RSS Feed News Image
The Baptism of the Lord

Dr. Johan van Parys
Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts

Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord and thus the Christmas season comes to an end. This would probably come as a surprise to many people as Christmas outside the church has been forcibly erased from our memories with the red and green of Christmas gradually being replaced by the red-only of the next commercial holiday, St. Valentine. In the church, though, the evergreens still stand and the poinsettias, though visibly tired persist.

The two main liturgical celebrations of the church: Christmas and Easter have a time of preparation, respectively Advent and Christmas and a time of celebration, respectively Christmastide and Eastertide. The Christmas season is punctuated by a number of liturgical celebrations, in chronological succession: the feast of the Holy Family on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year unless January 1st falls on a Sunday when it is celebrated on December 30th; the solemnity of the Mother of God on January 1st; the solemnity of the Epiphany mostly observed on the Sunday between January 2 and 8; and the feast of the Baptism of the Lord celebrated on the Sunday after Epiphany unless Epiphany falls on January 7 or 8 when the feast of the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated the next day.

The more ancient of these celebrations, namely Epiphany and Baptism of the Lord, together with the Birth of the Lord were originally celebrated as one big celebration of the Epiphany of God in Jesus Christ on January 6. This unified feast predates the separate celebration of Christmas on December 25. There is evidence of the celebration of the Epiphany by the end of the second century, while the earliest known reference to Christmas is no older than 354 AD.

The word Epiphany is the English transliteration of the Greek Epiphaneia, meaning appearance, revelation, and manifestation.   The feast of the epiphany is thus the feast of the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God. It was also known as the Theophany or Theophaneia in Greek, meaning the revelation or appearance of God.

The original feast of the Epiphany celebrated the four major epiphanic moments in the life of Jesus all bundled in one. The first epiphany being the revelation of Jesus as God to Israel symbolized by the announcement to the shepherds which we now celebrate on Christmas. The second is the revelation of Jesus as God to the gentiles symbolized by the Magi which is celebrated on Epiphany in the churches of the west. The third is the revelation of God as the Trinity which is now celebrated on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The fourth major revelation is God’s desire to make all things new which happened at Cana when Jesus changed water into wine. Though not accorded its own feast, the reading recounting this event is  now read on the Sunday after Baptism of the Lord during year C, thus in close proximity to the other three celebrations.

The main theological reason why these epiphanic moments are now spread out over several celebrations is due to the importance of each one of them in its own right.  The goal of each celebration  is twofold: first we celebrate each epiphany so we come to know God better and second we celebrate each epiphany so we may in turn lead lives that reveal God to the world.

As we conclude the rich celebration of the Christmas season let us re-commit ourselves to reveal to the world in deed and in word what has been revealed to us. May each epiphany of God inspire us to become ourselves an epiphany of God to the world in turn.

Set “God’s Seal Upon My Heart"

Fr. John M. Bauer

Take, O take me as I am; Summon out what I shall be; Set your seal upon my heart- And live in me.   

These simple and direct words are a very short song by composer John L. Bell. It is one of the best known and often-used songs from the Iona Community in Scotland. The Iona community is an ancient Christian community on the small island of Iona in the Inner Hebrides Islands of western Scotland. I first heard this song many years ago and was struck by both its simplicity and its profundity.  

For the past several years, I have used this song on an irregular basis as way of centering myself for prayer. It calms me and helps me focus. Recently, though — not intentionally, and certainly without any awareness on my part — I discovered that I had changed the last phrase. Instead of “Set your seal upon my heart and live in me.”  I had unwittingly changed it to: “Set your seal upon my heart and let me be.” I was surprised and embarrassed when I realized my error, but at the same time it occurred to me that there must be an unconscious reason for the change. I decided that I needed to take this issue to prayer.  

In my prayer over the course of the next few days, it became clear to me that the issue I didn’t want to deal with was forgiveness. It isn’t appropriate for me to go into the specifics, but clearly I didn’t want to forgive and by changing the last words of the refrain, I was telling God that I wanted to be left alone in the hardness of my own unforgiving heart.  

I suspect there are times for all of us when, for whatever reason, we want God to just “let us be.” Like me, the issue could be forgiveness. Perhaps, though, it has to do with being more generous, more caring, or being less self-centered and more aware of the needs of others. It is not that we are great sinners. Rather, we get into comfortable ruts and don’t want to make the effort to get out of them. We want to be left alone.  

Fortunately for us, at these times God continues to offer God’s grace to us. To be sure, God never forces God’s grace on us. Yet at the same time God is always offering us God’s grace and inviting us to get out of our ruts, grow beyond our complacency, re-group, and kick start our efforts to let God live in us.

The challenge for us is to recognize when we have grown complacent and then open ourselves up to the grace God wants to give us.  The past few weeks, I have made a conscious effort to ask God to set “God’s seal upon my heart and live in me.”  I’m hoping and praying that God will answer my prayer.

Open Wide Your Doors!

Dr. Johan van Parys
Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts

The Basilica of Saint Mary has a magnificent set of bronze doors. Mgr. Reardon commissioned them in the 1950s to replace the original wooden doors. They are grand and shiny and to most, they are inviting. 

All kinds of people make their way through those doors. They vary in race and in age, in social status and sometimes in creed. Some people almost run up the majestic stairs to fling open the grand doors and bask in the beauty of the building. Others move slowly, bent under the weight of many burdens. They hesitantly open the heavy doors and almost sneak inside. 

Having passed through the doors some people simply pause in awe after releasing an audible gasp. Others walk a familiar path to a beloved shrine where they light a candle and kneel down in silent prayer. Some people slide into a pew, pull down their hood and take a nap. Some come here to hide from the cold, or even to hide from the world. The Basilica doors indeed are a great access point to the building. 

Yet, more importantly they also symbolize the entrance into the church and the entrance into the Body of Christ. Families walk through them as they bring their newly born babies for baptism. Young people with families in tow enter this building, often for the first time to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation. Excited brides and eager grooms pass through these doors separately to merge from them together after the celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage. Seminarians in cassocks, deacons in stoles, priest in chasubles and mitered bishops pass through these doors to celebrate the sacrament of Holy orders. Ailing and burdened people pass through them seeking forgiveness and healing. Many people pass through these doors, Sunday after Sunday seeking nourishment on their earthly journey as they come to celebrate Eucharist. And at the end of our lives, our bodies are lovingly carried through these doors for a last visit to the church before we are laid to rest.

The Incarnation Season, including Advent and Christmas, is a great time to meditate on the doors of our Church as we remember how Mary and Joseph found them closed when they were looking for a place to spend the night. Locked out, they were forced to retreat into a cave or a stable where Mary gave birth to Jesus, the one who became the door to salvation for all humankind.

During this season we are invited to open wide our doors. We are invited to open wide the doors of our souls to Christ. We are invited to open wide the doors of our heart to all who need our love. And we are invited to open wide the doors of our homes to all who need shelter.

And as Pope Francis reminds us over and over again, the church ought to do the same. Too often, the beautifully crafted doors of our cathedrals, churches and chapels are closed to too many people, literally as well as symbolically. Christ, the one who found the doors closed to him yet opened his heart to all, asks the church to do no less than that: to open wide our doors to welcome all. No matter where someone is at on their earthly journey, they are welcome in the church as the church is not a palace for the privileged and perfect but rather a shelter for those who are suffering and searching. 

May the beautiful doors of our Basilica never exist to keep people out, but rather be a constant invitation to the entire Body of Christ with all its bruises and burns to enter and find hope and healing.

“Pray as you can, not as you can’t.”

Fr. John M. Bauer

“Pray as you can, not as you can’t.” These were spoken to me by my spiritual director on a retreat several years ago.  He gave me this advice after I had complained that my prayer was feeling a little stale and didn’t seem to be going anywhere. He suggested that perhaps, I needed to be more honest in prayer and not try to put on a “good face” for God. He was right. At that point in my life, things were not going as well as I had wanted or hoped. I was experiencing some stress in my ministry and a couple of relationships were a bit strained. The difficulty was that when I went to prayer, I didn’t bring these things with me. Instead my prayer consisted of reading the scriptures and using a lot of pious words.  

My spiritual director suggested that I bring to God in prayer the pain and sadness I was feeling.  At first I balked at this idea. After all, this wasn’t the way I was taught to pray. I did follow his advice, though, and as the retreat progressed, so too did my sense of peace and serenity. The situation certainly hadn’t changed, but I realized that God’s grace was being offered to me in the midst of that situation. I also learned that God can handle our questions, our doubts, and our anger.

I don’t think my experience is too unusual. Too often we think we need to “dress up” our prayer and put on a “good face” when we come to God in prayer. We aren’t really ourselves, but rather we put on a façade and pretend to be someone we aren’t. The thing is, though, that God knows us better than we know ourselves. God is not surprised at who we are or what we do. We can’t deceive God, so we might as well be honest with God in our prayer. 

Given the above, we never need be fearful of coming to God in honesty and openness, trusting that the God who created us in love will not love us less or reject us for being who we are. When we come to God in prayer, we just need to be ourselves, without pretense and without guile. God knows us and loves us as we are, not for what we think we need to be.  

In our prayer, we need to pray as we can and not as we can’t. And we need to trust and believe that in response to our honest prayer, God will give us the grace we need.

Join Us to Journey with Refugees

Terri Ashmore
Managing Director

Fleeing violence. This experience may seem far removed for most of us as we go about our everyday lives. If you had to escape to save your life and leave your home and all your possessions behind, what would you do?  Where would you go? 
Today, millions of people in Syria are struggling with these very questions. The New York Times has been covering and offering analysis of the Syrian refugee crisis and featuring compelling photo essays that provide an amazing visual perspective that takes you beyond the statistics. With the growing crisis in Syria, we still need to come to grips with the sheer numbers of people impacted.

Just a year ago, the Syrian refugee crisis affected about 270,000 people — compare that to the city of St. Paul which has about 290,000 residents. In recent months, the impacts on Syrian citizens have exploded and over 6 million people have been displaced.  

The entire Twin Cities metro area has 2.9 million people — about half the number of Syrian people who’ve been forced from their homes by war and violence. Just stop for moment and consider what it would be like if everyone in our 7 county metro area was on the move by foot, and taking only the belongings they could carry.  It’s staggering to contemplate. 

Of Syria’s 6 million refugees, about 4.25 million people are still in Syria, but are on the move, having been pushed out of their homes to save their lives. Another 2.2 million Syrians have fled their home country spilling across the borders into neighboring lands of Lebanon (almost 800,000 refugees), Turkey (over 500,000 refugees), Jordan (over 540,000 refugees), Egypt (over 100,000 refugees), and Iraq (almost 200,000 refugees).  

The governments of these countries approach the swelling numbers of refugees differently. Lebanon’s government has chosen not to build refugee camps — but the result sounds like what you might read in the Bible. One New York Times report described people finding shelter in over crowded apartments, partially built structures and in stables — which strikes a special chord as we consider the journey of the Holy Family to Bethlehem, and their flight to Egypt after the birth of Jesus. In Jordan the Zaatari Refugee Camp has grown so much, it is now their largest city. 

The United Nations has compared what’s happening in and around Syria to some of the largest crises in recent history — like the tragic impacts of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, the  impacts on the Iraqi people during the war, and the violence that ended the existence of Yugloslavia. What makes the crisis in Syria stand out is the exponential growth in numbers of refugees over such a sort period of time. 

During December and January, our parish will explore the journey of refugees as part of our Global Stewardship initiative. We invite you to find our resource kit online and check out a documentary film made by parishioner Dan Baluff. Dan  sought out refugees and agencies in the Twin Cities that offer support. He conducted many interviews inviting people to share the stories of their journeys, their experiences, and how they came to arrive in the Twin Cities.  

