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Wednesday, February 8
Thursday, February 9
Friday, February 10
At a weekend Mass at a parish we were visiting, I pointed out the Book of the Gospels that the priest was holding up to our now five-year-old daughter. She noticed the gold décor on the cover and said, “It’s so shiny!” I told her it had to be bright because it had all of the stories of Jesus in it. I don’t know if that made much of an impression, as she went right back to coloring, but hopefully she will always know of Jesus as the light of our world.
This weekend’s Gospel continues the Sermon on the Mount that we began last weekend with the Beatitudes. In today’s story, Jesus tells his disciples (and all of us) that we are indeed both salt and light. He does not say we are called to be those things, but that we are salt and light now. However, if we do not use the gifts we are given they can be lost.
The First Reading from Isaiah connects to this Gospel in calling the Israelites the have their “light shine forth from the darkness.” This particular passage is significant in that “it is addressed to the Israelites who have returned from exile in Babylon and are now charged with the responsibility of building a new nation. Isaiah likens this restored generation to a light that will shine forth for other nations to behold. While it is clear that political and military concerns will be on the minds of those attempting to rebuild their nation, Isaiah pays particular attention to their treatment of the poor,” (Fr. Stephen S. Wilbricht, CSC).
There are many concerns that we all have to be attentive to in our families and communities. Continuing poverty, homelessness and economic instability for so many, political and racial division, climate change and its ongoing effects, mental health challenges, all of these and more pose challenges to us locally in the Twin Cities, our state and nation. How are we able to be light in our families and communities that we are told we are in these readings?
One temptation I experience in times of uncertainty is to look inward and focus on my own needs, wants and desires. I find unfortunately I can do that quite easily, and it can be difficult to turn my gaze outward to those in need, either in my family or beyond. Isaiah was indeed prophetic in calling the Israelites to always look beyond themselves to those in need and on the margins if their nation was going to be an example for others. What a beautiful and arduous call for all of us.
The Basilica community has a decades long tradition of reflecting on and living out the Church’s Social Teaching, and we continue striving to do this daily. This coming Lenten season, we invite you to join together after the 9:30 Mass for a speaker series on various components of our Catholic Social Teaching. Fr. Daniel will begin the series, and we have wonderful local speakers from St. Thomas to continue helping us reflect each week. This will be both in person and on zoom; you can sign up on mary.org and plan to join us for the entire series or whenever you are able. May God bless all of our efforts to be salt and light as individuals and as a parish community.
All Mass recordings can be found at Mass Recordings.
The weekend was embraced by death. Funerals on both Friday and Monday focused my faith and expanded my sense of hope. Amid tears of grief emerged smiles of joy, creating a contradictory emotional experience. But such is the nature of human life, which is often filled with paradoxes defying easy explanation. Crying and laughing in the same situation might provide a paradoxical truth allowing for some sense of stability in the midst of the polarities of sorrow and joy. It was Dr. Seuss, the quirky children’s author, who was quoted as saying, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” In both funerals tears freely intermingled with smiles and the shadows of incongruity soon melted into a resolution of appreciation for the life of the dead persons. No doubt about it, everyone present seemed most appreciative that the lives of these two women had happened.
Both Barbara, age 64, and Pearl, age 93 were childless, but both of the funerals were filled with children by extension. Generations of nieces and nephews reminisced with tears of joy and sorrow along with other relatives and friends. Both Barbara and Pearl were compassionate, intelligent, and spunky women who provided open hearths and homes to countless relatives and friends. Lovers of knowledge, puzzles and card games both women had ready answers and advice for those who asked. Both loved to laugh but did not suffer fools easily. Barbara found comfort in her left-brain by solving impossible puzzles and knowing all the answers on Jeopardy. She was skeptical of simplistic theologies. Pearl was a shrewd card shark, a connoisseur of White Castles and loved to crochet animals to give away to children. Both of their lives brought tears with their deaths, but also smiles because their lives had been so intimately shared with others. At Barbara’s funeral I shared a snippet of a poem by Maya Angelou who had said, “I’d call a place pure paradise where families are loyal, and strangers are nice.” At Pearl’s funeral, I quoted e.e. cummings’ insight into aging, “Life, who never grows old, is always beautiful and that nobody beautiful ever hurries.” Young or old, neither Barbara nor Pearl seemed to be in hurry and clearly found life, even in final illnesses, to be beautiful.
