This past August, Fr. Greg Welch, one of our weekend presiders, sent me a link to a story from “CBSN: On Assignment.” The opening sentence of the story indicated that “With the rise of prenatal screening tests across Europe and the United States, the number of babies born with Down syndrome has significantly decreased, but few countries have come as close to eradicating Down syndrome births as Iceland.” In Iceland, close to 100 percent of those women who received a positive test of Down syndrome terminated their pregnancy. Unfortunately, other countries don’t lag far behind in pregnancy termination rates for those who received a positive test for Down syndrome. The report also stated that “according to the most recent data available, the United States has an estimated termination rate for Down syndrome of 67 percent (1995-2011).” 
One Icelandic health care professional, when asked about the high rate of pregnancy termination rates for those who have received a positive test for Down syndrome, said: “We don’t look at abortion as murder. We look at it as a thing that we ended. We ended a possible life that may have had a huge complication …. preventing suffering for the child and for the family. And I think that is more right than seeing it as murder—that’s so black and white. Life isn’t black and white. Life is grey.” 
Now certainly, the human condition is no stranger to suffering, and efforts to alleviate suffering are laudable. But we all know Down syndrome children and adults who live happy, productive lives. In fact, it’s safe to say that many lives are enriched when we experience the zest and resilience with which those with Down syndrome face life, despite any limitations it brings. Given this, I think it is fundamentally wrong to say that aborting Down syndrome babies prevents suffering. Further, from my perspective, the fact that the health care professional used the words “possible life,” demonstrates the fundamental flaw in their reasoning. In this regard, we need to be clear. Other than nutrients, nothing further is added to the fetus to make life. It isn’t “possible life.” It is life—plain and simple. 
The great lie to the above way of thinking is that children with Down syndrome are somehow inferior and undeserving of life. Quite frankly this is wrong. Life—all life—from the moment of conception to natural death is sacred: no exceptions, no exclusions, no qualifications. The sacred image we bear exists from the moment of our conception. We don’t grow into it. It cannot diminish with age. It is bestowed on us by the gracious favor of a loving God. Created in the image and likeness of God, and infused with a soul that seeks to know and love God, all human life is sacred and is to be respected. 
For many years now our Church has designated October as Respect Life Month. During this month particularly, we are called to remember and give witness to our belief that life—in all stages of development and in all its manifestations—is a gracious gift from a loving God. There are no qualifications or limitations to this belief. Because God is the author and source of life, all life is sacred. Our task, our challenge is to seek to promote and enhance life at every moment and in every circumstance. 
Human life is indeed a precious gift from a loving God. As followers of Jesus, we are called to show our respect and reverence for life in all we do. To the extent we fail to do this, we fail to give witness to our respect for life. To the extent that we do it well, however, we truly live up to our calling as people created in the image and likeness of God. 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.

Some scripture scholars suggest that today’s Gospel parable may represent an allegorization of another of Jesus’ parables by one of the early Christian communities.   The parable of tenants rejecting the many messengers (i.e. the prophets) sent by the owner of the vineyard (God) would have supported this belief.   In suggesting this, of course, these scholars are not in any way questioning that it is not the inspired word of God.  Rather, they suggest that the early Christian community had begun to see itself as replacing Israel as God’s chosen people.   Regardless of the origins of this parable, though, it contains a powerful and ever current message.   It invites us to consider how we respond to the many overtures and/or messengers God sends into our lives. 

As an important aside, we need to be clear that the Catholic Church does not teach that God has rejected Israel or that its election as God’s chosen people has ended.  “The Church cannot forget that she received the revelation of the Old Testament through the people with whom God in his inexpressible mercy deigned to establish the Ancient Covenant.”    (The Documents of Vatican II   Decree on Non Christians)    Our Church also teaches, though, that Jesus Christ, “the Lord, is the goal of human history, the focal point of the longings of history and of civilization, the center of the human race, the joy of every heart, and the answer to all its yearnings.”  (Documents of Vatican II; Decree on The Church Today)

Our first reading today from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, shares the theme of the Gospel.  It speaks of a vineyard that, despite the loving care of its owner, yielded only “wild grapes.”  In the Old Testament the “Vineyard” was a symbol for God’s people.   

In our second reading today from the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians, Paul reminds us that by prayer and petition and thanksgiving we will come to know “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.”

Questions for reflection: 

  1. Looking back on your life can you see times when you have not recognized or perhaps even rejected messengers of God’s presence and grace?
  2. Who have been messengers of God’s presence and grace in your life?   
  3. In regard to this weekend’s second reading have there been times in your life when you have experienced the “peace of God that surpasses all understanding?”   


