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Every once and a while, it is important to reflect on one’s actions: What am I doing, and why? Taking time to intentionally access and evaluate direction, goals, and behavior has value. One can correct course, strengthen commitment, refine productivity, and identify weakness and strength.
Over the past nine months the Christian Life staff, volunteers, and leaders have been engaged in evaluation and assessment of Christian Life Ministries at The Basilica. Through surveys and interviews, we have intentionally and prayerfully evaluated what we do at The Basilica and how we do it. What does our world and community need today? How are we meeting those needs?
It has been a sacred and meaningful journey. We have learned a lot and raised a lot of new questions. We will unpack what we have learned over time. Some changes may be subtle. Others may be bold. Together, we seek to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit to build a community of love.
At the heart of our work, affirmed and clarified in our assessment, is Catholic Social Teaching (CST).
CST is rooted in scripture and includes writing of popes and other Catholic leaders to the Church and the world about social issues that affect society. Issues like hunger, conflict, worker’s rights, environment, migration, trade—basically every issue that intersects with our life.
CST reads the sign of the times in light of scripture. This is why our popes often speak out about the environment, world hunger, or immigration. They are teaching us to live a life rooted in scripture—showing us, tangibly, how to follow Christ.
While CST has its roots in scripture, Modern CST began in 1891 as oppressed workers demanded justice and rich employers objected. In response, Pope Leo XIII said, “The state should watch over these…citizens banded together in accordance with their rights.” As the Church calls for society and business to attend to the rights of the workers, the church is living out its prophetic mission of upholding basic human dignity and basic human rights. Today, CST still challenges our world.
Key principles underpin CST. While there are several ways of articulating the principles, they include the dignity of every human person, a plea for solidarity among diversity, a surrender toward the common good, trusting subsidiarity in community, upholding the rights and responsibilities of all people, a call to attend to the needs of the most vulnerable first, finding ways for all to participate in and benefit from society, a commitment to promote peace, and a priority to care for creation.
In many ways, CST is radical. If everyone put CST into action, the world would be transformed. If we are honest, we know that CST can turn society upside down. Indeed, CST is the tinder of the revolution of love and kindness. Consider engaging with our Immigrant Support Ministry, Mental Health/Justice work or Emmaus and Grief Ministry at The Basilica. Personally and collectively, let us all weave CST into our work and our life, and transform our world, in love.
The Basilica of Saint Mary dedicated the new Timothy P. Schmalz Homeless Jesus bronze sculpture on November 19, 2017, the World Day of the Poor, designated by Pope Francis.
The bronze sculpture of a life-size Christ figure shrouded in a blanket on a park bench has been stopping traffic on Hennepin Avenue and creating a flurry on social media. This addition to The Basilica’s sacred art collection has generated responses that have ranged from disgust to tears of compassion.
The meaning of the Homeless Jesus sculpture is to truly change hearts and minds towards people in need. The sculpture is designed to challenge and inspire each of us to be more compassionate and charitable and to see Jesus in each person we meet, and to take action to help end homelessness locally and around the world.
The dedication events included a presentation from the artist Timothy P. Schmalz who shared images and stories from his body of work. His powerful sculptures create an impact in each city and community they are installed.
Parishioners and community members then joined together in prayer for a beautiful dedication around the sculpture in front of The Basilica with music from the Schola Cantorum and StreetSong-MN, a community choir for those who have been or are currently experiencing homelessness.
For more information about the sculpture mary.org/HomelessJesus.
- Our readings today are clear that judgment is God’s business, not ours. Yet we all continue to make judgments about others. Now I rationalize this by telling myself that when I make judgments about individuals I am doing so for entirely altruistic reasons. I want to save time at the end of the world by doing a little pre-judging in the present. What rationale do you use for judging others?
- Fairly frequently we hear of people who, by their reading of certain scripture texts, have determined that the end of the world is near. So far they have all been wrong. Why are so many people so obsessed with the trying to determine when the end of the world will occur?