Searching for the extraordinary gift of life, even in the face of death, becomes a challenge for all of us. In between the two funerals, The Third Sunday of Ordinary Time came and went offering consolation and fear to millions of Christians who attended mass and listened to Jesus once again warn us, “Repent, the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” How many times have we heard this phrase and actually believed it? Welcomed into the Kingdom, both Barbara and Pearl can easily believe Jesus’ invitation to rest in peace. But on-going questions remains for all of us who seek a place in this Kingdom: “How do we prepare ourselves to take seriously this admonition? Just how many funerals do we have to attend to understand that Kingdom of God is really at hand?”
As one friend of mine was fond of saying, “No one gets out of this life alive.” Admittedly he was a funeral director and had a lot to gain in death, but his insight remains true. While we do not know the day or the hour of our own entrance into the Kingdom, Jesus does provide us with some workable criteria for organizing our lives and preparing us for the Kingdom. The Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time lays the requirements on the line and, once again, Jesus becomes our teacher and guide.
Describing in very concrete images how the Kingdom will be ours, Jesus portrays the life of a disciple by accentuating the “happy qualities” acceptable to God: “Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are those who mourn; blessed are the meek; blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteous; blessed are the merciful; blessed are the pure of heart; blessed are the peacemakers; blessed are those persecuted for righteousness’ sake; and blessed are you when they revile you and persecute you on my account.” These nine blessings are concluded with the promise, “Rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in the Kingdom of heaven.” Jesus counsels his disciples that this reward in heaven is the direct result of their willingness to develop attitudes reflective of these nine blessings and to put them into action despite persecution. It is the faith of the individual that preserves a lasting relationship with God, but it is in the cultivation of an attitude of beatitudes where the teachings of Jesus become identifiable marks of those who will enter the Kingdom of God.
The longer version of the Beatitudes (The Sermon on the Mount) is found in the gospel of Matthew (5:1-12) and is a call to communal happiness. By becoming proactive in guarding against those conditions that threaten the blessedness of the community, Jesus uses the third person (“Blessed/happy are those who”) to illustrate that His teachings are for the whole community and must reflect a willingness to live the beatitudes. “Blessed are the poor in spirit” becomes an invitation to challenge greed and the hoarding of resources creating pathetic poverty situations resulting from perceived scarcity. “Blessed are they who mourn” becomes an invitation to comfort those overwhelmed by grief, assuring them of the Kingdom to come and the security of the community. “Blessed are the merciful” reflects a willingness to turn the other cheek, to love one’s enemies and to forgive. “Blessed are the peacemakers” credits a life of non-violence in the face of war. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” demands an insistence upon justice in a world filled with indifference, inequity and lawlessness. “Blessed are the pure of heart” implies an intolerance of the exploitation of the traditional “widows and orphans” of our times, providing safety nets for those who are vulnerable. And “Blessed are the meek” demands that disciples of Jesus renounce the corrupting need for personal power and self-aggrandizement.
Seeking a hope filled future is not opting for a premature place in the Kingdom of God; rather, living the Beatitudes must generate an attitude of working tirelessly for the Kingdom of God on this earth. Transforming our Church, society, communities and our world begins with the transformation of us. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” does demand perseverance and patience on our part, even in the face of great danger. Discovering happiness is not an illusion nor found only in a distant Kingdom. Rather the real challenge of the Sermon on the Mount is to take seriously what Jesus said and to bring this Good News down from the mountain into the world in which we live.
In a world in which happiness is within our grasp, blessed are those who take seriously the Beatitudes of Jesus. As the family and friends of Barbara and Pearl gathered, I could only hope, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they would be comforted.” Believing in the words of Jesus allows us to cry in the midst of our grief, as well to smile because we know what has been promised to those who have worked diligently in the Kingdom at hand and truly believed in the Kingdom to come.
Peace, Fr. Joe Gillespie, O.P.
All Mass recordings can be found at Mass Recordings.
This October I began working at The Basilica as the Director of Development and Executive Director of The Basilica Landmark. And what a wonderful whirlwind it has been! I wish I could sit down and share coffee with each of you, and knowing that is impractical, I invite you to introduce yourself when you see me.
