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Since the beginning of time, people of faith have searched for the God who had left so many proofs of His existence, yet had always remained hidden from sight. His presence was real, yet always mediated through created things, and therefore always elusive.
And then, in the fullness of time, all that changed. While all was quiet, in the deep stillness of a winter night, God came to a small country town and dwelt among His people in human form. God’s presence was no longer mediated and mysterious, but now real and actual.
It was first noticed by shepherd folk with keen ears and star gazers with sharp eyes. Yet soon a waiting world was to know of this miraculous event. And down through the centuries believers of every age have continued to search for and discover God made manifest in that tiny infant born in Bethlehem.
Today we celebrate the birth of Christ, not as a past event, but as a living reality. For we believe that God did not come to dwell among us once long ago and then return to heaven. God continues to abide with us. He is Emmanuel—God with us now and always.
May we attune our eyes and our ears as we seek to discover the living God present among us. May we open our hearts to his presence and love. And may this Christmas be a time for all of us to recognize anew the presence of God revealed to us in our newborn king, Jesus Christ.
We are excited to announce The Basilica of Saint Mary will be partnering with Lutheran Social Services to sponsor a refugee family. We are proud to be able to respond to the call from Pope Francis for parishes to sponsor refugee families.
It is not only difficult to underestimate the suffering of refugees, but also the struggles in transitioning to life in the U.S. As an attorney, I have had the opportunity to work with refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. and have seen how important it is to help families navigate the trials of resettling here.
This year, I worked with a woman (I will call her Maria) who was seeking asylum in the U.S. from Guatemala. As a child, Maria was persecuted at the hands of the Guatemalan government. When she was born in 1981, Guatemala was in the midst of a bloody civil war, and the government had begun to wipe out entire villages of indigenous groups, including Maria’s group, the Q’anjob’al, for fear they were part of a rebel resistance. When Maria was three months old, the Guatemalan military came to her village, and brutally killed her father, five-year-old brother, and burned all their family’s belongings.
After the war, Maria was able to resettle with her mother and sister in Guatemala. She later married and had two children. In 2007, her husband moved to Minnesota to be able to better provide for the family. He soon began sending her money regularly. However, during this time, a gang known as M-18 had become very powerful in Guatemala, with members across Central America, Mexico, and Southern California.
The gang discovered that Maria’s husband was sending her money and began extorting her. The gang eventually became dissatisfied with their cut and began issuing death threats to Maria and her two young children, who were now nine and seven years old. Fearing for her life and the lives of her children, she fled Guatemala with her children to the U.S. in hopes of reuniting with her husband and starting a new life.
After traveling overland for two weeks, they were detained as she crossed the border in San Diego. Fortunately, after several months of court battles, a Minnesota judge granted Maria and her two children asylum. She is now living in Alexandria with her husband and two children.
Obtaining asylum was a monumental relief for Maria, as she was now safe from the M-18 gang, however there were still significant hurdles adjusting to a new life in the U.S. For example, no one in the family speaks English. Maria’s first language is her indigenous dialect and her second is Spanish, so she is now learning a third language from scratch in a foreign country. In addition, Maria’s husband was undocumented while living in the U.S. He will soon have asylum, but we had to apply for it separately and the application has been pending for six months.
Maria was also four months pregnant when she was granted asylum. We had to spend hours working with MNsure, Maria’s and her husband’s employers, and the U.S. government to track down the correct documentation to provide Maria basic health insurance so that she could have her baby (who was born healthy in September).
These are just a handful of the myriad of issues that Maria has faced and will continue to face as she adjusts to life in the United States. But she is also one of the lucky ones. She represents one of the few refugees that got the resources she needed to be resettled. Had she not had these resources, who knows if she would be alive today.
For these reasons, The Basilica is both excited and proud to be able to sponsor a refugee family and help them navigate these same issues and adjust to life in our Twin Cities community.
My grandmother passed away last November. This was not unexpected. At 87-years-old my Grandma Rosie had outlived her husband, two children, two grandchildren, most of her siblings, and countless friends. She had also out lived her diagnoses. In December of 2012, she was diagnosed with cancer and given six weeks—six months, at the very longest—to live. Deciding not to have treatment she turned once again to her Catholic faith.
