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For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/062914-day-mass.cfm

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles.   This Feast is observed each year on June 29th, and since June 29th falls on a Sunday this year, it takes the place of what would have been the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time.   

Our Gospel for this Feast is the familiar story of Jesus asking his disciples: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”   His disciples must have been pleased they could fill him in on the local gossip.  “Some say John the Baptist, other Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  Jesus, though,  makes the question more personal, though, by asking: “But who do you say that I am?”  It is Peter who gets is right --- even though at that point he didn’t understand the full meaning of his words:   “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”   In response, Jesus tells him:  “……….you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church……….”   
  
Our first reading this Sunday is from the Acts of the Apostles.  We are told that Herod had Peter arrested and put into prison.  While in prison an angel of the Lord appeared to Peter, freed him from the chains that bound him, and led him out of prison.   In response to this miraculous act Peter said:  “Now I know for certain that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people had been expecting.”   

Our second reading for this Feast is from the second Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy.   Paul is facing death, but reminds Timothy that God has been and continues to be his strength.  “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.  From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me…….”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  How would you respond to Jesus’ question: “Who do you say that I am?”
2.  Peter felt God working in his life when he was freed from prison.  When have you felt God working in your life?  
3.  Do you believe that a crown of righteousness awaits you at the end of your life?    

A number of years ago I found myself in one of our major cities on Corpus Christi Sunday. I decided to participate in the celebrations at the local Cathedral.  On my way there, I walked by an Episcopal church. The service was in full swing and revealed great dedication to the liturgy. At the Catholic Cathedral, the celebration was even more magnificent. It was truly a beautiful event, a liturgist’s delight.

As I made my way back to the hotel I stumbled over a man who was sleeping in the street. Only then did I notice that several large cardboard boxes lined the avenue. A man crawled out of one of them and asked me for money saying he was hungry. The pathway connecting both churches was dotted with these makeshift shelters housing many hungry people. Blinded by the splendor of both liturgies, I had not noticed them.

That afternoon some friends invited me to accompany them to their non-denominational church. The service was mediocre at best. One thing I will never forget though: at the end of communion the minister placed all the remaining pieces of bread in the hands of the man who had asked me for money. He sat down and ate all of it. When finished he looked to see if there was more, but there was none.

That image is for ever burned in my memory. It reminded me that as Saint John Paul II wrote in Mane Nobiscum: the Eucharist calls us to share “not only in spiritual goods but in material goods as well”. Indeed, it is our mutual love, and in particular our “concern for those in need which is the criterion by which the authenticity of our Eucharistic celebration is judged.”

The celebration of the Eucharist invites us to become the One we honor with our song; the One we raise up in a blessing; the One we carry in procession. That very One lived a humble life of love for the poor and of service unto the cross. He is the One we are to follow, to imitate and to become. He is the one we carry in our Eucharistic processions. These processions are not only to be processions WITH the Body of Christ they also are a procession OF the Body of Christ.

In a way, by walking with the Body of Christ we rehearse in our own bodies the path Jesus took and takes today.  This path is not one of pomp and circumstance, but rather a path of humility and service. This path is one that leads to the cross and from there to life everlasting. Those of us who take part in the celebration of the Eucharist as well as in Eucharistic processions should ready ourselves to pick up that cross and follow him wherever he may lead us.

 

KIPP Stand Academy is moving to a new North Minneapolis location this week.  A Minnesota public charter School serving 5-8 grade students, KIPP has been the Basilica's School tenant since 2008.  We send our best wishes to KIPP's students, faculty and staff as they move and get settled in their new school home.   

This coming October, Pope Francis has called for a special Synod on the family. According to Pope Francis, “the Synod will be on the family, the problems it is facing, its assets and the current situation it is in.” In preparation for this Synod, bishops from around the world were asked to seek input and gather information from the people of their respective dioceses. Several individual bishops, as well as conferences of bishops, have released summaries of the input they received. Archbishop Michael Jackels, the Archbishop of Dubuque, Iowa, was one of the bishops who reported on the input he had received.