The Basilica celebrates its 2nd Disability Awareness Month this October.  After several years of “Disability Dialogues” our community was asked to identify and eliminate barriers to participation. The designation of a month long series of presentations and other events was established based on what the committee heard.  This has included bringing in national speakers, partnering with other events at The Basilica, and culminating with a Disability Awareness Resource Fair where local organizations are on hand to educate and communicate to our parishioners the resources available to help themselves, family members, and friends to live more inclusive lives.


Taize Prayer with added accessibility 
Tuesday, October 10, 5:30pm, Saint Joseph Chapel

Disability Awareness Ministry Fair
Sunday, October 15, After the 9:30 and 11:30am Masses


Parking and accessibility information



My grandmother use to say that going to Mass on Sunday was like hitting the reset button. With 13 children at home, a farm to tend to, and my grandfather driving a semi cross country, I am sure there were plenty of times when a reset button couldn’t come quickly enough. 

As with many things my grandmother told me over the years I found this statement to ring true in my own life this past weekend. My husband and I were dragging our feet Sunday morning debating if we should try and make it to 11:30am Mass or wait and go to 4:30pm, a fairly common question in our house. In the end we ended up at 11:30am and I am glad we did. 

On this particular Sunday I needed to hit the reset button a little earlier. I am not sure I knew that when I arrived feeling a bit sluggish. However, seeing our community come together reminded me that although we are all on our own unique faith journeys, at The Basilica, our community is here to share encouragement, the sign of peace, and ultimately a shared hope for a vibrant faith community and a future full of hope. 

I left feeling renewed, proud to be part of the incredible community, and proud to support the wonderful work taking place 365 days a year. 

This isn’t the first time The Basilica has helped me hit the reset and I am sure it will not be the last. For the better part of the last decade The Basilica community has provided this gentle reminder to me often. 

I have seen our community come together to celebrate joyous moments of baptisms and weddings and difficult movements of loss and grief. I am reminded of it daily when a volunteer simply listens to someone who comes to our door in need of someone to talk to. I am reminded of it often by my fellow staff members who tirelessly provide comfort for those experiencing loss and sadness. I have seen volunteers spend hours counseling individuals in our employment ministry for weeks and months until they have found jobs. 

The Basilica’s valuable work in our community is possible thanks to parishioners of every age who have pitched in and pledged. These moments, along with essentials like heat, lights, ministries, music, and so many more are not possible without each and every financial stewardship pledge we receive. Because when our community comes together so much is possible! 

I hope you will consider a 2018 pledge today. You can pledge online at, fill out a pledge form and mail it in, or bring it to Mass the weekend of October 7 and 8. You may also contact Stephanie Bielmas at or at 612.317.3472 for answers to any questions you may have about supporting The Basilica. 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.​ 

“Actions speak louder than words” is the phrase that comes to mind whenever I read our Gospel for this Sunday 

Many years ago I worked with an individual who was very amiable and most pleasant whenever we discussed an issue or concern in their work area.   They would agree to a certain course of action, or they would agree to follow through on something and then ………………… nothing.   

Actually there was something:  excuses, rationalizations, and promises to do better next time.   Unfortunately when the next time came the same thing would happen.  We would talk; they would agree on what needed to be done; and then ………………………………… nothing. 

In our Gospel for this Sunday a father asks both of his sons to go and work in his vineyard.   The first one said no, but eventually changed his mind and went.   The second one said he would go to the vineyard, but didn’t.  This story reminds us that there needs to be a correspondence between our actions and our words.   It is easy to say the right thing.   It is much harder to say and then do the right thing.  And even though the first son eventually did as his father had requested, it took him a while to get it right.  

In our first reading this Sunday from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, we are reminded that if a person “turns from the wickedness he has committed, and does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life………..”

Our second reading today continues the theme of the Gospel that there needs to be a correspondence between our words and our actions.  St. Paul entreats the Philippians: “………. complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for their own interests, but also for those of other……….. Have in you the same attitude that is also in Jesus Christ.”   

