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The fall is my favorite time of year. It’s not just the change in the weather, the back to school excitement, or even the start of football. It’s the feeling that things are going to get accomplished.
I wanted to share with you the following from Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium. (I:2-3)
A joy new, a joy which is shared
2. The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ.
3. I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord.” The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms.
I appreciate the message the Holy Father is communicating. The document goes on to say much more. I can get caught up in my own interest to the point where I’m less than benevolent. This is the way I try to remind my self that the professional athletes train daily. If I want to be a better Christian, I need to train every day. During these workouts I know I’m going to want to quit or look away from the harsh glare of reality—due to lack of courage or just ignorance—because of not wanting to look deeper.
I have hope that I can do better. I’m going to look at it as a new session. I ask you to call me out on any action you see me do that isn’t following the simple request to open myself to encounter Jesus Christ.
I would like to invite anyone reading this message to make a commitment to The Basilica. We all have gifts. Please share your gifts. If you need a personal invitation from a member of the Parish Council, call me. I just ask you to leave a message at my cell 612.834.4041. I will call you back. Special thanks those of you to that follow Matthew 6:1.
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”
You folks are amazing. God Bless!
In just over a week, our son will begin kindergarten. How can this be when he was just born yesterday? He has been in pre-school, so the transition to kindergarten will not be a shock to any of us, but it does mean a new school, new teachers, meeting new children who will (and won’t) become his friends, and letting go of what was known in his old school. He won’t see Scotty, Charlotte, or Joey anymore, and for a five year old there is some sadness that comes with that. My daily prayer is that he listens to his teachers (better than at home!), makes some good friends, and is anything other than the “mean kid” in his class.
Many of us are going through changes at this time of year. It can be parents who are sending little ones off to school for the first time. Some are getting older children ready for middle school or high school, with all of the anxiety and excitement that comes with that. Some parents will soon be loading up their cars and traveling with young adults beginning college, making one more trip to Target and/or the campus bookstore to make sure they’ve done all they can to help their son and daughter with a major transition. They might be new “empty nesters,” having to adjust to the reality of not seeing their children and being in a quieter home. In all of these situations, we do what we can but have to let go, knowing that once the children are on the bus, dropped off, or we drive away from campus, we have to let go and entrust them to God’s loving care.
For others, transitions can happen when one retires, and beyond trying to figure out what to do with extra time, a sense of identity can be lost when we don’t have a career anymore. Transitions come when a loved one’s (or our own) health deteriorates, and we know that things won’t ever be the same again. Of course, when a spouse, child, or loved one dies, we face those transitions too, often with grief, anger and confusion, and fear of not knowing what will come next. On a national level, we are wrestling with how to welcome those who come to our borders: transitioning from the often harsh realities of violence and corruption in their home countries; looking for a new start with their families.
A priest I know well told me many times that “God is faithful…God is faithful…God is faithful.” He told me that as we were waiting for our son to be born, going through the adoption process, not knowing exactly how it would all work out. It can be a helpful reminder for us, a simple truth that we can hold on to. It’s also a call to be faithful, to God and to each other. We know “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), and so we can be faithful in our call to love our neighbors through all of life’s transitions, large and small.
One of my nephews joined a very small non-denominational Christian church on Long Island. While the number of people who attend in person is about two dozen, their on-line following is in the thousands. One of the sermons I heard the leader preach used the Bible to build the case that there is no need for me to care about or address what is happening in our society and world. Indeed, he said, I simply need to care about my own individual salvation. And that salvation would be found between me and God alone.
The clarity and confidence in which he spoke was startling. As he ran through a litany of injustices and tensions in the community, he negated any call to action. They will have their own way to salvation. I will have mine.
Our Catholic faith directly challenges and contradicts this detached understanding of our role in the world. Jesus teaches, and our Church echoes, the core need to see the other—to help the other—to know the other. To live compassion.
The word compassion is derived from the Latin words pati and cum, which together mean "to suffer with." In his book Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life, Henri Nouwen suggests that the mystery of God’s love is not that our pain is taken away, but that God first wants to share that pain with us. God chooses to be with us, willing to enter into our problems, confusions, and questions. We, in turn, are asked to do the same.
Compassion asks us to go where it hurts and let go of power. We’re called to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion dares us to cry out with those in misery, and may challenge us to sacrifice personal freedom or even personal safety, in love.
This is not a faith of isolation. This is a faith of radical relationship. It challenges us to create community that builds faith, hope and love “on earth as it is in heaven.”
This is a faith that places a primacy on the “common good.” Pope John XXIII states, “The common good embraces the sum total of all those conditions of social life which enable individuals, families, and organizations to achieve complete and effective fulfillment.” (Mater et Magistra, 1961 #74) Indeed, it is our responsibility as Catholic Christians to engage in the public arena to work for the common good.
