were very important for me: “With the U.S. bishops meeting in Baltimore this week, following months of debate about the worthiness of some Catholics to receive Communion, I’ve realized that personally, I stay in the church mostly for the Eucharist, that ritual during Mass when I believe the divine transcends our ordinary lives and God is present. I haven’t found that elsewhere.”
While there are many things I disagree with about our Church, the Eucharist holds me bound. I can’t imagine my life without it. I can’t find it anywhere else. And so on the great Feast of Christmas, let us be mindful of the gift of the Eucharist. And let us pray that we might accept this gift with great humility and deep gratitude that Christ has chosen to share Himself with us in this wonderful sacrament.
From the Pastor
With this column I would like to update you in regard to several areas of our parish’s life.
1. Archdiocesan Synod: A few weeks ago I received a report on how the Synod small group process was going at The Basilica. Below is a synopsis of that report.
The Basilica hosted three Synod session opportunities this fall. Each met for six two hour sessions—two on Zoom (Wednesday morning and Thursday evening) and one on campus on Sunday mornings following the 9:30am liturgy. We also had two groups which were ministry specific: a book club and a young adult Bible study. Approximately 35-45 people attended the sessions, down from a registration and early attendance number of about 65. A number of staff attended as well. The age range for the groups was 20s-80s. The sessions followed the Archdiocesan provided path, using prayer, teaching and individual sharing and discussion, followed by participant feedback which was sent to the Archdiocese. As you might expect, reactions to the process were varied. Some people were pleased with the Synod process and content, and others were disappointed. Concerns were expressed that the “listening” promised by the Archdiocese failed to materialize.
The above was in contrast to the Archdiocesan listening sessions in 2019 which were well attended. Those sessions were vibrant and crowded, and surfaced many important issues for our local church. Those attending the Synod small groups felt that what was said at the earlier listening sessions was not included in the Synod’s main themes, and thus not discussed in the small groups. Additionally, there was almost no opportunity to submit original ideas or responses. Many of those who signed up for the Synod small groups did so because of their concerns for our Church. And one of their major concerns was that bishops need to listen to all the people, not just the people they want to hear from.
People from The Basilica who attended the Synod small groups did so because they love our church and they have true and serious concerns for our Archdiocese and the global church. Whether the Synod will deliver on the promise many felt was possible remains to be seen. I am grateful for the efforts of those who participated in the listening sessions, or a Synod small group, as well the overall Synod process.
2. The Basilica Fund: During the months of October and November we ask all parishioners to make a pledge of financial support for our parish. While I am very much aware of the many requests for financial support we all receive, I am hopeful that The Basilica will be near the top of your list in terms of your financial support. It is your ongoing, consistent financial support that makes it possible for us to offer the many programs, services and ministries that are at the heart of our Basilica parish.
The Basilica has been, and will continue to be, a place that welcomes all those who come through our doors, a place that reaches out to those in need, a place that helps us grow in our understanding of and relationship with God, and a place where we recognize and celebrate the presence of Christ in the Eucharist and in each other.
I want to thank to all those who have made a commitment of financial support to our parish community during our financial stewardship campaign this fall. Please know your commitment of financial support to our parish community is greatly appreciated.
In regard to our parish finances, as I write this column we are behind in our anticipated income at this point in our fiscal year. Our Finance Committee monitors our income and expenses closely, so if it becomes necessary, we can make the appropriate decisions about balancing our parish budget. I am hopeful that with our collections at Christmas and with year-end giving we will be back on track with our projected income. Thank you to all of those who support our Basilica community financially. Please know of my great gratitude for your ongoing financial support.
3. Staff Changes: On a sad note, a few weeks ago we said goodbye to Travis Salisbury, our Coordinator of Liturgical Celebrations for almost 20 years. During this time Travis as been an integral and crucial part of our Liturgy Team and our parish. To say he will be missed would be a gross understatement. While we are indeed sad to see Travis leave The Basilica, we are excited for him as he moves on to the next stage of his life and career. We wish him well and pray that God will bless him abundantly.
On a happier note, I am pleased to report that Ramónd Mitchell has accepted the position of Coordinator of Liturgical Celebrations. Ramónd is a native of the Bahamas. He studied at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN. While there he interned at The Basilica during his two last summers. He spent a year studying and working in Rome. Currently he is Director of Liturgy at a church in London. Ramónd loves the liturgy, and he has a great passion for working with volunteer ministers.