- Notice that in our Gospel today, both the righteous and the accursed are surprised that they either helped --- or failed to help --- the Lord in what they did --- or failed to do --- for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger the naked, the ill and they imprisoned. When have you seen or failed to see the face of Christ in others?
Several years ago I had a meeting with my spiritual director and in our conversation I mentioned an issue that seemed to crop up periodically in my life. He listened carefully and than suggested that it might be helpful if I asked myself a couple of questions on a regular basis—sort of a mini examination of conscience. The questions he suggested were simple. “Where have I been the bad guy in someone’s life the past few (or several) weeks?” “Where have I been a hero in someone’s life the past few (or several) weeks?”
These questions were and continue to be helpful to me as I look at where sin has found a foothold—or worse—safe haven in my life. They challenge me to look beyond my intentions, to the impact and effects of my words and actions on others. In this regard, it is easy for me to tell myself that since I didn’t deliberately intend to hurt someone, what I did or said couldn’t have been sinful. The reality is, though, that both intentionally and unintentionally we can be the bad guy in someone’s life.
On the other hand, it is also good to ask ourselves on a regular basis, where I might be the hero in someone’s life. Now we don’t do this to inflate our ego, or to give us something to feel good about. Rather, we do it to discover where we are doing something right or good and how we might do more of that.
Asking ourselves on a regular basis where we may have hurt someone or conversely where we may have helped someone is a good spiritual exercise. It can help us be more aware of where a pattern of sin may have entered our life, or where virtue is manifesting itself. Taking a look at the impact of our words and actions on a regular basis can spur our spiritual growth, and help us to be more attuned to God’s presence in our lives and more open to God’s grace.
Now while it is good to identify where we have perhaps grown lax in our spiritual life, or where we are manifesting virtue, it is important not to stop at that point. The next step is to ask ourselves what we need to do to root out sin, and/or where we can give better witness to our faith. In this regard, I have discovered that in my own life prayer and reception of the Eucharist are the things that help me to grow spiritually and to recognize where God is offering me God’s grace.
Now while the Eucharist and prayer have helped me to be a better person, they have clearly not eliminated sin from my life, or put me on the path to sainthood. They do help me, though, to be a better person than I otherwise might be. As importantly, they help me to remember that God is still at work in my life, calling me to do good, avoid sin, and to believe that God’s grace is always being offered to me to live as Jesus has called me to live.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/111917.cfm
Our Gospel this weekend --- the parable of the talents --- is a well known story. A man decided to go on a journey and so he called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. “To one he gave five talents, to another two; to a third one --- each according to his ability.” The first two servants traded with the talents they had been given and doubled them. The third “buried his master’s money.” After being gone a long time the master returned and called in his servants to settle accounts with them. The first two were congratulated for being “good and faithful” servants, and were promised greater responsibilities. They also were invited to “share in their master’s joy.” The third was berated as a “wicked and lazy servant,” and thrown “into the darkness outside.”
What are we to make of this parable? It seems as if the master’s treatment of the third servant is unduly harsh. I think the key is to be found in the fact that he entrusted his possessions to his servants “each according to his ability.” The third servant was lazy and indifferent. He didn’t even put his master’s money in the bank where it could earn interest. As with every parable, this one also tells us something about God or about our relationship with God. Specifically this parable reminds us very clearly that God has given us the gift of faith, and we put off living out our faith at our own risk.
Our first reading this weekend from the book of Proverbs speaks of the qualities of a worthy wife. It shares the theme of the Gospel in that a worthy wife uses well the talents and abilities she has been given. In this she is like the first two servants in the Gospel.
Once again this weekend our second reading is taken from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians. In the selection we read this weekend Paul reminds the Thessalonians that because of Jesus Christ they “are not in darkness, for that day to overtake you like a thief. For all of you are children of the light, and children of the day.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- What are you doing to develop the gift of faith you have been given?
- What inhibits you from developing the gift of faith?
- What does it mean to live as children of the light?
