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It is hard to believe that it has been a year since I was diagnosed with cancer. I remember the moment very well. Early that morning I underwent a routine scan. Following the scan I went for a lovely, though chilly walk in the Minnesota zoo. On my way to lunch I noticed that my physician had tried to call me several times. In the parking lot of the restaurant I called him back. Without much ceremony he told me I had a tumor in my abdomen. I must admit I was taken aback by this news. Needless to say, I did not make it to lunch.
March 26, 2018 was Monday of Holy week. Receiving my diagnosis at the beginning of this week made it all the more meaningful. Of course, I have always known that we celebrate the mystery of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and our incorporation in that mystery during Holy Week. But while that knowledge had been rather theoretical it suddenly became very real. Last year, I experienced the highlights of Holy Week such as the Washing of the Feet, the Celebration of the Eucharist, the Procession with the Blessed Sacrament on Holy Thursday; the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday; and the Easter Fire, Procession with Light, Exultet, readings, and baptisms during the Vigil on Holy Saturday with a new and greater depth than ever.
Most memorable for me was the Easter Alleluia. We fast from this beautiful word during the season of Lent. It is sung anew for the first time during the Easter Vigil. I have sung that first Easter Alleluia in our Basilica for over 20 years. Last Easter it was different. Last Easter, I felt it in my whole being. This beautiful and simple word is our exclamation and affirmation of our faith in the resurrection. As its stirring sound resonated throughout the church, I saw the heavens, there and then, break open in our midst. And all of you were there, with me in this heaven on earth. It was a most beautiful vision. One I will never forget. It gave me strength, and hope and assurance in my faith. And it supported me during my illness.
The next day, Easter Sunday we gathered in our St. Joseph Chapel for the celebration of the Sacrament of the Sick. Earlier that day we had shared my diagnosis with the Cathedral Choir and some of the liturgical ministers. They all joined some of my friends and colleagues for the sacrament. I have taught the Sacraments of the Sick at St. John’s University for many years. I know the theology and I know the rite. However, being on the receiving end of the sacrament gave me a totally different perspective. This is truly a healing sacrament. I felt lifted up, hopeful, almost joyous as Father Bauer anointed me and everyone laid their healing hands on me. It did help that the choir was present to support our singing and to offer a musical meditation. Some 6 months earlier we had asked Don Krubsack, our composer-in-residence to set parts of the rite to music. It was incredibly moving to hear this music enrich the celebration. At the conclusion everyone gathered around me and the choir sang a Hymn of Thanksgiving also composed by Don. The hymn ends with “give me one thing more: a grateful heart.” I could not think of a better line to end this service. As a matter of fact, that line accompanied me throughout my treatment and gave me strength. It accompanies me even today.
By the grace of God, the prayers and support of our community, and the hard work of my many caregivers I am now cancer free. And I so look forward to celebrating another Holy Week with all of you. I most especially anticipate the singing of the first Easter Alleluia during the Great Vigil on Easter Saturday. I am not sure if I will be able to do it without crying but try I will. And should I find myself unable to sing, I know that you will support me as you have done throughout my illness.
We are so blessed to belong to our Basilica community. We are so blessed to have our faith. We are so blessed to have one another. May this Lent and Easter bring us ever closer to our loving God, saving Christ and guiding Spirit.
And so you know, this week I will return to the zoo for a brisk walk and I will go back to the same restaurant to enjoy the lunch I missed out on one year ago.
God is good. God is very good.
This truly has been a horrible year for our Church. As a matter of fact, it has been many horrible years in a row. The leadership of the Church I trust has betrayed us. The leadership of the Church I love has deceived us. The leadership of the Church I believe in has misled us.
In light of this, many people have asked me why I stay. It is a perfectly good question. There have been times I found myself at the threshold of the Church, ready to walk out. Yet, every time something happened that ushered me back in. I still smile at the memory of a young immigrant woman who was so elated to be baptized that she did not want to get out of the font. I rejoice every time ecstatic young couples bring their newly born babies to Church for baptism, filled with hope for a bright future. And I still ache for the family who entrusted me with their pain and sorrow at the unexpected passing of their young son, eager for solace and support.
