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My early years in Minneapolis were not always easy as I greatly missed my family in Belgium and my friends at Notre Dame. Christmas time was particularly difficult. I was very glad that my late parents came to Minneapolis for my first Christmas here in 1995 and my dear friend, the late Fr. André Laurier joined me in 1998. My parents had the pleasure of lots of cold and snow which they had not experienced before. And Fr. André taught me an important lesson which I treasure to this day.
André arrived the Friday before Christmas. On Saturday, we spent the day decorating the Christmas tree. It was a lovely robust and fragrant blue spruce. Carefully unpacking each ornament, I told its story. Many stories resonated with André as he knew the Belgian people and places I was talking about. When we were all finished, we went into the kitchen to prepare dinner. From the kitchen, a terrific noise called us back to the living room where we found the tree on the floor surrounded by shattered glass. André quietly cleaned up, carefully gathering the surviving ornaments while collecting the pieces of those that shattered. I was very upset. Those Christmas ornaments were a tangible reminder of so many cherished memories and of so much love. I excused myself and spent some quiet time in my room. When I finally re-emerged, I found the tree back in place, the surviving ornaments ready to be hung, and the table set for dinner. We had a quiet dinner that night and we talked of all things Belgian.
The next day, when I returned home from Sunday liturgies, I found the tree decorated with the surviving ornaments and some new ones ready to be hung. Cleverly, André had bought some clear glass ornaments which he filled with the remnants of the broken ornaments.
Later that day, as we sat down to admire the tree, André mused that perhaps the many memories had proven too much for the tree and that maybe it was time to let go of some old memories in order to make room for new ones.“ It is not that you have to let go completely” he said, “you can hold on to bits and pieces, but you need to make room for more.” And so, I did! I let go of the old and I welcomed the new.
The season of Advent invites us to let go of all that we unnecessarily cling to, to take stock of our spiritual life, and to approach the future with joy and anticipation, discovering the potential for beauty in that which seems broken, unimportant or insignificant.
Our world often seems on the brink of collapse with relentless wars; global warming; divisive rhetoric; fear mongering… There is so much brokenness and such division. Yet, as Christians we are called to continue to see the potential for beauty and to work toward it. After all, God did not come to us as an imperial ruler but rather as a vulnerable baby. He was not born in a palace but in a stable to a family on the move. He did not live in Rome but in a small country occupied by the Romans.
In the words of Pope Francis given at the Mass for the sixth World Day of the Poor on November 13: “a disciple of the Lord should not yield to resignation or give in to discouragement, even in the most difficult situations, for our God is the God of resurrection and hope, who always raises up. With Him we can lift up our gaze and begin anew.”
I am looking forward to preparing my home for Christmas, this year. It will again be adorned with many ornaments. Some of them are old, reminding me of my family in Belgium, but most of them are new, bearing the memories of my travels, my friends, and my Basilica life. And, still to this day, I treasure the clear glass ornaments filled with the bits and pieces of old and treasured memories for they continue to teach me to let go and to look for the potential of beauty even in the most broken times and places.
This Advent, rather than resigning ourselves or losing hope, let us look for the potential of all that is beautiful and good in the brokenness of our world and our hearts and thus help to build the world which God has imagined for us.
Advent 2022: A Season of Longing and Listening
The First Week of Advent: Let us Walk in the Light of the Lord!
Last Sunday, the liturgical year ended with the celebration of the Solemnity of Christ the King. During his homily given in the Cathedral of Asti, Italy, Pope Francis challenged the image of Jesus this solemnity evokes. Too often, he said we depict and imagine Christ as a worldly king, and “what comes to mind is a powerful man seated on a throne with magnificent insignia, a scepter in his hand and precious rings on his fingers, speaking in solemn tones to his subjects.” Yet, the truth about Jesus is that he was exactly the opposite. He was not born in a palace but rather in a stable or a cave. He was not born in Rome but rather in one of the poorest outskirts of the Roman Empire. He did not seek the company of princes but rather surrounded himself with sinners and the sick, widows and those wanting, fishermen and carpenters. And he surely never sat on an earthly throne or wore a crown made of gold. His throne was the cross on which he died. His crown was not made of gold but of thorns.
