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Several years ago I was part of a question and answer session with high school students concerning what we believe about the last things, e.g. heaven, hell, and purgatory. At one point one of the participants asked me how I knew that heaven and hell existed. Now, I’m not sure if they asked this question out of interest, or to see if they could trip me up. In either case, if their reaction was any barometer, I think they were genuinely surprised when I replied that I didn’t really know that heaven and hell existed; rather I believed they existed.
Pressed to clarify the difference between knowledge and belief, I explained that knowledge is based on personal experience, while belief is based on the witness or testimony of others. For example, I know that New York City exists because I have been there. I believe that Miami exists, not because I have been there, but because of the testimony of others who have been there.
Now in making the above distinction, I don’t mean to suggest that those things which we are cognizant of because of our belief are any less real than those things we know because we have experienced them personally. Belief and knowledge are often twin sources of inspiration, motivation, guidance, and hope for our lives. Belief is not a poor substitute for knowledge. It has its own unique place in our lives. It has importance and value for our lives, and because of this it cannot be ignored or denied.
Particularly with regard to matters of faith, I think belief is as important as knowledge. In fact, our beliefs can be as challenging and reassuring as the knowledge which comes from our experience. For example, my belief in heaven is a source of real assurance for me as I live my life, just as my belief in hell is likewise a real source of motivation for me as I live my life.
In terms of God, I know that God exists because I have experienced God’s presence and grace in my life. My knowledge of God is based on personal experience. I say this because in my life I have experienced God as loving Father, redeeming Son, and inspiring Spirit. In regard to heaven and hell, however, since, I have not yet died and experienced either of them, my belief in them is based on the testimony of others—very specifically, the testimony of Jesus Christ.
For it was Jesus who told us: “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me, even if they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will have eternal life.”
As we celebrate the great Feast of Easter today, my prayer for all of us is that we might come to experience and know the presence of the risen Lord Jesus in our lives, so that our belief in Jesus’ promise of eternal life might give us courage and hope for our lives.
Many years ago, I had the opportunity to celebrate Palm Sunday of Our Lord’s Passion in one of the most iconic cathedrals in our country. This had been on my liturgical bucket list for a long time. I was not disappointed. It was an experience Egeria—a 4th century French nun who glowingly wrote about liturgical celebrations in Jerusalem—would have written about had she lived in our times.
As prescribed we gathered in “another place” for the first part of the liturgy. Then, we processed to the cathedral commemorating Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. On our way we walked by several large cardboard boxes. Blinded by the beauty of the day, I had not noticed these until I nearly tripped over a man who crawled out of one of them. Apparently, the procession drew his attention, maybe even woke him up. He looked me square in the face and I shuddered under his intense gaze. Pushed forward by those behind me, we made a quick circle around him and continued on our splendid liturgical way.
When we entered the cathedral, the true quality of the liturgy was revealed. The Cardinal Archbishop himself was presiding flanked by auxiliary bishops and a throng of priests. The service was marked by exquisite music, beautiful vestments, countless candles, billowing incense… in sum, a liturgist’s delight. And yet, it was the man crawling out of the box who stuck with me.
His gaze haunted me throughout Holy Week. It was he I saw as I washed the feet of an elderly man and offered Holy Communion to a young woman on Holy Thursday. It was he I saw in the child who knelt down to kiss the wood of the cross on Good Friday. And it was he I saw in the many people who were baptized and confirmed on Holy Saturday. In all of these faces gathered for worship I saw one face, the face of the man living on the street. Then I realized his gaze forced the question: “Who do you say that I am?” And I wondered who it was I really saw?
During Holy Week, I customarily visualize the last days in the life of Jesus. I imagine Jesus walking down the streets of Jerusalem to the Hosanna’s on Palm Sunday and to the yelling of “crucify him” on Good Friday. I imagine him washing feet and sharing bread. I imagine him dying on the cross and rising from the dead. This truly helps me with my meditation on the mystery of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Every year, I leaf through my art books to be inspired by a different image of Jesus. That particular year, I was inspired not by art but by the dirty, bearded, and unkempt face of the man who crawled out of the box to visualize Jesus. And I realized that it is in the face of others that we recognize the true face of the one who is the Wholly Other.