Why do I stay? I stay because I believe in the saving message of the Gospel. I stay because I am strengthened and nourished by the liturgy. And I stay because I sense a profound connection with you, the Body of Christ, the People of God.
I stay because of my love for the Gospel. The Gospel truly is my guide and rudder on my journey. All of us carry our share of pain and suffering. And our world as a whole is in great agony. There are wars, civil unrest, natural disasters, disease, hunger, loneliness. Left to our own devices we are clearly unable to escape this spiral of death. The Gospel, when interpreted correctly, is an absolute antidote to all the evil that seems to control our world today. The Gospel is a most effective guide in our struggle to save humanity and all of creation. Such is the power of the Gospel.
I stay because of my love for the liturgy. At the Easter Vigil I offer the Blood of Christ to the newly baptized. Inevitably I have to fight back tears as I look the neophytes into the eyes and say “The Body of Christ.” As they share in the Body and Blood of Christ for the first time their sharing in the Church as the Body of Christ is confirmed. From that moment on the liturgy becomes their source of much needed direction, affirmation, and nourishment, as it is to all of us. It is in the liturgy that we are rehearsed in what it means to be followers of Christ. It is in the liturgy that God molds us into being more like Christ. It is in the liturgy that our communion of shared existence is nourished and affirmed. We may not experience this every time we gather for worship but it happens, whether we realize it or not. Such is the power of the liturgy.
I stay because of my love for you. Throughout my journey with cancer you have supported me. You have made me food. You have brought me to appointments. You have sat with me during my infusions. You have sent me cards and flowers. And above all you have supported me with your prayers. Every Sunday night as I wrote thank you notes I was deeply moved by the great support you offered to me. And I was reminded that we are the Body of Christ. We are the People of God. We are the Salt of the Earth. We are the Light of the World. It is our shared calling to change our suffering world into what God intends it to be. It is also our shared calling to change our suffering church into what God intends it to be. Such is the power of the Body of Christ.
It has indeed been a run of horrible years for the church. Anyone who has studied the history of our church knows that we have been here before, not in the same circumstances but in crisis. When we have been willing to follow the often surprising movements of the Holy Spirit we have risen from our crisis stronger and purified. This is our time and our chance to trust in the Holy Spirit and embrace the inevitable and necessary change with faith, hope and love. That is why I stay.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/032419-yearc.cfm
This weekend we celebrate the third Sunday of the season of Lent. Our Gospel this Sunday comes in two seemingly unrelated sections. In the first section (Lk. 13:1-5) Jesus rejects the Jewish belief that bad things happen to people because they have sinned. He refers to two incidents in which people had either been killed or died in an accident. He then states unequivocally that “By no means!” did they die because they were sinners.
In the second section of this Gospel (Lk. 13: 6-9) Jesus tells a parable of a fig tree that had borne no fruit. The owner of the vineyard wants to cut it down. “Why should it exhaust the soil?” he asks." The gardener responds by asking for one more year so that he can “cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.”
The connecting point for these two sections is clear. We may not experience judgment in this life for our sins, but judgment eventually will come. God is incredibly patient, but ultimately there will come a time of judgment for all of us.
Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Exodus. It contains the wonderful story of Moses’ encounter with the burning bush. In this encounter Moses had this exchange with God: “But when I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ if they ask me ‘What is his name?’ what am I to tell them?’ God replied, ‘I am who am.’” This is an important and profound moment. The fact that God would tell Moses’ God’s name is a sign of God’s covenant with God’s people and God’s abiding presence with them.
Our second reading for this weekend is taken from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians. In it Paul reminds us that the things that happened to the Israelites happened “as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil things as they did.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- When bad things happen to people, especially good people, if they aren’t a punishment from God, why do they happen?
- If someone asked you by what name you call on God, how would you reply?
- God is incredibly patient with us, but ultimately there will be a time of judgment. What’s your image of the final judgment?
Parishioners are invited to nominate excellent candidates to represent the Liturgy and Sacred Art and Learning areas to the Parish Council by April 15.
You may nominate yourself or someone you think would thrive in one of the positions.