Thoughts/Questions for Reflection:

  1. When have your words been bold, while your actions have been inadequate?  What were the consequences?   
  2. In the scriptures, Jesus seemed to focus a lot of time and energy on two different groups:  The Pharisees, and the Tax Collectors and Prostitutes.   Why do you think that was?  
  3. In regard to the second reading, what does it mean for you to have the same attitude as Jesus Christ?    
Sacred Heart of Jesus statue, Basilica of St. Mary

A Time for Hope

A few months ago while driving to a friend’s cabin, I drove past a couple of houses that had been abandoned, and appeared ready to be demolished. The windows that remained had been broken, the doors had been removed from their hinges, and the grass around the houses was overgrown. It was clear at a glance that those houses would never again be home to anyone. I slowed down as I drove past, hoping to get a sense or an indication of how they had come to such a sorry state, but I quickly realized they were simply empty and abandoned, with no indication of why. They certainly had a past, but there was no future for them. 

As I continued on to my friend’s cabin, I couldn’t help but think about these houses. There must have been excitement and happiness at their beginning. Clearly someone had made them their home. Perhaps the people who lived in them had dreams and expectations of a bright future. Perhaps they even had hopes that the houses would provide shelter and security for a lifetime. Yet, at some point things changed. The houses that once were new and fresh began to age and show signs of deterioration. And as the years went by, the lack of care and attention began to take its toll until finally they ended up abandoned, and waiting to be demolished. At some point the optimism and excitement with which these houses had been built had faded and eventually died. 

As I reflected on this, I wondered what could have happened to cause the dreams with which these houses had been built to die. I suppose it was possible that their owners had simply grown old and tired, and were unable to maintain them. Perhaps, though, a tragedy or an unexpected chain of events had led to their disrepair. Whatever the reason, the hope with which they were built had died and the result was a sad and sorry end for them. 

Hope is not just a good thing, it is essential for life to survive and flourish. More importantly for us as Christians, hope is an absolutely necessary virtue in our lives. As Christians, hope calls us to believe that there is something beyond this world. This belief does not come from mere desire or longing on our part. Rather it finds its roots in Jesus’ promise: 

I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if they die, will live and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” 

When I was in grade school I remember having to memorize the Act of Hope —along with the Acts of Faith and Love. While I didn’t remember the exact words to the Act of Hope, when I looked it up, the words came back to me. 

O my God, relying on Your infinite goodness and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of your grace, and life everlasting, though the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer.” 

Given all that is going on in our world today, this simple prayer seems increasingly important. For now—perhaps more than ever—is a time when we need hope. 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.

It’s not fair!   Growing up in a family of seven (five boys and two girls) these words were common in our house.   They were automatic response to every perceived injustice or sense of preferential treatment.   I suspect these words were on the lips of the laborers in today’s Gospel parable.   This parable, found only in Matthew’s Gospel, tells the familiar story of a landowner who went out at various times throughout the day to hire laborers for his vineyard.   When it came time to pay the laborers, however, those who were hired late in the day received the same pay as those “who had bore the day’s burden and heat.”  This just doesn’t seem fair.

In order to understand what this parable has to say to us, we need to remember that parables are 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.   Rather, they challenge us to ask what they are telling us about God.  In today’s parable we are reminded that salvation is freely offered by God to all people, regardless of when they arrive in the vineyard of faith.   Such is the way of God.   It is certainly different from the way we often act.   And when you stop and think about it, isn’t that good for us.   

Our fist reading today shares the theme of the Gospel.  In it God, speaking through the Prophet Isaiah, reminded the people that “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.”   

After reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans for the past twelve Sunday’s, today we switch to St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.   In the section we read today Paul acknowledges that he would like “to depart this life and be with Christ.”  He also realizes, though, that for now it is “more necessary for their benefit” that he remain in this world.

Questions for Reflection/Discussion: 

  1. Many people believe that only a limited number will be saved.   Today’s parable would seem to argue against this.  Why do you think God is so generous and undiscriminating with God’s love and offer of salvation?
  2. Have you ever experienced that God’s ways are not your ways?   
  3. We all live with the hope of heaven, yet we know that we are all put on this earth for a purpose.  How do you know when you have accomplished your purpose?

Families Moving Forward (FMF) is a program of Beacon Interfaith Housing collaborative, a Twin Cities effort that, together with a network of more than 50 faith communities provides temporary, emergency shelter to families without housing. The Basilica has, for many years, been proud to serve as a “Host Congregation,” meaning that we provide three non-consecutive weeks each year of shelter for families.

The FMF program is very comprehensive – along with the “Host congregations” providing shelter/food/activities, the FMF office/day center has case workers and social workers available to carefully and gently guide families through the transition from homelessness to housing. FMF even provides bus rides in the morning to take parents and kids to work/school/job search and in the evening back to the “Host Congregations.” 