She knew that the Lord had a plan for her. Even in her final weeks, when she began to question what that plan might be, her faith never wavered. My grandmother had a gift for gently sharing life advice. I remember many times when life would throw me a curveball my Grandma Rosie would say with a smile “let go and let God.” Such simple words, and yet it can be so hard to trust in God’s plan for us.
I have thought of these words often, especially during this Financial Stewardship season. Donating to a worthy cause requires us to trust that God’s gifts and his plan for us are much greater than any material possession or object we might acquire. It requires us not to focus on what we will need to sacrifice, but instead on what we gain from supporting something bigger than ourselves and sharing the gifts we have been given.
For the past eight years as a staff member at The Basilica I have seen on a daily basis what the generosity and sacrifice of this community makes possible each and every day. I have caught joyous moments of brides on their wedding day and parents baptizing a baby. I have seen compassion shown daily to those who come to our door and need a listening ear. I have seen our staff tirelessly provide comfort for those experiencing loss and sadness, through our grief ministry. I have seen volunteers spend hours counseling individuals in our employment ministry for weeks and months until they have found jobs. These moments—and so many more—are not possible without each and every financial stewardship pledge we receive. And I promise the good generated by your stewardship pledge cannot be overstated.
This past spring my family and I completed the sometimes daunting, sometimes humorous, always emotional process of cleaning out my Grandma Rosie’s home.
In the old farm house in rural Wisconsin there is no fortune to be made but there are treasures to be found. My grandparents’ wealth did not come in the form of material possessions; it came in the form of their 13 children, 17 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren. It came from the gifts God gave them. They may no longer be there but their possessions speak to what they valued most—faith and family.
Grandma Rosie lived out her faith every day till her very last and we were the beneficiaries. Going through the house is a reminder to live as she did: to go to church on Sunday, to donate generously whenever possible, to be kind to others, to volunteer your time, prioritize family, and most of all, “let go and let God,” believing in the path God has planned for each of us.
On one hand, we have our worldly belongings—the items that make this life more comfortable, but that we “cannot take with us.” But we also have our treasured connections—belonging to a family, belonging to a community, and belonging to our faith—that provide us true comfort and lasting joy by linking us more closely to one another and to God.
When you think about your treasured connections, I hope The Basilica and its community bring comfort and lasting joy to each of you. This fall, when you think of the gifts you have been given, I hope you will consider sharing those gifts with our community.
You can help create a greater good by filling out a Financial Stewardship pledge form and mailing it in, or you can also pledge online at www.mary.org/donate.
Many years ago I visited a parishioner in the hospital who had been diagnosed with advanced cancer. I had been told by the family that she didn’t have more than a few weeks to live, and would be moving to hospice when she left the hospital. When I stopped at the nurse’s station to see if it was okay to visit, the nurse said that would be fine. I noticed, though, that they were just beginning to bring around the lunch trays, and so, I indicated that I could stop back later. The nurse replied that my timing was actually good as people usually ate better when someone was with them. I entered my parishioner’s room just as an aide had brought in the lunch tray. I told my parishioner to go ahead and eat, and that we could talk while she ate. While she ate, we had a lovely visit as she told me about her husband and family and her life. After about 25 minutes I indicated that I probably should be going. She thanked me for visiting and then almost as an afterthought said that she hated eating alone so the timing of my visit couldn’t have been better.
The two things I remember about this visit were the nurse’s words that people usually eat better when someone was with them, and my parishioner’s words that it was nice to have someone with her while she ate because she hated eating alone. Over the years, I’ve come to realize how important these things are. Being with someone and conversing with them while they eat can be the difference between just ingesting food and sharing a meal. Eating with someone can also help us better appreciate the food. It can also fill us up—not just physically, but in other ways as well.
I believe the above is the reason why, when Jesus’s time on this earth was coming to an end, he chose to share a meal with his disciples and then to command them to “do this in memory of me.” Jesus knew the importance of sharing a meal with others. He knew that this wasn’t just a way to nourish their bodies, but also a way to nourish their spirits. I suspect he also knew that people ate better when there was someone with them.
We believe that in the Eucharist that Jesus left us, that Jesus is really and truly present. Further, we believe that when we receive the Eucharist it strengthens us and sustains us that we might become more like Christ. As St. Augustine said many years ago: “Behold what you are. Become what you receive” The Eucharist is not a reward for life well lived. Rather it is to help us live life well. It helps us to better follow Christ and to better bring Christ to the world around us.