On November 19, this year’s class of Inquirers will go through the Rite of Welcome, also known as the Rite of Acceptance. These Inquirers have already been attending RCIA sessions since September. During that time, some of them have experienced a conversion; others have deepened and strengthened their relationships with God in Christ, and still others have come to know and understand the Catholic faith a bit better. In either case, some of these Inquirers are now ready to publicly declare their desire to continue their journey towards full initiation into the Catholic Church.
During the Rite of Welcome, Inquirers enter at the back of The Basilica, standing between the doors and the baptismal font, symbolizing their initial steps into the community. They are introduced to our community for the first time and are asked to declare their intention and desire from the Church. They are then guided forward into the church where they will be marked with the sign of the Christian to remind them we are followers of Jesus Christ.
Although the Rite of Welcome is only one of the steps Inquirers take during their process of conversion, for many of them it is still a very emotional and spiritually rich step. Some Inquirers may face a lack of understanding or even rejection by friends and family for taking this step and being formally welcomed by its members brings a surge of love and relief. As one author has written, “…the church embraces the catechumens as its own with a mother’s love and concern. Joined to the church, the catechumens are now part of the household of Christ, since the church nourishes them with the word of God and sustains them by means of liturgical celebrations.”
But as meaningful as the Rite of Welcome is for the Inquirers, it also holds rich meaning for us who are life-long members of the church, giving us a chance to reflect on our own journey of conversion and ponder the rich gift of faith. It reminds us of where our love story began with Christ and where it has taken us in our own faith lived out.
The Basilica is an especially warm community, and past Inquirers always comment on the love and support they see in the faces of the congregation as they go through the Rite of Welcome, love and support that continues as many of them receive cards and letters from members of The Basilica as they move through their RCIA journey. And even though some Basilica members may never interact with an Inquirer on a personal level, their prayers nevertheless strengthen Inquirers along their journey of faith.
The Rite of Welcome ends and begins another stage in the process and is a powerful experience for Inquirers that clearly symbolizes that they have, at long last, been welcomed into a loving and spiritually nourishing home. Please be sure to be there November 19 at the 9:30am Mass to welcome this year’s group of Inquirers to The Basilica, and to offer your support through your smile and your prayers and your welcome as they continue their journeys toward Easter. This year’s class is a wonderful group of people, and your presence would be most meaningful to them.
The Basilica of Saint Mary received a 2017 Building Energy Performance Award for outstanding energy reduction from the City of Minneapolis. Dave Laurent, Director of Buildings and Grounds accepted the award along with Peter Crain from the Basilica Landmark Board and Facilities Assessment committee, and Dennis Dillon from the Ecological Stewardship committee.
The Basilica Landmark has made significant renovations and capital investments possible for our historic building and campus to meet our ecological goals. The Landmark works with The Basilica’s Facilities Assessment and Ecological Stewardship volunteer committees to identify energy savings solutions.
The Basilica’s energy saving improvements for over the past three years include replacing the three original 1913 boilers with new more efficient equipment and renovating the Rectory and School buildings with central air conditioning to replace 35 window units. LED lighting updates have made throughout the campus inside and out including the bell towers, Church sanctuary, and lower level. These improvements have resulted in a 21% energy use reduction that has lowered our energy costs and improved our energy efficiency.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser: https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/111217.cfm
“Its mine and you can’t have it.” How often did we say those words as children, or worse, how often as adults do we still say them? They express control and selfishness. At first blush, it appears that this is the message being conveyed by the wise virgins in our Gospel today. In that Gospel we are told that there were five wise virgins and five foolish virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. “The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.” When the bridegroom arrived, “all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No for there may not be enough for us and you.’”
Were the wise virgins being selfish in not sharing some of their oil? In order to answer this question, we need to remember that parables were simple stories that Jesus used to tell us something about God or about our relationship with God. They were not meant to be taken literally. From this perspective the question, then, is what was Jesus trying to tell us in this parable. Well, I would suggest that Jesus was telling us that some things can not be acquired at the last minute, and one very specific thing that cannot be obtained at the last minute is a relationship with God. At the end of our lives we can’t turn to the person next to us and ask them for some of their relationship with God. We need to plan ahead and work throughout our lives to develop our relationship with God.