As we prepare to celebrate the holiest of weeks, let us remember to recognize Christ in one another, most especially in those we unexpectedly encounter as we almost trip over them.
Blessed Holy Week!
The Catholic Church is a centuries old, hierarchical organization that can sometimes feel very exclusive. As “regular” parishioners we see Priests, Nuns, Bishops, and Cardinals as the leaders and decision makers in our church.
While those ministries hold special auspices as a result of graces given at ordination, we as lay (non-ordained) members also have a distinct and very real role in the spreading of the Gospel as a result of our Baptism. The Church teaches that laypeople are absolutely equal to those in ordained and religious life. The laity is how the world encounters Christ and the Church encounters the world.
We all have increasingly busy lives; careers, school, dating, children, aging parents, and the regular burdens of everyday life. We take one hour out of our week on Saturday or Sunday for God, and then go about our business.
If you are like me, sometimes my mind wanders during mass (Sorry, Fr. Bauer) to things like:
- “Gosh, the plaster is looking really bad up on the arches”
- “I wonder how the archdiocesan bankruptcy is going”
- “They’re taking up another collection for the heating? Don’t they have a budget?”
- “I feel like I don’t have any way of making any real change within our Church”
In moments like this, I think of a quote from former President Barak Obama:
“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”
Back in the spring of 2013 I was finishing graduate school when I heard about upcoming Parish council elections. I had been involved in The Basilica Voices for Justice but as I thought about it, I decided that I wanted to take on something more, to have a larger platform to represent the young adults of our Parish. I decided to run as a representative for Liturgy.
Parish Council members serve as an advisory group to the Pastor and assist with planning, communication, policies and procedures, and education of parishioners. We are sensitive to the needs, ambitions and desires of The Basilica community to fulfill its mission—we are your representatives, your voice.
This year, the Parish Council is embarking on the creation of a 5-year strategic plan as well as engaging a Liturgical Design Consultant for a whole-campus evaluation. This is a very exciting time as we work to propel our parish into success in the future.
Our Parish Council is composed of:
- 6 elected members including 2 representatives for Learning, Christian Life, and Liturgy
- 3 appointed "at large" members,
- Appointed representatives from the Finance and Development Committees,
- 4 ex-officio members
The deadline for Parish Council nominations is April 6. There is an online application here. You may nominate yourself or someone you think would thrive in one of the positions.
Parish Council is not the only way to get involved at The Basilica. There are hundreds of volunteer opportunities—one-time events, and long-term engagements. This thriving, robust parish is not solely run by Father Bauer—he needs teams of people to make our mission happen.
In the words of the Catechism (CCC 899): “Lay believers are in the front line of Church life. Therefore, they in particular ought to have an ever-clearer consciousness not only of belonging to the Church, but of being the Church.”
YOU ARE THE CHURCH.
Racism is not merely one sin among many; it is a radical evil that divides the human family and denies the new creation of a redeemed world. To struggle against it demands an equally radical transformation, in our own minds and hearts as well as in the structure of our society.” Brothers and Sisters To Us, USCCB, 1979
During the summer of 2016, the Twin Cities experienced a wave of protests and unrest after the shooting of Philando Castile by a police officer in St. Anthony, MN. The upheaval throughout the Twin Cities was in direct response to the deep and longstanding effects of racism in our state. Uncovered and exposed were the inequalities and injustices behind virtually every statistic of Minnesota’s quality of life: including our state’s education gap, income disparity, homeownership, and violent crime.
- On April 29, 2016, the Pioneer Press reported “Minnesota has some of the worst racial disparities in the nation—gaps that have widened over the past five decades and that soon may create a statewide economic crisis. U.S. Census data show most Minnesota families of color now have median incomes about half those of their white neighbors.”
- On August 18, 2017, the Pioneer Press reported “Minnesota schools have grown more segregated and the state’s nation-leading academic achievement gap refuses to close.
- Black Students: Reading proficiency, 33% and Math proficiency, 28%
- White Students: Reading proficiency, 69% and Math proficiency, 68%
- Headline in the Star Tribune on August 17, 2017 read, “Already-low homeownership rates of Twin Cities minorities fall further,” with 75% whites and only 23% blacks owning homes.
- A report in August 2017 from the Minneapolis Police Department that covers the period 2009 to 2014 states, while blacks made up 18.6% of the population in Minneapolis, 79% of victims of homicide are black.