In addition to being a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, though, the Eucharist is also a communal event. As we gather to celebrate and share the Eucharist we are reminded that as we seek to follow Christ, we do so within a community of faith. It is the community that strengthens and sustains us when our energy begins to wan and our efforts feel unproductive. In the Christian community, we are reminded that there is no private dining at the table of the Lord. We are all in this together, and we need the encouragement and support of one another as we seek to be and to bring the presence of Christ in our world.
The Eucharist is a great gift and blessing. It is a sacred communal meal we share and that empowers us to follow Christ and to be Christ in our world. For this gift let us never fail to give thanks. Because of this gift let us pray that we might become what we believe.
This September, my dad lost a friend to cancer. Of his three closest friends, only one, Gene, is still living. But Gene deals with serious physical and mental challenges after a stroke two years ago. My dad turned 62 at the end of the month, and it isn’t easy seeing him endure sadness as he said “good-bye” to each one who passed too young. As we all inevitably get older, the numerical definition of “young” seems to increase.
It makes me appreciate my parents. And also appreciate time. Ten years ago, I did not give a second thought to clocking 60 or even 70 hours in the office in a given week. I did not worry about what weekend might be ideal for a visit to the family farm in South Dakota. We made it to Mass most Sundays, deciding in a pinch between the 11:30, 4:30, or 6:30 options. We stayed up late, and slept in on the weekends. Then we had kids.
Even without that change, life got busy and there is always great pressure on the calendar. As I watch my youngest grow, I see that these moments are fleeting. Time has become increasingly precious and I now understand that time is the most generous gift we can give.
When I consider this idea, it makes me that much more grateful for what I’ve witnessed as a staff member at The Basilica over the past 15 years.
I’ve seen worshippers giving their precious weekend time, receiving so much as they give their evening, morning, or afternoon to The Basilica. Thousands come together to sing, pray, and break bread each and every week. This makes for a beautiful collective experience, inspiring and preparing us for the week ahead and their participation shapes The Basilica community with its beautiful diversity.
I also witness our Basilica staff invest themselves, and generously share their time and talents, lending to The Basilica experience. Your Basilica is supported by a staff that does not “punch a clock.” I have seen them sacrificially share their talents and time to ensure all that we love about The Basilica continues to grow.
In a quick glimpse, I have witnessed volunteers giving their time without hesitation. Specifically, I have seen a block party committee member sorting trash from recycling from the inside of the dumpster. I have seen the chair of The Basilica Landmark gala vacuuming the undercroft to ensure it was presentable for morning donuts after 7:30am Mass. I have seen leadership as our board planned for the next ten years of our organization. I have seen employment coaches come to the door week after week to meet with a new client to help them find a solid job. I have seen a room full of volunteers stuff envelopes, address and stamp letters to invite parishioners to support our parish. I have seen teachers smile as they welcome a room full of 3-year-olds to Good Shepherd faith formation.
And I am one staff member. Just imagine the collective impact across all ministries and departments!
We need this commitment, and we also need the commitment of our parishioners to share their financial gifts. Again this fall, we ask you to consider making a financial stewardship pledge to The Basilica to ensure that the good work The Basilica does in our community continues to save and change lives. These good works come to life in the ministry of our volunteers and staff.
Your prayerful generosity will help us show love and acceptance to all who come to our doors. All of this time given by each of you creates all we love about The Basilica. If how we spend our time reflects our values, you have shown you care deeply about The Basilica. Thank you for all you give—your time and your financial gifts. Blessings have flourished through your generosity, and those blessings will continue to impact those in our community for years to come.
People are still buzzing about Pope Francis’ recent U.S. visit. They are talking about what he said, what he did, who he visited, and even where he ate lunch. Prior to his visit, Pope Francis proclaimed a Year of Mercy. Here at The Basilica we’ve been thinking about what mercy means to us, talking about the Corporal Works of Mercy and the opportunities and challenges we have.
Every day at The Basilica, I witness and experience small acts of mercy happening on our campus and in our community made possible by the generosity of our parishioners. Please consider how you can help us make sure these good works continue by making a commitment to financial stewardship. It’s clear to me—your commitment and involvement makes our ministries and these every day acts of mercy possible.