Additionally, though, he offered his reflections on that input. In this regard, he noted that “the responses reflected positions relative to marriage and the family that were varied and opposing.” He also reported hearing a range of opinions about birth control, divorce and remarriage, same-sex marriage, and other issues. While I don’t think anyone would be surprised at this, I am grateful for and pleased by Archbishop Jackels’ candor in acknowledging it.     
In his reflections on the input he had received, I was struck in particular by one comment Archbishop Jackels made.  Specifically, he said:“The Church is a lot like a family, which is never perfect, often not pretty, sometimes dysfunctional and a source of frustration, even the cause of anger. And yet we still identify with it, claim membership in it, and how dare anyone try and say otherwise.  In the Church family we always hold out hope that other members or things in general will change for the better. And what “better” means varies from family member to family member.”

I think Archbishop Jackels really hit the nail on the head with this comment. As I have mentioned previously, I think Church is like a family. In my own family, we have managed to cancel out each other’s votes in the last several presidential elections.   And yet we realize that when we come together to share a meal, when we all put our feet under the same table, there is something much bigger holding us together than could ever divide us. And so it is with Church. 

When we celebrate the Eucharist we experience the preeminent commitment of God to us. At its deepest level, the Eucharist is a communion of life, a communion of love with our living God. It is a sharing in God’s life, so that our lives can be holy, and we can be united in Christ. In the fourth century, St. Augustine in a homily about the Eucharist said: “So now, if you want to understand the body of Christ, listen to the Apostle Paul speaking to the faithful: ‘You are the body of Christ, member for member.’ (1 Cor. 12.27) If you, therefore, are Christ's body and members, it is your own mystery that is placed on the Lord's table! It is your own mystery that you are receiving! You are saying "Amen" to what you are: your response is a personal signature, affirming your faith. When you hear "The body of Christ," you reply "Amen." Be a member of Christ's body, then, so that your "Amen" may ring true!”  

When we gather for Eucharist we come with all our different perspectives, opinions, prejudices, perceptions, views, thoughts and ideas about how things should be. It would be easy for these things to separate and divide us. When we share Eucharist, though, the things that might divide us shrink in significance as we are unified in Christ through the Eucharist that we share in his name and memory. It is the Eucharist that strengthens us, that nourishes and sustains us, and that unites us as we seek to follow Jesus. And in the Eucharist, when we receive the Body of Christ, we become the Body of Christ in the world. We are united in faith, and because of this our differences — whatever they are — dim in comparison to the unity we experience in the Body of Christ.  

For this Sunday’s readings, please click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/062214.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  For those old enough to remember, this Feast used to be called Corpus Christi.   It celebrates our belief in that in the Eucharist we celebrate in Jesus’ name and memory that Jesus Christ is really and truly present --- not present just symbolically, not present merely in memory, not present simply spiritually --- but really and truly present.    We offer no proof for this belief.  There is no rational explanation for it.  There is no way to logically reason to it.  For us it is a matter of faith.  And as we read in the Letter to the Hebrews:  “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.”   Heb. 11.1)   

Our Gospel for this Feast is taken from the Bread of Life discourse in the Gospel of John.   In the section we read this Sunday Jesus tells us:  “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”   

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Deuteronomy.  In the section chosen for this Feast Moses reminds the Israelites that when they were in the desert God “………. fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth form the mouth of the Lord.”   The manna that fed the Israelites in the dessert prefigures the Eucharist.   

Our second reading this Sunday is from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.  The section we read today is very appropriate for this Feast: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?  The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. How would you explain our belief in the Eucharist to someone who doesn’t come from a Christian background? 
2. Have you ever spent time in an Adoration Chapel or in quiet prayer before the Tabernacle?  What was that experience like? 
3.  What do you remember about your First Communion? 

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


http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/061514.cfm 

This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity.   This Feast celebrates our belief that God has revealed God’s Self as loving Father, redeeming Son and sanctifying Spirit.  In the preface for this Feast we hear the words:  “For with your Only Begotten Son and the Holy Spirit you are one God, one Lord:  not in the unity of a single person, but in a Trinity off one substance.”   How this can be we do not know.  That it can be we do believe.   