During the summer and fall of 2016, The Basilica leadership intentionally engaged in reflection and self-examination: How was The Basilica living faithfully by actively confronting issues of racism and being a force of racial reconciliation in the community? Strikingly, we discovered that, while The Basilica is engaged in the community in many ways, we are not living up to our mission in this area.
In the fall of 2016, The Basilica Parish Council unanimously voted to support a parish-wide, sustained effort to address the issue of racism. In February 2017, a Basilica team met for the first time—a team to help shape a parish wide initiative for racial reconciliation.
The team began slowly, prayerfully discerning direction, sharing stories, and developing trust. This Lent, The Basilica officially launched Imago Dei: The Basilica Initiative for Racial Reconciliation. Imago Dei—the Image of God. Rooted in the absolute belief that all humans beings are created in the image of God, The Basilica will devote itself to this effort by praying for empowerment to overcome this radical evil in our lives and communities, by learning about institutionalized racism and its insidious presence in our Church and society, by engaging across lines of difference, and by advocating for social change.
The Basilica of Saint Mary is dedicated to the eradication of racism, and seeks to become a community of racial reconciliation. Look for ways to engage in this important work. This is the work of our time. For more information, contact Janice.
IMAGO DEI: INITIATIVE FOR RACIAL RECONCILIATION PRACTICING RECONCILIATION
SUNDAY, MARCH 18, 11:00AM-12:30PM
SAINTS AMBROSE/TERESA, GROUND LEVEL
Please join us for the last session in this series and hear first hand from Oshea Israel and Mary Johnson about the power of forgiveness.
- Replaced three original 1913 boilers with new more efficient equipment.
- Renovated the Rectory and School buildings with central air conditioning, replacing 35 window units.
- Updated to LED lighting in the campus interior and exterior including the bell towers, church sanctuary, and lower level.
January 14, 2018 is the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees. This Day invites us to attend to the needs and conditions of the migrants and refugees who have risked their life to flee war, persecution, natural disaster, and poverty.
Immigration—throughout the world and within the United States—is clearly a hot button issue, when addressed from a political perspective. However, it is also a perfect opportunity to experience grace in the tension, as we interpret our life through the lens of faith. From a secular perspective, this stance will appear radical. From a faith perspective, this stance will bring peace.
Pope Francis calls the situation of migrants and refugees “undoubtedly a ‘sign of the times’ which I have tried to interpret, with the help of the Holy Spirit… Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age.”
On this 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis invites us to find solidarity across difference. “This solidarity must be concretely expressed at every stage of the migratory experience.” He calls each of us, to “respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration with generosity, promptness, wisdom, and foresight.” He states, “our shared response may be articulated in four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote, and to integrate.”
Welcoming suggests a personal encounter—focusing actions on the centrality of the human person. Pope Francis states, “Welcoming means, above all, offering broader options for migrants and refugees to enter destination countries safely and legally. “ He goes on, “collective and arbitrary expulsions of migrants and refugees are not suitable solutions, particularly where people are returned to countries which cannot guarantee respect for human dignity and fundamental rights.”
The call to welcome can be counter-cultural, given our political climate. However, it is rooted deeply in our faith—resonating with welcoming the birth of Jesus himself. The Basilica makes substantial commitments to welcoming through its wide range of Liturgies, RCIA, and St. Vincent de Paul Ministry. The Immigrant Support Ministry has welcomed five refugee families and supported several families seeking asylum.
Protecting calls us to recognize and defend the God-given dignity of those fleeing danger. Pope Francis states, this “may be understood as a series of steps intended to defend the rights and dignity of migrants and refugees, independent of their legal status.” This absolute acknowledgement of the dignity of the other, and the subsequent call to protection, can expose underlying division in our society. Grounded in our faith, taking the call of Christ seriously, we are invited to stand confidently and faithfully as we declare we will offer care to all—refugees, asylum seekers, and undocumented alike.
What does this protecting look like at The Basilica? What does it mean for us individually and as a parish community? There will be opportunities for you to speak with our Parish Council members about how we live this out, in the coming weeks. Together, let us prayerfully reflect on this call.
Promoting calls for an intentional effort to ensure that all migrants and refuges—as well as the communities who welcome them—are empowered to achieve their potential as human beings.
