You are here
Eugenio Scalfari, a noted atheist, and the editor of La Repubblica, a daily newspaper in Rome was stunned when he heard the voice of His Holiness on the other end of the line. Pope Francis said, “I am calling to fix an appointment for us to meet. Let me look at my appointment book. I cannot do Wednesday, nor Monday, would Tuesday suit you?” Say three P.M. at my place?” The lengthy interview between the Pope and the publisher ended in a draw. Neither converted the other into becoming a believer or a nonbeliever, but they embraced and agreed to meet again. Accompanying Eugenio to the car, Francis raised his two fingers in a blessing and said: “Next time we will discuss the role of women in the Church. Remember, the Church (in Italian, la Chiesa) is feminine.”
The meeting between the Pope and the atheist sounds like the beginning of a good joke. An imaginative scenario between the church and the real world might prove helpful in establishing a conversational connection between believers and non-believers. Given the traditional clericalism that has encapsulated the hierarchical structure of the Church, it is not easy to establish a critical dialogue that embraces change, with or without humor. It was heartening to note in the Pope’s interview with Eugenio Scalfari, Francis was critical of the Roman Curia. He said that a long history of narcissists in the Papacy had obscured the wider mission of the universal Church. In a shocking metaphor, Francis referred to The Curia as “the leprosy of the Papacy.”
Unfortunately, over the centuries the Vatican centered perspective has neglected the struggles of the world in favor of sustaining a plethora of clerical sycophants who impede change. “I do not share this view,” the Pope said, as he removed Cardinals who were persistent in their sabotaging attempts at resisting reform. Pope Francis’ pastoral message remains: “The Church must become a community of God’s people and the care of souls must be oriented to serving the people of God. Change is an integral reflection of the continued revelation of the Spirit of God in the world.”
The readings for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time substantiate the theological thinking of Pope Francis. His preferential option for the poor (the widow and the orphan in traditional biblical terminology) is clear in his preaching and ministerial practice. Reminiscent of Jesus, St. Paul and St. Francis of Assisi, Francis’ guiding moral principle can be found in his proclamation of “The Year of Mercy” (2015-2016) and the gifts of joy and mercy found in his early encyclical, “Laudato Si.” Francis challenged the world community to maintain an inclusive dialogue regarding the common care of the world’s environment.
In our first reading from The Book of Sirach (35:15-17, 20-22), a book belonging to the collection of biblical texts known as the Wisdom literature, the Lord will listen to the prayer of one who is wronged. “The Lord will not ignore the supplication of the orphan, or the widow when she pours out her complaint.” In Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy (4:6-8, 8, 16-20), he is clear about the need to persevere in the service to the community: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race and I have kept the faith. The Lord has stood by me and gave me strength so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed, and all the Gentiles might hear it.” Paul was conscious of those who helped him and those who impeded his ministry. However, without seeking revenge, Paul continued to be a witness of the gospel so that it might be made available to all, including the Gentiles.
It is in this witnessing to the Gentiles that Pope Francis has oriented his mission to the world. In restructuring the Curia, Francis has discussed the Vatican’s troubled administration and has implemented pastoral changes in the church. “I am not Francis of Assisi and I do not have his strength and holiness, but I am the Bishop of Rome and Pope of the Catholic world. My appointment of new Cardinals to help me govern are wise people, not courtiers. This is the beginning of a Church with an organization that is not just top-down, but also horizontal.”
Today’s gospel from Luke (18:9-14) provides a reasonable insight into prayer that is surprisingly simple. Jesus offers a parable about a tax collector and a Pharisee who go into the Temple to pray. Contrasting the negative approach of the Pharisee: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income to the Temple.” The tax collector simply says: “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Justification based upon the need to trust in the absolute forgiveness of God is far more effective than the self-reliant, moral superiority approach of the Pharisee. Jesus presents a startling conclusion to the parable: “Whoever exults himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” From a cultural perspective where honor and shame were the operative theological controlling forces, this wonderful insight is paralleled in another parable of Jesus regarding where people get to sit at banquets (Luke 14:7-14). These stories of “divine reversal” are God’s way of tempering human pride.