You’ll hear stories of their persistence, extreme danger, acts of kindness, chance and survival. On Sunday, January 19 at 1:00pm, we’ll show clips from the documentary, and invite you to join us at The Basilica to hear a Speakers Panel who will share insights about their work in the Twin Cities and around the world to assist refugees.


Global Stewardship: Refugees

Luke Olson
Guest Columnist

The plight of refugees is one that should strike a chord with us as Catholics and as Minnesotans. After all, as Catholics we should understand the hardships of exile and persecution, for Christ and the Holy Family were persecuted and exiled from Jerusalem.

Our state of Minnesota is home to over 70,000 refugees from across the world, and that number is growing every year. Just this year, 268 individuals have arrived in Minnesota. It may seem odd that Minneapolis, with its harsh winters, is a popular location for refugee resettlement, but its strong advocate organizations and extensive social benefits make our city a great place for starting a new life. In fact, the Phillips neighborhood in Minneapolis is the most diverse neighborhood in the United States, with over 100 ethnic groups represented. 

However, the refugee community often remains fragmented from the greater Twin Cities community. Understanding the hardships of those who have faced persecution in other countries and have sought refuge in Twin Cities strengthens the bonds of our diverse and thriving community. 

A refugee is someone who has fled persecution in their home country for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, and because of that fear seeks refuge in another country. Refugees do not choose where they will be located; they are assigned to a city by the U.S. government. However, Minneapolis is a popular destination for assignment because of its strong network of volunteer agencies that help with resettlement. For that reason, Minneapolis has the largest Somali community in the United States and the largest Hmong community outside of Laos. There are also large Ethiopian, Cambodian, Bhutanese, Liberian and Vietnamese communities here. 

Such a diverse community helps make the Twin Cities a true proverbial melting pot of citizens. However, families that have sought refuge in Minneapolis struggle with a host of issues in integrating into our community. Language is often a visceral and difficult obstacle. To make matters more difficult, the current economic climate makes it difficult to find jobs, especially because skills and degrees often do not transfer to the United States. A recent study found two Iraqi refugees in Ohio with engineering degrees that were sweeping floors. 

The Twin Cities’ volunteer agencies work hard to make this transition easier. Local organizations connect refugees with English as a Second Language courses, set up social security applications, find and furnish housing, and help access medical care, amongst other efforts. But there are limits to funding and opportunities. 
As Catholics in the Twin Cities, it is imperative that we understand the hardships of the refugees in our community and strive to lessen them. Volunteer agencies can work hard, but we are called as a Catholic community to continue to make the Twin Cities welcoming and integrated. 

About the columnist: "Luke Olson is a Basilica parishioner and choir member. A third-year law student at the University of Minnesota, upon graduation Luke will join the firm of Dorsey and Whitney in Minneapolis."

Letter Regarding Listening Sessions to the Archbishop

Fr. John M. Bauer

Fr. Bauer promised to write a letter to the Archbishop regarding what we heard at the listening sessions on November 9th and 10th. Below is his letter:

Dear Archbishop Nienstedt:

On the weekend of November 9th and 10th I, along with the members of my Parish Council, invited parishioners to “listening sessions” after our weekend Masses.  The purpose of these sessions, like the one you held on October 30th with the priests and deacons of our Archdiocese, was to offer people the opportunity to share their thoughts and concerns in regard to sexual misconduct on the part of several priests that has recently come to light.   As I listened to people that weekend eight themes/categories became apparent. 

1. Why is this happening again? Many stated they thought we had dealt with the issue of sexual misconduct 10 years ago, and now it is surfacing again.  Why weren’t the protocols and procedures we supposedly had in place followed?  It looks to some like a conspiracy to cover-up the sexual misconduct of priests rather than deal with it.  They questioned whether the church is more interested in protecting priests than in dealing with this issue.  They said we need to put victims first.  We need to pray for them, as well as for our leaders and clergy.  Many compared it to their experience in the business world.  If these types of behaviors happened there, people would be fired.

2.  How can we go forward and believe that things are going to change?   There is a sense of outrage and betrayal among many people.  Their Catholic faith is very important to them.  They care deeply about their faith and about the Catholic Church.  Many are struggling to stay within the church.  Some even said they were ashamed of what has happened and openly questioned if/how they could stay in the church.  It is hard for them to be and/or remain a Catholic with all that is going on.  People are struggling with how to respond to family and friends who aren’t Catholic.  It was suggested that there should be a forum/way for people to vent and then to get involved so that something like this will never happen again. 

3.  The Church should be a safe place and it isn’t.   The question of why a private firm is needed to go through priest personnel files was raised.  If there is a record of illegal activity in the files, why not let the proper civil authorities review the files?  At this time, nothing less than honesty and complete candor will do.  

 4.  There is a lack of trust in regard to the independence of the Task Force and other entities that will be engaged in researching and responding to this crisis.  Some parishioners wondered how we can be assured of their independence and objectivity.  Will they truly be independent and will their report(s) be made public, unedited and in their entirety?  Who will determine the actions resulting from the Task Force findings and how can we be confident that these actions will address the problem?

5.  There is a lack of accountability and transparency in regard to how money is being spent, e.g. funds spent on the marriage DVD, the marriage amendment, the Minnesota Religious Council, lobbying, money spent on attorneys, settlements and support of abuser priests.   There were numerous questions about where is this money coming from and who is making decisions regarding how it is spent.  It was suggested that there should be a committee to monitor the use of funds given to the Archdiocese.  People are even questioning and reconsidering their support at the parish level, because they know a portion of their contribution goes to the archdiocesan assessment, and they are not sure how that money will be spent.  Some individuals wanted to know if it was an option to “direct” where their contributions would be used.

6.  What kind of screening and psychological testing is being done for those who are entering the seminary?   Also is there ongoing reviews and evaluation of priests so that concerns/issues can be identified and dealt with before they become problems?  What is being done and what will be done to ensure that we are dealing with this issue appropriately so that it won’t happen again.  How do we move ahead and regain people’s trust? 

7.  There were several concerns raised specifically in regard to your leadership.  People said there appears to be a “bunker mentality” — just hunkering down and hoping that the crisis will pass in time.  Many people felt there was a lack of accountability in that no one seems willing to accept responsibility for the current situation.  The Archdiocese appears to have control over how issues will be addressed and what information becomes public.  It was suggested that rather than sending letters and issuing statements the Archdiocese should have a press conference to publicly answer questions about this situation.  Many people wondered whether you will be able to lead us out of this situation.   

8.  Finally, it was noted several times that Pope Francis and his public statements should serve as our model.  He has been very open and has encouraged priests and bishops to be in touch with the people, not apart from them.  

Archbishop, I told parishioners I would summarize what I heard and share it with you and with them.  In regard to the current troubles, I think it is important that you hear not just from your priests and deacons, but from the “people in the pew.” 

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.  Please know that I will be open to any response you have to it.   

 Sincerely yours in Christ, John M. Bauer

Giving Thanks

Emily Carlson Hjelm
Executive Director of The Basilica Landmark

You could argue my office window overlooks one of the most awe-inspiring sites in Minneapolis — The Basilica of Saint Mary. This is a marvelous time of year for “The Building of Hope.” In the coming weeks, thousands of visitors will enter this sacred space to pray, serve and celebrate. Our beautiful Basilica provides the perfect setting for these rituals.

The scene just a glance above my computer screen has been consistent for more than a decade: deep-rooted trees frame a beautiful lawn and the center of attention; The Basilica church!  Each season sets a distinct tone: fall’s vibrant colors, white winter snow, lush green grass and the sure sign of summer — a beautiful bride celebrating the day with pre-ceremony photos. Despite this visual gift, there are times when I take my proximity to such tremendous beauty for granted.

While this may be my experience, the mission of The Basilica Landmark affirms we will not allow our building to be taken for granted. Through the dedication of passionate leaders, our church building is stable today and we have made great improvements throughout our campus.  Just this year, The Basilica Landmark has funded projects including the Reardon Rectory accessibility renovation, the Basilica school’s new roof and the restoration of the Sacristy’s stained glass windows.At this season of Thanksgiving and Advent, I can’t help but remember an experience recently when the Holy Spirit seemed to guide a simple afternoon adventure. It was a perfect fall day. My four-year-old daughter and I ventured a few blocks to a neighborhood park, and planned to return home within the hour. After we made it to our destination, the ringing of Basilica bells grabbed her attention, so we continued  in their direction, as if by invitation. As we walked, skipped and hopped our way down Hennepin, we passed the Walker and ended up in the Sculpture Garden. Though it’s only blocks from our house, it had been a year since our last visit.  

It took playing “tourist” in my own neighborhood to really see the gifts we have right down the street, and even outside my office window. A plaque on the “Spoonbridge and Cherry” sculpture says the artists were inspired in part by  the neighboring “Cathedral.” This iconic installation in the garden relies upon our own Basilica for juxtaposition. And when you explore our surroundings, it doesn’t take long to realize this  isn’t the only community asset relying upon The Basilica for ambiance and inspiration. Throughout the garden, families explored unusual works of art. Brides and grooms posed, international tourists captured the experience in photos, students admired the artwork — with The Basilica of Saint Mary as a backdrop.  They are Catholics. They are non-Catholics. They are tourists. They are neighbors.  They are parishioners.  They are friends.  

And The Basilica inspires them.

This Thanksgiving season, you are invited to recognize and remember the treasure we have surrounding us.  The Basilica Landmark works to ensure our buildings are as beautiful as originally imagined, meeting the multi-faceted space needs of our growing parish, and ensuring safety and access for all who enter our doors.  The opportunity to leave an immense legacy for future generations is at our fingertips.  What once felt like a dream is close to becoming our reality: a remarkably restored Basilica sanctuary and improved spaces so the only thing left to do is to grow in service and worship.

Please accept my warmest holiday greetings and wishes for your Advent season.  Along with the staff at The Basilica, we thank you for all the beautiful things you make possible through your financial stewardship, including the care of our beloved treasured Landmark and all the beautiful life-changing ministries and programs that  take place not just on special holidays but each day, 365 days a year.

Faith as a Verb

Fr. John M. Bauer

Many years ago I visited an individual in a hospital who, while on the parish roster, was clear they were not a “church go-er.” I gently probed to see if a bad experience at church or something had happened in their life that was the cause of their stepping away from church. Their response was there was no bad experience and that nothing had happened in their life that had caused them to move away from church. They then went on to say that faith just didn’t come easy for them and that they had pretty much given up on it. I then asked them if we could talk a bit about faith. They said that would be fine, but I shouldn’t set my expectations very high. 

As we talked, it became clear to me that the individual had a very idealized, almost romanticized sense of faith. The person believed that if you had faith, you never experienced any doubts or ever wondered about faith. I responded that I thought of doubt as the “ants in the pants” of faith. It is our doubt that keeps us awake and keeps us moving. Doubt is not the opposite of faith, it is an ingredient of faith. If we never doubt; if we never wonder, I would question whether we were growing in our faith.  

I then went on to tell them that from my perspective faith was better understood as a verb than as a noun, as a process rather than as a possession, and that for some people, faith is on again — off again experience, rather than once and for all. At times our faith can feel strong and sure, while at other times it feels like we can’t even get a toe hold. I went on to say that I did not believe that faith removed the struggle or lessened the turmoil we face in our lives.  Rather, in the midst of the struggle, faith keeps us confident that we are on the right track. It helps us to cling on while others abandon ship. 

