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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.  

Click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser for this Sunday’s readings.
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/060814-day-mass.cfm

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost.  This celebration reminds us that all of us have  been baptized into one and the same Spirit --- the Advocate --- who has been given as gift to the followers of Jesus.   

Our Gospel reading for this Feast is from the Gospel of John.   It records a resurrection appearance of Jesus and his words to his disciples: “Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”    

Our first reading this weekend is from the Acts of the Apostles.  We are told that “………. they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.   And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”   

We shouldn’t think these two different accounts of the gift of the Spirit are at odds with one another.  Rather, they remind us that at times the Spirit comes to us in a gentle and quiet manner, and at other times the Spirit comes in a powerful and very evident manner.   This connects well with our second reading for this Sunday from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.   In the section we read today, we are reminded that “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit, there are different forms of service but the same Lord; who produces all of them in everyone.  To each individual the manifestation of the Sprit is given for some benefit.”  


Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1.  When have you experienced the Spirit in a quiet and gentle manner?
2.  When have you experienced the Spirit in a manner that has been powerful and evident?
3.  What manifestation (gift) of the Spirit have you been given?  

Photo provided by: 
Johan van Parys
Ascending Christ by Bill Mac
 

I wonder if you know where this work of art resides?

This is just one of many depictions of the Ascension of Jesus into heaven that exist throughout the world. They come in miniature format as well as in large frescoes. Jesus is usually represented in the center as he ascends into heaven. Below him are his mother, Mary and the gathered apostles piously gazing at his ascending body, saying goodbye while at the same time anticipating his return.

Some representations, especially those dating from the Middle Ages share a remarkable detail. In the place where Jesus’ feet last touched the earth, the artists have depicted Jesus’ right footprint or both footprints. Where does this custom come from and what does it mean?

According to the Scriptures and tradition, Jesus ascended into heaven from what is now known as the Mount of the Ascension in Jerusalem. Successive grand buildings have marked this site ever since Christianity was legalized by Emperor Constantine in 313 AD. Today, only a small chapel has survived the difficult and tumultuous history of this city. Nevertheless, one very important relic is still housed in the chapel: a large stone which is said to have the right footprint of Jesus on it.

Medieval pilgrims and crusaders brought the story of the miraculous footprint back to Europe and thus gave rise to the depiction of Jesus’ footprint(s) in paintings of the Ascension.

A priest friend recently made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Upon his return he spoke about the profoundly spiritual experience he had visiting all the Holy Sites. He found it very meaningful to connect with the physical reality of Jesus’ life on earth. One of the places he found most moving was the chapel of the Ascension. He described how he engaged in the ancient devotional practice and placed his right foot on the imprint of Jesus right foot. With his foot touching Jesus’ footprint my friend experienced a deep connection with Jesus and his mission. He described the footprint as a place where heaven and earth touch. Standing in Jesus footprint he very intentionally recommitted himself to continue walking in Jesus’ footsteps.

Not many of us are able to go to Jerusalem to literally connect with Jesus’ footprint. However, we have been given spiritual exercises and artistic renditions to help us do just the same. May the celebration of the feast of the Ascension renew in us a deep awareness of our own calling and strengthen our commitment to Jesus’ mission as we await His return.

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser:
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/060114-ascension.cfm 

This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord.   (This Solemnity used to be celebrated on the Thursday before the Seventh Sunday of Easter, but several years ago, the Bishops of our Province made the decision to transfer this celebration to Sunday.)  Our Gospel for this Solemnity is taken from the Gospel of Matthew.  It does not speak of the Ascension directly.  Instead we are told that “The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.  When they saw him, they worshipped, but they doubted.”   Jesus then gave them the great commission “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you until the end of the age.”      

We should not be concerned that we are told that while the disciples worshipped Jesus, they still doubted.   Faith, as we know from our own experience, is not the same as certainty.  Rather, faith reminds us that even in our uncertainty, Jesus is always with us, and is leading and guiding us until the end of the age.    

Our first reading this Sunday is the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles.  It records the Ascension of Jesus, but prior to that it also records Jesus farewell words to his disciples:  “’But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’   When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.”   

Our second reading this weekend is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians.   In the section we read today Paul prays:  “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call………………” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1.  Have you ever worshipped, but doubted?
2.  How are you called to give witness to Christ in/through your life?
3.  How do you see things through the “eyes of the heart?”  

Recently Pope Francis, in an action that didn’t gain a lot of attention, added the name of Blessed Peter Faber, one of the first companions of St. Ignatius of Loyola (the founder of the Jesuits), to the company of the saints, short-circuiting the normal canonization process. In an August interview with Antonio Spadaro S.J. for Civiltà Cattolica, a periodical published by the Jesuits in Rome, Pope Francis spoke of Faber as a "model" for himself, both as a Jesuit and now in the governance of the universal church.  The Pope said he admired Faber for his ability to "dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents; his simple piety, a certain naïveté perhaps, his being available straightaway, his careful interior discernment, the fact that he was a man capable of great and strong decisions but also capable of being so gentle and loving."

