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Several years ago a friend of mine went through an unplanned job and resultant life transition. We kept in communication during his transition period via phone calls and emails. In one of our conversations he said: “John, I’ve been praying and trying to discern God’s plan for my life, but I’m not getting any clarity.” In response I told him that I wasn’t convinced that God had a specific plan for each of our lives, as that would negate our free will. And our free will is one of God’s great gifts to us—and more than occasionally—something that gets us (or at least me) into trouble.
If God had a specific plan for each of our lives, if we didn’t have our free will, we would be nothing more than automatons. Now in saying this, there is a need for great clarity, while I don’t believe God has a specific plan for each of us, I do believe that God has a “general” plan for all of us. The old Baltimore Catechism stated this well when it indicated that: “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.” Our free will allows us to make the choice for God in our each of our lives. Unfortunately, our free will also allows us to choose things other than God. Without free will, we would have no choice, but to love God in all God’s magnificence and glory. Free will is a great gift, but it also comes with great responsibility. Because of it even small decisions can have significant consequences.
Now the above having been said, I also believe that there are times when God does call us to a specific service. Cardinal John Henry Newman stated this well back in 1848: “God knows me and calls me by my name….God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission—I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.” These words of Cardinal Newman remind us that we are not created without a purpose.
I do believe we are called to some specific service—even though we may never know what that purpose or service is. Perhaps the service God is calling someone to be good husband/wife, father/mother, son/daughter, friend, neighbor, or co-worker. Perhaps it is simply to invite others to come to know Jesus by the witness of our lives. This service can be accomplished in a variety of ways. And at different times, this service may take a variety of forms. Being called to a specific service or purpose by God, though, is not the same as God having a specific plan for our lives. A specific service is not the same as a specific plan.
Like Cardinal Newman, we may never know the service God has committed to us in our individual lives. But with prayer and our free will—and even though we might not know it—we will accomplish that service.
As this new year begins, I find myself spending more time than usual in both reflection and planning. Looking back, I am in awe of all the unexpected challenges we have navigated as a community. Together, we have developed our ability to adjust, adapt and pivot the ways we serve and support one another. Looking ahead, I am hopeful and cautiously optimistic that vaccines will provide us a gradual return to some normalcy. We are busy preparing for more in-person opportunities as the promise of a brighter future is just around the corner.
Given the challenges of 2020, we are profoundly grateful for your ongoing financial support of The Basilica Fund which provides for 79% of our annual operating budget. Your faithful generosity empowers our mission, allowing us to minister to our parish and broader community. We thank you for the contributions you have provided this far and ask you to prayerfully consider continuing your support in 2021.
If you have not done so already, we encourage you to make a recurring gift commitment to The Basilica Fund. You can give anytime online at mary.org/give or by texting “GIVE” to 612.249.7559. Taking the time to inform us of your giving plans offers the parish the most financial stability and allows us to make informed budget decisions throughout the year.
The Basilica Landmark is also grateful for your ongoing financial support that helps provide for the preservation and restoration of our historic buildings and campus. Because of your generosity, we were able to complete several projects in 2020. A few of these include the masonry restoration on the west façade of the Church, necessary maintenance on our treasured organ and the installation of air purification systems that remove air borne viruses and bacteria from the Church, Theresa of Calcutta Hall and choir rooms. You can make a gift to The Basilica Landmark at basilicalandmark.org/give.
Our traditional events had to be cancelled last year, but I am delighted to share that our annual Landmark Spark gala will be held virtually on Saturday, May 15. For the first time ever, we will be livestreaming the event straight into your home. You will be able to participate in an online auction and support our 2021 Fund-THE-Need which will benefit all areas and projects that preserve, restore and advance The Basilica. Please plan to join us and share the opportunity with your friends and family. You can learn more about this special evening at basilicalandmark.org/spark.
We hope to hold more in-person events as the year unfolds and things start to reopen more fully. We will be eager to share those opportunities with you later in the year as our planning continues. It will be so wonderful to find ourselves reunited again.
While the past year has kept us physically distant, it has provided powerful reminders of how interconnected we truly are. On behalf of all of us at The Basilica, I want to offer each of you our heartfelt gratitude for your continued support and commitment to The Basilica of Saint Mary and The Basilica Landmark.
Director of Development
The Basilica of Saint Mary