4. Maintenance at The Basilica: This summer and fall we have been busy with a variety of maintenance projects at The Basilica. Some of the smaller projects have included adding more needlepoint bipolar ionization units in the Church, The Basilica School and in other rooms on our campus. These units clean and sanitize the air of Covid-19 allergens and other molds and allergens. We have also installed a permanent desk in The Basilica for our livestreaming equipment. Additionally, we are adding more exterior security cameras with upgraded technology. We have also added livestream capabilities to our chapel and have made some tech upgrades in some of our other meeting rooms. Going forward, we want to offer high quality virtual and hybrid ministry experiences. These upgrades are in progress in four rooms around the campus. Unfortunately, some of the equipment that has been ordered won’t arrive until later this year due to the computer chip shortage.
In addition to these smaller maintenance projects, we also have two significant projects. The first is re-grading and installing drain tiles around the exterior of our school building. We have had water infiltration issues for years in the lower level of our school building. By changing the grade and adding drain tiles, we hope to resolve this problem. While we had hoped to have this project completed by the Block Party, it now looks like this work should be completed by the time you read this.
Another major maintenance project is continuing to tuck point the western exterior walls of The Basilica. The 100-year mortar between the exterior stone blocks continues to deteriorate, so our tuck pointing will need to continue for the foreseeable future. This work will ensure that The Basilica will remain a beacon of hope on the Minneapolis skyline for many years to come.
Finally, as I write this, we are looking at a way to remove the insulation that was sprayed on the side walls above the ceiling of The Basilica in the 1970s. While much of it has been removed, some of it landed in the groins above the windows. And unfortunately, because this insulation retains moisture, it has prevented the plaster above the windows from drying out. Removing this insulation will be an important step in preparing for the eventual restoration of the interior of The Basilica. We are grateful that these projects will be funded by The Basilica Landmark.
5. EDI: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: As I mentioned in a previous bulletin, for the past few years The Basilica has recognized a need to address and respond to the issue of racism in our lives, our parish, and our community. After meetings with Sarah Bellamy, an equity consultant, in the spring of 2019, and with the establishment of an EDI Leadership Team, a Position Statement was created to guide our efforts as we seek to respond to the sin of racism. We were challenged to do this particularly by the words of Pope Francis in reflecting on the death of George Floyd: “We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of human life.”
Responding to racism is a process not an event. And it is a process in which we all must be involved. Our EDI Team continues to invite people to engage with the EDI Position statement and to lay out the goals we have identified to work on as a parish community. To find out more about the important work of EDI visit mary.org/edi.
6. Revisit, Renew, Reconnect and Revision: As I mentioned in an earlier bulletin, these four words describe what our staff has been doing the past several months in regard to our ministries at The Basilica and the volunteer efforts that make them possible. When the pandemic put everything on hold, one of the things this allowed us to do was to revisit our various ministries and look at how to renew and/or revision them post-pandemic. Most recently, we have been working to reconnect with our volunteers to see if they want to continue in a specific ministry.
In regard to the above, I am happy to report that after many months of doing ministry virtually, at the beginning of November our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry resumed in-person ministry on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. While our rental assistance program will remain virtual on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, we will help people with bus cards for new jobs, gas cards, I.D. vouchers, and clothing and household items vouchers. I am excited that we are able to resume this ministry and I am hopeful that it will be a blessing both for those it serves and for the volunteers.
We have also resumed hospitality after the 9:30 and 11:30am masses on Sunday. While we won’t be serving doughnuts just yet, we will serve coffee and lemonade. We hope this will once again offer people the opportunity to visit with their “church buddies” in a safe environment.
Our Learning Ministry is also back with our youth religious education and sacramental preparation programs, and our Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Our Liturgical Ministers and Choirs are back and continue to grow. Also returning this year will be our Children’s Advent Musical: Light of the World on Sunday, December 19. Check our website for details. Finally, Taize prayer, with the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, will be celebrated in the lower level of The Basilica on Tuesday, December 14.
While we have a ways to go yet in regard to getting all of our ministries back to full strength, I am pleased with the progress we have made thus far. While there are many aspects of our “new” normal that will be familiar, it is not clear what our “new” normal ultimately will be. One of the things that has not and will not change, however, is our need for volunteers to staff our many ministries, services and programs that are at the heart of our Basilica community. If you volunteered at The Basilica prior to the pandemic, I would encourage you to reengage in your volunteer activity. If you are looking for ways to volunteer, we have opportunities galore.