While our belief in a Triune God has been at the core of our faith since the beginnings of our Church, the dogmatic statements that articulate this belief are the result of later generations of believers.   

Our Gospel reading for this weekend is from the Gospel of John.   It speaks of the core and essence of our faith: “God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.  For God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”    

Our first reading this weekend is from the Book of Exodus.  In this beautiful passage we are told that “………. The Lord stood with Moses there and proclaimed his name, “Lord.”  Thus the Lord passed before him and cried out ‘The Lord, the Lord, merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.’”
 
Our second reading this weekend is taken from the second Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians.  It was probably chosen because it speaks of each member of the Trinity.  It is also, though, the greeting that is often used at the beginning of Mass.   “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”       

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.   We believe in one God, who has revealed God’s self as Father, Son and Spirit.  What explanation of the Trinity has been most helpful to you in understanding this belief?  

2.   How have you experienced the presence and/or action of the Father, Son and Spirit in your life?  

3.   What does it mean to you that God is “slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity”?     

Come Holy Spirit, Open our Hearts and Enlighten our Minds!

Many years ago I proclaimed the first reading on the solemnity of Pentecost. I had just been confirmed and was extremely excited to be asked. Little did I know that this is one of the most difficult readings to proclaim. My dear great-aunt who was a nun told me to make sure I prepared the reading well as it had many difficult words in it. Looking over the reading I soon discovered terminology I had never encountered before: who were the Parthians, the Medes or the Elamites? And what did all of them do in Jerusalem? Though I stumbled over Phrygia and Pamphilia I was intrigued by what appeared to be the description of a most colorful and somewhat exotic gathering. I imagined life in Jerusalem some 2000 years ago to be complex and extremely diverse, not unlike the farmers market in Minneapolis today. There one can get a taste of the rich tapestry of humankind reflected in colorful native wear, intriguing languages, and tempting ethnic foods. Jerusalem must have felt somewhat like that: festive, exuberant, colorful, rich.

By contrast the disciples were in hiding. They were laden with fear and burdened by uncertainty. Christ had recently ascended into Heaven and they were at a loss. Suddenly everything changed. Filled by the Spirit they cast off all fear, threw open the windows and burst into the street. Having caught the marketers by surprise they spoke to them about the marvelous deeds of God. And miraculously, everyone could understand what the disciples had to say. The Holy Spirit broke every ethnic barrier and linguistic difference and all embraced the Good News.

Our world today is even more diverse than Jerusalem 2000 years ago. And the friendly hustle and bustle which is characteristic for above described markets is all too often replaced with fear and anger. And even though we may speak the same language we seem unable to hear one another. The political world is particularly affected by this. The kind of linguistic cacophony typical for political discourse is often maddening. And rather than inviting dialogue everyone just speaks louder so as to be heard above the rest and to win whichever issue is at stake.

Our church is not immune to this either. Though we speak the same language we don’t seem to understand one another. And rather than listening to one another we just speak louder and louder in a desperate attempt to be heard and to win whichever battle we are waging. Sadly, we lack the inner peace and the mutual respect needed to listen intently to one another and learn from one another and together become more like Christ.

On this Solemnity of Pentecost, let us pray that the Holy Spirit may cleanse our souls and open our hearts. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will inspire us to share the Good News with the world in deed and in word. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will bring us all closer together so we may become one in Christ.

Today we hear that “Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs” heard them speaking about the marvels God had accomplished.

Maybe one day we will hear it said: “We are republicans, democrats and independents; rich and poor; liberals, conservatives and moderates; straight and gay; women; men and children; married and single; Africans, Americans Asians and Europeans; yet we all speak of the mighty acts of God.”

May that day come soon!

Come Holy Spirit, Open our Hearts and Enlighten our Minds!

 

“The only purpose of the Church is to go out and tell the world the good news about Jesus Christ. It needed to surge forth to the peripheries, not just geographically, but to the peripheries where people grapple with sin, pain, injustice, and indifference to religion. 

