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In our video series "Art That Surrounds Us," Johan van Parys, Ph.D., our Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts, shares information about a piece from The Basilica of Saint Mary's art collection. In this episode, Johan tells us about some of the specific migrants and refugees depicted in Timothy Schmalz's Angels Unawares sculpture.
The Basilica is hosting the Angels Unawares throughout August on our front plaza along Hennepin Avenue. Angels Unawares depicts 140 almost life size migrants from all times and places aboard a boat. It was created by Canadian Catholic sculptor Timothy Schmalz, who also created our Homeless Jesus sculpture.
The original sculpture was dedicated by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square on September 29, 2019, the 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees. The name Angels Unawares comes from Hebrews 13:2, which admonishes Christians to “show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."
This weekend we get a break from our normal Sunday lectionary readings and celebrate the Assumption of Mary. This holy day recalls our teaching that Mary, because she always lived in right relationship with God and was the first disciple of Jesus, immediately was assumed into heaven when her life ended. Did she die? The Church doesn’t say one way or another; that is a question for theologians to banter about. Not only that, this feast looks ahead to the “resurrection of all members of Christ’s body” (CCC 974). That’s us! Today we can enthusiastically pray that we “look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come” in our Creed.
There isn’t much in the Catechism about this celebration; one might assume there isn’t much more to say about it. Do we really need this reminder every year on the Church calendar? I find this feast day particularly meaningful in light of the events of the past year. With all of the lives lost to this pandemic, the increase in violence in our community, the reckoning with race that we have had to face as a country, how else can we get through the day without an extra shot of hope?
Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) wrote that “All the way to heaven is heaven, because Jesus said, ‘I am the way.’” Sometimes I need that simple reminder that whenever we live as faithful disciples of Jesus, as Mary did, we can experience a small glimpse of heaven. When we come together at Mass and/or join together in community in other ways to support and encourage each other, that is a glimpse of heaven. When we support those who are suffering in any way, that is a taste of eternal life, when there will be no more suffering. The Magnificat that Mary proclaims in today’s Gospel of Luke has inspired generations of people to work for justice and right relationship with each other and in society; this concern for the oppressed is a glimpse of the Kingdom in our midst.
And Mary does not just reside in heaven (wherever that is), and support us from afar. Pope Benedict has written beautifully about the Assumption and how close both Mary and God are to us. “Mary…does not go to some unknown galaxy…Mary, united to God, is so close to us, to each one of us. Mary…has a heart as great as the heart of God. In God not only is there room for humankind; in humankind there is room for God. We see this in Mary, who bears the presence of God…this presence of God in us is so important for bringing light to the world with all its sadness, with all its problems…Mary is the consolation and hope of people still on the journey.” Especially from heaven, Mary prays with, and for us, and holds all of her children close, giving us an example and a challenge to emulate.
Greetings once again from The Basilica of Saint Mary. I hope this message finds you and your family continuing to stay well during these challenging times.
Today I want to talk with you about where we are at currently and the challenges that await us at The Basilica as we move forward. With the rise of the Delta variant, we are once again asking, actually we are strongly encouraging, people to wear masks when you come for liturgies or other events at The Basilica.
At The Basilica, we have many children under the age of 12, who cannot be vaccinated, as well as numerous people with underlying health conditions. Given this, we think that asking people to wear a mask is one of the best things we can do to ensure their continued health and well-being.
While it is heartening for me to see so many people back at The Basilica after many months, I want to make sure we are continuing to make The Basilica a safe place to be for everyone. In welcoming people back to worship, one of the challenges we face is resuming, renewing, and in some cases rebuilding our ministerial teams. In this regard, one of the areas that is most pressing is our liturgical ministries. If you have been involved in our liturgical ministry and not been contacted yet, or if you are interested in becoming involved please contact Travis Salisbury and let him know.
As always, if you are not able, or don’t feel comfortable joining us in-person for any of our liturgies, we invite you join them via livestream. We will continue to livestream the 9:30 and 11:30am Sunday Masses. We are also looking for volunteers to help with this, so if you are interested in volunteering, please contact us.
During the coming weeks, we will be looking at bringing back more of our ministries. I will keep you informed as this happens. One thing in particular I wanted to mention today is that during the month of August The Basilica is hosting the sculpture Angels Unawares. This sculpture is on our front plaza along Hennepin Avenue.
Angels Unawares depicts 140 almost life size migrants from all times and places aboard a boat. It was created by Canadian Catholic sculptor Timothy Schmalz, who also created our Homeless Jesus sculpture. The name Angels Unawares comes from Hebrews 13:2, which reminds us to “show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."
Finally, I want to thank everyone for your ongoing financial support for The Basilica. As we begin to resume more activities on our campus, your financial support will be critical as we resume the many ministries, services, and programs that are at the heart of our Basilica community. As your pastor, I want to thank you for your ongoing generosity. Please know it is greatly appreciated.
In closing, please know that as we move forward, our primary concern, as always, will be the safety and security of those who come to our campus. I will continue to keep you informed as we move forward into our new normal, whatever that may be.
In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns about these changes I invite you to contact me at the parish office. My contact information is available on our parish website.
Let me close today in prayer.
We pray for your love and compassion to abound
as we walk through this challenging time.
We ask for wisdom for those who bear the load
of making decisions with widespread consequences.
We pray for those who are suffering with sickness
and all who are caring for them.
We ask for protection for children, for the elderly and for the vulnerable
that they may be protected from this virus.
We pray for misinformation to be curbed
that fear may take no hold in hearts and minds.
As we exercise the good sense that you in your mercy provide,
may we also approach each day in faith and peace,
trusting in the truth of your goodness towards us.
We pray all of this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
In an effort to protect children not eligible to be vaccinated, adults with medical concerns, and to take precautions to prevent COVID-19 spread, The Basilica strongly encourages everyone to wear face masks indoors on our campus.