During Advent we meditate on this great mystery of God choosing to come to us not as a king but a baby born in a stable to a humble family so he might show us the true path to salvation. And that path did not involve thrones and crowns and scepters but rather a stable, a manger and a cross.
Advent is a time of deep listening to our most inner being; to one another, and above all to the voice of God. Advent is also a time of intense longing that world God imagined for us, free pf war and violence, suffering and pain. Listening and longing both require time and space, admittedly a challenge especially during Advent. Please allow yourself that much needed time and space to prepare for the Coming of our Lord.
What to do in the Domestic Church:
Today, many churches and homes are decorated with and advent wreath. The origin of the Advent wreath is unclear. There is evidence of a pre-Christian custom of decorating a wheel with candles, while prayers were offered for the wheel of the earth to turn so that light and warmth would reappear. Christians then adopted this ritual and began to use it in domestic settings during the Middle Ages.
The wheel itself, a circle with neither beginning nor end, signifies eternal life. The evergreens, too, represent eternal life, with holly implying immortality, cedar expressing strength and healing, laurel touting victory over suffering, and pinecones or nuts lauding life and resurrection. The four candles that were added to the wreath over time represent the four weeks of Advent.
Since the use of the Advent wreath originated in the homes of Christians, we invite you to continue this custom. Advent wreaths can be easily constructed. The candle for each week is lit and blessed in the evening of the Saturdays or Sundays of Advent.
A Blessing for the Lighting of the First Candle
After someone in the family has lit the first candle on the Advent Wreath the prayer begins with the sign of the cross and continues.
Leader: Brothers and sisters,
today we begin the season of Advent.
Let us open our hearts to God’s love
as we prepare to welcome Christ.
The candles of this wreath remind us that
Jesus Christ came to conquer the darkness of sin
and lead us into his glorious light.
Let us pray that we may always be ready to welcome him.
Leader: You came to turn the hearts of all to love of God and neighbor:
Lord, come and save us.
All: Lord, come and save us.
Leader: You come to enrich us with gifts of grace and knowledge:
Lord, come and save us.
All: Lord, come and save us.
Leader: You will come on a day we cannot know
bringing redemption to all your faithful:
Lord, come and save us.
All: Lord, come and save us.
Leader: Let us pray:
we praise you for your Son, Jesus Christ,
whose advent we await.
As we light the first candle of this wreath,
rouse us from sleep that we may be ready to greet him
when he comes with all the angels and saints.
Enlighten us with your grace,
and prepare our hearts to welcome him with joy.
We ask this through the same Christ our Lord.
The leader ends with the sign of the cross.
A Quick Glance at the Readings for the First Sunday of Lent
From the First Reading: Isaiah 2:4
They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
one nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.
From the Second Reading: Romans 13: 12
The night is advanced, the day is at hand.
Let us then throw off the works of darkness
and put on the armor of light
From the Gospel: Matthew 24: 42
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
The Advent Calendar
Printed Advent calendars originated in Germany at the Beginning of the 20th C. It is believed that US soldiers who returned from Europe after the war brought them back for their children.
Advent Calendars allow children to keep up with the progression of Advent and countdown to Christmas as they open one little door each day. The better calendars have a Bible verse hidden behind the little door or maybe a suggestion for a good deed.
At The Basilica of Saint Mary
You will notice that the rituals are somewhat different and that the tone of the liturgy is one of deep longing for Christ’s presence in our midst. We celebrate Sunday Eucharist on Saturday at 5:00pm and on Sunday at 7:30am, 9:30am, 11:30am, and 5:00pm.
We celebrate Mass in the St. Joseph Chapel, Monday through Friday at 7:00am and at Noon.
On Tuesday and Wednesday we gather in the Basilica Choir Stalls for the celebration of Morning Prayer. This is a simple but beautiful way to begin your day.
On Sundays we gather in the choir stalls at 3:00pm to celebrate Vespers. This form of prayer is perfect for the season as it begins with a silent procession in the dark, followed by a lighting of individual candles. We sing beautiful psalms, listen to Sacred Scripture, and pray for the needs of the world. We end Vespers with a prayer to the Blessed Mother who is so central to the Seasons of Advent and Christmas.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation
A priest is available in the St. Joseph Chapel for the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation each Saturday between 9:00-10:00am
As we advance in the Advent Season more and more of the creches or Nativity Scenes from our Basilica collection will be on exhibit in The Basilica and in the Undercroft.