In terms of our life journey, faith does not give us clarity about where we are going, but challenges us to go anyway. It is a journey without a roadmap. Further, we give witness to our faith not on those days when everything has fallen into place, but on those days when everything has fallen apart. Faith does not necessarily make us confident or self-assured; rather it helps us to continue on when the way is dark and the path uncertain. Faith is that insistent impulse that refuses to give up, and that helps us believe that a hand greater than our own leads us and guides us in this life.  

I don’t know that my words that day had any impact on the individual. They didn’t suddenly start coming to church. I hope, though, that they re-visited their understanding of faith and maybe, just maybe, began to see faith not as something that makes life easy, but rather something that assures us that the struggle is worthwhile.


Gratitude, Priorities, Celebration and Community

Emily Carlson Hjelm
Executive Director of The Basilica Landmark

Fall is beautiful, with deep, vibrant colors covering the trees, children back in welcomed routines at school and a crowded Basilica parking lot on Sunday mornings. While it may not be your favorite part of fall, that full lot indicates that much good is happening inside: the choir is inspiring us to sing “Hallelujah,” our children are learning about their faith in the school classrooms, and the rich experience of our Basilica community is in full swing.

My family’s autumn traditions include apple picking, football games, and a trip to my family farm in South Dakota. Since this season is rooted in the harvest and Thanksgiving, a visit to the farm always feels appropriate. Growing up, my rural church celebrated Thanksgiving with its own opportunities for Financial Stewardship. In November, after most parishioners had a chance to finally park the combines for the year, they hosted a fall festival.  Families baked apple pies, casseroles (or “hot dish” if you prefer), and salads (for most, the main ingredient was gelatin). We gathered together as a community and everyone made a gift to the church from their “bounty.” Giving was the first thing they would do after the harvest and this tradition really speaks to me of gratitude, priorities, celebration and community.   

I sometimes think it is easier for farm families to recognize the gifts from God and make offerings, when so many great gifts are in plain sight. A beautiful starry night can really bring you down to earth, and in that specific time in late summer, a meteor shower can be simply awe-inspiring from the unobstructed view in the country. The weather is one of the influencing and uncontrollable elements in nature, and one big rain can sometimes determine a stellar farming year or sheer disaster. The cyclical miracle of life and death is a part of daily life. All of these experiences point to God, and God’s hand in who we are, and all we have.

I’m so grateful for the values my parents worked to instill in my family — the understanding that what is truly valuable isn’t what we have, but is found in relationships, community and faith. While a trip to the farm usually serves as my reminder of this, I am also reminded by the message at The Basilica. Hearing parishioners speak about stewardship, why they give and what The Basilica means in their lives is inspiring. 

As you are asked to make a pledge to Financial Stewardship this fall, I hope you will consider your own gifts of gratitude. When we come together to make a pledge for the coming year, we collectively make hundreds of ministries possible and ensure the continuation of all of our life — changing ministries and liturgies. If you have not yet pledged, please consider what you will commit for 2014 and fill out a pledge form (available in the pews or online at when you are able. Thank you for your consideration, and for all you do to make The Basilica the community so impactful.

Seek the Well-Being of the City...

Dr. Johan van Parys
Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts

One of my favorite photos of The Basilica was taken by Mike Jensen. Positioned at Dunwoody College to the west of The Basilica, Mike photographed The Basilica against the backdrop of the entire Minneapolis skyline. This photo not only affirms the importance of The Basilica’s physical and visual presence in our skyline, even more importantly it symbolizes the role The Basilica plays in the day-to-day life of Minneapolis.

This photo immediately came to mind as I was pondering the importance of the centennial anniversary of the civic dedication of the Pro-Cathedral of Saint Mary which we celebrate this fall. Indeed, even before any religious service was ever held in the building, the city of Minneapolis came together to consider the importance of The Basilica for the city. This was done with a series of public lectures by local and national speakers in addition to a number of concerts given during November of 1914.

About the civic dedication, Mgr. Reardon, long-time pastor of The Basilica wrote in his 1955 book, Basilica of St. Mary of Minneapolis: “The general trend of the discourses was in harmony with the purpose of the civic celebration. The speakers emphasized the necessity of civic righteousness as the characteristic of the highest type of American citizenship. The learned and highly interesting lectures alluded to the new church as a center of civic betterment even before it was dedicated to the religious purpose for which it was erected.”

Today, one hundred years later The Basilica of Saint Mary continues the legacy envisioned by the early members of our church as we carry on their vision to seek “civic betterment” or in our current parlance as we “seek the well-being of the city.” This vision so near and dear to the heart of our community is inspired by the words of the Prophet Jeremiah (29:7) who encouraged the People of Israel saying: “Seek the well-being of the city to which I have sent you. Pray for it to the Lord. For in seeking its well-being you shall find your own.”

Our calling to “seek the well-being of the city” is a microcosm and metaphor for our broader Christian calling to seek the well-being of the entire world and everyone who lives in it. This may seem like a daunting task, but we might be surprised by all that we already do if we were to evaluate our daily life. This may include recycling, local shopping, gardening, personal prayer, cycling, volunteering, etc. The next step then is to look at opportunities for growth. 

As we celebrate the centennial anniversary of The Basilica’s commitment to “civic betterment,” we thought it might be good to evaluate how we as a community and as individuals are contributing to the well-being of the city and where we might do better. To assist us in this “soul searching,” we have organized a number of events during the month of November, including lectures, exhibits, concerts and concrete actions. You will find details on all these events in this Newsletter as well as on-line at

Much has changed since those first years in the life of The Basilica community, but our commitment to be good stewards of ourselves, our city and our world has only become stronger. Therefore, let us celebrate this important anniversary by moving onward and upward.

Strategic Directions

Terri Ashmore
Managing Director

Over 100 parishioners representing 45 Basilica ministries gathered for“Ministry Day” on Saturday, October 5. In prayer and reflection, we explored our new five-year Strategic Plan and discussed our individual roles in making this plan a reality.
A plan component, Strategic Directions, focuses on our resources and time. To achieve our hopes for 2018, we’ve set short, mid- and long-term goals. Here are our Directions and some examples:

Live Biblical Stewardship: Encourage all parishioners to embrace Biblical Stewardshipas a way of life. 

We are called to live our faith every day — how we help our brothers and sisters globally and in our city, what we buy, how we vote, and how we care for ourselves and our world. Our Stewardship Council and volunteer teams are leading efforts about how we share our gifts with God. 

Provide Excellence in Ministry: Provide ministries that are inspired by the Gospel and are relevant in our day. 

We are evaluating many parish ministries. Examples: Should we expand Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for older students? How do we recruit and train volunteers and invite families to participate? How can we maximize participation in youth confirmation, and what are the realities of family schedules? How can our Basilica Voices for Justice ministry expand community partnerships to educate and challenge our members to live their faith in the world? A relational ministry, BeFrienders, connects trained volunteer listeners to those grieving or struggling. How can we identify parishioners who need and want our support?

Enhance the Experience of Belonging: Welcome everyone as Christ and offer a sense of belonging. 

Each of us plays a critical role in creating a welcoming culture at our parish. Examples: Catholics Coming Home is a powerful ministry of healing and hope. How do we invite those hurt or angry about their experience of church to come together and talk about their experiences? How should we welcome those with mental health and developmental disabilities?  What resources and training are needed?

Increase Engagement: Invite parishioners into full and active participation in the life of the parish and the proclamation of the Gospel.

Explore questions of how and why people do and don’t volunteer, new strategies to invite parishioners into leadership, and consider training and support needed for success. We offer Vespers/Compline on Friday nights, and some Sunday afternoons and evenings. How do we educate and invite people to join us? 

Strengthen our Brand: Communicate our mission ever more clearly in our complicated and sometimes challenging world.

New media emerges daily. To communicate messages of welcome, inclusion, and invitation, we need volunteer experts to help us navigate. A mobile and table friendly website is in the works.

Steward our Resources: Manage our human, financial,  and physical resources with respect and responsibility.

Manage our resources through ongoing evaluation.  Examples: Address facilities’improvements like climate controlled art and archive storage. Seek new revenue streams and streamline ministries through cross-promotion, integration, and collaboration. Ensure financial transparency with volunteer oversight and reporting. Build volunteer/staff partnerships to care for facilities for our 150 weekly activities.

I’m excited about this roadmap for our future. At Ministry Day a volunteer described financial stewardship as “air” that makes our liturgies, outreach, and ministries possible. Please make a financial stewardship commitment toensure a future full of hope for The Basilica.

Seek the Well-Being of the City...

Emily Carlson Hjelm
Executive Director of The Basilica Landmark

The vision statement to “seek the well-being of the city” has been guiding our parish for decades, and this fall we celebrate this focus with the 100 year celebration of The Basilica’s civic dedication.  

What is a “civic dedication” exactly? After all, it feels like yesterday when we celebrated the centennial of the groundbreaking of our beautiful building in 2007-2008.  Since the beginning, the light that shines in our parish has not only shown on the interior, through the colors of our stained glass windows, but in our collective light, shining out in actions well beyond our magnificent building. The Basilica’s acts of faith serve more than “self” and this dedication marks this commitment to our community.There are numerous ways The Basilica reaches out beyond our parish to make a positive impact in our city. It is easy to identify this focus in our St. Vincent de Paul ministry, which serves thousands of people through hundreds of volunteers. The help we give can sometimes seem small (a pair of shoes, gas cards, or sandwiches) but it can be life-changing, even life-saving. Often times, people want to stabilize their lives, but need small things to get them started.  While 100% of donations directed to St. Vincent de Paul go to those in need, The Basilica operating budget funds the administrative support and staffing to ensure the program thrives.

In our recently completed strategic plan, Basilica leaders once again emphasized our presence and role in the broad community. This fall, as always, there are ways for you to engage this priority. This November, we welcome Sister Helen Prejean who will talk about life, death and social justice. The true-life pen pal of Patrick Sonnier, the convicted killer sentenced to die in the electric chair, Prejean wrote about her experiences in Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty, which developed into the 1996 major motion picture, Dead Man Walking, starting Susan Sarandon as Sister Helen.  The event will take place on November 7at 7:00pm in the lower level of the church. 

While there are countless activities and events to attend and support at The Basilica of Saint Mary, I am consistently impressed by the diligent, sometimes behind-the-scenes work of The Basilica staff. They make it possible to retain our external focus and consistently accomplish so much with limited budgets. Sixty percent of our operational expenses are in staffing, with 45 full-time equivalent employees providing care for nearly 15,000 parishioners. We balanced the budget for four consecutive years and have built our reserve to six months’ operating expenses. Over the past ten years, our expenses came in under budget, a savings of nearly $800,000 total. All of this, while staff members continuously embody the vision statement of “seeking the well-being of the city to which you are sent….”

This year’s Financial Stewardship Campaign is inspired by Luke 6:38, “Give, and it shall be given to you.” Perhaps, those who prioritized The Basilica’s civic role 100 years ago understood that when our parish is generous in our community, blessings follow.  And they have. I hope you will consider your Basilica stewardship pledge as a way to be a part of our parish civic role and focus in our community. If you haven’t already made a commitment, please utilize the pledge forms in the pews to make a gift today. Your generosity is greatly appreciated and our collective gifts come together to make beautiful things possible.

This season seems appropriate to return again to one of my favorite words, “Gratitude.” I’m grateful for our parish, whose collective inward assessment turns them outward and attentive to service in our city. I’m grateful for the opportunities to meet unique people and learn from their experiences. I’m grateful for our staff. I’m grateful for the generosity that makes it all possible. Along with Fr. Bauer, I hope you will choose to express your gratitude through a 2014 financial commitment. Thank you!