It is imperative that no one...indulge in a merely individualistic morality. The best way to fulfill one's obligations of justice and love is to contribute to the common good… and also to promote and help public and private organizations devoted to bettering the conditions of life. (Gaudium et Spes, 1965 #30)
This is our faith. We know this. Yet, we are challenged to examine our hearts and actions: Who are we ignoring? What are we staying silent about? Where are we falling short? Let us commit to a life of prayer—opening our hearts, minds and arms to those most in need. Let us find courage in the Spirit to speak and act boldly about the injustices of our time, and work to create a world of justice and peace.
A few weeks ago I did some much needed grocery shopping on my day off. (My refrigerator and pantry were bearing a strong resemblance to Old Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard.) I stopped at the local CUB store and was surprised at how many people were there in mid-afternoon on a Monday. Pleased that it took me only about 30 minutes to find everything on my list, I approached the checkout lanes. Unfortunately, I was dismayed to see at least three people in each line. I made my best guess at which would be the fastest and for once I was right. The line I picked moved very quickly. When it came my turn to check out, I dutifully pulled out my reusable bags and tried to keep up with the checkout person. Unfortunately, she was much faster than I was, and I only had half my items packed when it was time for me to pay. I took out my wallet with my credit card and went through the usual process. I continued packing but I noticed that the person behind me didn’t have that many items and they were speedily packing them. The person after them started to check out, and it was obvious that my side of the counter was needed for their purchases. I hastily piled my remaining items in my bags, and finished just as their first few items started down the conveyer belt toward the bagging area. Pleased that I hadn’t caused any major disruption, I headed for home.
Unfortunately, when I got home I realized I had left my wallet at the check out counter. I immediately called CUB and asked for customer service. After describing my predicament, the person at custom service told me that indeed my wallet had been turned in. After a big sigh of relief and a quick prayer of thanksgiving, I headed back to the grocery story to pick up my wallet. After waiting my turn I explained that I had called about a lost wallet. The customer service representative asked me to describe it, and after locating it in a box in the safe, said: “Can I see some I.D?” I immediately burst into laughter, since my I.D. was, of course, in my wallet. Since this must have been a standard question, the customer service rep didn’t immediately realize the absurdity of their question. It wasn’t until I suggested that they look at the driver’s license in the wallet to confirm that it was mine, that they finally got it. A slow smile spread across their face as they handed my wallet back to me.
Over the years, I have known parishioners and friends who have lost their I.D. or had it stolen. Not only is this enormously inconvenient, it can be very frightening and time consuming to try to “recreate” one’s life with a new I.D. and new credit cards. Given this, in my prayer that evening I definitely expanded on my earlier and briefer prayer of thanksgiving.
Also in my prayer that evening, as I reflected the events of the day, I was reminded how fortunate we are that we never have to worry about losing our identity when it comes to God. In Isaiah 49:15-16 we read: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of my hands I have carved your name.” The words remind us very forcefully that God knows us through and through, and even if we should forget God, God will never forget us.
As I closed my prayer that night I was struck once again at how blessed and fortunate we are that God loves us so much that God never forgets us and never needs to ask for our I.D.
The 16th century mystic, Saint John of the Cross, once wrote: “God’s first language is silence.” In commenting on this insight of Saint John of the Cross, the late Trappist monk, Thomas Keating, in his book Invitation to Love, said: “Everything else is a poor translation. In order to understand this language, we must learn to be silent and to rest in God.”
Now certainly the above words sound good, pious and important. Let us not fool ourselves, though, Silence is not easy. We live in a world that is filled with noise and distraction. From the moment we get up on the morning, to the time we go to bed at night, we are bombarded with a variety of stimuli. Our phones talk to us and remind us what we are to do, whom we are to call, where we are to go, and how we are to get there. Siri and Alexa address us like old friends, and are ever present in our lives. In the face of this stream of noise and distractions, finding time for silence is more than important; it is a necessity. For it is in silence that God speaks to our hearts, our minds and our spirits.
With all the extraneous noise in our lives and in our world today, though, how do we learn to enter into silence and allow God access to our lives? Well, it seems to me the solution is simple. Unfortunately simple does not equate to easy. It is simple. in that we merely need to learn not to be held captive by our electronic devices and other stimuli. We need to train ourselves to grow quiet on a regular basis and simply be at peace in the silence of God’s love.
But the above is by no means easy. In a very real sense we are victims of the superficiality, selfishness and worldly spirit that are spread by our media-driven society. Unfortunately, we are not unwilling victims. Given this, we need to take control of our devices and not let them control us. Now to be honest, this is clearly a case of “do like I say, and not do like I do.” I constantly struggle to find silence in the midst of the noise and hustle of the world. And when I do find it, it is fleeting at best. And yet, when I can turn off my phone, sit in silence, and quiet my mind, my heart and my spirit, I feel the presence and peace of God. And I am reminded that God abides with me.