Concerts in The Basilica
Several concerts have been scheduled for the second and third week of Advent. Look for more information on our website.
And please remember to be pace yourself
Advent is neither an endurance test nor a time to prove our Christian heroism. Rather, Advent is a time to slow down and ponder what is essential to our faith and thus to our life as Christians. So please pace yourselves. Give yourself and others the necessary space. And above all be patient.
All Mass recordings can be found at Mass Recordings.
Thursday, November 24 - Thanksgiving Day Mass 8:30am (no Noon Mass)
Friday, November 25 - No Mass
Recently, you may have seen construction lifts and workers inside and outside of The Basilica. First, some good news – the copper roof on the Dome is in good condition, and while there is still moisture in the stone walls, most of it is from leaking that happened years ago.
Because most moisture is being kept out, the ceiling plaster in The Basilica is starting to dry out. The not so good news – after years and years of moisture damage, the Basilica’s ceiling plaster is crumbling. As it dries, it has started to fall in large chunks. To protect Mass goers and visitors, a number of short-term measures have been put in place. White netting has been installed in Church by our contractor, Mortenson, and will remain in place during Advent and Christmas. In early January, the workers will be back. Using lifts and scaffolding in the Church, they will assess the moisture issues and damage to the ceiling plaster. As an immediate fix, they will knock down any loose crumbling areas of plaster. What is learned from the plaster assessment will help shape plans for a future interior restoration of the Church.
The construction lifts and scaffolding will allow access to the upper stained-glass windows and to the interior stone walls that have also suffered moisture damage. Due to age, we know that the leading in The Basilica’s beautiful stained-glass windows will need repairs and restoration – but we don’t now how severe the issues are. During early 2023, using these same lifts and scaffolding, restoration experts will gather information to inform plans for future work to restore the stained-glass windows. They will also evaluate a variety of methods for cleaning the interior stone walls. As you may know, the Basilica was heated by coal for years. The stone we experience as grey, has been discolored and is in need of cleaning. All the information gathered will help form the basis for a future and long anticipated restoration of The Basilica’s interior.
All of these projects have been funded by The Basilica Landmark. They have also funded a study of the moisture, humidity and temperatures inside The Basilica will also take place over the next year through the change of seasons. This study includes 42 wireless sensers and a moisture monitoring system that have just been installed in Church. Readings will be taken over the next year and the data gathered will help us create plans to care for The Basilica and steward it for future generations.
There are some areas of The Basilica that may require a structural analysis where cracking of the stone is becoming visible, and there is evidence that some exterior stones are shifting. Other areas continue to be problems for bringing moisture into the building, like the Basilica’s bell towers. These towers have copper floors that were installed in 1991 – but they are now over 30 years old, showing wear and allowing water intrusion. Plans include installation of a rubber roofing material to keep the moisture out.
It’s important to remember that we have to continue to let the interior of The Basilica dry out before any restoration efforts can begin. We anticipate that this will take several years.
Archbishop Bernard Hebda invites you to read his post-Synodal pastoral letter, You Will Be My Witnesses: Gathered and Sent From the Upper Room.
The letter may be read at www.archspm.org/synodletter.
Greetings parishioners and friends of The Basilica of Saint Mary,
Join us this Sunday, for Christ the King
Masses held Saturdays at 5:00pm. Sundays at 7:30am, 9:30, 11:30, and 5:00pm. Weekdays at 7:00am and Noon.
Gregorian Vespers at 3:00pm with The Mirandola Ensemble.
Thanksgiving Day Mass
November 24, 8:30am
Thanksgiving Day Mass will be celebrated in The Basilica.
Thanksgiving Day Interfaith Service
November 24, 10:00am
The interfaith service will be celebrated at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church.
Evening Prayer During Advent
November 27, December 4, 11, 18
Held in The Basilica choir stalls with The Basilica Schola Cantorum.
Archbishop Hebda will release his pastoral letter outlining his vision and Synod Priorities next weekend. More information is available online at archspm.org.