I Will Pray That You Trust

Fr. John M. Bauer

A few months ago, while doing some background reading for a homily, I came across a story that Fr. John Kavanaugh, a Jesuit priest, now deceased, told about himself. He said that when he was a younger priest he had spent a month working at the “house of the dying” in Calcutta, seeking a sure answer to his future. On the first morning he met Mother Teresa after Mass at dawn. She asked, “And what can I do for you?” He asked her to pray for him.  Mother Teresa then asked him: “What do you want me to pray for?” He asked that she: “Pray that I have clarity.” In response, Mother Teresa said: “No.”  That was that. When he asked why, she told him that clarity was the last thing he was clinging to and he had to let go. 

When he commented that she had always seemed to have the clarity he longed for, she laughed and said: “I have never had clarity; what I’ve always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust.”

I love this story not just because it shows how insightful Mother Teresa was, but also and perhaps more importantly because it reminds me that at times we can pray with such a sure sense of what we need that we can be blind to the possibility that we might need something altogether different. Many times I have prayed and prayed for a certain grace only to discover (usually much after the fact) that God had offered me a different grace.  I just wasn’t open to it.   

At times I think it is easy for all of us to wear “spiritual” blinders in regard to our prayer. We know what we want and/or think we know what we need, and we pray and pray and pray for it.  And then when things don’t happened as we think they should we tell ourselves that God didn’t answer our prayer.  The thing is, though, that God is always responding to our prayer, but at times we are just too blind to realize it.  

Prayer shouldn’t be about us trying to get God to do what we want. Rather it should be about us trying to understand where God is in our lives and what God wants of us or expects of us. Now in saying this, I want to be clear. Certainly we should bring our needs and petitions to God in prayer.  It is good for us to name those things that are important and needful in our lives. Equally important, though, is that we also ask God to help us be open to how God might respond to our prayer.   

Prayer isn’t always easy and certainly there is no “quid pro quo” in regard to prayer. When we can remember this, it can make a difference not only in how we pray, but in how we look for God’s response to our prayer. And when we can do this, we will come to know and believe that God is always responding to our prayer, more often than not in ways we hadn’t even imagined.

Community's Warm Welcome at The Basilica

Emily Carlson Hjelm
Executive Director of The Basilica Landmark

I’m from a small town, and where I grew up “community” was defined by our school district. This community rallies to support its individual members. If someone is sick, meals are prepared. If someone is stuck in the snow, they pull them out. If a child is getting into trouble, someone calls their parents. They drive carpools.  They visit the elderly in the nursing homes. They check in on neighbors.  

Communities have a way of making a person feel loved. Today, I find my family to be part of a very special community.  It is a community that consists of people living in 803 unique zip codes — defined by people from diverse backgrounds, whose collective voices make beautiful music each weekend at Masses, and whose stewardship is focused locally, regionally, and also globally.  And like my small town, I believe this community’s focus on the “well-being of the city” sets a tone for my children’s values.They say it takes a village. For my family, an integral part of our “village” is The Basilica. Each week, we’re surrounded by smiling faces and warm handshakes.  

I recently read a blog post by Jamie Bruesehoff entitled “Dear Parents with Young Children In Church,” and was afraid she was going to encourage us to stay home or send them to the nursery — but she didn’t. Reading this article reiterated what I feel in the pews at The Basilica on Sundays, which is that these (mostly) joyful noises from children during our worship improve our collective experience.  

A special thank you goes out to our friends at 9:30am Mass (pulpit-middle at the front of the crossing) who patiently smile as our children make multiple bathroom breaks, screech and scream, stretch and do whatever gymnastic activity the spirit inspires.

I’m so grateful for The Basilica community as we raise our daughters — which is the best, yet most challenging responsibility I’ve ever had— being a parent. At The Basilica, we are encouraged and supported by the community.
Basilica parishioners do all of the things that I treasured in my small-town experience.  When someone is sick, our community reaches out — not only calls, but prays for them, visits them, and even knits.  They knit a prayer shawl, which is symbolic of our community’s embrace.  When someone is hungry, knocking on the door of the Rectory, our community feeds them. When someone is grieving, we grieve with them.  When someone celebrates a marriage or a baby, we all celebrate. 

Thank you for the warm welcome you extend, for the tolerance you show (even when we are not at our best) and for the example you live in our community. You have heard what I’m grateful for and why I find it easy to give to The Basilica. As you are asked to make a pledge to Financial Stewardship this fall, I hope you will consider what our Basilica community represents to you. You give strong and vibrant ministries, you give inspiring music, you give opportunities to learn and grow in the faith, you give job counseling to those out of work or underemployed and so much more.  You give community. And like any great community, people share generously.  

When we come together to make a pledge for the coming year, we collectively make hundreds of ministries possible and ensure the continuation of all of the life-changing ministries and liturgies. Thank you for your consideration, and for all you do to make The Basilica the community so special.

Jesus Wants Followers; Not Admirers

Fr. John M. Bauer

The philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, once said that what Jesus wants is followers not admirers. He was right. To admire Jesus without trying to change our lives and follow him, does nothing for Jesus or for us. Yet how exactly do we follow Jesus? Well, in this regard, I think the simplest answer is that we try to imitate him. Jesus did certain things, so we should do them too. He taught, healed, helped those in need, comforted those who were troubled or mourning, spent time in prayer - occasionally staying up all night to do so - and visited with and stayed at the homes of those regarded by others as sinners. I believe we are called to do these same things. We are called to care for and be concerned about others, to reach out to those in need and to be non-judgmental friends to those who might be less-than-pious. By imitating Jesus in this we carry on his mission and prove ourselves his followers. 

Now certainly I don’t do these things all the time. The fact of the matter is I have a pretty high failure rate. I suspect this is true for all of us. At times it is far easier to be selfish and self absorbed then it is to be caring and compassionate. It is far easier to judgmental than it is to be understanding. It is far easier to associate with those who are like us than with those who are on the margins. And it is far easier to spend time in our own pursuits than it is to spend time in prayer. And yet, if we identify ourselves as followers of Jesus we are called to do the things he did.  

What helps us to follow Jesus more than just admire him? Well from my perspective, there are two primary things that help us to follow Jesus and not just admire him. First and foremost, is the Eucharist. Each year when we celebrate First Communion, I tell the children that while I know there are a lot of areas that need improvement in my life, I would be a lot worse off without the Eucharist. The Eucharist empowers and inspires me - and all of us - to live more for others and less for ourselves. The Eucharist helps us to do things that are often not easy for us to do. It enables and empowers us to forgive those who have hurt us, to reach out in care and concern for those who are less fortunate, and to love those who might not love us.  

The second thing that helps us follow Jesus and not just admire him is the Christian community. The Christian community performs two important roles in our lives. It supports us in our efforts to live as disciples of Jesus, and it challenges us when our efforts fall short, or worse are nonexistent. The Christian community sustains and strengthens us as we seek to follow Christ. It also gently reproves us and calls us to accountability when we fail to do this.  

Being an admirer of Jesus is easy. Being a follower of Jesus isn’t. At times it can be very difficult. We are aided in our efforts, though, by the Eucharist and the Christian community. Together these two things provide the sustenance and the assistance we need as we seek to follow Jesus, and through lives of faith, continue his mission and ministry. 

Core Values: At the Heart of the Strategic Plan


Janice Anderson
Director of Christian Life


The Community of The Basilica of Saint Mary has completed a new strategic plan to lead us into 2018. This process has been energizing.  We re-embraced our core purpose, renewed our vision, re-committed to what drives our words and actions, and re-focused our resources and time.  In short, we listened, prayed, and worked—inviting the Holy Spirit to renew our lives and our community.  

So, what drives our words and actions?  What are our Core Values? Our community has articulated four Core Values that drive all that we do:

Spirituality: knowing that everything comes from God, we seek God’s will in all we do and we find inspiration in the communal and personal search for and experience of God.

Biblical Stewardship: based on our biblical calling, we care for all God has entrusted to us including our material and spiritual blessings, our communities, our earth and environment, our relationships, and ourselves.

Compassion:  aware of our shared brokenness, we deeply respect all of creation as God’s own and we gratefully welcome all as Christ in our midst as we share hospitality, love, acceptance, and care.

Community:  because Jesus calls us to be one, we invite and encourage meaningful interaction among parishioners, our staff, and the broader community as we work toward greater understanding of, and respect for, one another.  

It is exciting to spend time thinking and praying about these four Core Values.  Each word invites us toward growth. Individually, the words are powerful. Together, they are transforming. 

Spirituality is the inherent belief in a higher power and the search to find and be in relationship with our Creator.  If spirituality is the core value of one’s life, all decisions, actions, words, and relationships will flow from this desire to know and be known by our God.  

Biblical Stewardship is a way of life rooted in scripture. Propelled by desire to know God, scripture shapes us.  Every facet of life, big and small, becomes an opportunity to grow in faith and relationship with God: This includes what I buy, what I eat, how I vote, how I drive, how I act at home, work, and play.  We are on a journey, growing ever more deeply into this awareness.  We seek spiritual progress, not perfection.  

Compassion is desirable, yet hard to live fully. It invites us to literally suffer-with another. Our desire for harmony often leads to shutting out things that cause pain.  Yet, our desire for God, and our commitment to a life rooted in scripture calls us to stay with, cry out, mourn, and weep with others.  We are strengthened by God’s love and faithfulness.

Rooted in Spirituality, committed to Biblical Stewardship, and shaped by Compassion, a Community of solidarity, inclusion, and love is realized.  This is the community of 1 Corinthians 12.  We are the body of Christ: one body with many, diverse parts—where the less honorable parts are given greater honor.  “If one part suffers, all parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.”

The Basilica can be energized and renewed through this strategic planning process. Let us all take to heart and prayer the challenge of living a life guided by these four Core Values.


Setting the Direction for our Parish Community

Fr. John M. Bauer

It seems that every five years or so whenever I get a new/different car, it comes with yet another new feature. I can remember being excited beyond belief when the second car I owned came with an FM radio. And when I got a car that had air conditioning, I was convinced that things couldn’t get much better. Then I got a car that had a cassette player. That was great until my next car came with a CD player and all wheel drive. My most recent car came with all of the above features, but it also came with G.P.S. For those of you like me, who are directionally challenged, this feature could easily have you believing that heaven can’t be far away, and with G.P.S. you have a good shot at finding it.   

G.P.S. is great.  You just input the city and the address of your destination and it gives you step by step directions to get there. Certainly there is the occasional glitch, but by and large G.P.S. is a great in assisting you in getting from your current location to your ultimate destination.   

It would be great if there were something akin to G.P.S. for areas of life other than just driving directions.   Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.  Fortunately, there are other things that can help us in regard in determining direction.   Very specifically, one of the things that helps guide and direct our efforts at the Basilica is our Strategic Plan.   Our previous Strategic Plan guided our parish from 2008 until this year, but it was time to update it and set a direction for our parish for the next five years.   

For the past year, our staff and parish leadership have been working to update our Strategic Plan. This Plan will serve as a road map to guide and direct our efforts as we continue to move forward. In updating our Strategic Plan we have identified the ministries, programs and services that are important and necessary for our parish community. Additionally, we also looked ahead in terms of what more we can and should do.   

I am enormously grateful to our staff and our parish leadership for the time and effort they put into developing our new Strategic Plan this past year. While not the same as G.P.S., our Strategic Plan will set the direction for our parish community, and will guide our efforts for the next five years. For this I am very grateful. Because of this our parish will be blessed. 