Silence is important. Because it is in the silence that God comes to us and dwells with us. Silence; provides the space for God to enter into our lives. That is why it is so important to be silent so that we rediscover the abiding presence of God. For it is only in silence that we discover that God alone can satisfy the longings of the human heart. God’s first language is silence. And it is in the silence that God waits to reveal God’s Self to us.
Many years ago while visiting my brother and sister-in-law, I spent some time playing with my niece and two nephews (all of whom are now adults). At one point during my visit my youngest nephew was attempting to color a picture. I say attempting because, while he was using a variety of different crayons to color the picture, his efforts at staying inside the lines were being met with only limited success. I commented on this and suggested that he try harder to say inside the lines. His response was a masterpiece of childhood simplicity.
He looked at me and said: “That’s okay. I’m not sure what the picture’s gonna be yet.” Silly me, I thought the picture was determined by the pre-drawn lines. My nephew on the other hand had a slightly broader vision. For him the picture was whatever it turned out to be. He wasn’t limited by any preconceived ideas or pre-drawn lines. For him the end product was what really mattered.
In the years since this experience happened, I have reflected on it often. You see, many times I have approached my life similar to the way I approach coloring. I think I see the whole picture, but in reality my perception is limited and I see only what I want to see. In my mind, the lines have already been drawn, and all that is left is for me to try to stay within them. I think I see the full and complete picture, only to discover later that there was more to be seen just outside my preconceived lines. In effect, I often missed the big picture and settled for a limited/reduced version.
I think the above is particularly true in regard to my relationship with God. I have discovered that more often than not, God draws outside the lines in my life. God sees a bigger picture than I do, and I am surprised (and sometimes amazed) when I finally get enough perspective to see that bigger picture. There are times I have faced adversity or distress only to discover later that they were the source of great blessing or grace. On the other hand there have been times when something that initially appeared to be a blessing was in fact not the blessing I originally thought it was.
It is indeed fortunate for us that God is not limited by our preconceived ideas or the pre-drawn lines in our lives. God sees the bigger picture. And often times God draws outside the lines of our picture, to make a picture of God’s own design. In light of this, over the years my prayers have become less specific as to what I want and more open to what God wants for me. In this way I am hopeful that I might be more open to the picture of myself and my life that God has for me, and that I might work with God to make this picture a reality.
150 years old and going strong.
Our Basilica parish community continues to thrive, but strong committed volunteer leaders are critical to our future. This weekend, all adult parishioner members have an opportunity to support candidates running for our Parish Council by casting their votes.
Hopefully, you’ve seen the paper ballot included in the parish bulletin that should have recently arrived at your home. This year we will elect members to represent Liturgy and Sacred Arts and also our Learning ministries.
Online voting is available now. Please, take a moment to vote.
Leadership matters. The role of the Council is to be sensitive to the needs, ambitions, and desires of the Parish community as we strive to fulfill our mission and vision. By sharing their insights, ideas, and suggestions with our Pastor, Council members help our leaders make thoughtful, informed decisions. Key to their success as a group is collaboration and consultation. Each Council meeting is grounded by prayer and sharing about the Sunday Gospel.
Our Parish Council includes elected and appointed representatives of the ministries and governance groups in our community. Together, members of the Parish Council serve and advise our Pastor. They are asked to chart a course for our future through Strategic Planning, and by sharing their hopes, their thoughts, and concerns. Members are also asked to be good listeners, and to keep a handle on the pulse of the parish.
In addition to focusing on the future of the parish, principle responsibilities of the Council include seeking input from the parishioners and staff. They provide guidance to help the parish facilitate communication among our members, and the many volunteer committees and ministries. They also provide for the support and monitoring of ministries with a special focus on ensuring the fulfillment of the strategic plan.
Council members assist in the education of parishioners about the meaning of biblical stewardship, its responsibilities, and the benefits of membership in our parish community. They also respond to recommendations from the Finance Committee and have responsibilities to insure our parish’s financial health. Throughout this work, members share their expertise, their passion for their faith, and they provide counsel and support to our Pastor.
In the coming year, important work and conversations will continue on Master Planning for our campus and implementing our new Strategic Plan. Our Council members will help lead us as work on these important initiatives progress.
As we look to the future, having active volunteers invested in leading our Parish, committed to partnering with our volunteers, staff, and our Pastor are critically important to our success in carrying out our vision. Please take time to vote, and consider how you can be a part of helping The Basilica of Saint Mary achieve our aspirations to be a Home of Spiritual Nourishment, a Beacon of Hope, and an Advocate for Change.
