You are here
Gathering around the hospital bed, the generations of Chenne’s family found comfort in the rituals of prayer. As I intoned the Our Father, both old and young voices chimed in unison with the traditional sequence of words. The family was intent on praying this “good man” into heaven. Battling a damaging stroke in 2010, Chenne was now in a hospice unit preparing for death. Having escaped from Cambodia and the clutches of Pol Pot, he and his wife became political refugees who found their way to America in 1979. He kept alive the struggle to free Cambodia from the tyranny of this dictator. Anointing him in the company of his wife, children and grandchildren became a family affair. Family members would take turns praying out loud and describing the importance of this brave man in their lives. There was no doubt in their minds that he was heavenly bound.
Getting into heaven becomes a reasonable question for all of us, and fortunately our gospel reading for the Twenty First Sunday in Ordinary Time offers us some guidelines for getting there. In this week’s passage from the gospel of Luke (13:22-30), we are tracking Jesus’ journey through one small town after another. This peripatetic lifestyle was reflective of Jesus’ expectation for his disciples: “The foxes have their holes and the birds of the air have their nests; but the son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58; Matthew 8:20) To follow Jesus is to accept an invitation to leave those things, places or people who would inhibit a serious understanding of what the cost of discipleship might entail. “Making his way to Jerusalem” was a metaphor for Jesus’ prediction of his own suffering and death. Concerned about the dangerous challenge of following Jesus to Jerusalem, the disciples found the courage to ask the right question: “Lord, will only a few be saved?” The disciples began to hear Jesus’ tough love message. No one can take salvation for granted.
The paradoxical responses of Jesus can be aggravating at times, especially if you want a “yes or no” answer. I am reminded of the Irish priest who went into a bar and invited all those who wanted to give up alcohol and go to heaven to line up against the wall. Dutifully, all the fellows, except for Paddy O’Sullivan, lined up. Turning to O’Sullivan the priest asked: “Paddy, don’t you want to give up the evils of alcohol and go to heaven?” Paddy replied, “Yes, of course, I want to go to heaven. But I thought you were going right now!”
Robert Frost, the great American poet, once summed up his understanding of life: “In three words I can sum up everything I have learned in life: It goes on.” Frost, a beloved but cranky poet, ended up having inscribed on his tombstone: “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.” This epitaph was taken from the last stanza of his poem entitled, “The Lesson for Today.” Being quarrelsome with the world is not a bad way to approach evil. Wrestling with worldly values that are destructive to Jesus’ invitation to be signs of peace, justice and compassion in the world must be pursued if the Kingdom of God is to be found.
Borrowing from another of Frost’s poems, The Road Not Taken, the invitation of Jesus is to take the road less taken when we are faced with choices. Taking the one less traveled by will make all the difference in this world and in the next. Is the road to heaven all that clear for you? Jesus’ sense of humor emerges when he reverses our human perceptions of the right road: “Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” Learning to see through the “eyes of Jesus” requires a willingness to let God’s grace take control of our life, to “Let go, and let God.”
As I left Chenne’s room, he was surrounded by his family who were singing hymns in Cambodian. Surviving the terrors of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, Chenne’s life would go on whether on earth or in heaven. His faith and that of his family would exemplify what the sign that greeted all who entered this hospice unit: “Together we make a family.”
Listening to the radio as I was driving home, the song We are Family, by Sister Sledge, jarred me out of my grief and set my toes to tapping and my body to swaying! I cranked up the volume and listened intently to the lyrics: “We are family, I got my sisters with me! Here’s what we call the golden rule, you won’t go wrong, have faith in you and the things you do. So get up everybody and sing, we are family!”
Fr. Joseph Gillespie, OP
The Basilica of Saint Mary
Homily for Installation
In a new well reviewed book called “Wanting” author Luke Burgis, entrepreneur in residence at Catholic University of America, presents many interesting concepts, including what he calls “disruptive empathy.” He explains that disruptive empathy, rather than sympathy, seeks to enter into a conflict, harm, or injustice in a way that changes the trajectory for the good – it positively changes the narrative, while ultimately preserving the authenticity and identity of the one who enters in. Disruptive empathy helps change the scapegoating dynamics of culture and humanity – seen for centuries in history and literature – which seeks to blame, isolate, or purge others. Disruptive empathy rejects scapegoating by naming harm and repairing relationships at their core – often through vulnerability and humility.