A summary of our strategic plan will be included in the bulletin which will be mailed to people’s homes in late September. The formal unveiling of our new Strategic Plan will take place at our Ministry Day which is the morning (8:30 to noon) of Saturday, October 5. We will gather in the lower level of the church. Our efforts this day will be led by Sr. Catherine Michaud, CSJ. All members of our parish and those involved in any ministry are invited to this special day. Please save the date and plan on joining us.  You will also be able to access our Strategic Plan through our website If you have any questions in regard to our Strategic Plan, please let us know.   

Strategic Planning

Paula Kaempffer
Director of Learning

This past January, we began the Strategic Planning process at The Basilica with our staff and parish leadership. It had been five years since we had last completed the process and it was time to begin it again.

I began to think about why we needed to do Strategic Planning at all. It was easy to think that one just came to work everyday and just did the job that was in front of them, and that was it. However, planning is needed in many corporate companies as well as at The Basilica in order to keep moving forward with specific goals to best serve and minister to our community.

How do we move forward without a plan and without specific steps to reach the goals within that plan? It would be similar to the chaos at the beginning of creation, I am sure! The plan is what keeps us moving towards the future to best meet the needs and wants of those we serve.

Our Mission Statement begins with the quote from Jeremiah: “Seek the well-being of the city to which I have sent you. Pray for it to the Lord. For in seeking its well-being you shall find your own.” –Jeremiah 29:7 Exactly how do we seek the well-being of the city? I think it begins with awareness of the city around us and being able to see Christ in the people who live in our city. We are part of this city and in opening our hearts and homes to our neighbors, we meet Christ on a daily basis. And when we meet Christ, we become sensitive to the needs of others and are able to respond with love.

The Strategic Planning process gives us an opportunity to learn about our broader community through demographics and societal trends, and to look at the ages of the members of our faith community and what their needs are and will be in the future. Throughout this process, we were able to look back and see where we came from and all the good work that has been done and is being done still today. It gave us a very optimistic stance that helped us to move forward with promise and encouragement.

Strategic Planning has everything to do with good Biblical Stewardship. It is about asking ourselves the question, “How can we be the best stewards of our resources in order to create a faith community that is welcoming to all people and fulfills the spiritual needs of each member?” We do this by continually looking at what we do- our programs, events, exhibits, the way we care for one another in our faith community, and how we are able to do this wisely, creatively and with great compassion.

It is an extremely hope-filled process- and what we found is that The Basilica community is filled with hope that reaches beyond ourselves into the world around us.

To Try to Pray, Is to Pray

Fr. John M. Bauer

One of my efforts this past Lent was to try to spend 15-20 minutes in silence every morning after morning prayer. When Lent was over, I decided to continue this practice. To be honest, however, my efforts have met with mixed success. Some mornings, the silence is refreshing; at other times it feels oppressive; and at other times I find myself fighting dozing off --- sometimes not all that successfully. I was feeling guilty about occasionally falling asleep until a few weeks ago when I came across a quote from St. Jane de Chantal, one of the founders of the Visitation Sisters. Specifically, she said:  “Neither should we be troubled when we sleep at prayer, provided we resist it. Let us patiently suffer it and keep ourselves before God as a statue to receive all he sends. It gives our Lord pleasure to see us fighting off sleep all the time of prayer. We must bear with it and love our abjection.”  

I found these words to be very comforting. For they reminded me of what a former teacher of mine used to say: “to try to pray, is to pray.” If we are honest, I think that for most of us, there are times when prayer feels more like work, than anything else.  And again, if we are honest, I would guess there are times when we space out or even dose off during our prayer. These times are part of the ebb and flow of our spiritual life.  We shouldn’t expect that prayer is always going to be satisfying and conducive to our spiritual growth.  

Now the above doesn’t mean that when we find prayer difficult we should just take a nap instead. Prayer requires time and effort on our part. There will be times when it will feel like we are just plodding along and not getting anywhere. This certainly was the experience of some of the great saints of our Church.  Blessed Teresa of Calcutta is a very recent and prime example of someone who struggled greatly in her prayer life.  However, it would be a mistake to allow the effort required for prayer to keep us from the effort of trying to pray. As my former teacher used to say: “try to pray is to pray.” 

Fortunate indeed is the person who has never found prayer difficult. And fortunate indeed is the person who has never dozed off in prayer. For most of us, though, I suspect that prayer is a mixed bag ---sometimes it is good, sometimes even very good, and sometimes it is just plain hard. Sometimes too, it can even be conducive to sleep. I like St. Jane de Chantal’s idea, though, that it gives our Lord “pleasure to see us fighting off sleep” when we are trying to pray. If this is the case, I have given God several pleasurable moments these past few months. I hope I am not alone in this and that God is smiling in pleasure at many of us.


Using Our Gifts from God

Terri Ashmore
Managing Director

“Now you are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it.” -1 Corinthians 12:27

In the United States, we’ve been said to have a “Marlboro Man” mentality — you know, rugged individualists who don’t rely on anyone. I love this reading from Corinthians because it challenges us to consider our role in the body of Christ, and what we are called to do together as a faith community. 

We invite you to explore Biblical Stewardship as a way of life. During August and September, we focus on “Stewardship of Our Gifts.” We’ll consider how to share our knowledge, talent, love and experience to serve others. 

Recently, I met several new parishioners and celebrated some long-time volunteers.  Hearing their stories about how they got involved at The Basilica was fun. We all benefit from countless hours and expertise our long-time volunteers have shared. 

At work, my favorite experience is gathering with volunteers focused on a goal. Starting out, I generally have an idea of what needs to be accomplished. Each time, the energy, creativity and possibilities make me grateful for their support. It’s energizing to be around people sharing their expertise, talents and skills, to see how they interact, inspire and support each other.  

In the end, they accomplish the task at hand, and so much more. It’s fun to watch people get to know each other over shared work and shared faith.  What starts as a chance encounter over a task often results in friendships that grow into lifelong relationships.  

What are your unique God- given gifts and talents?  How do you use them in your daily life at home, at work, at The Basilica or in our city?  

Often the most important person in the group is the one that makes others feel welcome — the person that is glad to see you and makes you feel special when you arrive. But let’s face it, every group needs a leader, and team members willing to do the work and follow-up that moves a project forward. It is individuals coming together and sharing their unique God-given gifts and talents that makes things happen at The Basilica, in our city and in our world.   

Our parish community is dynamic and vibrant because so many of you are willing to get involved and share your gifts, talents and faith. Please know how grateful we are for all you do.  

Join us the weekend of September 7-8 for our “Stewardship of Gifts Weekend.” Through our liturgies in preaching, prayer and music, we will invite you to reflect on your God-given gifts.  

Sunday, September 8, join us for the Ministry Fair and Parish Picnic from 10:30am-2:00pm for good food, family fun and a chance to learn about the many ways volunteers share their gifts, talents, skills and time with our parish and with our city.  Also, consider taking our online Gifts Survey. It’s private, only you receive the results and it’s an opportunity to learn more about your spiritual gifts.  Just go to

Recognizing God's Presence

Fr. John M. Bauer

Over the years, I have heard many people talk about recognizing God’s presence in great and powerful events/moments that occur in the world or in their individual lives.  Now certainly it is easy to discern God’s presence at these times. In my experience, however, I have discovered that often God also resides in small events, in things of seeming insignificance. While it takes faith to discern God’s presence in the great and powerful moments of our lives, I would suggest that it perhaps takes even more faith to discern God’s presence in the everyday and ordinary moments of our lives.  

Our faith tells us that God is always present in our lives and in our world --- in great and powerful moments and events, as well as in the everyday and ordinary events of our lives. God abides with us always. God never ignores us or abandons us. The thing is, though, that if we only look for God in great and powerful moments and events, we will miss God’s presence, and the grace that God offers us, in all the moments and events of our lives --- the small as well as the great and powerful moments.     

I think the above is important. We do not have to recognize God presence if we do not want to. God does not force God’s Self on us. Instead I believe God leaves hints or intimations of God’s presence all around us. And God has given us the intelligence, the curiosity, and the desiring, so that if we seek God in faith and love we will discover God’s presence. 
Certainly it is easier to discern God’s presence in the great and powerful moments and events of our lives than it is to discern God’s presence in the ordinary and every day, in the small and seemingly insignificant events of our lives.  The reality is, though, that God is present in both of these moments, and God is waiting for us discover and respond to God’s presence.  

God is indeed present and active in our world, in ways large and small, dramatic and ordinary. I believe, though, that those who try to recognize God in their own ordinary and everyday lives are the ones who will freely and daringly affirm God’s presence in other unexpected places. And I also believe that once we start seeing God’s presence in the here and now, soon we will start to see it everywhere. 

Using Labels

Fr. John M. Bauer
I was listening to the radio
 a few weeks ago as two politicians were being interviewed. Both of them continually used “labels” to describe the other and/or the other’s position. I know this kind of conversation isn’t all that unusual, but I had hoped that with the election in the past, we would have a brief respite before it started up again.

Several years ago I read that labels are like training wheels for the mind. They can help us begin thinking about complex issues, but if we continually use them they will inhibit our growth if we don’t move beyond them. Labels don’t allow for nuances of thought, and they inhibit complex thinking by continually returning to simplistic ways of looking at or talking about things. 

I think that often times in Church today, people use labels to describe others —  perhaps most especially those with whom they disagree. The difficulty is, though, that labeling people allows us to dismiss them without ever having to engage them. If I label you, I presume to know what you believe or how you think, and I can dismiss you along with your ideas.

I would like to suggest, though, that as Christians — and perhaps especially as Catholics — we need to take the conversation to a different level. We need to ask one another how our beliefs come out of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, and/or how they help us to better follow Jesus Christ. For example, I accept the “label” pro-life for myself. Some people might think that this means I am opposed to abortion. I am. For me, though, being pro-life means much more than just being opposed to abortion. The only way someone would know that, though, is if they engaged me a conversation and asked what the label “pro-life” means to me. Further, as a Christian and as a Catholic, people should be able to ask, and I should be able to rationally/logically explain why this position comes out of my belief in Jesus Christ. I would expect the same from those who claim to be pro-choice. In this dialogue, I am certainly not going to surrender my beliefs.  Perhaps, though, in this dialogue I will be better able to understand the other person and they me. 

Labels can be helpful. More often, though, they allow us to dismiss people and/or their positions. I think, however, that Jesus provided a better model. He continually invited people into dialogue. He didn't dismiss the Pharisees, simply because they were Pharisees. Instead he continued to engage them, dialogue with them, and invite them to see things in a new way. I think this is a good model for us. Instead of labeling and dismissing those with whom we disagree, let's invite them to dialogue. In doing this, we don't have to surrender our beliefs, but we do have to listen and be respectful. Certainly this isn't easy, but in his life and ministry I think Jesus gave us a good model to follow.

Stewardship of Our Gifts


Janice Anderson
Director of Christian Life


I can remember thinking when I was young that those things that were easy for me to do were easy for everyone. I didn’t appreciate the fact that I had certain skills, gifts, and strengths that uniquely qualified me to accomplish some tasks well. I didn’t recognize that I had a special role to play in the community simply because of who God created me to be. The implications of this misunderstanding were many. Certainly, it translated to minimizing my own giftedness and reducing my sense of self.  Just as limiting, however, I failed to appreciate the specialness and giftedness of others. 


While it was a process that unfolded over time, I can still remember the incredible experience of beginning to recognize my gifts as gifts. Just as you slowly begin to see the details of the surrounding terrain with the coming of dawn — as you are able to recognize the contours of the mountainside or curve of the lake as daylight creeps in — so I began to recognize and claim my own gifts.