As pastor of The Basilica, I would encourage you to prayerfully consider in what way you can volunteer to help our Basilica community as we emerge from the pandemic into a future full of hope.
7. Special Collections: While no one is fond of special collections, it is heartening for me to report that the people of The Basilica have been very generous to the last few special collections here at The Basilica.
- On the weekend of June 12 and 13, $830 was contributed to help defray the cost of air conditioning The Basilica during the hot summer months.
- On the weekend of July 31 and August 1, $9,227 was contributed to help fund our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry.
- On the weekend of August 28 and 29, $4,623 was contributed to help fund earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.
The contributions to these collections testify to the generosity of the people of The Basilica. Please know of my gratitude for your generous response to these collections.
8. An Invitation To Come Home for Christmas: It goes without saying that the pandemic has had an impact on all of our lives and on almost every aspect of our lives. We have had to forgo favorite activities and/or learn to do them in new ways. This has been particularly true in regard to church and worship. During the height of the pandemic when The Basilica was empty for our masses, I missed babies crying in church. (I always tell people that if you never hear a baby crying in church, your congregation is probably dying.) I missed being able to check-in with people to see how they were doing. I missed gathering with people to sing God’s praises, and to be and bring the peace of Christ to each other. Most importantly though, I missed celebrating and sharing the Eucharist with people like me—sinful and weak and in need of God’s grace.
In the past few months while we have seen more and more people returning to worship, we are still not at pre-pandemic attendance levels. There are, no doubt, many reasons for this. As my mother used to say though, sometimes people just need a personal invitation to do something. So for anyone who needs a personal invitation, please know that I extend that to you. Come home—come to The Basilica for Christmas. Come and celebrate the birth of our savior with your fellow parishioners. We miss you and want you to be part of our community again.
Rev. John M. Bauer
Pastor, The Basilica of Saint Mary
Bulletin December 2021/January 2022
One of my favorite movies is a 1983 film entitled Tender Mercies. The movie stars Robert Duvall as Mac Sledge, an alcoholic country music singer/songwriter who, after going on a bender, finds himself in a small town in rural Texas. There he slowly turns his life around as he develops a relationship with a young widow and her son.
I like the movie for several reasons. One reason in particular, though, is that it reminds me that sometimes “redemption” is a process. Now, let me be absolutely clear about this. We believe that Jesus, suffered died and rose again to redeem us, once for all. Our redemption has already been accomplished. It is certain and sure. There is absolutely no question about that. Sometimes, though, it takes us a while to realize and accept the redemption that has been won for us, and that is freely offered to us.
In the film Mac does not change his ways immediately. It takes him a while to accept that he has been saved. His understanding is a gradual process and takes place over a period of time, as he fluctuates back and forth between his old life and drinking days, and the new life he was beginning to live. It takes him a while to let his new way of living become his new life.
And so I think it is with us sometimes.
Sometimes we find it difficult to accept truths that are simple, real and at the same time, profound. For many people I suspect the redemption Jesus won for us is one of those truths. We are so used to making our own way—to working hard to earn or merit the things we have accomplished. It is hard for us to realize that there are some things we can’t earn, we don’t merit, and we can’t work to accomplish. Very specifically I believe our redemption is one of those things we don’t earn, merit or work to accomplish. Our redemption by Jesus Christ is a freely offered gift. And as we all know, we don’t earn gifts, we simply accept them.
For us, as humans, understanding that our redemption is a gift and then accepting that gift, is often a process. We don’t have to worry, though; it is not a process for God. Christ has redeemed once for all. Sometimes it just takes a while for that message to get through to us.
Greetings once again from The Basilica of Saint Mary. I hope this message finds you and your family continuing to stay well during these still challenging times.
Today I would like to begin by inviting you to join us for Mass on Thanksgiving Day at 10:00am. The last couple of years have been very difficult for all of us. Yet, despite the difficulties and the stress, there have also been moments of great grace, as God’s love has broken through and blessed us.
Mass on Thanksgiving Day is a wonderful way for us to gather as a people of faith to celebrate and thank God for the many ways God has blessed us in our lives. I hope you will be able to join us for Mass at 10:00am that day.