I thought of this persuasive concept as I was preparing for this weekend’s homily. Two of the central figures we encounter in today’s readings – Jeremiah and Jesus – employed disruptive empathy in their approach to whom they were sent. Indeed, the saints of the Catholic tradition – including many great women – also used disruptive empathy to call people from apathy to embrace the love and grace of God. These women set the world ablaze with the love of God – St. Clare, St. Catherine of Sienna, and St. Teresa of Calcutta, to name a few.
Ironically, in today’s first reading the very thing that gets the prophet Jeremiah cast into a muddy cistern is that he is seeking the well-being of those in the city, but in order to do this he must disrupt their present course – he must call them back to God and fidelity to the covenant – back to right relationship with God and neighbor. St. Paul was also relentless pursuer of disruptive empathy – going throughout the Mediterranean world preaching the Gospel of Christ and suffering all manner of harm as a result – prison, stonings, insults, shipwrecks – all for the spread of the Gospel.
As Jesus moves closer to Jerusalem his message becomes more prophetic – even anguished – as he predicts in today’s Gospel – the consequences of his own ministry and consequences for his life – he says, “ I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing.” Jesus has come to enter in – to take our very flesh – so that our lives and our world might be transformed. But there is a cost – an invitation to dying and rising that is consequential and cannot be experienced through tepid faith or half measure. His prophetic message today is meant to rouse his listeners from apathy and call his followers to a deep accountability that flows from faith. More than any figure in Scripture, Jesus embodies the disruptive empathy which I described at the outset. This is the essence of the incarnation with all its disruptive power and divine love as its source.
Yesterday, Archbishop Hebda installed me as the 12th pastor of the Basilica of St. Mary. It was a beautiful liturgy and it was moving to have members of the Basilica and close family and friends present for this occasion. Notwithstanding this, the installation of a pastor is not about the pastor – its about the people of God. The pastor is called to be a bridge, a servant, and a shepherd – to serve all of God’s people as Christ serves us. The role and life of a pastor must be rooted and lived in humble service and faith. Please pray for me that I would be the type of pastor that God intends for the Basilica at this present moment and into the future. I have said previously that the beating heart of the Catholic Church is the parish setting. The beating heart of the Church is here – where God walks with His people in tenderness and love.
In preparing for this weekend, I have been reading some of the history of the Basilica as a landmark and a parish. In “Voices from a Landmark” by Peg Guilfoyle, she notes: “[i]t is a tremendous act of faith to build something like the Basilica – faith and grand vision, a large measure of hard-nosed practicality, and a certain willful blindness to obstacles and hardships.” Indeed, my first intuitive response to this great Basilica – including my first days here has been to stand in awe of the faith that was the foundation for this beautiful church. What a legacy of faith we have in the Basilica of St. Mary – and “a cloud of witnesses” through the years that have marked this fine parish.
Interestingly, in his homily for the laying of the cornerstone of the Basilica of St. Mary, Archbishop John Ireland did not talk about his faith or the faith of the people, he did not talk about the magnificent church that was planned here, rather for nearly the entire homily he spoke about the drama of salvation history and the glory of God – what God has done for us – and the fact that Christ is alive – the same yesterday and today. His homily aligned with the words from Hebrews today – we are to always keep our eyes fixed on Christ. This was also Archbishop Hebda’s message at last evening’s liturgy – to keep our eyes fixed on Christ. I was struck by this and it contains an important lesson for us today – when we follow God’s lead when we humbly give God the glory and follow God in faith, great things can happen – great things at the Basilica of St. Mary.
From Marvin O’Connell’s great autobiography on John Ireland, I was struck by the intentionality of Ireland’s choice of sites for the Cathedral of St. Paul and the Basilica – they were meant to convey visibility and manifest the purposeful decision to engage the community, to announce God’s presence robustly and beautifully to the city. The choice of the location of the Basilica near the intersection of the broad avenues of Hennepin and Lyndale intertwined the growing city with the growing Catholic community, walking together through time and history. O’Connell notes that Ireland believed in the compatibility of Catholicism and the American ideal; I do too, but much work remains to be done toward humble and meaningful engagement between the civic and religious spheres. This task has not gotten easier since the time of John Ireland. One of the areas where Catholics can be a leaven and force for good in American life is to exhort other Catholics and Americans to always pair the American value of autonomy with the important value of social solidarity – autonomy without social solidarity frustrates the good and stability of our republic.