Integrating calls us to consider the many “opportunities for intercultural enrichment brought about by the presence of migrants and refugees.” We are called to foster a culture of encounter—actively embracing opportunities for cultural exchange, and recognizing the strength of diversity.
The call to Welcome, Protect, Promote and Integrate is not easy. Yet, it is at the heart of the challenge of discipleship in our day. Let us wrestle together with how we can live this out at The Basilica. Let us share our hopes and fears, united in love and forgiveness. We are grateful for this opportunity.
This month marks the 45th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court’s decision legalizing abortion. Many people thought this decision would be the final word in the abortion debate. Instead, the issue of abortion continues to be part of our public discourse and debate. It is an issue that has divided our country, our communities, and in some cases, even families. At this point, there is no indication that this will change in the near future. People on both sides of the abortion question hold their positions with passion and tenacity. This is certainly true for me. I believe in and espouse a pro-life position with great zeal and firm resolve. I am more than willing to discuss the issue of abortion whenever or however it comes up in conversation.
In the past several years, however, I have noticed a change in the way the issue of abortion is discussed. By this I mean that when this issue comes up, one of two things usually happens. On the one hand, people change the subject. On the other hand, they divide into two camps and the discussion usually becomes fairly vocal, occasionally confrontational, and at times mean-spirited. What this suggests to me is that perhaps we have reached an impasse and need to change the way, the manner, and the form the discussion takes with regard to the issue of abortion. I say this because if we continue along the present track, I think it will be enormously difficult, if not impossible, to arrive at a resolution to this issue. Given this, I would like to suggest that we frame the debate about abortion differently in the future. I would like to suggest further, that we who hold and espouse a pro-life position take the lead in this effort. Specifically, I see six things that need to be part of the way we frame the debate and talk about the issue of abortion in the future.
- Beginning now and in the future, we need to tone down the rhetoric and eliminate the inflammatory language that increasingly has been a part of the discussion of the issue of abortion. I think those of us in the pro-life movement need to take the lead in doing this. It is too easy for people to dismiss our position on the basis of our sometimes volatile language. We need to invite people into dialogue so that they can see the wisdom of our words and come to understand the moral rightness of our position. In this regard, I believe we are far more apt to convince people than we are to coerce them. Using language that is simple, direct, non-inflammatory, and open to dialogue is a first step in this direction.
- Beginning now and in the future, those of us who are pro-life need to invite those who espouse a pro-choice position to help us look for 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, three areas 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. 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. A third area has to do with the violence that in many cases has come to be associated with the issue of abortion. As people who are pro-life, our position needs to be clear. Violence is not and cannot be part of our cause. We need to talk with those on the other side of this issue to see what we can do together to eliminate the possibility of violence.
- Beginning now and in the future, as pro-life people we need to begin a dialogue with those who are pro-choice about the unresolved issues in the abortion debate. In this regard, two issues come immediately to mind. In the forty-five years since the Roe vs. Wade decision, many advances have been made in neonatal and in-utero medical care. These advances cannot be ignored. Let us talk with each other about what they mean for us and for the life of the unborn infant in the womb. Secondly, let us also talk with each other about when life begins. Perhaps I am naïve, or maybe I am deliberately obdurate, but no one has ever been able to convince me that life begins other than at conception. I think this is such an important issue that it both deserves and needs our best efforts at dialogue.
- Beginning now and in the future, 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. 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—must be—our unchanging message.
- Beginning now and in the future, we need to say to our sisters and brothers who have been involved in abortions and are estranged from our Church and from our loving God, that it is time to “come home.” We need to remind them that God’s grace is more powerful than any shame or guilt they are feeling. We need to tell them that healing and hope await them in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. More than this, though, we need to extend our most profound and deepest apologies to them for any judgments we may have made about them, any unkind words we may have spoken regarding them, any disdain we may have heaped on them, or any affront we may have given them. We need to say clearly so that no one will misunderstand, that we want and need our brothers and sisters who are estranged from our Church and from God to “come home.” Without exception or distinction, without reserve or hesitation, we invite and beseech you to “come home.” God’s love and grace await you.
- 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, on the 45th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, we might proceed 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.