Our first reading from the Book of Wisdom is an exhortation to seek wisdom. “For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence, and whoever for her sake keeps vigil shall quickly be free from care;” And the wisest thing we can do is seek God, and to build a relationship with God.
In our second reading this weekend Paul reminds the Thessalonians of Christ’s resurrection and the promise of eternal life that has been given to all of us. He closes with the clear command: “Therefore, console one another with these words.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- The Gospel parable reminds us that we need to work now to develop our relationship with God. How does one do this?
- How does one seek wisdom?
- Belief in eternal life is one of the pillars of our faith. How would you explain this belief to someone who came from a non-Christian background?
The Catholic Spirit Feature:
For years, icons created by local iconographer Nicholas Markell have been included in the Basilica of St. Mary’s icon procession, held annually at the Minneapolis parish to coincide with All Saints Day.
It coincides, however, with the opening of “Windows to Heaven: A Visual Hymn of Praise,” a retrospective of Markell’s work and life. On display in the Basilica’s John XXIII Gallery, the exhibition will focus on Markell as an artist and theologian.
Join us November 5 for the icon processions during the 9:30 and 11:30am Masses.
My brother Hans proudly sent me a photo of the grave marker he and his children created for the tomb of one of our beloved aunts. I did not know he was doing this. In the past, we have always bought tomb stones or markers at specialty shops. This time he decided to do it himself. When I asked him why he did this, he mentioned that he wanted to create something special for my aunt and he wanted to do it himself. They had a special bond.
The marker is really striking and it is unique. It is large and covers the entire tomb. Made out of metal it frames a central cross. Carefully selected succulents were planted inside the frame around the cross. Seasonal flowers will be added throughout the year. The marker thus testifies eloquently to our belief in the resurrection.
There is something really beautiful about this marker and the fact that my brother made it. It is the perfect final gift my brother gave to our beloved aunt. And, he thoughtfully readied it in time for the feasts of All Saints and All Souls, the time when Belgians—like many others throughout the world—visit the tombs of deceased loved ones and decorate them with flowers.
Our care and continued love for our deceased relatives and friends is rooted in our belief in the Resurrection and the Communion of Saints. As to the latter, the oldest known reference to the Communion of Saints can be found in the writings by Saint Nicetas who was bishop of Remesiana, Serbia, at the end of the fourth century. He described the Communion of the Saints as the spiritual union which exists between all the members of the Church, both the living and the dead. This union is made possible through our shared membership in the Mystical Body of Christ. Saint Paul wrote in several of his letters that through baptism we become part of the Body of Christ with Christ as its head.
The fruit of this union are the blessings in which all members share. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “the good of each [member] is communicated to all the others.” (CCC,947) Therefore, even sinners share in the Communion of Saints and benefit from it.
At The Basilica, we celebrate our belief in the Communion of Saints every time we gather for worship, for we believe that not only those present but all Christians, living and deceased, gather spiritually whenever we gather for worship. During the month of November, we visualize this reality by placing Icons of the Saints in the sanctuary and photos of our beloved dead on the side altars.
The very presence of these Icons and photos both expresses and refreshes our belief in the Communion of Saints, the Mystical Body of Christ with Christ himself as the head. For an Icon is not only an image of the Saint it depicts, the saint in turn is an image of Christ himself. Similarly, we believe that the photos are not only an image of our deceased loved ones but also of Christ in whose mystical body they participate through baptism.
One of the first things I do whenever I travel to Belgium is to visit the tombs of my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles in our town’s cemetery. I look forward to seeing the marker on the tomb of my aunt, so lovingly made by my brother and such a testimony to our faith. May my auntie and all our beloved dead whom we remember especially during this month of November rest in peace.