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Recently Pope Francis, in an action that didn’t gain a lot of attention, added the name of Blessed Peter Faber, one of the first companions of St. Ignatius of Loyola (the founder of the Jesuits), to the company of the saints, short-circuiting the normal canonization process. In an August interview with Antonio Spadaro S.J. for Civiltà Cattolica, a periodical published by the Jesuits in Rome, Pope Francis spoke of Faber as a "model" for himself, both as a Jesuit and now in the governance of the universal church.  The Pope said he admired Faber for his ability to "dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents; his simple piety, a certain naïveté perhaps, his being available straightaway, his careful interior discernment, the fact that he was a man capable of great and strong decisions but also capable of being so gentle and loving."

When I read the Pope’s words, my immediate reaction was: what a great idea, canonizing someone who was able to "dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents." Holding up someone like Peter Faber as a model of sanctity, and a way of life worth emulating, reminds us that as Catholics we should never disregard or disdain those with whom we disagree. Certainly this runs counter to the way many in our church deal with those they regard as their opponents.  

In our in our church these days there are times when it is not enough simply to disagree with others. Instead, at times we tend to demonize those with whom we disagree, or worse invite them to find another church. This behavior is not limited to a particular group. I have seen people on both ends of the spectrum --- liberal and conservative --- engage in this conduct. Frankly and bluntly, I find this kind of behavior embarrassing at best.   

When Jesus called his first disciples he simply said: "Follow me." There was no litmus test to see if they passed muster. He simply invited them to follow him. And it was in following him that they came to understand what they were called to believe, and how they were called to live as his disciples. And we know from the Gospel that some found his words too difficult and simply left. In fact we are told that as a result of the Bread of Life Discourse in John’s Gospel that "many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him." Notice, though, that Jesus never spoke ill of those who left. He didn’t demonize them. And he never asked them to leave. When people left his fellowship, it was always their decision.

I am excited that Pope Francis has name Peter Faber, S.J. a saint. I am pleased and grateful that he did so because he appreciated Peter Faber’s ability to "dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents."  And I am going to pray for St. Peter Faber’s intercession so that I can be more like him in my life.

To find this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052514.cfm

Our Gospel this Sunday is taken from that part of John’s Gospel known as the Last Supper Discourse.   In it, Jesus prepares his disciples for his death, resurrection, and eventual ascension into heaven.  He tells his disciples: “I will not leave you orphans.”   Rather, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth………..”   Additionally, twice in this Gospel Jesus invites his disciples to demonstrate their love for him by keeping his commandments.   And his commandments are simply that we “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all you mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  (Lk. 10:27)   

Clearly for Jesus if we strive to love God and our neighbor this creates a new relationship with them --- a relationship of love. In essence we are family to one another and thus are never orphans.

Once again our first reading this weekend is the Acts of the Apostles.   In the section we read this Sunday we hear that Philip “proclaimed the Christ” in Samaria, and “when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John who went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”  

Our second reading this Sunday is taken again from the first Letter of Saint Peter.    In today’s section Peter exhorts the people to “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  Have you ever felt alone or on your own, e.g. orphaned, and then realized God was with you? 
2.  How have you experienced the Spirit of Truth --- the Advocate promised by Jesus --- in your life?
3.  What explanation would you offer as the reason for your hope?  

I’m a seven year-old Catholic. My memory of baptism at The Basilica ranks a close second to the birth of my daughters. Along with many others who lay prostrate in the sanctuary, I experienced a profound conversion through the R.C.I.A. process, the height of which was the Easter Vigil.

As a new Catholic, I returned to the theme of joy and gratitude time and time again. The Easter season seems to point in this direction. New life is everywhere, and this Easter season is rich in encouragement, inspiration and hope. Each time I attend Mass at The Basilica, the reminders are everywhere: Joy and gratitude are proclaimed in music, our prayers and in our communion with one another.  

Being honest, I’ve needed that reminder. Especially this year.  

Day after day, we hear of the sin, neglect and pain in our local Catholic Church. 
And I’ve asked myself I chose this? This ugliness?

The ugliness of the loss of innocence. The ugliness of perpetuating these sins with lack of candor. The ugliness of losing focus on the true victims: the victims of abuse.

It’s hard to feel fresh in your faith when it is hard to distinguish it from the faith embedded in scandal.

Today, I do have great joy and gratitude in my faith, but it isn’t centered so much on people or on the local institutional church. Today, I sometimes worry about the choice I have made to join this church. I chose a church whose focus was not on self, but serving. Whose focus was not on judgment, but on love; a church whose focus guided me to gratitude.

I joined The Basilica.

