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As you may know I love to travel, and Italy is among my favorite destinations. One of my Italy trips was dedicated to studying mosaics. Naturally, Ravenna was on the list of cities to visit. I had studied Ravenna’s many early Christian churches while at university, but I had never seen them in person. I was completely enamored with their beauty. And though I remember all of them with great fondness, one church left a lasting impression: the 6th C. church of Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo.
The mosaics in this elegant, early Christian Basilica are just splendid. Both lateral walls of the nave are divided in three freezes. The mosaics on the top tell the story of the life of Jesus. The middle freeze shows a series of saints, prophets, and evangelists. The bottom freeze depicts a grand procession of saints. On one of the lateral walls, 22 virgins led by the magi process toward the Madonna and Child. On the opposite wall, 26 martyrs process toward Christ enthroned in glory.
Sitting quietly in Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo, I not only succumbed to a true artistic ecstasy, but more importantly, I had a deep spiritual revelation. As a liturgical theologian, I knew and truly believed that whenever we gather for worship, we not only gather with our local community, but we gather with the entire church, even those who have gone before us and those who are yet to come. Flanked by all the saints depicted so beautifully on the walls, I had a more profound experience of our communion with the saints than I had ever had before.
Years later and thousands of miles away, I had a similar experience in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Holy Angels in Los Angeles. The nave of this magnificent 20th C. building is decorated with beautiful tapestries designed by John Nava and woven in Belgium. Like the mosaics in Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo these tapestries depict row upon row of saints. Some saints have their names written beneath them. Others don’t, leaving room for those saints living among us and those yet to be born. As I processed toward the altar to receive Holy Communion, I had a true sense that Teresa of Calcutta and John Bosco, Bridget of Sweden and Ignatius of Loyola and countless other saints were walking with me not only toward this earthly banquet but even to the eternal banquet.
The Solemnity of All Saints is the day per excellence when we celebrate our communion with the saints. At The Basilica of Saint Mary, instead of mosaics or tapestries we have Icons to assist us in this celebration. On October 30th we process the images of the Blessed Mother and countless other saints into the church and we place them in the sanctuary. They will grace our sanctuary throughout November. We do this not only to honor these saints, but to celebrate their presence among us, especially when we gather for Eucharist.
The mosaics of the church of Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo, the tapestries of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Holy Angels, the Icons of The Basilica of Saint Mary remind us of our most sacred calling: we are all on a journey toward sainthood. Some of us get there quickly. Others need more time, sometimes even past our death. So we march on together, saint and sinner, side by side as we proclaim our faith in God who became human so we may become like God.
All Mass recordings can be found at Mass Recordings.
The Catholic bishops of the United States are pleased to offer once again to the Catholic faithful Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, our teaching document on the political responsibility of Catholics. This statement represents our guidance for Catholics in the exercise of their rights and duties as participants in our democracy. We urge our pastors, lay and religious faithful, and all people of good will to use this statement to help form their consciences; to teach those entrusted to their care; to contribute to civil and respectful public dialogue; and to shape political choices in the coming election in light of Catholic teaching. The statement lifts up our dual heritage as both faithful Catholics and American citizens with rights and duties as participants in the civil order.
Faith, Justice and Healing Series
Join us for these compelling, powerful programs that invite us to listen, to learn, and to accompany those who have experienced harm. The Basilica of Saint Mary is committed to inclusivity and building a culture where all people feel valued, welcome, integrated, and included.
Please register for each event separately, free of charge.
Ministering On The Margins: A Conversation with Monsignor Chad Gion
Sunday, November 13, 11:00am, Lower Level
Monsignor Gion serves as the pastor of the Catholic Indian Mission in Sioux County, North Dakota. The Catholic Indian Mission (CIM) consists of three parishes, the St. Bernard Mission School, and Keya Childcare Center on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in south central North Dakota. Monsignor Gion organized a contingent of boarding school survivors from North Dakota to attend the Papal visit in Canada during his visit July 2022. Come to be part of this powerful and relevant conversation about ministering to the sacred people of North Dakota.
A Place at the Table: African-Americans on the Path to Sainthood
Film Screening with Message from Filmmaker
Saturday, November 19, 1:00pm, Lower Level
November is Black Catholic History Month. Did you know there are no African-American Saints formally recognized within the Catholic Church? But that could soon change! There are six incredible black men and women who are on the path to Canonization. The Catholic Church is starting to recognize their impact and may soon name any or all of them Saints. It's time to hear their stories. Come together to learn about their stories and recognize the important contributions our African-American brothers and sisters have contributed to our faith.
Here I am, Lord: Journeying Towards Healing through Listening and Truth-Telling
Saturday, December 3, 9:00am, Lower Level
This Advent, we invite all our community to engage in an important listening experience - opening our minds and hearts to the realities of our fellow parishioners of color. Dr. Yohuru Williams will ground us in our Catholic Faith, guide us in understanding the history and context for our day and invite us to embrace the stories of our brothers and sisters. We will hear the honest and vulnerable stores of our brothers and sisters of color at The Basilica of Saint Mary and enter into a safe space of sharing in small groups, as we process all we have heard through restorative circles.
For more information, click HERE.