Lastly, I have also been moved by the Basilica’s use of the verse from Jeremiah as a prophetic call to serve and seek the good of the city: “[s]eek the well-being of the city to which I have sent you. Pray for it to the Lord. For in seeking its well-being you shall find your own.” Our identity as Christians is rooted in humble service – this is how we seek the well-being of those around us – this is how we seek the well-being of the Twin Cities community. This journey certainly requires of us a strengthening of our own community at the Basilica – fostering a renewed energy and purpose as we emerge from the pandemic. But seeking the well-being of the city also requires great faith and the spiritual freedom that manifests in humility and boldness, as we follow God’s lead. We are called to meet the moment – to the meet the challenges and divisions of our age with a love that listens, serves, and engages our community. Our call is similar to the act of disruptive empathy that prophetically enters into a city and country beset by injustice, polarization, and unrest. As a leaven, the Basilica community can joyfully announce that there is another way – the way of Jesus – a way of humble service, commitment to justice and care for those on the margins – a way that heals the wounded and sows seeds of a deep and lasting peace.
View Full Installation Mass
All Mass recordings can be found at Mass Recordings.
Monday, August 15 - Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Welcome to The Basilica’s new MyBasilica.org portal.
The Basilica has upgraded our MyBasilica software platform to improve your online experience.
For security purposes please create a new password for your account.
You can also go to our website at mary.org and click on MyBasilica.
You may change your username in your profile.
The new MyBasilica platform allows you to:
- Update your contact information
- Select your communications preferences
- Make a one-time or recurring gift
- Connect to volunteer opportunities
If you need assistance, please contact The Basilica’s Database & Technology Administrator.
Thank you for your assistance as The Basilica makes this update improve our online tools.
Fr. Daniel Griffith will be installed by Archbishop Hebda as the 12th Pastor of The Basilica of Saint Mary on Saturday, August 13 at 5:00pm. The celebration Mass will include interfaith leaders from the community and honored guests.
Fr. Daniel Griffith was named pastor and rector July 1, 2022. He was ordained in 2002 and has served in a variety of assignments in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis since ordination including pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes for 10 years and as the archdiocesan delegate for safe environment in 2013 and 2014. Fr. Griffith is the founding director of the Initiative on Restorative Justice and Healing at the University of St. Thomas School of Law.
Fr. Daniel Griffith stated, “I am humbled and honored to be installed as the 12th pastor of The Basilica of Saint Mary. I have long admired The Basilica’s commitment to sacred and beautiful liturgies, outreach to the poor and marginalized, and its commitment to justice and peace within our broader community. Please join us at The Basilica on our shared journey of faith as walk together in the light of the Lord.”
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS:
Saturday, August 13
Installation Mass with Archbishop Hebda at 5:00pm*
Sunday, August 14
Celebration Masses with receptions following 9:30* and 11:30am Masses
In his latest Apostolic Letter entitled Desiderio Desideravi or How I have Longed, Pope Francis writes beautifully about the deep meaning of the celebration of the liturgy. I highly recommend it. It can easily be found online. And it is not that long.
I was particularly touched by his reference to the liturgy as a place of encounter. This reminded me of a 1964 letter to the German Liturgical Congress written by one of my favorite liturgical theologians, Romano Guardini. In this letter Guardini writes about the liturgy as an epiphany or a manifestation of the divine. Good liturgy can indeed open a portal to the Divine, allow an epiphany to happen and occasion a profound encounter.
Pope Francis also makes it clear that this encounter is not a right a few of us earn, while others do not. Writing about the Last Supper, he offers the following: “No one had earned a place at that Supper. All had been invited. Or better said: all had been drawn there by the burning desire (Desiderio Desideravi) that Jesus had to eat that Passover with them.”
Today, some 2000 years after the Last Supper Jesus has the same burning desire to encounter each one of us in the Eucharist. None of us has earned a place at the Eucharistic Table. None of us has earned this encounter. All of us are invited to share this encounter.
But what is an encounter? The word has been used in English in diverse ways ranging from a simple meeting to a confrontation, even in battle. As referenced by Pope Francis, an encounter is never “just” a meeting. It is an intentional meeting. It is a meeting with purpose. It is a meeting with consequences. It is a meeting that sometimes even involves a struggle.