I also wanted to talk with you today about our Christmas schedule. A little over a week ago Archbishop Hebda gave parishes in our Archdiocese the option of celebrating a Mass on Christmas Eve at 2:00pm.
Given this, we will have Masses on Christmas Eve at 2:00pm, 5:00, 7:30 and Midnight. On Christmas Day Masses will be at 7:30am, 9:30, 11:30 and 5:00pm. We hope you will plan on joining us for one of these celebrations.
While it is heartening for me to see so many people back at The Basilica after so many months, we want to make sure we are continuing to make The Basilica a safe place for people to be. For this reason, if you are able to join us at Christmas, I want to strongly encourage you, and in fact urge you, to wear a facemask when you come to church. We will have masks available at the entrances if you should forget.
We will also be sanitizing the church pews in between services, and as I have mentioned previously, we have installed a new air purification system that continually purifies the air in the church. We will also have extra security for our Christmas Masses and will be increasing the lighting around the church grounds to help ensure people’s safety. I hope you will plan on joining us for one of our Christmas Masses.
As I have also mentioned previously, in welcoming people back to worship, one of the challenges we face is resuming, renewing and in some cases rebuilding our liturgical ministry teams. If you have been involved in our liturgical ministry and not been contacted yet, or if you are interested in becoming involved please contact our Liturgy Office and let us know.
And, as always, if you are not able, or don’t feel comfortable joining us in-person for any of our liturgies, we invite you join them via livestream. A schedule of our livestreamed liturgies is available on our website.
Finally, I want to close today by thanking all those who have made or increased their commitment of financial support to our Basilica Fund. Your commitment of financial support, no matter how small or how large, enables us to continue to do those things that fulfill our vision here at The Basilica.
I will continue to keep you informed as we move forward into our new normal, whatever that may be. As always, though, if you have any questions or concerns I invite you to contact me at the parish office. My contact information is available on our parish website.
We look forward to welcoming you home to The Basilica for Christmas.
Let me close today in prayer.
Dear God –
You have made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son:
Look with compassion on the whole human family;
take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts;
break down the walls that separate us;
unite us in bonds of love;
and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth;
that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
News and Resources
A while back I ran across a quote from Tomas Halik, a Roman Catholic priest, philosopher and theologian. He teaches at Charles University in Prague, and advocates for religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue. The quote is: “An atheist is simply another term for someone who doesn’t have enough patience with God.” I’m not sure where I came across this quote, but I have kept it near my desk for the past couple of years, and have used it in several conversations.
Being patient with God is not an easy thing. I struggle with it, and I suspect, at times, we all do. We pray about something—whether we are looking for guidance or clarity, or praying for someone in a difficult situation—and we expect God to respond promptly and obviously to our prayers. I have come to realize, though, that God doesn’t operate on our timeline, or according to our schedule. Unfortunately when God doesn’t respond as we want, when we want, it is easy for some people to lose patience with God, and even to stop believing in God.
I think the above happens because we often view prayer as a transaction. When we approach prayer as a transaction, we think that if we put in the time and make the effort to pray, God is obliged to respond to our prayer. I think, though, that this is a fundamental misunderstanding of prayer. We don’t pray to get God to do things for us. Rather we pray in order to grow in and develop our relationship with God, and to understand how God is working in our lives.
When we understand prayer as relationship with God, and not a transaction, we don’t see it as putting in the prerequisite time so that God will do what we want. Rather it becomes a way for us to come to understand what it is that God wants for us, what God’s vision is for us, and where God is offering us the grace to become the person God is inviting us to be. Spending time in prayer with God is akin to our human relationships. Spending time with others is a way for us to develop and deepen our relationship with them. In a similar way, spending time with God in prayer helps us to grow in our relationship with God.
It is not always easy to be patient with God. And frankly I suspect many people have given up on God because they weren’t patient enough. I do believe, though, that if we can trust in the slow work of God, not only will we not become atheists, but we will become friends with God, and co-workers with God in bringing about God’s kingdom.
Greetings once again from The Basilica of Saint Mary. I hope this message finds you and your family continuing to stay well during these still challenging times.
I’d like to begin today by thanking all those who have made or increased their commitment of financial support to our Basilica Fund. Your commitment of financial support, no matter how small, or how large, enables us to continue to do those things that fulfill our vision here at The Basilica.