In this struggle, I found my letter from 2006 regarding why I wanted to join the Catholic Church. Here was part of my response, as I learn about the traditions of the Catholic tradition, I feel encouraged to become a part of this faith community. I love the deep and historical tradition of the faith. I appreciate the necessity of personal accountability. I want to be a part of this community that gives to its parishioners and also gives back to the community. I look forward to participating fully in the worship service and hope to raise my children in this community in the future because of the core values in which it not only believes, but also lives.

To me still today, The Basilica represents what I was searching for, and today, I’m still here by choice. Trying to center on faith, not on those individuals who have made mistakes.  

The real loss in what has happened in our local church is faith. Not faith in the church, but our faith in God. Despite this great distraction, I hope we will continue to choose faith. And I hope we will continue to represent all the good that is at the heart of our Catholic faith.

Perhaps now we can be part of the solution. Be honest. Represent our challenged Church by being public representatives of what we love about it, and why we continue to choose it. I see Fr. Bauer’s honesty and leadership, along with his invitation for open conversation as part of the solution.

The Basilica gives me real hope. People are joining, giving and volunteering. And young people are finding their adult religious home in the pews and in the activities of our church. It still speaks, inviting everyone to believe in the good that God has given us. I am so grateful to our parish for reinforcing all that I know about the church I chose eight years ago.

Thank you for being a part of it, and for the collective voice for good, affirming and encouraging so many. You spread the faith by representing it so beautifully, in the pews at The Basilica and in our community. You are the church.

One does not have to travel to the churches mentioned in the Da Vinci Code in search of intriguing stories. Every cathedral, church and chapel has its own secret codes hidden in the building, even The Basilica.

As you walk around you will notice that every chapel has a small wall carving announcing which saint is honored there. A burning heart surrounded by a crown of thorns leads to the Sacred Heart chapel. A star, symbol of Mary leads to the chapel of St. Anne and Mary. A lily, symbol of St. Joseph leads to the shrine of St. Joseph. Strangely, near the chapel of St. Anthony, patron saint of Italy you will find  a clover and snake, the symbol of St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland. Might this chapel have been intended for St. Anthony and was the wrong symbol carved in the wall? Or was the carving correct and did the parish have a change of heart in terms of selection of saints?

In his 1932 book entitled, The Basilica of St. Mary of Minneapolis, longtime pastor, Mgr. Reardon mentions the St. Anthony of Padua Chapel.  Research in the archives, however reveals that the relic buried in the altar is not of St. Anthony but rather of St. Patrick.

This seems to indicate that the chapel was intended for St. Patrick while today, St. Anthony is honored there. Might this chapel reveal a bit of competition between the Irish and Italian founding families? Today, St. Patrick’s symbol and St. Anthony’s statue coexist peacefully.

Whether there was friendly feuding between our founding families or not, we are deeply grateful to them. Since they celebrated the first Eucharist on May 31, 2014 (Pentecost) over 100,000 Masses have been celebrated at The Basilica while 11,908 couples were married and 26,456 babies have been baptized in our church.

Our community has grown in so many ways since those early days. From a couple hundred families we have grown to over 6000 households. From an Irish and Italian church we have grown to reflect the world church as people from all parts of the globe have joined our church. And from a church marked by an active clergy and passive laity we have grown to be a church where both clergy and laity fully, actively and consciously participate in the life of our church.

On June 8, 2014 (Pentecost) we will mark the centennial anniversary of the first Eucharist celebrated in The Basilica. It will be a celebration of the accomplishments of our founding families. It will be a celebration of all the people who have made us who we are over the course of these 100 years. It will be a celebration of who we are today: great in number, rich in diversity and strong in our faith. And most importantly, it will be a time to call down the Holy Spirit once again to give us the peace, the wisdom and the strength to continue on this rich path for many more years to come.

So, do join us for the celebration of Pentecost on June 7/8. We will have extra music at all Masses followed by festive hospitality. And please wear your favorite red outfit or best ethnic garb.

Come Holy Spirit, Enlighten our hearts and our minds.

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/051814.cfm

“Don’t worry, Be happy” was the title of a song made popular several years ago by Bobby McFerrin.  From my rather biased perspective the lyrics of this song were just this side of insipid. They encouraged a relaxed “don’t worry about anything” attitude without offering a reason why we shouldn’t worry.   A superficial reading of today’s Gospel could give one the impression that Jesus is advocating a similar approach to life when he told his disciples:  “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”   The fact is though, that Jesus tells us not to let our hearts be troubled because he is “the way, the truth and the life” and he is “going to prepare a place for us”, so that he “ will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.”  

Jesus goes on to tell us the reason we can trust his words is because “The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.  Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.”    Jesus is clear that if we have trouble believing his words, his works should convince us to trust in him and not let our hearts be troubled.  