Brother David Steindl-Rast is a 90+ year old Benedictine monk from Austria. In a 2015 interview with Krista Tippet of On Being he posited that every religion starts with some sort of miracle. Soon though, the miracle is cloaked in structures and institutions, developed to protect the miracle. Before long these structures and institutions not only protect but also obscure the miracle. Inevitably, the pains to safeguard the structures become more important than the efforts to reveal and celebrate the miracle.
Our miracle, or better, our Mystery is the empty tomb. It is the fact that God became one of us, lived among us, died for us, and rose from the dead so that we might live. That was the simple but profound experience and message of the earliest followers of Jesus. As the number of followers grew, structures had to be established. And as more questions were asked about our Mystery, theologies needed to be discussed and developed.
To date, we have some 2000 years worth of theological elucidation and ecclesiastical manifestation. And while these developed to portray, to protect and to promote our Mystery they have also done much harm to that very Mystery. When protecting the structures and institutions became more important than celebrating the Mystery, many scandals started to befall Christianity. Just think about the many divisions the Body of Christ has endured over the centuries. Had Christians paid more attention to our shared Mystery rather than the separating trappings around it we might be better off today. More recently, had the Church paid more attention to the Mystery of our Church rather than to the institution of the Church the evil of child abuse in our Church could have been addressed much earlier and with greater honesty.
Brother Steindl-Rast compares the beginnings of all religions with a Volcano. “There was fire, there was heat, there was light: the light of mystical insight, the glow of ethical commitment, and the fire of ritual celebration... But, as that stream of lava flowed down the sides of the mountain, it began to cool off and turn into rock. Dogmatism, moralism, ritualism: all are layers of ash deposits and volcanic rock that separate us from the fiery magma deep down below. But there are fissures and clefts in the rock. These represent the great men and women who reformed and renewed religious tradition from within. In one way or another, this is our task, too.”
During the Sacred Triduum we celebrated our Mystery: the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We did that without great theological debate or ecclesiastical posturing. It was a simple and pure celebration of our Mystery. Let us hold on to that. Let us not be blinded by all the trappings and extravagance of our church, rather let us always behold and embrace our Mystery: the source of “mystical insight, the glow of ethical commitment, and the fire of ritual celebration.”
A few weeks ago in a conversation with a friend, I suddenly realized that without intending it, I had said something that bothered, and in fact, had hurt my friend. Now saying something hurtful certainly wasn’t my intention. In fact, quite the opposite, I was trying to be witty. Thus, when I realized that what I had said had been hurtful, I began to explain what I meant, and why I had said what I did. As the explanatory words tumbled out of my mouth, it dawned on me that I was doing the same thing that increasing numbers of people seem to be doing; I wasn’t apologizing, I was explaining. When I realized what I was doing, I immediately shifted gears and offered an apology for my intemperate words. I then asked my friend to “call me out” in the future, if and when, I explained rather than apologized. He promised he would, and we moved on to other things.
From my perspective, explaining why we said or did something, rather than apologizing for it seems to be a growing phenomenon. People will send snarky emails, say nasty things, or do things that are discourteous or just plain rude, and when they realize they acted intemperately, they will tell you why they said or did it, rather than apologizing for it The thing is, though, that while at times it can be helpful to know someone’s motivations and intentions for their words and actions, this doesn’t change the fact that someone may have been hurt by them. In these situations, an apology, not an explanation, is what is needed. And apologies start with the words: “I am sorry.”
In regard to the above, however, we need to be brutally honest. In some cases, even the words: “I am sorry” are insufficient. These times occur when we have knowingly and intentionally hurt someone, or when we have become aware that the hurt caused by what we said or did ran deeper than we thought. At these times, a simple “I’m sorry” is not enough. We need to go to a deeper level. We need to ask the tough question. “Will you forgive me?” When we say “I’m sorry,” we are still in charge and in control. When we ask: “Will you forgive me?” We are ceding that control to another person, and asking them to give us what we cannot give ourselves: reconciliation and peace.
The above is a good example of what happens in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we come to God with our sins and failings, and tell God of our sorrow for the things we have done wrong. We also ask, though, for God’s forgiveness. In asking for this forgiveness, however, we need never fear that God’s forgiveness is in doubt. The forgiveness of our sins is offered to us freely, and generously, without limitations or end. God loves us. And because God loves us, God cannot not forgive our sins.
When we ask for God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation we can trust and believe that because of God’s love and in God’s mercy, our sins—whatever they may be—are forgiven. And in asking for the forgiveness of our sins, we know and believe that we will receive in return what we cannot give ourselves: God’s pardon and peace.