However, as I mentioned when I spoke at the Masses a couple of weeks ago, if you are not able to make an ongoing commitment of financial support for our parish, I ask you to give what you can, when you can. I thank you in advance for whatever financial support you can commit to. Please know whatever you are able to give will be appreciated.
If you are not able to make a financial commitment or to contribute even occasionally, I ask you to pray for our parish and for your fellow parishioners. Please know your prayers both needed and are deeply appreciated.
And, if for some reason, you are experiencing some financial difficulties, please contact our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry. We may be able to help you or refer you to someone who can.
As your pastor, I thank you in advance for whatever financial support you can offer our parish.
On another topic, while it is heartening for me to see so many people back at The Basilica after many months, I want to make sure we are continuing to make The Basilica a safe place for them to be. For this reason, I want to strongly encourage people to wear a facemask when you are on The Basilica campus for a liturgy other activity.
As I have mentioned previously, in welcoming people back to worship, one of the challenges we face is resuming, renewing, and in some cases rebuilding, our liturgical ministry teams. If you have been involved in our liturgical ministry and not been contacted yet, or if you are interested in becoming involved please contact us.
As always, if you are not able, or don’t feel comfortable joining us in-person for any of our liturgies, we invite you join them via livestream. We will continue to livestream the 9:30am Mass and our Noon Mass, Monday through Friday. We are also looking for volunteers to help with this, so if you are interested in volunteering, please contact Mae Desaire.
During the coming weeks, we will be looking at bringing back on line more of our ministries. I will keep you informed as this happens. In closing, please know that as we move forward, our primary concern, as always, will be the safety and security of those who come to our campus.
I will continue to keep you informed as we move forward. In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns about these changes I invite you to contact me at the parish office. My contact information is available on our parish website.
Let me close today in prayer.
Dear God –
For this day, help me to keep my heart open.
Help me to observe the beauty around me; to appreciate all that I see.
Help me to notice the blessings in my life, and to ignore those things that do not measure up to my expectations.
Guide me dear God to be of service to others, and to go through this day with humor and grace, and no regrets.
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord we pray. Amen.
News and Resources
As I write this column I realize I do so at the risk of offending just about everyone. I say this because today I want to say something about abortion. I write as a pro-life Catholic priest, but also as a male who cannot possibly know, let alone understand, the very real and complicated issues that can lead a woman to seek an abortion. I also write as a confessor who knows the pain, hurt and sadness that many woman carry and have carried for years after having an abortion. Given these things, it would seem that there is very little that I can or should say that might be helpful, and yet to say nothing seems cowardly and wrong. Legalized as a private act, abortion has become and remains a very public and divisive issue. It is an issue that it has divided our country, our communities, and in some cases, even families. If we don’t start doing something different in regard to the way we talk about the issue of abortion these divisions will only deepen and grow.
I say the above, because in the past several weeks, however, especially since the new law in Texas was passed, I have noticed a not very subtle change in the way the issue of abortion is discussed. Specifically, when this issue comes up, one of two things usually happens. On the one hand, people change the subject and/or simply refuse to engage. On the other hand, people divide into two camps and the discussion usually becomes fairly vocal, occasionally confrontational, and at times mean-spirited.
What the above suggests to me is that perhaps we have reached the point where we need to change the way, the manner, and the form the discussion in regard to abortion takes place. I would like to suggest that we frame the debate about abortion differently as we move forward. And I would like to suggest further, that we who hold and espouse a pro-life position take the lead in this effort. Specifically, I would like to suggest four things that need to be part of the way we frame the debate and talk about the issue of abortion in the future.
1. We need to acknowledge that abortion is a failure for all of us. We can’t just point a finger and lay the blame at the woman seeking an abortion or those who provide abortions. Rather, we need to acknowledge that, as individuals and as a community, we have all failed whenever a woman feels they have no other option than to seek an abortion. We should never demonize a woman who seeks an abortion or the individual who provides it. Rather as Mother Teresa said many years ago when talking about abortion: “How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love and remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts.” Abortion is a failure of love for all of us. It is a failure to give until it hurts.