Please call Terri Ashmore at 612.317.3471 for more information.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
Each year on the Second Sunday of Lent we read one of the accounts of the Transfiguration of Jesus. Since this is year C in our three year cycle of readings, we read from the Gospel of Luke. In Luke’s account, we are told that “Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah………………… As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master it is good that we are here;’ ……………… from a cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my chosen Son; listen to him”
There are several elements that are common to all three accounts of the Transfiguration. 1. It took place on a mountain, which in the Old Testament often was the place where God’s presence was made known; 2. Jesus’ clothes become dazzling white or white as light; 3. Moses and Elijah are identified as appearing with Christ; 4. Peter suggested that they stay; and 5. A voice came from a cloud identifying Jesus as God’s chosen/beloved son.
The experience of the Transfiguration certainly must have been overwhelming and awe inspiring. I would suggest, though, that we all have had similar experiences in our lives ----- perhaps not to the depth or degree of the Transfiguration ----- but we all have experiences of God’s presence and grace ----“transfiguring” experiences. These experiences give us hope when we encounter difficult or uncertain times in our lives.
Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of Genesis. It is the story of God’s covenant with Abram (later Abraham) that his descendants would be as numerous as the “stars in the sky” and that: “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates.”
Our second reading this weekend is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians. In it Paul reminds us that “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- When have you had a “transfiguring” experience in your life?
- What stands out in your memory about that experience?
- Have you ever thought of yourself as a citizen of heaven?
We are all aware of the hard Minnesota winter we have been experiencing. With it comes additional expenses to keep our Basilica sidewalks clear and the building warm. We are currently $7,000 over budget on snow removal and $17,760 over budget on utilities. If you are able please consider a donation today to help The Basilica with our additional expenses.
Lent is my favorite season of the liturgical year. It can easily be thought of as a somber or gloomy period, with a focus on giving things up or carrying a cross. We enter forty days of penance and prayer, as we prepare for Easter. Yet, there is great joy found in recommitting to our faith. Our hearts are renewed, as we are invited into the deep love of God.
In Lent, we are invited to embrace and practice the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Of course, these are disciplines we could practice every day of the year. Yet, so often we fall short—distracted or sidetracked. I know well the sentiment of St. Paul, in Romans 7:19: “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.”
Lent is an intentional time for individuals and communities to begin again. We gather together, hold one another accountable in a new way, and commit to pray, fast, and give alms. We commit to refocus and draw near to our God—seeking purification, enlightenment, and mercy.
A gift of Lent is the joy, comfort and grace we experience as we are called into a deeper relationship with God. As we are formed by God’s forgiving, redeeming love, we are transformed in the way we think, speak and act. During Lent, all things lead us toward this transformation.
In his 2019 Message for Lent, Pope Francis offers provocative encouragement and guidance on our Lenten journey. He reminds us Lent is a journey of conversion—opening ourselves ever deeper to the priceless gift of God’s mercy. “The path to Easter demands that we renew our faces and hearts as Christians through repentance, conversion and forgiveness, so as to live fully the abundant grace of the pascal mystery.”
Fasting: We are invited to take a fresh look at how we might fast this Lent: Pope Francis suggests that fasting is “learning to change our attitude towards others and all of creation, turning away from the temptation to ‘devour’ everything to satisfy our voracity and being ready to suffer for love, which can fill the emptiness of our hearts.” This experience of fasting is a challenge. It asks so much more than giving something up. It asks us to go deep into our attitudes, assumptions and actions—and to move concretely toward a love that can hold joy, as well as pain, in our relationships.
Prayer: Our prayer can shape and change us. Pope Francis invites us to embrace “prayer, which teaches us to abandon idolatry and the self-sufficiency of our ego, and to acknowledge our need of the Lord and his mercy.” We are invited into a deep peace that recognizes our powerlessness—coming to believe the love of God will sustain, heal and save us.
Almsgiving: What do we keep and what do we give away? Again, Pope Francis challenges us: “Almsgiving, whereby we escape from insanity of hoarding everything for ourselves in the illusory belief that we can secure a future that does not belong to us.” Almsgiving brings us freedom.
“Let us not allow this season to pass in vain!” Let us embrace Lent together. Let us say “yes” to the disciplines of our faith—finding joy individually and collectively, as we are transformed by God’s love.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/031019.cfm
This weekend we celebrate the First Sunday of the season of Lent; and every year on the First Sunday of Lent we read an account of the temptation of Jesus in the desert. This year we read from the Gospel of Luke. In Luke’s Gospel, the temptation occurs after the infancy narratives and just before the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. The three temptations Jesus faces are the temptation to turn a stone into bread; the temptation to accept power and glory; and the temptation to test God.