My husband Bob and I are both musicians. I play flute, and he plays trumpet—in fact, we met at the Music Academy of the West in sunny Santa Barbara. Music is key, you might say. After moving from a vibrant parish in Chicago we church-shopped for a few years. We were initially drawn to the beautiful Cathedral Choir and thoughtful dedication of Teri Larson and the many musicians who share their talents here. It was the mental health ministry led by Janet Grove that really sold me. I don’t know of another church that is dedicated to mental health and meaningful ways to include everyone. The first time we came to the Advent Blessing and Dinner for those impacted by mental health challenges, Fr. John Bauer greeted us warmly and asked what brought us that night. How wonderful to feel accepted completely, that our daughter who lives with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome was welcome. She has a big heart, and we began to volunteer with the Families Moving Forward ministry that helped families in transition stay overnight for a week in Teresa of Calcutta Hall. She played with the children, held fussy babies to give the moms a break, and made conversation. She joined Juventus choir. These are huge wins.
Feeling welcome, feeling accepted—this is the ultimate human quest, the heart’s deepest desire. The Basilica of Saint Mary does this for me. I am so grateful that for the past year and a half we have been able to gather for beautiful liturgies, meaningful programs and events. I am in awe of how we adapted after the long separation, at our resilience as humans, at our dedication to our faith. If I accomplish anything in this role, I hope to engage and engage and engage. We need each other. We need to pray for each other and celebrate together. Being human is a social endeavor, after all.
This January I ask you to make a New Year’s Resolution to support The Basilica Fund with a monthly recurring gift. Thank you to all who already contribute monthly—and please consider a New Year’s Resolution to increase your gift! Remember the child’s game, ‘Here’s the church, and here’s the steeple; open the doors and here’s all the people’? The Basilica couldn’t exist without you. Recurring gifts are effective because they are reliable. Please join me in a monthly recurring gift and know that you are making a difference. Early in my fundraising career, a manager said to me, “It’s like filling a bucket, every drop matters.” You matter.
Anita M. Rieder, CFRE
Director of Development, The Basilica of Saint Mary
Executive Director, The Basilica Landmark
Civil Rights Trip by the Downtown Senior Clergy Group Will Provide Wisdom and Inspiration to Work for Justice
Since beginning my service as pastor of The Basilica of Saint Mary in July, one of the highlights has been getting to know fellow clergy from the various faith communities which make up the downtown senior clergy group. This interfaith group has been in existence for years and has collaborated on several important projects, initiatives, advocacy opportunities, and trips. One of the most significant collaborations has been to create The Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness – which is now called Align MPLS. The Basilica is a member and supporter of Align and its work is vital to help our brothers and sisters who experience homelessness or a lack of stable housing find housing, consistent with human dignity and a life of human flourishing.
For months the downtown senior clergy group has been planning a week-long civil rights tour in Georgia and Alabama – including following in the footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I initially did not think I could attend this trip as I normally begin teaching the week of the Dr. King national holiday. Happily, to my surprise, St. Thomas law school has moved its spring semester back a week which allows me to attend this important trip with my new downtown colleagues. I could not more grateful for this opportunity.
Our group will include a videographer to document our travel and experiences and we are planning three Sunday afternoon events this spring which will help unpack our experience and takeaways for the downtown faith communities of Minneapolis. We will begin our tour in Atlanta and will travel to Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma, Alabama. Please keep our trip and all those involved in your prayers. I pray that the Spirit of God would guide our trip, the speakers and leaders we will encounter, and our common work for a more just and peaceful American society. Stay tuned for more information regarding these Sunday events. I will plan to send frequent posts to The Basilica community throughout our trip and hope to also preach about this experience in the coming weeks and months.
When I look at the important standing and positive reputation that The Basilica of Saint Mary enjoys in our community, it seems vital to me that The Basilica embraces a leadership role in the Twin Cities to help build a more justice, inclusive, and peaceful community. This will take much collaboration, intentionality, and the will to confront the persistent injustices and disparities which pertain to race in the Twin Cities and Minnesota. In order for communities of faith and our broader society to work together in building a more just society, we must confront with candor and courage present injustices and the current culture that fosters and perpetuates these injustices. This work is never easy and often flies in the face of the human instinct to obfuscate, sweep under the rug, or simply turn away from the reality of harm. From a Christian perspective, it would also seem that the effects of original sin play a role in this aversion to naming the origins and presence of harm. The reality of racial injustice is particularly stark in Minnesota as the State labors under some of the most acute racial disparities – across multiple categories – in the country.