Eugenio Scalfari, a noted atheist, and the editor of La Repubblica, a daily newspaper in Rome was stunned when he heard the voice of His Holiness on the other end of the line. Pope Francis said, “I am calling to fix an appointment for us to meet. Let me look at my appointment book. I cannot do Wednesday, nor Monday, would Tuesday suit you?” Say three P.M. at my place?” The lengthy interview between the Pope and the publisher ended in a draw. Neither converted the other into becoming a believer or a nonbeliever, but they embraced and agreed to meet again. Accompanying Eugenio to the car, Francis raised his two fingers in a blessing and said: “Next time we will discuss the role of women in the Church. Remember, the Church (in Italian, la Chiesa) is feminine.”
The meeting between the Pope and the atheist sounds like the beginning of a good joke. An imaginative scenario between the church and the real world might prove helpful in establishing a conversational connection between believers and non-believers. Given the traditional clericalism that has encapsulated the hierarchical structure of the Church, it is not easy to establish a critical dialogue that embraces change, with or without humor. It was heartening to note in the Pope’s interview with Eugenio Scalfari, Francis was critical of the Roman Curia. He said that a long history of narcissists in the Papacy had obscured the wider mission of the universal Church. In a shocking metaphor, Francis referred to The Curia as “the leprosy of the Papacy.”
Unfortunately, over the centuries the Vatican centered perspective has neglected the struggles of the world in favor of sustaining a plethora of clerical sycophants who impede change. “I do not share this view,” the Pope said, as he removed Cardinals who were persistent in their sabotaging attempts at resisting reform. Pope Francis’ pastoral message remains: “The Church must become a community of God’s people and the care of souls must be oriented to serving the people of God. Change is an integral reflection of the continued revelation of the Spirit of God in the world.”
The readings for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time substantiate the theological thinking of Pope Francis. His preferential option for the poor (the widow and the orphan in traditional biblical terminology) is clear in his preaching and ministerial practice. Reminiscent of Jesus, St. Paul and St. Francis of Assisi, Francis’ guiding moral principle can be found in his proclamation of “The Year of Mercy” (2015-2016) and the gifts of joy and mercy found in his early encyclical, “Laudato Si.” Francis challenged the world community to maintain an inclusive dialogue regarding the common care of the world’s environment.
In our first reading from The Book of Sirach (35:15-17, 20-22), a book belonging to the collection of biblical texts known as the Wisdom literature, the Lord will listen to the prayer of one who is wronged. “The Lord will not ignore the supplication of the orphan, or the widow when she pours out her complaint.” In Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy (4:6-8, 8, 16-20), he is clear about the need to persevere in the service to the community: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race and I have kept the faith. The Lord has stood by me and gave me strength so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed, and all the Gentiles might hear it.” Paul was conscious of those who helped him and those who impeded his ministry. However, without seeking revenge, Paul continued to be a witness of the gospel so that it might be made available to all, including the Gentiles.
It is in this witnessing to the Gentiles that Pope Francis has oriented his mission to the world. In restructuring the Curia, Francis has discussed the Vatican’s troubled administration and has implemented pastoral changes in the church. “I am not Francis of Assisi and I do not have his strength and holiness, but I am the Bishop of Rome and Pope of the Catholic world. My appointment of new Cardinals to help me govern are wise people, not courtiers. This is the beginning of a Church with an organization that is not just top-down, but also horizontal.”
Today’s gospel from Luke (18:9-14) provides a reasonable insight into prayer that is surprisingly simple. Jesus offers a parable about a tax collector and a Pharisee who go into the Temple to pray. Contrasting the negative approach of the Pharisee: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income to the Temple.” The tax collector simply says: “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Justification based upon the need to trust in the absolute forgiveness of God is far more effective than the self-reliant, moral superiority approach of the Pharisee. Jesus presents a startling conclusion to the parable: “Whoever exults himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” From a cultural perspective where honor and shame were the operative theological controlling forces, this wonderful insight is paralleled in another parable of Jesus regarding where people get to sit at banquets (Luke 14:7-14). These stories of “divine reversal” are God’s way of tempering human pride.
In many respects Pope Francis is leading the Church by upsetting the Vatican status quo. Confronting clericalism (think elitist) and ephemeral anachronistic rituals, Francis has led by example. His refusal to live in the traditional Papal apartments or to wear the cumbersome ceremonial robes has offered a breath of fresh air in a clerical culture priding itself on order, control, and tradition. Francis is not an iconoclast seeking to destroy the Church, but one who is attempting to resuscite those who have suffered theological oxygen deprivation from lingering too long in musty sacristies. Clarifying problematic issues with truthful solutions requires tough love. Moving beyond the “quid pro quo” rhetoric of sleazy political compromises and intransigent religious dogma, we must be willing to risk shedding light on the hermetically sealed darkness of clericalism. Given the fact we are all sinners, we need the grace of the Holy Spirit to name, claim and tame the problems that stifle creative change in the Church.
When asked by a reporter if he said that he was a sinner, Pope Francis simply said, “Yes.” Naively the reporter chastised the Pope saying,” You are the Pope. Popes are not sinners.” Smiling, Pope Francis said: “Obviously, you haven’t read any history.”
Hello, this is Pope Francis speaking! Are you listening? Well, are you? Believe me, this is not a rhetorical question!
Peace, Fr. Joe Gillespie, O.P
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I’m honored to continue this journey of faith together.