When I read the Pope’s words, my immediate reaction was: what a great idea, canonizing someone who was able to "dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents." Holding up someone like Peter Faber as a model of sanctity, and a way of life worth emulating, reminds us that as Catholics we should never disregard or disdain those with whom we disagree. Certainly this runs counter to the way many in our church deal with those they regard as their opponents.  

In our in our church these days there are times when it is not enough simply to disagree with others. Instead, at times we tend to demonize those with whom we disagree, or worse invite them to find another church. This behavior is not limited to a particular group. I have seen people on both ends of the spectrum --- liberal and conservative --- engage in this conduct. Frankly and bluntly, I find this kind of behavior embarrassing at best.   

When Jesus called his first disciples he simply said: "Follow me." There was no litmus test to see if they passed muster. He simply invited them to follow him. And it was in following him that they came to understand what they were called to believe, and how they were called to live as his disciples. And we know from the Gospel that some found his words too difficult and simply left. In fact we are told that as a result of the Bread of Life Discourse in John’s Gospel that "many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him." Notice, though, that Jesus never spoke ill of those who left. He didn’t demonize them. And he never asked them to leave. When people left his fellowship, it was always their decision.

I am excited that Pope Francis has name Peter Faber, S.J. a saint. I am pleased and grateful that he did so because he appreciated Peter Faber’s ability to "dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents."  And I am going to pray for St. Peter Faber’s intercession so that I can be more like him in my life.

To find this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052514.cfm

Our Gospel this Sunday is taken from that part of John’s Gospel known as the Last Supper Discourse.   In it, Jesus prepares his disciples for his death, resurrection, and eventual ascension into heaven.  He tells his disciples: “I will not leave you orphans.”   Rather, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth………..”   Additionally, twice in this Gospel Jesus invites his disciples to demonstrate their love for him by keeping his commandments.   And his commandments are simply that we “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all you mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  (Lk. 10:27)   

Clearly for Jesus if we strive to love God and our neighbor this creates a new relationship with them --- a relationship of love. In essence we are family to one another and thus are never orphans.

Once again our first reading this weekend is the Acts of the Apostles.   In the section we read this Sunday we hear that Philip “proclaimed the Christ” in Samaria, and “when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John who went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”  

Our second reading this Sunday is taken again from the first Letter of Saint Peter.    In today’s section Peter exhorts the people to “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  Have you ever felt alone or on your own, e.g. orphaned, and then realized God was with you? 
2.  How have you experienced the Spirit of Truth --- the Advocate promised by Jesus --- in your life?
3.  What explanation would you offer as the reason for your hope?  

I’m a seven year-old Catholic. My memory of baptism at The Basilica ranks a close second to the birth of my daughters. Along with many others who lay prostrate in the sanctuary, I experienced a profound conversion through the R.C.I.A. process, the height of which was the Easter Vigil.

As a new Catholic, I returned to the theme of joy and gratitude time and time again. The Easter season seems to point in this direction. New life is everywhere, and this Easter season is rich in encouragement, inspiration and hope. Each time I attend Mass at The Basilica, the reminders are everywhere: Joy and gratitude are proclaimed in music, our prayers and in our communion with one another.  

Being honest, I’ve needed that reminder. Especially this year.  

Day after day, we hear of the sin, neglect and pain in our local Catholic Church. 
And I’ve asked myself I chose this? This ugliness?

The ugliness of the loss of innocence. The ugliness of perpetuating these sins with lack of candor. The ugliness of losing focus on the true victims: the victims of abuse.

It’s hard to feel fresh in your faith when it is hard to distinguish it from the faith embedded in scandal.

Today, I do have great joy and gratitude in my faith, but it isn’t centered so much on people or on the local institutional church. Today, I sometimes worry about the choice I have made to join this church. I chose a church whose focus was not on self, but serving. Whose focus was not on judgment, but on love; a church whose focus guided me to gratitude.

I joined The Basilica.

In this struggle, I found my letter from 2006 regarding why I wanted to join the Catholic Church. Here was part of my response, as I learn about the traditions of the Catholic tradition, I feel encouraged to become a part of this faith community. I love the deep and historical tradition of the faith. I appreciate the necessity of personal accountability. I want to be a part of this community that gives to its parishioners and also gives back to the community. I look forward to participating fully in the worship service and hope to raise my children in this community in the future because of the core values in which it not only believes, but also lives.

To me still today, The Basilica represents what I was searching for, and today, I’m still here by choice. Trying to center on faith, not on those individuals who have made mistakes.  

The real loss in what has happened in our local church is faith. Not faith in the church, but our faith in God. Despite this great distraction, I hope we will continue to choose faith. And I hope we will continue to represent all the good that is at the heart of our Catholic faith.

Perhaps now we can be part of the solution. Be honest. Represent our challenged Church by being public representatives of what we love about it, and why we continue to choose it. I see Fr. Bauer’s honesty and leadership, along with his invitation for open conversation as part of the solution.

The Basilica gives me real hope. People are joining, giving and volunteering. And young people are finding their adult religious home in the pews and in the activities of our church. It still speaks, inviting everyone to believe in the good that God has given us. I am so grateful to our parish for reinforcing all that I know about the church I chose eight years ago.

Thank you for being a part of it, and for the collective voice for good, affirming and encouraging so many. You spread the faith by representing it so beautifully, in the pews at The Basilica and in our community. You are the church.

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