In response to the persistent injustices experienced in the Twin Cities and nationally, I would offer two important sources to guide our collective reflection, which I hope will also spur action toward building a more just society for all. First, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” is a tour de force in its power, advocacy, persuasiveness, and in its use of multiple relevant sources, including Catholic sources, in the attempt to move white Christian moderates from a place of apathy to a place of resolute justice. In my opinion, it is simply one of the best and most important documents penned by any American. Dr. King’s method, among other things, employs the narrative experience of the effects of injustice – namely segregation – in the attempt to rouse those asleep with indifference to a greater understanding of injustice and attendant harm. I am reminded here of the recent event hosted by The Basilica – “Here I am Lord” which furthered learning through the experience of others – this learning and hopefully greater understanding took place through a keynote talk, a panel discussion, and healing circles.
Finally, the principles and vision of Catholic social teaching (CST) can also provide an important foundation for Catholics and other people of faith and good will to work for justice. CST is a great gift for the Church and an instrument to further justice, but it remains largely unknown or misunderstood. CST relies on several fundamental principles which help guide the Church and others as they evaluate current societal conditions and problems. Multiple principles of CST are relevant to the issue of racial injustice, including the dignity of the human person, the common good, and solidarity. The teaching of the United States Conference of Bishops – including the document “Open Wide Our Hearts” is also helpful for Catholics as we approach the important issue and history of race and justice in the United States. Thank you for your prayers for our upcoming civil rights trip and our collective efforts to work for greater justice in the Twin Cities, our nation, and beyond.
All Mass recordings can be found at Mass Recordings.
The World Day of Peace is an annual celebration by the Catholic Church dedicated to universal peace, held on January 1. Established by Pope Paul VI in 1967, this special day is an occasion on which Popes share timely declarations, shining light on important facets of our collective lives.
Pope Francis continues this tradition by offering his message for the 56th World Day of Peace: No One Can be Saved Alone: Combatting Covid-19 together, embarking together on paths of peace.
In this short yet provocative message, Pope Francis cuts to the heart of the underlying realities of our day. He states: “Covid-19 plunged us into a dark night.” He articulates the challenges faced at every level including healthcare and political systems, economic and social order, individuals and families, as we maneuver through Covid, social unrest, and escalating global war.
True to a life grounded in the steadfast love of God and committed to remaining alert and connected to the suffering of the world, Pope Francis startles us by calling today “a privileged moment.” He states, “we never emerge the same from times of crisis: we emerge either better or worse.” He encourages us: Today is the right time “to question, learn, grown and allow ourselves to be transformed as individuals and as communities.”
Pope Francis suggests “the greatest lesson we learned from Covid-19 was the realization that we all need one another. That our greatest and yet most fragile treasure is our shared humanity as brothers and sisters, children of God. And that none of us can be saved alone.”
Given this, he asks, “What then is being asked of us?” Faced with continual and evolving disaster, pain, injustice, what are we called to do?
Embrace reality and be changed by it: Pope Francis suggests we must be vulnerable and allow “our hearts be changed by our experience of the crisis, to let God, at this time in history, transform our customary criteria for viewing the world around us.”
Embrace the common good: He states, “we must think in terms of the common good, recognizing that we belong to a greater community... We cannot continue to focus simply on preserving ourselves; rather the time has come for all of us to endeavor to heal our society and our planet, to lay the foundations for a more just and peaceful world, and to commit ourselves seriously to pursuing a good that is truly common.”
Embrace the interconnectedness of all: “We cannot ignore one fundamental fact, namely that the many moral, social, political and economic crisis we are experiencing are all interconnected, and what we see as isolated problems are actually causes and effects of one another. Consequently, we are called to confront the challenges of our world in a spirit of responsibility and compassion.” Health care, poverty, climate change, immigration: “Only by responding generously to these situations, with an altruism inspired by God’s infinite and merciful love, will we be able to build a new world and contribute to the extension of his kingdom, which is the kingdom of love, justice and peace.”
Together, let us commit our lives to act in this privileged moment for peace.