The implications of this transformation were many.  I began to appreciate and value myself in a new, sacred way. This included embracing and owning my own gifts. However, just as important, it allowed me to see what I could not do well: I was able to name and claim my limitations and weaknesses. Rather than viewing these limitations as faults, I saw my limits as opportunities to invite another to shine.


As I began to recognize and claim my own gifts and limitations, I came to know viscerally the concept that Saint Paul speaks of in First Corinthians 12. Everyone is created uniquely with gifts. We need the gifts of everyone to make the whole. We are, indeed, many parts that make up one body. I need you to bring forth your gifts to make the community whole. 


One of the most rewarding experiences of working at The Basilica has been the creative experience of bringing a diverse group of parishioners together to create a ministry. I am able to bring my gifts to play.  But I need others, with diverse gifts, to make the experience happen. If any one of us does not step up, the creative process is limited.  


There are times when it is easy to recognize and celebrate diversity of gifts.  There are other times that it is hard. We are encouraged by Saint Paul to see all people as important parts of the community. All gifts are from God. Not one gift is better or more important than the other; they simply allow us to play unique and different roles within the community. Every single role and every single part is crucial. With a classic twist, we are told that the weakest and most vulnerable roles are essential, and those with less honor should be given a special place.  


In August and September, The Basilica focuses our Biblical Stewardship lens on the Stewardship of Our Gifts. Let us look specifically at how we can share our knowledge, talent, love, and experience to serve others. Let us shine the light of love on one another, so that all can see, claim, and use our gifts.

Taking Time to Find God

Paula Kaempffer
Director of Learning

As I write this, we are experiencing a 90+ degree day here in Minneapolis.  (With high humidity, I might add.) There is no denying that it is summer. The summer season does have a different feel than the rest of the year, weather aside. It is a time where many of us have the opportunity to slow down a bit, and our culture encourages us to refresh, rejuvenate, and enjoy the outdoors. We may be afforded the opportunity to take a break from our usual routine and commitments may seem fewer. 

This bit of a break in the day-to-day, and perhaps even a  change in our scenery, provides us with an opportunity to  find God in different places, in places where we perhaps might not be used to looking to deepen our relationship with God. 

I have found time and again, that it is often in the simple things where I can find God, sometimes when I am not expecting it…a particularly good conversation while meeting a friend for iced tea, an email containing good news or a greeting from a past acquaintance, an act of kindness that I experience or observe.  In so many ways and in so many places I continually find the Holy Spirit at work.

As we go through various life stages, often we find fewer opportunities  to spend time with our close friends and family…this may be due to proximity or simply due to busy schedules. Summer may allow some of us to visit those friends and family that we might not see as much as we would like…at family reunions, while traveling for vacation, while hosting houseguests, or just having time to meet for lunch. In catching up and hearing the stories and experiences  of those close to us, we might stumble upon God. We might find God in the faces or in the actions of our children or our grandchildren, our parents and siblings, our friends. 

On the other hand, it may be in our moments of solitude where we might encounter God…an early morning walk while the world is still quiet, a day on a fishing boat, tending a garden, an evening run. These moments may allow us to most fully appreciate nature and the incredible world in which we live, and in doing so, deepen our relationship with the Creator of this wonder. 

In response to our call to Personal Stewardship to care for ourselves in body, mind and spirit, may you find enjoyment and a chance to refresh and rejuvenate in the remaining weeks this summer. And in doing so remember to take a moment to find God wherever you are and in whatever you do. 

Our Struggle Against Sin

Fr. John M. Bauer

I have often said that if I ever leave ministry I am going to become a meteorologist or a highway planner. (Let me quickly add that I have no plans to leave ministry.) Highway planners and meteorologists, though, are the only two occupations I know where you can be wrong so often and still have a job. On occasions too numerous to mention, I have had to rearrange my plans because the weather didn’t turn out as forecast. And don’t get me started on highway planners. Suffice to say that being stuck in a traffic jam is definitely not an occasion of grace for me.   

While I am joking about the above, it occurs to me that there is one other job where there is a high failure rate. I am thinking here about how we live out our calling as disciples. I would guess that most of us, most of the time, do a pretty good job of following Jesus. However, I also suspect that for most, if not all of us, there are times when we fail in our efforts at following Jesus. There are times for each of us when sin creeps into our lives and finds expression in our words and actions.   

Now certainly Christians didn’t invent sin. We do believe, though, that we have found the remedy for sin in Jesus Christ and the grace God offers us through him. In and through Jesus Christ, God is constantly sharing God’s grace with us. And in and through Jesus Christ, our sins are constantly being forgiven and we are called once again to walk in the way Jesus would have us go. 

Why do we continually fall back into sin? Why --- like meteorologists and highway planners --- do we so often get it wrong? I think the answer lies in our human nature and the free will that God has given us. God could have created us without free will. In that case, though, we would simply be automatons. We would have no choice but to respond to God’s love. God, though, wanted us to freely choose to respond to God’s love, and that meant that at times we wouldn’t respond to that love. At times we would go our own way. That is what sin is all about.   

God, though, realizing that there might be a significant failure rate in our response to God, determined that God would always offer us another chance to respond to God’s love. And so, while we may often “get it wrong” and fall into sin, more often by far is God’s grace being offered to us to try, try, again until hopefully we get it right.   

Of course, this side of heaven, sin and failure will continue to be part of our lives, but then again so too will God’s grace. On those occasions when God’s grace finds a home in our lives and our hearts (if only fleetingly), we get a sense of what heaven is all about. And that makes our ongoing struggle against sin worth the effort.  

Processions and Prayers

Dr. Johan van Parys
Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts

I am looking forward to my annual pilgrimage to the mother land which is coming up in August. As I will be there on August 15, I will be able to participate in the annual pilgrimage to the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes situated on a slight hill in our mostly flat landscape just outside Tielt, the city where I was born. The Grotto shares the hill with a small school, a small convent and a lonely windmill. From the grotto one can see the city in the distance as well as the sprawling surrounding farms. It is a quiet place these days. The sisters have moved out and the school has been closed. Still, people continue to visit Our Lady of Lourdes in the Grotto. 

My grandmother loved this grotto and she visited there as often as she could. When her health prevented her from making these beloved pilgrimages she started asking me to go in her stead. Almost on a weekly basis, she asked me to get on my bike and go to the grotto. She would give me some money for a candle and send me off saying: “And do spend some time there.” At the grotto I purchased a candle, lit it and prayed for her intentions of the week. As I became more familiar with the grotto and the peace and prayer so palpably present there I ended up spending more and more time in this sacred place. Over the years, my grandmother’s request and her parting words have proven to be a great gift as she has instilled in me the desire to seek out places packed with prayer and spaces saturated with sanctity everywhere I go.

In addition to all the personal pilgrimages people make to the grotto we also had several popular pilgrimages. The most beloved pilgrimage to the grotto was and still is held on August 15 when the Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. On that day hundreds of us processed from our local churches to the Grotto. Today, the annual procession is still held, but on a much smaller scale. 

I have often wondered why people participate in this and other similar processions? To me, a procession is a ceremonious and organized religious parade. It takes people from one place to another. The end-point is always of religious significance but the getting there is even more important. A procession is a journey. A procession is a time set aside for a walking meditation. It allows for peripathetic ponderings on our lives as Christians in this evermore secularized world. Processions are a great spiritual gift and opportunity. Whereas most prayers are sung or spoken in a stationary manner, processions allow us to pray and move at the same time as we step in the cadence of our prayers and pray along the rhythm of our steps. 

I look forward to this coming August 15. Once again I will process through the streets and fields of my city. And I will climb the hill anticipating the moment when I will light a candle for my late grandmother’s intentions. As instructed by her, so many years ago I will spend some time there watching the candle burning and listening to the prayers spoken by so many before me, now whispered through the trees while adding a few of my own. 

What God Wants

Fr. John M. Bauer

Recently in an exchange of emails with a friend, she kiddingly (at least I think she was kidding) wrote: “I find it works best for me to do whatever I want, regardless of others.”  While her comment was humorous, I think there was a grain of truth in it. At times I think we all have the idea that God does not want anything more from us or for us other than what we want for ourselves or are willing to give. This is mistaken and confused thinking. The fact is that God does want more from us and for us than we are often willing to acknowledge.  

God calls each of us into a personal relationship with God. God invites us into a relationship of mutual love and understanding; a relationship of care and concern; a relationship of reciprocity and mutuality. And because of this relationship we are called to be more and to do more than initially we might be willing to do or give. 

Because of our relationship with God, we are called to care for one another, to reach out to those in need, and to measure our decisions not just by their impact on us, but on their impact on others. God is always calling us to do more and to be more than we might be willing to admit.  

Now we need to be clear. I don’t know anyone who lives out the above consistently and without fail. Sin and failure are a part of each of our lives. Selfishness often finds safe haven in our hearts, and our own wants and needs are frequently given preeminence. It is easy to find ourselves thinking that because we’re not great sinners we’re pretty good the way we are. The reality is, though, that while God accepts and loves us unconditionally as we are, God is also always calling us to do more and to be more.   

No one is perfect, but we must never grow comfortable with our faults and rationalize them because they are not serious or because they are not obvious evident to others. God loves us as we are, but God also loves us enough not to leave us there. God is constantly offering us God’s grace and inviting us to let that grace find a home in our lives and our hearts.   

God does want more from us and for us than we are often willing to acknowledge, but God also offers us the grace to give and do more. And if we let God’s grace find a home in our lives and our hearts, we can do more than we thought possible or could imagine.

Connecting in a Disconnected World

Emily Carlson Hjelm
Executive Director of The Basilica Landmark

Last week, I walked into our living room to find my daughter sitting on the floor with my iPhone. I wasn’t too worried because I had it “locked” so I assumed no damage could be done. I was wrong. Not only was it unlocked, but when I asked her what she was doing, she said she was “checking the weather” which I thought was funny. She probably heard me say that once or twice. When I looked at the screen, I realized in fact, she was on the weather app.  She’s three.

I’m not the first parent to be simultaneously amazed and frightened as I watch her navigate an iPhone. It seems to come naturally — almost too naturally.

That same night, my husband and I went out for dinner. People at tables surrounding us weren’t talking to each other.  Ignoring the people with them, they were connecting with others online. While they did that, they seemed so…disconnected. They took pictures of themselves, then each other, then together.  And posted them online.  They took pictures of their food and posted them online.  I’m not the first to wonder what we are missing when dinner conversation is exchanged for online posts.

When children so young are constantly surrounded by media, it makes me hope for something more human, more real. If they are engrossed online today, what will our interaction look like in ten years?

Each week I feel my family is grounded as we gather with a community of people who are present at Mass at The Basilica. I’m grateful for these meaningful relationships and worshiping together, calling us to be aware of one another and truly present. The months of June and July at The Basilica focus on “Personal Stewardship,” which means caring for ourselves in mind, body and spirit — remembering that each of our lives is a gift from God.  One component is being in the moment and present.

Each year, The Basilica Block Party offers thousands of our closest friends a chance to connect — in person and enjoy live music.  Again this year, we’ll have a family festival the Sunday of block party weekend. Move & Groove will take place at The Basilica on Sunday, July 14. It is an all-ages event taking place from 10:30am to 3:00pm. Planned with the entire family in mind, there will be a wide variety of all-ages activities, with the Emmy Award-winning Imagination Movers headlining the concert.

Tickets are only needed to attend the family concert on the Music & Dance Stage featuring The Imagination Movers. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 the day of the show (2 years and under free!)  Buy your tickets online at and at all Creative Kidstuff locations.  For more information, visit We hope to see you there, to connect in person.

Also note: Tickets for the Cities97 Basilica Block Party are available at or by calling 800.745.3000.