Feed the Hungry . . . Teams of Basilica volunteers prepare and serve nutritious meals at The Basilica to approximately 200 men at Catholic Charities Higher Ground shelter. I’ve heard them share their stories of how privileged they are to serve in this way. One family has signed up to serve on Christmas for many years. Together they make the meal festive and special for those without a home to call their own. Other volunteers spend their lunchtimes driving hot meals to seniors in our neighborhood as part of our partnership with Meals on Wheels.
Bury the Dead . . . Last week, I attended the funeral of a long time Basilica choir member. At his funeral, I listened to his friends, a group he’d been with twice a week for years for rehearsals and Masses, serenade him home to Christ. Grieving families and friends often come together at The Basilica to celebrate the lives of their loved ones.
Visit the Sick . . . I’ve been moved to tears as I listen to volunteers pray over the prayer shawls they knitted, soon to go to the sick and grieving. After an unexpected death in the family, a parish friend had to fly to the funeral. We sent her with a prayer shawl. On her return, she shared that she wrapped herself up in the shawl on the plane ride. Even though she was far away from her faith community, she felt our presence and support because of that shawl. Many volunteers take the Eucharist to the homebound and those living in care centers. Our Prayer line volunteers offer support to all those who seeking spiritual, physical, and emotional healing.
Shelter the Homeless. . . . This past summer, a new house went up in North Minneapolis. I watched our volunteers cut wood, build stairs as they shared their days along with others in the community as part of Habitat for Humanity. By Christmas, a mom and her children will be snug in their newly-built home.
Every day good works . . . At the Basilica, volunteer job coaches assist those struggling with unemployment and seeking a new chance. Other volunteers help in our Pathways program teaching life skills to those committed to stabilizing their lives. Daily at our Reception Desk, volunteers and staff answer our phones and welcome those who come to our doors. Sometimes a caller asks us to connect a priest or an Emmaus Minister to someone sick in the hospital. Daily, the pleas for help making ends meet come over the phone and face-to-face at the door. Hungry guests are greeted with a warm smile, a cup of coffee and a sandwich.
Consider how you will participate in the Year of Mercy. There is so much more we are called to do. Please explore the many Year of Mercy opportunities available at The Basilica in the coming months. You will find opportunities for learning, prayer, service and reflection.
And please, make a pledged financial commitment to help us create small acts of mercy every day at The Basilica.
Each evening, I send our three-year-old out to the mailbox to do her favorite “chore” of the day—getting the mail. She usually reports on what arrived and who it was from, despite the occasional toy catalogue distraction.
Last week, she sorted through the pile and told me we had a Highlights magazine, a couple pieces of unidentifiable (junk) mail, and a letter from Jesus.
I carried on with cooking dinner until her words registered.
A letter from Jesus?
Perplexed, I looked over to the pile strewn throughout the kitchen. I didn’t see anything from Jesus, not that I would know what a letter from Jesus would look like. I thought maybe her sense of humor was at work again.
But then the lightbulb went on and I spotted it—a letter from Fr. Bauer asking us for our stewardship pledge.
I know what you’re thinking: Fr. Bauer is not Jesus.
Actually, what she had spotted was The Basilica crest in the upper left corner. To her, that stands for Jesus. Forget any fancy branding or marketing plan—for my little girl, The Basilica is Jesus. Isn’t that great? All of those Sundays. All of those days rushing to the car. All of your greetings of peace. All of the singing and prayers. All of our patience (and testing of patience) and encouragement at Mass to be attentive or, at least, not disruptive. All of those visits to the Undercroft mid-liturgy to ensure we don’t have an accident in the pews because someone “needs go potty.” Her timing is impeccable.
In all seriousness though, my heart was warmed hearing her simple thought. You—the community of The Basilica—and all that she sees here is a representation of Jesus.
We see it, though. You are Christ to the world when you help to feed those who are hungry who knock at the Rectory Door. You are Christ when you give your time as volunteers. You are Christ when you welcome everyone who enters The Basilica, no matter what. You are Christ when you come together as a community to worship and pray. And you continue all of these ministries and extend Christ’s love when you give your time and your money to support the mission of The Basilica.