We continue reading from the Acts of the Apostles for our first reading this Sunday.  As the early community of disciples continued to grow, “the twelve” didn’t think it was right “to neglect the word of God to serve at table.”   They suggested that the community “select from among you seven reputable men, filled with Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task,”    We identify these men as the first deacons in the early church.

Again this Sunday our second reading is taken from the first Letter of Saint Peter.     In the section we read this Sunday, Paul reminds us that we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 

Questions for Discussion/Reflection:

1. When has your heart been troubled?
2. Did your faith help you to find peace when your heart was troubled?  
3. Have you ever thought of yourself and being “chosen?”  

A few weeks ago, I texted a friend of mine to ask how his mother was doing. She had some surgery and had experienced some complications after surgery. He texted back that his mom was doing great. In his text message he went on to say: “God is so good. He has bedbugs (sic) so good to her and our entire family.” Now I was pretty sure that he meant to type that “God has been so good to her and their entire family,” but I texted him back just to be sure. He claimed he was a victim of his phone’s autocorrect program, and having myself fallen prey to autocorrect, I could certainly understand how that could happen.   

When you are typing fast, and if you have chubby fingers, it is easy to mistype a word. And with autocorrect, you may not even realize your error unless you proofread your message before you send it. Most of the time, when I am sending a text or an email, because I know what I intend to say, I just expect it to be there. I have been surprised on more than one occasion, though, when I mistyped a word, that autocorrect had changed it to a word I hadn’t intended. And in most cases the new word had changed what I intended to say.  

I would guess that 95% of the time autocorrect is a good thing. It can save time and effort in our communication efforts when we don’t have to go back and correct typos. Occasionally, though, it can be problematic, especially when a mistyped word is changed by autocorrect into something we didn’t intend, as was the case with my friend’s text message. This experience has been a good reminder to me to always proofread my texts and emails before sending them.

While there are times when autocorrect can change the meaning we intended, we are fortunate that we don’t have to worry about this in regard to our prayer. As we are reminded in Psalm 139, “Before a word is on my tongue, behold O Lord, you know the whole of it.” (Ps. 139:4)  Having created us, our God knows us better than we know ourselves. God knows our needs, our wants, our heartaches, our joys, our sadness, our sorrows, our every thought. In prayer we don’t have to worry that we will get it wrong, and/or that God won’t understand what it is we are trying to say. God knows what is on our mind and in our heart without our ever having to give voice to it. Knowing this, we need to trust that the God who loved us into existence, will continue to hold us in that love regardless of the words we use in our prayer. 

It is very comforting for me to know that on those days when I’m a bit tongue-tied or the words don’t come out as I want, that God knows and understands my prayer. I don’t need to worry that anything will change the meaning or intent of my prayer. This is true for all of us. Before ever a word is on our tongue, God knows the whole of our prayer. And while God does not always answer our prayer in the way we had anticipated or hoped, God does hear our prayers, and will always give us the grace we need in our lives.  

When I celebrated my first communion I was given many gifts. I can remember the joy I experienced at receiving statues of the Infant of Prague, of Our Lady of Fatima and of Saint Joseph. My absolute favorite was a statue of Mary wearing a beautiful dress in pastel colors. She had pretty blond hair and there was a built-in mechanism that played Immaculate Mary. I was quite surprised that my friends in school did not share my enthusiasm when I brought this statue for show and tell. Regardless, I was happy to have received the greatest number of saintly statuary and I was quite pleased with the singing statue of Mary.

At the beginning of the month of May, which is dedicated to Mary I fondly remember my singing Mary statue. She is now safely packed away in my brother’s attic with other religious relics I left behind when I came to the United States. When I first got her, she received a place of honor in my bedroom. She stayed there until I learned that Mary in real life would neither have had blond hair nor worn pastel colored flowing robes and she did not reveal herself as the Immaculate Conception until fairly recently.

Mary was Jewish, the mother of Jesus and the wife of Joseph, who is said to have been a carpenter. She was born to a poor family and led a hard life managing her household. She must have worried about her son whose cross she flanked and whose lifeless body she cradled. She was also the one who recognized Jesus as the Messiah before most everyone else. And she testified to this not only during her lifetime, but also after she was assumed into heaven during her many apparitions.

I have always been fascinated by these apparitions. It seems like Mary has always known that by appearing in the image of the people she could win them for her son. For instance, when she appeared in Mexico as “Our Lady of Guadalupe” she appeared as an Aztec princess. Thus the Aztec people could recognize themselves in Mary and Christianity became more accessible. In Vietnam she appeared as a Vietnamese woman. In Africa she appeared as African. In Belgium, she appeared as a Belgian with blond hair and wearing a pastel dress. Indeed, Mary has taken on the shape, color and form of most every woman in our world.