Volunteers are needed to make the Basilica a home for these families during their stay. Help by providing a warm meal, leading age-appropriate activities, or conversing/listening with a receptive and non-judgmental ear. And, if you are seeking a family-friendly volunteer activity, FMF offers parents opportunities to put faith into action with teens as well as elementary-aged children. 

Join us as we open our doors and hearts to families in our community who are faced with the challenges of housing. Contact Angela at 815.735.0810 to learn more about volunteering. A background check and training are required.

Homeless Jesus Sculpture

Finding Christ

During the month of September, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast days of both Blessed Frederic Ozanam and St. Vincent de Paul. St. Vincent de Paul, is well known to The Basilica, as he is the namesake of our ministries that serve those who are suffering, sick or poor. Blessed Frederic Ozanam is not as well known, yet equally formative to our work.

Blessed Ozanam lived in France during the middle of the 19th century. Studying literature and law, he organized discussion clubs that debated the issues of the day. Legend tells us, one day he found himself advocating the value and role of Christianity in civilization. Upon spouting strong, fancy words, a member of the club challenged, “Let us be frank, Mr. Ozanam; let us also be very particular. What do you do besides talk to prove the faith you claim is in you.” This question stung, and it propelled Blessed Ozanam to action. Over time, he founded the St. Vincent de Paul Society and laid out a framework for securing justice for the poor and working class that continues to this day. 

Both St. Vincent de Paul and Blessed Frederic Ozanam compel us to see Christ in those who are marginalized or vulnerable. Indeed, St. Vincent de Paul states that “the poor become our teachers and mentors, and we their servants.” We are urged to “Go to the poor and suffering; you will find God.”

This month, The Basilica will break ground for a public sculpture of a life-sized homeless Jesus lying on a park bench. Cast in bronze, it will be placed right off the main plaza in front of The Basilica Church on Hennepin Avenue. This sculpture has been placed in other cities around the world, and has elicited reactions ranging from awe to fear, compassion to anger. It stimulated conversation and conversion.

The Basilica is honored and excited to install this Homeless Jesus Sculpture. As a community, we are committed to broad and quality care and assistance to those in need. We are also committed to the prophetic and transformative power of art. 

Join us this Sunday at 1:00 for a wonderful presentation of the intersection of art and justice. Be present as we break ground for the sculpture. Look for the litany of program and ministry opportunities offered over the next two months—culminating in the installation and dedication of the sculpture on Sunday, November 19 at 1:00pm. 

Look for a Homeless Jesus prayer card in the back of church, and reflect on “Who is Jesus to me?” Join together in a novena for the homeless over the next nine weeks, praying for all those suffering and in need—and praying for transformation and conversion of all our hearts, helping us to be gentle, compassionate and patient to all.

The Basilica will receive the Homeless Jesus Sculpture mid-October. We will place it in The Basilica Church and we will bless it. It will be moved down to the Teresa of Calcutta Hall for several weeks before the installation outside in November. 

We are all invited to be challenged by the question put to Blessed Ozanam, “What do you do besides talk to prove the faith you claim is in you.” Let us honor our faith and praise God by finding Christ and serving Him in the person who is sick, poor, or suffering. Vincentians believe that true religion is found among those who are often excluded—and as we attend to their needs, they inspire us and evangelize us. 

To learn more about opportunities to serve, call the Christian Life Office. 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
In our Gospel this weekend Jesus talks about the difficult subject of forgiveness.  Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I believe forgiveness is one of the hardest things we have to do as Christians.  Yet in our Gospel this weekend, Jesus, in response to a question from Peter about whether we are to forgive as many as seven times, states clearly:  “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”   For the Jews of this time, this number would have symbolized forgiveness without end.  After startling Peter and the other disciples with this number, Jesus then told the parable of the owner who forgave the loan of a servant who owed him a huge amount of money.   Unfortunately, that servant refused to forgive the loan of a fellow servant who owed him a much smaller amount, and instead had him thrown into prison.  At the conclusion of the parable Jesus offers the ominous conclusion:   “So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”  
What are we to take from this Gospel?   Three things come immediately to mind.  1.  As Christians, forgiveness is not an optional part of our lives;    2.   We can’t expect or ask God to forgive us unless we are willing to forgive one another;  and  3.  The forgiveness we offer to each other must be real and sincere.    
Our first reading this weekend is from the Book of Sirach.    It shares the theme of the Gospel.  In the section we read today we are reminded:  “Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.”   
In our second reading this weekend, Paul reminds us that “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.  For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord;”   
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
  1. Why, at times, is it so hard to forgive?
  2. What helps you to forgive?
  3. What does it mean to live for the Lord?