Inside that envelope, Fr. Bauer’s letter starts, “For more than 100 years, parishioners like you have been a part of the good work The Basilica does in our community: sharing God’s love, comforting the sick and marginalized, giving thanks, welcoming everyone, and demonstrating what the word “community” can and ought to mean.”
These words describe the good that has been and will continue to be at The Basilica.
This fall, I hope you will consider that envelope to be an invitation not only from The Basilica to give, but also an invitation to give back to God what you have been given. As Fr. Bauer asks us to make a Financial Stewardship pledge this fall, I hope you will consider all of the good that stems from ministries, service, and worship that spread God’s love throughout our community and continues to put Jesus on our return address.
Expectations. We all have them. We have expectations that the stock market will be stable, that so-and-so will understand what your needs are, that someone will behave in a certain way, that another will keep their word, that your job will be there tomorrow, or that there will even be a tomorrow. It seems that expectations are a part of our everyday lives. They seem to be the lens through which we all operate.
But what comes with expectations—especially high expectations—can be grave disappointment, resentment, hurt, anger, fear and hopelessness. Each of us knows this from experience. I remember many times when someone I trusted promised me something and didn't come through with it. I also remember when someone I respected and cared about betrayed me in some way. These experiences are very difficult to overcome, to try to work through, and, especially, to forgive, if at all. Within myself, it is a struggle between my ego and my conscience. It is also a struggle managing all the feelings and emotions that go with it. I can run the whole gamut of emotions within a matter of seconds. But most of the time I am able to settle down after a couple of hours or a day or two. And then I pray that I have the willingness to respond in a way that is respectful of my integrity and values.
What do we do with the person or persons who have disappointed us? Do we move on from that relationship because it is unhealthy? Do we choose not to forgive? Do we approach them with love and understanding for their shortcomings? Can we forgive them?
But what happens when the persons who have betrayed us are connected to our church and our faith? The sense of loss and betrayal is much deeper. How do we ever recover from it? Where is God in all of this mess? Can our faith ever be the same?
I believe that for most of us, our faith is extremely strong. When you come to church, look around at all those people who have stuck with it despite the ugliness of what happened to thousands of innocent people. Maybe it is because the people realized that they are the church and that their church will continue and come through this crisis and be stronger for it. Many of us realize that our Catholic faith will always be there for us and our community as well. We are all in this together and together we can support each other through listening, caring, and loving each other. And we can pray not only for the victims, but for those of us who could not stick with it because the hurt was so deep. I think we can all understand those who have left. They need our love and prayers as much as the victims do because they also are victims, as we all are.
During the first four Sundays in November, we will have panel discussions and speakers on Responding to Abuse. During these panels, we will hear about all types of abuse, the effect of abuse on the human person, how to remove yourself from abusive situations, resources that are available for victims and families, and how to find spiritual recovery from trauma and abuse. This series will be widely advertised throughout our Archdiocese. If you or someone you know could benefit from this, please spread the word. Flyers will be available throughout the church. Please pick one up and pass it along.
As someone who identifies himself as pro-life, I have, over the years, attended numerous pro-life demonstrations/rallies. Almost without exception these events have been peaceful and orderly. I have to admit, though, that there have been a few times when I have felt uncomfortable with the emotionally charged atmosphere which, on rare occasions, occurs at these events. I am not someone who thinks loud chanting and waving placards with sometimes graphic pictures and questionable slogans is the best way to get across our message that all life is sacred. I also believe that we cannot call ourselves pro-life when we do not respect others—most especially those with whom we disagree.
While I am concerned about how the pro-life message is communicated, I also am very concerned with the words and tone used recently by representatives of Planned Parenthood. In many public statements they have sought to portray pro-lifers as extremists whose beliefs are radical, ill-informed, and dangerous. I found this to be especially true the past few weeks with the publicity surrounding the release of several videos regarding Planned Parenthood’s participation in tissue donation programs—the tissue being procured from abortions. In response to a demonstration in St. Paul against this practice Planned Parenthood posted an online statement. In part it read: “The more we learn about this, the clearer it is that it’s part of a much bigger pattern of harassment by extremists whose real goal is to ban abortion and defund Planned Parenthood. The people behind this attack will stop at nothing in their quest—including breaking the law themselves and willfully misrepresenting the facts to the public. The protesters here today are simply an extension of that effort.”