2. The above should challenge us. For those of us who are pro-life, it should challenge us to invite those who would espouse a pro-choice position to help us work together to find common ground that we can all stand on—that we can use as a basis for reaching out to each other, and from which we can move forward together. In this regard, two things come immediately to mind. The first is to ask what we can do to reduce the number of abortions that are taking place. Polls show that the majority of people think too many abortions are occurring. Let’s talk with each other about how we can reduce the number of abortions. Second, in a related vein, we need to talk about how we can provide better medical and social services to women and men in problematic pregnancies so that abortion will not seem to them to be their only option. A woman should never feel that she has to choose between her well-being and her unborn child’s life. While our Church, and particularly our Archdiocese, has done much in this area, imagine how much more could be done if we worked with those who advocate a pro-choice position.
3. As people who are pro-life, we need to continue our efforts to educate people’s minds, illumine their hearts, and challenge their spirits to see and understand what a truly wonderful gift life is. Over and over and over again, we must remind people that life is a gracious gift from a loving God. As pro-life people, our challenge, our goal is to preserve, protect, and enhance life at all stages of development, and in all its manifestations. This activity needs to occur at all levels of our society, and it rightly includes participation in and trying to influence the political process. This activity, though, can never include any form of violence, whether verbal, emotional, physical or spiritual. As people who are pro-life, our position needs to be clear. Violence is not and cannot be part of our cause. And we must disassociate ourselves from those who would use or advocate violence in any form. Wherever the opportunity arises, and whenever the occasion presents itself, we must freely, openly, and unapologetically speak of the value and dignity of every human life—from the unborn to the elderly—to the terminally ill. All life is a precious gift. This needs to be, it must be our unchanging message.
4. Finally, beginning now and in the future, we need to pray with, for, and sometimes in spite of, those who do not hold our pro-life position. I am more and more convinced that if we cannot pray with and for each other—despite our disagreements and differences— that it is only out of force of habit that we will dare to call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus has taught us that we need to pray together and for each other. Prayer unites us in the common belief that a hand greater than our own created this universe and sustains us even now. Prayer is our often feeble attempt to respond to God the Creator, and to try to understand the will and hope of our God for us. In our prayer, particularly with and for those with whom we disagree, we imitate Jesus, and open ourselves up to God’s grace so that together we might seek to understand and do the will of our God.
The above are my suggestions as to how we might proceed as we move into the future. I am sure there are many things I have missed, but I would like to suggest that if we are ever to come to a resolution with regard to the issue of abortion, this can only occur when we change the way, the manner, and the form in which we talk about this issue, and seek new ways and means to engage each other in dialogue. As people committed to life, I think we need to be in the forefront of this activity. I believe that ultimately it is only in this way that we can help others come to understand the value, dignity and worth of every human life.
Several weeks ago the first reading for Mass one day was the story of Moses meeting with God in a tent during the Israelites’ time in the dessert. “The tent, which was called the meeting tent, Moses used to pitch at some distance away, outside the camp. Anyone who wished to consult the LORD would go to this meeting tent outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, the people would all rise and stand at the entrance of their own tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. As Moses entered the tent, the column of cloud would come down and stand at its entrance while the LORD spoke with Moses” (Exodus 33.7-8). This “tent” was a visible sign to the people of God’s promise that God would be with them on their journey. It was the regular place where Moses would meet God.
Now, as I reflected on this passage, there were a couple of things in particular that struck me. The first was that going to the tent to consult with God was a regular discipline for Moses. He didn’t have an idea one day just to pitch a tent, and see what happened. And his going to the tent was not an occasional occurrence. Rather, he had a regular place and a regular habit of meeting with God. It was in the tent that Moses spent time with God.
Second, it is also important to notice that Moses erected the tent “outside the camp.” It was not in the middle of the hustle and bustle of everyday life, but outside the camp. It was a special place where one thing and one thing only happened: Moses met God. And as Moses walked into the tent, the heavens opened and a pillar of cloud descended to rest on the entrance.
I think this passage tells us something important about how we are to pray. It reminds us that just as Moses had a regular time and place where he met God, so too you and I need a regular time and place for prayer. Now in saying this I want to be clear. We can pray anywhere. But I believe a regular time and place for prayer can be a big help to our prayer life. In the years since I have been ordained, wherever I have lived, I’ve always had a special place (or at least a special chair) for prayer, and I try not to do anything else in that space. There is something about walking into that space, or sitting in a particular chair, that helps me prepare for and enter into prayer.