In many respects Pope Francis is leading the Church by upsetting the Vatican status quo. Confronting clericalism (think elitist) and ephemeral anachronistic rituals, Francis has led by example. His refusal to live in the traditional Papal apartments or to wear the cumbersome ceremonial robes has offered a breath of fresh air in a clerical culture priding itself on order, control, and tradition. Francis is not an iconoclast seeking to destroy the Church, but one who is attempting to resuscite those who have suffered theological oxygen deprivation from lingering too long in musty sacristies. Clarifying problematic issues with truthful solutions requires tough love. Moving beyond the “quid pro quo” rhetoric of sleazy political compromises and intransigent religious dogma, we must be willing to risk shedding light on the hermetically sealed darkness of clericalism. Given the fact we are all sinners, we need the grace of the Holy Spirit to name, claim and tame the problems that stifle creative change in the Church.
When asked by a reporter if he said that he was a sinner, Pope Francis simply said, “Yes.” Naively the reporter chastised the Pope saying,” You are the Pope. Popes are not sinners.” Smiling, Pope Francis said: “Obviously, you haven’t read any history.”
Hello, this is Pope Francis speaking! Are you listening? Well, are you? Believe me, this is not a rhetorical question!
Peace, Fr. Joe Gillespie, O.P
The Basilica is a community rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Join us to learn more about our call to respond to the needs of people experiencing homelessness.
I’m honored to continue this journey of faith together.
All Mass recordings can be found at Mass Recordings.
Wednesday, October 19 (Red Mass)
The great St. Irenaeus said centuries ago that the glory of God is the human person fully alive. A fitting corollary to this is that a parish fully alive also glorifies God. Whether as individuals or as communities, God intends for us to flourish and grow. One of the realities that has most impressed me about The Basilica of Saint Mary is the balanced approach to the life, mission, and culture of the parish. This speaks to the care, intentionality, and thoughtfulness that has been applied to how the life of our parish is ordered and lived. When we look to Scripture, there are many dimensions of our faith that Jesus teaches are essential. Correspondingly, these same dimensions should also be nurtured and grown in communities of faith. I would like to highlight four dimensions of our Catholic faith which are on full display this fall at The Basilica and which invite us to take a “discipleship inventory” —places where Jesus might be calling us to enter more deeply into our faith. These four are: praise and worship of God; fellowship; faith formation and learning; and stewardship.
In the Catholic tradition, the highest form of prayer is doxology or praise. In the beginning of Luke’s Gospel, the shepherds are among the first to hear the good news of the birth of the Christ child as the Angels praise and glorify God. In the Eucharistic liturgy, we are invited to enter into a prayer of praise and thanksgiving to the Father for the gift of Jesus Christ. I begin here because the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Catholic faith—the greatest gift given to us down through the ages. The celebration of the Eucharistic liturgy is marked by great beauty and reverence at The Basilica and this invites us to raise our hearts in worship of the living God. Our new icon of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawks—invites us to join the saints in their perfect praise of God. The liturgy is not a static reality. Rather, its dynamism transforms our hearts and calls us beyond ourselves and beyond the doors of our church to see and serve Christ in our neighbor. If you have been away from The Basilica during the pandemic, I invite you back—come and experience the dynamic love of God in-person.
Jesus teaches often in the Gospels about koinonia, which is translated as Christian fellowship or communion. In its essence, the Catholic Church is a communion of disciples united by the Holy Spirit and one in Christ. Given this reality, all parishes, including The Basilica, are called to provide opportunities where we can enter into and strengthen our fellowship. This begins again with the Eucharist and flows from there to the entire life of the parish. Here at The Basilica, there are so many opportunities to deepen our fellowship with one another in Christ. In early October, on a glorious autumn day, we blessed the animals and celebrated the great lover of all creation, St. Francis. The joy was palpable. Fall also provided the opportunity to celebrate Octoberfest last Sunday and November 5 we will host the Dia De Muertos event. Join us for one of the many fellowship events this fall at The Basilica, including coffee and doughnuts on Sundays.
Before commissioning his disciples to continue his saving work, Jesus taught them for three years about God, God’s love, and how they (and we) are to live as disciples. One of the central teachings of Jesus is that we are called to serve and help heal those who have been wounded. This has also been a consistent teaching of Pope Francis who has likened the Church to a field hospital. He has called Catholics to a culture of encounter and accompaniment. Sadly, some of our sisters and brothers have been wounded by clergy or have suffered wounds inside the Church. Much works needs to be done to bring greater justice and healing to those who have been wounded by the Church and in our broader society. I would highlight two opportunities later this fall to enter into the wounds experienced by our brothers and sisters—Ministering on the Margins with Monsignor Chad Gion and a very important event December 3 on racial justice and healing entitled, Here I am Lord – Journeying Toward Healing through Listening and Truth-Telling. These are vital programs which invite us to listen, to learn, and to accompany those who have experienced harm. These events are part of our Faith, Justice, and Healing series which includes other important events as well.