Great mystics, like Teresa of Avilla or St. John of the Cross experienced this encounter spiritually, mystically, and even almost physically. St. Teresa wrote about “being all on fire with the love of God” after one of her profound encounters with Christ in the Eucharist.
Our own Eucharistic encounters may not be as dramatic and life-altering as those of the great mystics, nevertheless they are encounters with consequences. One of the most important consequences of an encounter with Christ is that such an encounter binds us all together and compels us to encounter Christ in one another.
Pope Francis holds that our sacramental encounters are a powerful antidote to the ills and evils in our society where confrontation is celebrated, and divisions are promoted. These sacramental encounters are the foundation for a much-needed Culture of Encounter promoted by Pope Francis which advances right relationships among people.
Today is a very special day at The Basilica. Not only do we celebrate our Basilica community, we are also very pleased to officially welcome Fr. Daniel Griffith as our new pastor. Among the many responsibilities a pastor has, one of his primary roles by virtue of his ordination is to preside at the liturgy, our primary place of encounter. Reminiscent of St. Teresa’s words, Pope Francis in Desiderio Desideravi wrote that for a priest “to preside at Eucharist is to be plunged into the furnace of God’s love.” As Fr. Griffith begins his ministry at The Basilica, we pray that he indeed may be plunged into the furnace of God’s love so he may in turn set all of us “on fire with the Love of God.”
Ad Multos Annos!
All Mass recordings can be found at Mass Recordings.
Pope Francis concluded his penitential pilgrimage to Canada in late July and both the pictures and stories of his encounters with Indigenous Canadians were moving. Also moving, were Francis’s numerous heartfelt apologies which acknowledged with candor and anguish, the devastating harm that had occurred to so many children who suffered abuse, alienation, sickness, death, and cultural genocide. More than 60% of the residential schools in Canada were Catholic and the pope did not shirk from the colonizing harm that has devastated lives and families, resulting in generational harm that still manifests to this day.
During the pope’s pilgrimage, it was evident to me how closely aligned his journey was to the goals of restorative justice (RJ). Restorative justice is historically rooted in the Indigenous practices of First Nation peoples of North America and New Zealand who, centuries ago, gathered in a peace circle in response to harm that had occurred in their communities. Restorative justice is a gift of wisdom and healing emanating from the rich Indigenous cultures, which has borne fruit broadly. Beginning in the 1970s and now today, restorative justice and has become a world-wide movement, effectively utilized across various disciplines and professions in response to harm. RJ has become a global movement due to its effectiveness at healing harm and restoring relationships, because it includes multiple relevant stakeholders, and because it is highly adaptable to various circumstances.
Restorative justice asks three fundamental questions: who was harmed; what was the nature of the harm; and how can the harm be repaired? One of the challenges with RJ is overcoming the significant knowledge gap surrounding it—many people either don’t know what RJ is, its proven effectiveness, or disregard it as ethereal or new-age. One of the reasons RJ is so effective is because it engages the particular needs of victim-survivors and their desire for healing and wholeness. It also promotes accountability because those who have perpetrated harm, if they take place in the process, come to a better sense of the effects of the harm they caused. Over the last several years, I moved from an initial skeptic of RJ to an ardent supporter, as I have taken part in numerous restorative justice processes in response to the harm of clergy abuse and leadership failures in the Catholic Church. The Spirit of God, which works for the healing and restoration of humanity, has been consistently manifest through the RJ sessions in which I have taken part.
Which brings me back to Pope Francis’s pilgrimage to Canada. This pilgrimage was consistent with principles and goals of RJ because his journey acknowledged the significant harm that had occurred to Indigenous people, expressed sincere contrition and sorrow for the devastating acts of abuse and cultural genocide, and included robust dialogue with victim-survivors and leaders about how this harm could best be healed. In fact, the request for the pope to visit Canada to offer an apology came out of a 2015 truth and reconciliation process, which listed several recommendations aimed at healing and restoration. While the wounds and the effects of this deep trauma will continue to be carried by victim-survivors, a step forward for the good of humanity was taken in Canada this summer and serves as a beacon for others who seek justice and healing.
As we continue our collective journey as a parish community and the call to meet the needs of our own wounded community in the Twin Cities, I have been moved by witnessing the dynamism of restorative justice and Catholicism —and the shared goals of promoting greater dignity, justice, and healing within the Church and broader society.