I am concerned about the use of the words: “harassment,” “extremists,” “attack,” “stop at nothing,” and “breaking the law.” Now certainly there are some in the pro-life movement who could be described as extreme in their views. In this instance, though, Planned Parenthood painted all pro-lifers with the same brush. This is not fair. It is not just. It is not right. Almost all of the pro-life advocates I know are reasonable people who hold firm to their beliefs, but at the same time are not mean-spirited or malicious. They are simply people who believe in the sanctity of life and who want to share that belief—not just with their words, but with their actions. In this regard, I think it is important to mention that today there are about 2,500 Crisis Pregnancy Centers in the United States, compared to 1,800 abortion clinics. For the most part these clinics are privately funded. Their mission is simply to help those who are experiencing a pregnancy in difficult circumstances. These 2,500 centers give concrete witness to the fact that pro-life people do care about individuals facing a difficult and unplanned pregnancy. The aim of these centers is life—for women, for children, for fathers—both now and in the years to come.
For many years now the month of October has been designated by the Bishops of the United States as “Respect Life Month.” Our observance of this month reminds us that, as Catholics, we believe and proclaim that human life is a precious gift from a loving God. Consequently every individual has an obligation to respect and protect life from the time of conception to the moment of death. Further, our respect for life must be evident in the way we treat each other, perhaps most especially those with whom we disagree. Those of who identify ourselves as pro-life need to give concrete witness to this belief in our words and actions. Where we have failed to do this we need to apologize, and we need focus our efforts more clearly, not on demonizing those with whom we disagree, but on finding better and more effective ways of communicating our message regarding the sacredness of life.
It seems to me that most concretely and specifically we, who identify as pro-life, can do the above by taking the lead in toning down the rhetoric that surrounds the issue of abortion. We need to be open to respectful dialogue with those with whom we disagree and invite them to do the same. Using language that is simple, direct, and non-inflammatory is a step in this direction. If we can do this, perhaps those with whom we disagree will reciprocate, and civil discourse will prevail. I believe that ultimately it is only in this way that we can help each other come to understand the value, dignity, and worth of every human life.
This fall, members of The Basilica will once again be invited to participate in our annual stewardship campaign with a pledge for 2016. Your participation, making a commitment at any level, is a way to express your investment in The Basilica, and the good that is possible in our community through the combined efforts of our parish membership.
By making a financial stewardship pledge to The Basilica, you ensure that every day, all year long, your gifts will be part of continuing the good works The Basilica does in our community. Your prayerful generosity will help us be the light of God’s love and acceptance to all those who come to our doors. Your pledge will keep The Basilica’s heat on and create a warm welcome for everyone who wants to explore, connect, worship, and give thanks.
I’ve witnessed, time and time again, that The Basilica is a faith-filled community, continuing to demonstrate faith from works. You respond when there is a crisis, both overseas and down the street. You hand out sandwiches from our door to those in need, and shoes or backpacks for kids returning to school. You build up the faith and insights in the children in our parish so their lights might shine wherever they go. You return, Sunday after Sunday, to worship together as a community of faith, greeting visitors with a warm welcome. To me, all of these are the good that continues to inspire us, even through the ups and downs of our Catholic experience. This good hasn’t faltered. And it continues with your love, involvement, and generosity.
The good that is faith formation and education.
The good that is service and caring for those less fortunate.
The good that is found through prayer, meditation and worship.
The good that is possible through a collective volunteer effort.
Each day, you plant the seeds of your faith, and good blossoms. And all of this good today will inspire so much tomorrow, and for years to come. For more than 100 years, Basilica parishioners like you have been a part of the work The Basilica does in our community: sharing God’s love, comforting those who are marginalized, giving thanks, welcoming everyone, and demonstrating what the word “community” can and ought to mean. One can only begin to imagine the exponential impact of this generosity.
Please join us again to keep all of this good work going strong. This fall, please consider a Financial Stewardship pledge to The Basilica for 2016. Your pledge of any size will have a powerful impact—in your own life and in the life of The Basilica community. Please watch for pledge forms in your mail and in the pews, and prayerfully consider making a pledge for the coming year. Thank you for your consideration, and for being a part of this community that gives so much.