Lastly, but not least in importance, Jesus calls us repeatedly in the Gospels to be good and generous stewards of the gifts we have been given by God. Stewardship for disciples is a way of life lived faithfully throughout the year. Fall is often the season in Catholic parishes to reflect on Christian stewardship and the invitation to give back to God. On the first weekend of October, I highlighted in my homily the example of my father who has been a generous steward throughout his life. This approach to stewardship should not be the exception but the norm for Christians. The Basilica Fund Appeal is now launched and I would ask you to prayerfully reflect on your gifts and blessings, the needs and opportunities of the parish—both of which are robust— and where your generosity can help us prepare for the vibrant future to which God is calling The Basilica community.
These four dimensions of our Catholic faith outlined above provide us with a spiritual inventory as disciples—how am I doing as a follower of Jesus? This is a perennial question for all of us as we continue our journey of faith together.
We invite you to watch "The Letter. A message for our Earth" a new documentary about Pope Francis' Encyclical Letter "Laudato si'" and the care of our common home. The Basilica will be offering future events to discuss the film and its message. If you would like to get involved in future planning, contact Janice.
All Mass recordings can be found at Mass Recordings.
This past year our son celebrated his First Communion. His initial reaction was that it tasted pretty good! He does have a discerning palate, so we are fortunate that he liked the taste of the blessed host. I hope it tastes good to him every time he goes to Mass, but more than that I hope he begins to reflect that in receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, he is called to BE Jesus to others, probably beginning with his little sister.
I took the lead in his sacramental preparation and noticed that there was heavy emphasis on the doctrinal and devotional formation, and virtually nothing on the implications that receiving the Eucharist has in loving our neighbor. Do I want our children to understand the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist? Of course, and I hope he can grow in his devotion to this particular Sacrament over the course of his life; this is truly a life-long endeavor for all of us. However, if this formation comes at the expense of his learning what receiving the Eucharist demands of us, something fundamental is lacking in that formation.
You may have heard that this June the United States Bishop’s began a three year long Eucharistic Revival. What exactly is a Eucharistic Revival? I like this line for the website: “The Revival is a grassroots movement of Catholics, each responding to the gift of the Eucharist in their own way.” I appreciate this definition because it seems to be an invitation to each of us to reflect and respond, and gives space for people to respond in a variety of ways. I think it is also a particularly poignant time to reflect on this, as we have come out of a pandemic time when we were not able to celebrate the Mass and come together as the Body of Christ in this most important way.
What might the reflection look like? Perhaps some of us may review and reflect on the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist, or perhaps how we might grow in our own devotion to the Eucharist. I know for myself sometimes the sacraments can grow a bit stale, especially if I have received them many times. Perhaps we might go beyond reflection and “into the concrete practice of love” that Pope Benedict called us to in one of his early writings as Pope.
I remember years ago in an RCIA presentation here (folks discerning if they want to join our Catholic Community), that in an older Rite the Mass was to begin “when the priest was ready.” In our newer Rite we begin “when the people have gathered.” I want our priests to be ready when we begin Mass, but what a beautiful reminder to all of us that the celebration of the Eucharist cannot even begin without us gathered as community!
We are in the midst of another busy fall here at the Basilica, and there is much that you can enter into. Faith formation classes have begun, RCIA continues to meet, small groups are gathering, and we have a great lineup of speakers coming over the next few months. All of these offerings are great, but our gatherings make most sense when they flow into and out of our Eucharistic celebration. Hopefully we can take advantage of this time and grow in our understanding and love of the Eucharist as individuals and as a community.
Join us for the dedication of the new Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Icon Sunday, October 9, at the 9:30 & 11:30am Masses.
(Indigenous Peoples' Day Oct 10)
Daughter of the Americas,
Lily of the Mohawks,
Witness to the Love of God,
your life was marked by courage and devotion
in the face of adversity and pain.
Through your intercession,
may our lives be modeled after yours,
filled with strength and humility,
with hope and peacefulness,
and above all, with a profound love of Jesus
as we follow in his footsteps
on our journey to the Heavenly Jerusalem
We ask this through Christ our Lord.