Today, my entire house is filled with religious art. There are images of Mary from all around the world and none of them sing. Like the many representations of Mary in The Basilica, they are reminders of the many faces of Mary, mother of the church and of the many faces of all mothers of our world. They are a constant invitation for us to commit ourselves to a greater love for one another, a totally gratuitous love exemplified by the mother of Jesus as well as by our own mothers.

 

To find this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/051114.cfm  

The fourth Sunday of Easter is often called Good Shepherd Sunday because in our three year cycle of readings the Gospels for these Sundays taken from the 10th Chapter of John’s Gospel in which Jesus refers to himself as the Good Shepherd.  

In the section of John’s Gospel we read this weekend, Jesus reminds us that the Good Shepherd enters through the gate, and “the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out…………. He walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.”   Later in the Gospel Jesus says:  “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.  All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the gate.  Whoever enters through me will be saved……………. I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”  

Clearly Jesus was reminding us that it is in listening for his voice and in following him we will find our salvation. 

In our first reading this Sunday from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear Peter exhort the people: “Repent and be baptized, everyone one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”   We are told that “those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.”  

Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the first Letter of Saint Peter.   Peter’s words continue the theme of the Gospel.  “For you have gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1. What helps you to listen for the voice of the shepherd? 
2. What do you think Jesus meant when he said that he came that we might have life and have it more abundantly? 
3.  Have you ever “gone astray?” What helped you to return to the shepherd?  

Several people have told me how much they appreciate the opening rites for the Easter Vigil when we gather to bless the new fire and light the Paschal Candle from this fire. It is indeed a memorable and somewhat unique rite, even for us Catholics who love ritual. And as we celebrate this rite in our customary grand way, you may have noted that we again caused passing traffic to slow down. Thankfully, I know of no accidents due to curious gawking. And the fire department did not make an unexpected appearance. Yet, what a statement we make. Personally, I think it much better than the electronic signs wishing everyone a happy Easter and announcing the arrival of the Easter Bunny which have become all too popular.

The Easter Fire is actually pagan in origin. It originates in the Saxon custom of lighting fires to mark the passing of the seasons. This was done in celebration of the returning of the light at the spring equinox and the fullness of light during the summer solstice. Though not as popular it was also done occasionally in mourning for the diminishing of the light at the fall equinox and to break the depth of darkness at the time of the winter solstice. 

The fire lit to mark the spring equinox was the most popular. Not only did it allow for a celebration of the end of winter and the return of the light it also had very practical implications. All the unwanted vegetation was burned in the bonfires. The resulting ashes were used as a fertilizer for the fields. Thus these spring fires symbolize light, they help with cleansing and result in increased fertility. 

Christians easily “baptized” this ritual as the season of Lent and Easter clearly is about cleansing, light and fertility. The Lenten exercises are intended as a spiritual cleansing. During the Easter Vigil we celebrate Christ, the Light of the World who conquered darkness. And from the baptismal waters new Christians are born. All this is celebrated and anticipated with the Easter Fire. That is what the fire is all about.

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.   http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/050414.cfm   

Our Gospel this weekend is the beautiful story of two of Jesus’ disciples encountering the risen Lord on the road to Emmaus.   We are told that initially they didn’t recognize him.   He walked with them, though, and talked with them and “interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.”    When “he gave the impression that he was gong on farther, they urged him: ‘Stay with us,”    And “while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.  With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.”    The disciples then made their way to Jerusalem “where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them…………….Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”   

I’d like to suggest that the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus is really all of our stories.  There are times when Jesus walks with us on our journey of life, but for some reason we are not able to recognize him.  Then something happens and our eyes are opened and we realize that Jesus has indeed been with us all along.   Those moments of insight and recognition don’t occur as often as I would like, but the memory of them helps me to believe that Jesus is always with me ---- even and perhaps especially at those times when, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, I am experiencing some turmoil or confusion.   

In our first reading this weekend from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter boldly proclaims Jesus’ resurrection and the promise of the Holy Spirit.  “Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father and poured him forth as you see and hear.”   

Our second reading this weekend is from the first Letter of Saint Peter.  In it Peter reminds us that we “were ransomed from your futile conduct, handled on by your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.    Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, have you ever suddenly discovered Christ’s presence with you? 
2.    What helped you to recognize/realize Christ’s presence?  
3.    The disciples on the road to Emmaus couldn’t wait to share their experience of the risen Lord with the other disciples.   Have you shared your experience of Christ with anyone?   

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