Fulfilling Our Hungers

Fr. John M. Bauer

In my college days, when money was tight and I was really hungry, I would eat things I wouldn’t consider eating now days. I would combine foods that were available, but that you wouldn’t think ordinarily would go together --- like waffles and broccoli. I would mix ketchup and hot water and pretend it was tomato soup. I would eat leftovers that probably should have been thrown out. And I could be enormously creative with Ramen noodles. When we are hungry, our appetite can often lead us to do things that normally we would never consider doing.  

I believe the above is true not just in regard to our physical hunger, but also with other hungers as well. When we are hungry for something --- companionship, acceptance, friendship, love or whatever --- it is easy to look for something close at hand to satisfy that hunger. We mistakenly think that whatever is on hand will satisfy us and quench our hunger.  Most often, though, these things only distract us from our hunger, they don’t satisfy it. As a result, we are left still hungry and still looking for something to satisfy that hunger. The reality is that those things that are close at hand don’t last and can’t satisfy our deepest hunger. Ultimately only God can satisfy that hunger.  

Now while I know the above is true on an intellectual level, this doesn’t mean that I live it out in my life. I still make poor choices. I still sin and fail. I suspect this is true for all of us. We continue to look for things close at hand to satisfy a hunger that only God can satisfy.  

On my better days, though, when I can take things to prayer earlier as opposed to later, I find that God nourishes me with God’s grace, and my hunger is satisfied. Why I don’t do this early and often is a mystery to me.  I suspect this will always be so. I am grateful, though, that God is patient with me and always waiting for me to turn to God for the sustenance I need to satisfy my deepest hunger.   

Summer Opportunities for Personal Stewardship

Terri Ashmore
Managing Director

Renew.  Refresh.  Re-energize.  How do you recharge your engines?  

During June and July, we celebrate Personal Stewardship – Caring for ourselves in mind, body, spirit.  As I write, we are craving a glimpse of summer sun and the opportunity to enjoy nature, and to just be outside to garden, golf, swim, or camp.  

Whether it’s the change in schedules to more relaxed days, or more casual clothes, the chance to share meals on the grill with friends, or simply slow down a little, it truly is a time to take stock and reflect on how we care for ourselves.  This can happen in many ways, but I’m going focus on how we eat, pray, and have fun.

You may have heard the saying “you are what you eat.”  Summer is a wonderful time to ward off the temptations of fast food and enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables.  A trip to the farmers market is a great way to support local producers, have fun and bring home healthy food options for our tables.  Eating right is one way to care for our physical beings. 

Caring for our spiritual self can be more challenging, at least for me.  I find it hard to find quiet in my life, but am grateful for the times I succeed.  Whether it’s attending Mass or Vespers, or taking time each day for spiritual reflection – consider giving some time back to God each week.  Taking time to seek out quiet, to step away from electronics, and to open our hearts to God are just a few ways to care for our spiritual lives.  

This summer there are many unique opportunities for you to have fun and celebrate family, friends and summer at The Basilica.

Saturday, June 22 – Secret City: Illuminating Places Hidden in Sight – 6:00pm to 10:00pm.  This downtown art festival will take place at a number of locations including the Convention Center, 5th and Hennepin, and also at The Basilica and Walker Art Center.  Featured activities at The Basilica will include Aztec Dancers on the plaza at 8:00 pm and Basilica guided tours.  

Friday and Saturday, July 12 and 13 – The Cities 97 Basilica Block Party, 5:00pm to 10:30 pm:  Great music, food and fun.  Friday night features Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Matt Nathanson Father John Misty, ZZ Ward, Mayer Hawthorne, Family of the Year and Churchill.  Saturday night lineup includes: Matchbox Twenty, Goo Goo Dolls, Walk the Moon, Cloud Cult and Kate Earl.  One more Saturday band is yet to be announced.  There will also be great local bands playing both nights.  

Sunday, July 14  – Move and Groove Family Fest, 10:00am to 3:00pm:   Families and children are invited to enjoy a great summer day at The Basilica.  Lots of free activities, arts crafts and live music.  There is also a ticketed concert featuring The Imagination Movers.  Tickets are available at Creative Kid Stuff or online. 

Each of us has to find our own way to re-energize.  It is by caring for ourselves in mind, body and spirit, we can best serve God and others.  For more Personal Stewardship resources to 

Asking God for Help

Fr. John M. Bauer

Several years ago I was driving to my cabin on a cold and snowy Sunday evening when I hit something that punctured one of my rear tires. I was able to make it to the side of the freeway and got out to survey the damage. The tire was very flat and obviously needed changing. I got the jack and the tire iron from the trunk, but when I tried to loosen the lug nuts I couldn’t budge them. I called AAA and was told they would send someone to help me, but since there were a lot of calls that night, they had no idea how long it would take. I resigned myself to waiting and said a prayer of thanks that at least I had half a tank of gas so I could keep my car (and the heater) running. 

I had only been waiting about ten minutes when a car stopped and the driver asked if I needed help. I thanked them, but told them I had called AAA and I would be fine. Five minutes later another car stopped and again the driver asked if I needed help. Again I refused, telling him the same thing I had told the first driver. Ten more minutes passed and a highway patrol car stopped. The patrolman asked me if I needed help and I told him the same thing I told the other two people. He looked at me and said:  “It could take AAA a couple hours or more to get here. I bet if we both worked at it, we could have your tire changed in just a few minutes.” I started to object, but then it dawned on me that there was nothing to lose in giving it a chance.  

As it turned out, the patrolman was correct. Working together we were able to loosen the lug nuts and get the tire changed in a matter of minutes. I thanked the patrolman profusely and even asked for his badge number so I could write a letter of commendation and thanks to his supervisor. He modestly said that wasn’t necessary. He was only doing his job. He then suggested I get on my way before the weather got worse.   I thanked him once more and set off for my cabin.  

I am reminded of the above experience on a regular basis. By nature and probably because I am a celibate priest, I tend to be a very independent person. I like to do things by myself and I don’t like having to ask others for help. On a regular basis, though, I am reminded that I am not sufficient unto myself and in fact do need the assistance of others.  

I have also discovered that not only are there times when I don’t ask others for help, but worse, there are also times when I do this with God. There are times when I will struggle with an issue or a concern for days --- sometimes even weeks --- before I finally take it to God in prayer. When I finally do take it to God in prayer, I always wonder why I waited so long. It’s not that prayer makes the issue go away. Rather, in and through prayer, I often discover a new way of looking at the issue, or something changes in me that allows me to approach the issue differently.   

An “I can do it myself” attitude is not necessarily or always a bad thing. There are times, though, when it is. I believe this is especially true when we take this attitude toward God. God is always present and always waiting for us to ask for God’s help. And when we do ask God for help, God will give us the grace we need to work through, overcome, or accept whatever it was we brought to God. 

Blessing of the Bikes

Jenna Bennett
Director of Marketing & Communications

Usually, I’m not writing the cover article for The Basilica’s Weekly Newsletter because I’m behind-the-scenes: working with my two Communications Interns to convey all the wonderful things that go on here at The Basilica! Each department submits content and events, and we work to weave everything together, edit and print this piece for the parish. So, it’s a little different to write my own article this time around instead of editing someone else’s!

Part of my job handling marketing and communications for The Basilica includes being on-site to work with media at events like Blessing of the Animals, Christmas, Easter and most recently, Blessing of the Bicycles. I have always loved riding a bike for exercise and enjoyment, and have had the same bike for a while now since college. I was excited to bring it to Blessing of the Bicycles, as I’ve never had a bike “blessed” before and thought it would be a fun way to participate in the event along with everyone else. 

The day before the event, I went outside at my apartment complex where I kept my bike…only to find out that it was gone. I raced to the bike rack and sure enough, the lock had been bashed and ripped open. My heart sunk, and I was really disappointed and quite angry that it had been stolen. I was also frustrated that I wouldn’t have a chance to bring it to Blessing of the Bicycles and thought, “What awful timing! Figures, right?” 

The next day at The Basilica was a gorgeous day for Blessing of the Bicycles and we had a great turnout of both people and bicycles. WCCO and KARE 11 shot video that aired on the news that night and we took many photographs and quick snaps for Facebook. However, even though the day was sunny, my mood was still not. 

I thought again about why my bike I’d had forever had to be stolen the day before Blessing of the Bicycles, and not at another time. I think nearly all of us have had something negative happen in our lives at a particularly inconvenient or misfortunate time, and we say, “What bad timing that was.” Then I was reminded that the timing of things in life is not in my control but God’s control- and part of a bigger picture. I could choose to sulk about the fact that everyone around me was happy with their bikes and mine was gone and never coming back, or I could have a better attitude and enjoy the weather, meet some new people at The Basilica and be grateful for what I do have- including the ability to ride a bike. It ended up being a pretty great day.

Less Talking, More Listening

Fr. John M. Bauer 

This past Lent one of the things I was working on was trying to do less talking and more listening during prayer. I was not having much success with this, and was feeling bad about it until one day I came across a quote from the late spiritual writer, Henri Nouwen. In writing about his prayer Nouwen said: “I have read and written much about prayer, but when I go to a quiet place to pray, I realize that, although I have a tendency to say many good things to God, the real “work” of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says good things about me. This might sound self-indulgent, but, in practice, it is a hard discipline. I am so afraid of being cursed, of hearing that I am no good or not good enough, that I quickly give in to the temptation to start talking and to keep talking in order to control my fears. To gently push aside and silence the many voices that question my goodness, and to trust that I will hear a voice of blessing --- that demands real effort.”   

As soon as I read these words I felt a deep sense of comfort. If Henri Nouwen --- who has written volumes on prayer and spirituality --- if he had trouble growing quiet and listening for the voice of God in prayer, then maybe I shouldn’t feel so bad about the difficulty I have in spending time in quiet and silence. The more I reflected on this, however, the more my sense of comfort began to fade, and the more I realized that it is a fool’s errand to compare my struggles in prayer with someone else’s. 

All of us are unique individuals. No two of us thinks exactly alike and certainly no two of us pray exactly alike. Certainly there are universal elements to prayer as well as common mistakes that are made in regard to prayer. And certainly we can learn from each other in regard to how to pray better or more deeply. It would be wrong, though, to compare our prayer or our struggles in prayer with someone else’s.  

We all have our own individual relationship with God. Prayer is one of the primary ways in which we seek to deepen and grow in that relationship. But everyone’s prayer is unique. If we try to pray like someone else, we are bound to end up frustrated and disappointed. However, if we continue to strive to find ways/forms of prayer that work for us, even though at times we may struggle, ultimately we are more apt to find solace and comfort in our prayer.  

I’m still working at trying to talk less and to listen more in my prayer. I have found though, that there is grace in the struggle, and on those days when I am able to listen with the “ear of the heart” I realize how deeply loved I am by God, and I know peace and find great hope.

Come Holy Spirit, Open our Hearts and Enlighten our Minds!

Dr. Johan van Parys
Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts

Many years ago I proclaimed the first reading on the Solemnity of Pentecost. I had just been confirmed and was extremely excited to be asked. Little did I know that this is one of the most difficult readings to proclaim. My dear great-aunt who was a nun told me to make sure I prepared the reading well as it had many difficult words in it. Looking over the reading I soon discovered terminology I had never encountered before: who were the Parthians, the Medes or the Elamites? And what did all of them do in Jerusalem? Though I stumbled over Phrygia and Pamphilia I was intrigued by what appeared to be the description of a most colorful and somewhat exotic gathering. I imagined life in Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago to be complex and extremely diverse, not unlike the farmers market in Minneapolis today. There one can get a taste of the rich tapestry of humankind reflected in colorful native wear, intriguing languages, and tempting ethnic foods. Jerusalem must have felt somewhat like that: festive, exuberant, colorful, rich.