The Basilica of Saint Mary has a magnificent set of bronze doors. Monsignor Reardon commissioned them in the 1950s to replace the original wooden doors. They are grand and shiny and to most, they are inviting.
All kinds of people make their way through those doors. They vary in race and in age, in social status and sometimes in creed. Some people fling open the grand doors and bask in the beauty of the building. Others move slowly, bent under the weight of many burdens. They hesitantly open the heavy doors and quietly slip through them. For others yet the doors are a physical barrier that prevents them from entering. Thankfully, some of our grand doors now are accessible to all.
Having passed through the doors, some people simply pause in awe. Others walk a familiar path to a beloved shrine where they light a candle and kneel down in silent prayer. Some people slide into a pew, pull down their hood and take a nap. Some come here to hide from the cold, or even to hide from the world.
The Basilica doors not only allow access to our building, they also symbolize our entrance into the Church, the Body of Christ. Families walk through them as they bring their babies for baptism. Young people with families in tow enter to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation. Excited brides and eager grooms pass through these doors separately to merge from them together after the celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage.
Seminarians in cassock and surplice, deacons in dalmatic, priests wearing chasuble, and mitered bishops pass through these doors to celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Ailing and burdened people pass through them seeking forgiveness and healing. And at the end of our lives, our bodies are lovingly carried through these doors for a last visit to the church before we are laid to rest. Most people however pass through these doors in search of much needed spiritual nourishment as we come to celebrate Eucharist Sunday after Sunday.
The Christmas season is a great time to meditate on the doors of our Church as we remember how Mary and Joseph found the doors closed to them when they were looking for a place to spend the night. Locked out, they were forced to retreat into a cave or a stable where Mary gave birth to Jesus, the one who became the door to salvation for all humankind.
During this season we are invited to open wide our doors. We are invited to open wide the doors of our souls to Christ. We are invited to open wide the doors of our hearts to all who need our love. And we are invited to open wide the doors of our homes to all who need shelter.
And as Pope Francis reminds us over and over again, the Church ought to do the same. Too often, the beautifully crafted doors of our cathedrals, churches, and chapels are closed to too many people, literally as well as symbolically. Christ, the one who found the doors closed to him yet opened his heart to all asks the Church to do no less than that: to open wide our doors and welcome all. No matter where someone is on their earthly journey, they are welcome in the Church as the Church is not a palace for the privileged and perfect but rather a shelter for those who are suffering and searching.
May the beautiful doors of our Basilica never exist to keep people out, but rather be a constant invitation to the entire Body of Christ with all its bruises and burns to enter and find hope and healing.
“It’s no big deal.” Those were the words a friend of mine used when I asked him to help me install a new garbage disposal. He went on to say: “It will take an hour—maybe two at the max.” Well, several hours, and a few trips to the hardware store later, the new disposal was installed and the clean up completed. As is often the case, what had initially seemed like a simple project had turned into a much bigger deal than anticipated.
I think we probably all have had experiences like this. Initially we thought something wasn’t going to be a “big deal,” but then it turned out to be a much bigger deal than we had expected or could have imagined. Sometimes too, something that we thought was no “big deal,” was in fact, a big deal for someone else.
I suspect the birth of Jesus was one of those things that, at least initially, few people thought was a big deal. Perhaps the shepherds and a few others in that locale realized its import, but for the most part I would wager that the number of people at that time who realized the importance of Jesus’ birth was fairly small. It is only in retrospect, and through the eyes of faith, that believers have come to realize the ultimate importance and significance of Jesus’ birth.
The birth of Jesus is the revelation of God’s love for us. It reminds us that God loved the world so much that God gave form and flesh to that love in the human person of Jesus Christ. In the birth of Jesus Christ, we see God’s love made visible in our world. Because of the birth of Jesus Christ, the course of our individual lives and our world has been forever changed. And through the birth of Jesus Christ, we are invited into an intimate union with God.
Certainly to some the birth of Jesus Christ is no big deal. For believers, though, it is not just a big deal, it is an event of ultimate and everlasting importance. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, let us pause in wonder and awe before our God who loves us so much that he sent his Son to be our Lord and Savior. And let us rejoice in gratitude, exult in wonderment, and celebrate with praise and thanksgiving the greatness of our God’s love made real for us in the birth of Jesus Christ.