Luke’s account of the temptations varies in three subtle, but significant ways from the accounts of Matthew and Mark. First, Mark’s account of the temptation merely notes that it occurred. He does not include any details of the temptations. Second, in both Matthew and Mark at the end of the temptations we are told that angels came and waited on Jesus. These angels are not mentioned in Luke. Third, it is only in Luke’s Gospel that at the end of the temptations, we are told that “When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.” This seems to indicate that Jesus --- like us --- would face other temptations in his life.
Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of Deuteronomy. The context is the Jewish harvest festival. It recounts the “ritual” the Jewish people were to follow at harvest time to help them remember their salvation history. This ritual --- like our ritual of the Eucharist --- made it clear that remembering God’s work and ways is vital to salvation.
Our second reading today is taken from the Letter to the Romans. It reminds us that “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- While we are not likely to face temptations on the scale that Jesus did, we all face temptations in our lives. What helps you resist temptation in you life?
- As mentioned above, Luke ends his account of the temptation with the ominous statement: “When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.” How do you deal with reoccurring temptations in your life?
- Have you ever made “distinctions” between Christians, or between Christians and other religions?
These past few weeks I have had so many intense conversations with people about where they are in regard to their faith life. These conversations have been so rich and diverse and filled with wonderful stories of how God has interacted in their lives.
One such encounter was with a friend who is my age and who has gone through several tragedies in her life, the latest being the loss of a child. She told me she prayed and prayed for God to do something and heal her daughter; it did not happen and her child died a slow painful death. She was truly grateful for all those who were involved in her daughter’s illness from doctors to family members and friends. She was also grateful for her faith community that surrounded her but the one she had the problem with was God. She felt that God wants nothing to do with our lives and has just left us on earth to fend for ourselves. I tried to suggest to her that God works through doctors and the community that surrounded her with care and concern but she would have none of it. She said that they were responsible for all that, not God. It left me wondering about doubt and what we can learn from it. It also made me remember that sometimes it is easier to blame God than to just see it as part of life.
There is pain and suffering throughout everyone’s life. That is a very real part of life. Just listen to the news some evening and you will hear about the suffering of many. It seems so unfair and cruel for these things to happen to us. In our anger and loss it is so much easier to blame someone than to face the reality of what happened. I believe this response is part of the process of grieving and the stages of dying.
Acceptance of a loved one’s suffering or death comes much later on as we go through denial, blame and anger in the mourning process. We experience various kinds of loss—loss of control, loss of companionship, loss of a loved one, loss of trust and sometimes loss of faith. If we feel like we have lost our faith in God that can leave us feeling terribly alone and without hope.
All of these things that we may experience are very normal in the life of a Christian. Just because we have come to the point of thinking that we have lost our faith in God, doesn’t mean we really have. Being filled with doubt is common in many of the lives of the saints. Doubt can be an unforeseen gift…it takes us to the place of re-evaluating our relationship with God. In the darkness of doubt we can be confronted with either despair or hope…two very opposite places to be. Whenever I have come to this place in my life, I find it impossible to pray. Do I really believe that God answers our prayers?
Perhaps, the reason we pray is not because God needs it but because we do. Praying for ourselves or someone else really is about teaching us to get out of ourselves and think about someone else. It’s about turning our hearts towards loving someone else as much as we love ourselves. I need my faith community around me. Sometimes in the darkness it is my faith community that prays when I cannot. This is the power of community and being part of the Body of Christ. This is the reason why I can’t leave and I choose to stay.
Multi-generational families committed to service
“FOR everything there is a season,” wrote Qoheleth, whose teachings were recorded in Ecclesiastes long before The Byrds added a catchy refrain in the Sixties. A time to reap, to sow, to laugh, to cry, to dance, to heal, to embrace, and more. There is a time and place to everything under the heaven. Some Basilica families have spent many times and seasons at The Basilica, purposely weaving the parish into their lives multi-generationally.
From the Fall 2018 issue of the BASILICA magazine.