In addition to a regular place for prayer—away from distractions and interruptions—a regular time for prayer is also very helpful. When I was first ordained, while I prayed morning prayer prior to Mass, I tried to reserve an hour or so for prayer in the late afternoon before dinner and evening meetings. This worked for a while, but I found that often this time got interrupted and/or abbreviated by other pressing (?) matters. About twenty years ago I decided that I need to switch my prayer time to the morning—and I am not a morning person. It was the only way, though, that I could spend some interrupted time with God in prayer.
Walking with God in the midst of all of life is important, but to draw closer to God in order to “hear” the voice of God speaking to our hearts, minds, and souls, we need those special times and places when we can withdraw from the hustle and bustle of the world and spend uninterrupted time alone with God.
It is our abiding belief that God dwells with us—that God abides with us. We need to work, though, to make this truth a reality in our lives and not just a belief. The challenge for us is not to let ourselves think: “Wouldn’t it have been great to be like Moses and meet with God in the tent of meeting?” The reality is that we can meet God each day in our prayer. If we can realize this amazing gift, we can live in intimacy with God each day, and the world will see the promises of our God lived out through us.
Greetings once again from The Basilica of Saint Mary. I hope this message finds you and your family continuing to stay well during these challenging times.
Today I want to talk with you about where we are at currently and the challenges that we face as we move forward at The Basilica. With the rise of the Delta variant, I want to once again urge people to wear masks when you come for liturgies or other events at The Basilica.
At The Basilica, we have many children under the age of 12, who cannot be vaccinated yet, as well as many people with underlying health conditions. Given this, I think that asking people to wear a mask is one of the best things we can do to ensure their continued health and well being.
While it is heartening for me to see so many people back at The Basilica after many months, I want to make sure we are continuing to make The Basilica a safe place for them to be. As I have mentioned previously, in welcoming people back to worship, one of the challenges we face is resuming, renewing, and in some cases rebuilding our liturgical ministry teams. If you have been involved in our liturgical ministry and not been contacted yet, or if you are interested in becoming involved please contact Travis Salisbury.
As always, if you are not able, or don’t feel comfortable joining us in-person for any of our liturgies, we invite you join them via livestream. We will continue to livestream our daily Noon Mass and 9:30am Mass on Sundays. We are also looking for volunteers to help with this, so if you are interested in volunteering, please contact Mae Desaire.
On another topic, as part of the preparation for the upcoming Archdiocesan Synod, I want to invite you to participate in small group discussions to share your thoughts/ideas about the future of our Archdiocese. These groups will meet both on campus and remotely. You can register for one of these groups on our parish website. If you would like more information please contact Cathy Edwards in our parish office.
We are also looking for volunteers in our Faith Formation program and our R.C.I.A. program. You can call the Learning Office for more information about what this involves. During the coming weeks, we will be looking at bringing back on line more of our ministries. I will keep you informed as this happens.
Finally, I want to thank everyone for your ongoing financial support for The Basilica. As we begin to resume more activities on our campus, your financial support will be critical as we resume the many ministries, services and programs that are at the heart of our Basilica community. As your pastor, I want to thank you for your ongoing generosity. Please know it is greatly appreciated.
In closing, please know that as we move forward, our primary concern, as always, will be the safety and security of those who come to our campus. I will continue to keep you informed as we move forward into our new normal--whatever that may be. In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns about these changes I invite you to contact me at the parish office. My contact information is available on our parish website.
One final thing, tickets are still available for our Basilica Block Party this weekend.
Let me close today in prayer.
Loving God, it seems that we turn to you most easily when we need comfort, consolation and hope.
And so we come before you today, knowing that you are waiting for us, to shelter us in the shadow of your wings. In you may we find refuge and relief.
Dear God, these uncertain days tempt us to lose hope. “Pandemic” is a frightening word, and we can easily feel confused and helpless. And so we look to you to lead and guide us, and to keep any anxiety at bay. Strengthened by your love, help us to choose to let your peace reign in us.
Good and gracious God, help us also to be your compassion and love to those who are suffering and in need of our care. Help us to be generous and stay in contact with the forgotten and lonely. May our prayers and support be with our world and national leaders, scientists, health care providers, and all who are instrumental in overcoming this crisis.
We look to you O God, of hope, may your love blanket the earth, as you teach us to live more generously each day. We pray this through Christ our Lord.
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