“But the Church had become too wrapped up in itself.  It was too navel-gazing. It had become ‘self referential’ which had made it sick.  It was suffering a ‘kind of theological narcissism.’ When Jesus said: ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock’ people assumed he was outside, wanting to come in.  But sometimes, Jesus knocks from within, wanting to be let out into the wider world. A self-referential church wants to keep Jesus to itself, instead of letting him out to others.”   

The above quotation is part of a pre-conclave talk given by Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis). Another Cardinal, Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, the Archbishop of Havana, said that this speech, given during the cardinals’ pre-conclave meetings, was "masterful" and “clear.” In fact he was so impressed with the talk that he asked Cardinal Bergoglio for his notes and his permission to share them publicly.  

I too like these words of Pope Francis.  They remind us that our Church does not exist for its own sake and well being.  Rather our Church is meant to bring Christ to the world — to be the face, the hands, the body, and the love of Christ in the world.

This weekend we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first Mass at The Basilica of Saint Mary. That first Mass has been followed by countless other Masses. Additionally, in the 100 years since that first Mass, almost 26,500 babies have been baptized at The Basilica (161 of them were baptized this past year alone); thousands of weddings and funerals have taken place here; as well as Anointings of the Sick and Ordinations. And in recent years The Basilica has been host to hundreds of Confirmation ceremonies for the Archdiocese. In addition to these sacramental celebrations, The Basilica has also educated thousands in our school, and since 1974 in our faith formation programs. Through our various programs, services and ministries we welcome all those who are seeking to know and follow Jesus Christ in their lives. As I mention at the beginning of every Mass, we welcome people to worship with us whether they worship with us regularly or whether they are just visiting. Whatever brings people to The Basilica and wherever people are on their faith journey, they are welcome here.   

In addition to our parish activities, though, for one hundred years The Basilica has also been a beacon of hope on the Minneapolis skyline. The Basilica is a magnet for attracting people from all over the metro area.  Individuals from more than 540 zip codes call this parish their spiritual home. They provide critical funds and volunteer hours to help thousands of people. And our efforts make a difference. Since its beginnings at The Basilica over 25 years ago, our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry has served countless people.  Some are homeless, some on the edge, and some are working families who just can’t make ends meet. Each year, we serve about 50,000 people.  Last year we provided 7,000 pairs of shoes, 13,000 sandwiches, and hundreds and hundreds of bus tokens, gas cards, and rental assistance. The Basilica campus is the home for this life changing and life saving ministry.

Beyond meeting the needs of those in our community to just survive (food, shelter, clothing,) we also provide life skills programs and sessions as well as mentoring. The Basilica’s employment ministry currently serves more than 470 people who are unemployed or underemployed; helping them search for jobs, providing job search guidance, one-on-one counseling and resume building workshops.   

In addition to our social ministry, The Basilica of Saint Mary also plays an important role in the downtown community. For a hundred years The Basilica of Saint Mary has been a center for civic and cultural activities including ecumenical prayer services, concerts, art shows and speakers. We need to ensure that this continues in the future. 

Thousands of activities fill the calendar each year at The Basilica, involving parishioners and the community we serve. From liturgies to our employment ministry, education programs to to sandwich ministry, concerts to outreach programs, The Basilica Block Party, to art exhibits, we are a thriving community. As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first Mass at The Basilica this weekend, let us pray that we will continue the proud tradition of being and bringing Christ, not just to our parishioners, but also and especially, as Pope Francis said, to those on the peripheries — to those people who grapple with sin, pain, injustice, and indifference to religion.

All Church entrances are open, but repairs are being completed on the west ground level entrance.  Serious water leakage was uncovered during repairs, resulting in a caulking project on the front Church stairs to help control moisture problems.  Painting and repairs to interior walls and ceilings begin this week at the ground level entrances.  Handicapped access is available through the West ground level entrance, and also on the Church's upper east side, by Cowley Center with handicapped parking available in both locations.   

Church restoration continues.  Old, wet insulation is being removed from above the ceiling to allow the interior walls to dry out.  Removal is being done in stages and completion is critical in advance of any planning for an interior restoration.  Initial removal will be completed this week, with additional work planned for next year.  

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