By contrast the disciples were in hiding. They were laden with fear and burdened by uncertainty. Christ had recently ascended into Heaven and they were at a loss. Suddenly everything changed. Filled by the Spirit they cast off all fear, threw open the windows and burst into the street. Having caught the marketers by surprise they spoke to them about the marvelous deeds of God. And miraculously, everyone could understand what the disciples had to say. The Holy Spirit broke every ethnic barrier and linguistic difference and all embraced the Good News.Our world today is even more diverse than Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. And the friendly hustle and bustle which is characteristic for above described markets is all too often replaced with fear and anger. And even though we may speak the same language we seem unable to hear one another. The political world is particularly affected by this. The kind of linguistic cacophony typical for political discourse is often maddening. And rather than inviting dialogue everyone just speaks louder so as to be heard above the rest and to win whichever issue is at stake.

Our church is not immune to this either. Though we speak the same language we don’t seem to understand one another. And rather than listening to one another we just speak louder and louder in a desperate attempt to be heard and to win whichever battle we are waging. Sadly, we lack the inner peace and the mutual respect needed to listen intently to one another and learn from one another and together become more like Christ.

On this Solemnity of Pentecost, let us pray that the Holy Spirit may cleanse our souls and open our hearts. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will inspire us to share the Good News with the world in deed and in word. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will bring us all closer together so we may become one in Christ.

Today we heard that “Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs” heard them speaking about the marvels God had accomplished.Maybe one day we will hear it said: “We are Republicans, Democrats and Independents; rich and poor; liberals, conservatives and moderates; straight and gay; women and men and children; married and single; Africans, Asians and Americans; yet we all speak of the mighty acts of God.”

May that day come soon!

Come Holy Spirit, Open our Hearts and Enlighten our Minds!

Spiritual Pruning...

Fr. John M. Bauer 

Several months ago I had some friends over for dinner. At one point in the evening one of them, who has a bit of green thumb, commented on one of my plants. While this particular plant was green and appeared to be thriving, it also was clearly on the edge of overwhelming the pot in which it was growing. She looked at both the plant and me in a disapproving manner, and then asked when I had last trimmed it and when it had last bloomed. My answer to both questions was never. She asked me if I had a scissors and then suggested I leave the room.  

About 10 minutes later she invited me to see her handiwork. The plant was at least half and maybe two thirds its previous size. As soon as I saw it, I was reminded of the buzz cuts my dad gave my older brother and me at the beginning of each summer when we were little kids. I wondered out loud whether her trimming and pruning might have been a bit extreme, but she assured me that plants needed to be trimmed and pruned occasionally if they were to thrive and produce blossoms. I replied that if the plant died, its death would be on her conscience. She told me it was a risk she was willing to take and asked me to trust her.

Now while I’d like to tell you that the plant didn’t survive the pruning, I can’t lie. A couple months later it produced its first of many blossoms. I called my friend to let her know and she graciously did not say: “I told you so.”Just as plants need to be pruned periodically if they are to bloom and/or produce fruit, so too I think there are times when each of us could benefit from a little pruning.   There are bad habits and areas of sin that find safe haven and take root in each of our lives. Most often this takes place without our knowledge and certainly without our consent. It does happen, though, and when we discover it we need to submit to some spiritual pruning and trimming so that we can once again grow and blossom.   

There are many ways in which pruning can take place in our lives. The Sacrament of Reconciliation, a retreat, talking with a spiritual guide, a regular examination of conscience, spending extra time in prayer are just a few. The thing is, though, if we never take the time to consider where we might need some pruning, we probably will never do it.  
My friend was right. Periodic pruning does help a plant blossom and grow strong. I think the same thing is true for us. If it has been a while since you have undertaken some pruning in your life, maybe now is the time for this to happen. While it might be difficult initially, in the long run it will help you bloom and produce abundant fruit.

Hail Mary!

Dr. Johan van Parys
Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts

Today we will gather in St. Paul for the Annual Rosary procession. This is one of many celebrations dedicated to Mary which will take place throughout the world during the month of May which has been set aside to honor Mary.

The exact origins and circumstances of celebrating Mary during the month of May are not clear. The earliest known documentation dates back to thirteenth century Spain. However, there are some indications that the devotion may date back to even earlier times.

The connection between Mary and the month of May is more than likely rooted in pre-Christian European agricultural life. May was experienced as a time when mother earth came back to life. May was the month when most animals gave birth and it was the month when planting season began.

The Greeks honored Artemis, the goddess of fecundity during the month of May. In Roman times, the goddess of blossoms was honored in May. In other parts of Europe gods and especially goddesses were invoked to ask for a good birthing and planting season.As Christianity spread through Europe many existing customs and beliefs were re-interpreted from a Christian point of view. The month of May as the month of new life became the month of motherhood. Mary, the mother of God became the patron saint of this month. Of note is that we celebrated Mother’s Day during this month as well.Growing up in a Catholic country the celebration of Mary in May was noticeable everywhere. Many of the towns in Belgium took great pride in their ubiquitous Marian shrines. Some are the size of a small chapel while others are a simple niche in the façade of a home with scarcely enough room for a small statue of Mary. Some of them date back to the 10th C. whereas others were constructed just recently. Some of them have been kept up nicely while others stand abandoned and are in dire need of repair. 

These small shrines played an important role in the spiritual life of the community. This was especially the case during the months of May and October, the other month dedicated to Mary. The shrines were decorated with fresh flowers and people visited them to pray and light a candle. In our neighborhood we gathered every day at 7:00pm at a designated shrine to pray the Rosary. Each Sunday afternoon during the month of May we would gather at the Church of Our Lady and begin an hour long procession through the city into the fields. Our destination was a grotto dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes which overlooked the city. I remember those processions with great fondness.

In today’s mostly secularized Belgium many of these devotional customs have all but been abandoned. Nevertheless, every time I visit my hometown I make a pilgrimage to the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes to light a candle. By doing this I am not just giving in to a fit of nostalgia, rather I am connecting with all the pilgrims who have come here to pray throughout the centuries. To me they are a silent testimony not only to the generosity of our loving God who heard theirs prayers but also to the strong faith of these ancient pilgrims and to the solace they found in the simple acts of reciting the rosary and lighting candles.

In our ever more hurried and increasingly noisy world these ancient customs may seem quaint yet they are deemed to be without merit. We are far too busy and too sophisticated to engage in these simple, yet ancient customs.  The month of May offers us the opportunity to pause for just one moment, to walk to a shrine dedicated to Mary, to listen for the prayers of all those who have gone before us, to light a candle, and to offer our own needs to the intercession of Mary, Mother of all.

Leave the World a Better Place for Future Generations

Janice Anderson
Director of Christian Life

As we study Scripture and Catholic Tradition, we discover that “being green” is as much a moral and religious imperative as it is an environmental concern.  Pope Benedict stated, “I believe…that true and effective measures against the waste and destruction of creation can only be realized and developed, understood and lived, when creation is considered from the point of view of God; when life is considered on the basis of God and has its major dimensions in responsibility before God.”  

While the Catholic Church has many powerful teachings about care for the environment, the lifestyles of Catholics do not differ much from those of their neighbors: Catholics consume as much as others in society.  The Basilica Green Team is committed to find ways to inspire us to make big and small changes that will leave the world a better place for future generations.

The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has issued “Ten Commandments of the Environment” to inspire, challenge, and guide us in our life-choices.  They are drawn from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, and are offered to help us read the sign of the times, interpret these signs in light of the Gospel, and take effective action.  

1)The human being, created in God’s image, is placed above all earthly creatures, which must be used and cared for in a responsible way.  Nothing that exists in this world is outside the divine plan of creation and redemption.   

2)Nature must not be reduced to a utilitarian object of manipulation, nor absolutized or place above human dignity.

3)The question of the environment entails the whole planet, as it is a collective good. Our responsibility toward ecology extends to future generations.

4)In dealing with environmental problems, ethics and human dignity should come before technology.

5)Nature is not a sacred or divine reality, removed from human intervention. Thus, human intervention that modifies some characteristics of living things is not wrong, as long as it respects their place in their particular ecosystem.

6)The politics of development must be coordinated with the politics of ecology, and every environmental cost in development projects must be weighed carefully.

7)Ending global poverty is related to the environmental question, remembering that the goods of the earth must be shared equitably.

8)The right to a safe and clean environment needs to be protected through international cooperation and accords.

9)Environmental protection requires a change in lifestyles that reflect moderation and self-control, on a personal and social level. That means moving away form the mindset of consumerism.

10)Environmental issues call for a spiritual response, inspired by the belief that creation is a gift that God has placed into our responsible hands, so that we can use it with loving care. The world leads people back to the mystery of God, who as created and sustains it.

The underlying challenge of these Ten Commandments is that all our actions, both individually and collectively, should be guided by a balance of conservation and development—understanding that the goods of the early are to be shared by all, not hoarded by a few.  

This challenge may be easy to say yes to philosophically—but hard to put into practice. Consider joining the Basilica Green Team to work together and put this into action in our personal lives, and in the Basilica community.  Call Karen at 651-308-0507 for more information.

We are Called to Share our Blessings...

Fr. John M. Bauer 

On the weekend of April 27th – 28th we welcome back to the Basilica Fr. Michael O’Connell.  As most of you know, Fr. O’Connell is the previous pastor at the Basilica and currently is pastor of Ascension parish in North Minneapolis.   Fr. O’Connell will be seeking our financial support as well as inviting volunteer support for Ascension School at a special second collection that weekend. 

Ascension School serves students who are at risk of falling behind academically and need extra attention to meet their potential.  The majority of students --- 83%  --- live in poverty, and the median income of families with children in the school is $28,000.  97% of the students are students of color and 41% are still learning the English language.   With over 90% of its students going on to college, Ascension School is transforming the lives of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, creating a path that leads them to a future full of hope.   

A critical component of this transformation is a six week Summer Enrichment Program, known by the initials S.L.A.M. (Super Language and Math).  It is a full-day, five day a week program that provides Math, Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking enrichment, plus daily meals (breakfast and lunch).  The immediate goal of the program is twofold.  1) To ensure that students don’t fall further behind during the summer months and;  2) To provide a safe and secure environment from the heighten violence that occurs during the summer months.  The ultimate goal of the program is to decrease the learning and achievement gap that often accompanies children from low income families.  

This summer, Ascension School will add new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (S.T.E.M.) components to their summer program to better engage students who are at or above grade level in language arts and math and have the inclination for a more challenging program.  They are poised to increase student participation in the summer enrichment program by 30%.  

The above are some facts about Ascension School.  The question for each of us is why should we support Ascension School?  Aren’t there things at the Basilica that need our financial support?   There are two things I would note in response to this question.  First, when we are concerned only with ourselves, we run the risk of becoming like the rich man in one of Jesus’ parables, who had such a bountiful harvest that he didn’t have space to store it.  He didn’t consider sharing his bounty.  In fact, his only thought was to build larger barns to store his bountiful harvest. (Lk. 12: 16-21).  “But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”   The message of this parable is clear.  We are called to share our blessings simply because we recognize that we have been greatly blessed. 

The second reason I invite your support for Ascension School is because it is the “Catholic” thing to do.  In other words, we don’t help those who are in need because they are Catholic, we do it because we are Catholic.  The social teachings of our Church remind us that “whatsoever you do for the least of my brethren, you do for me.”
I invite you to be generous in your support of the second collection for Ascension School next weekend.  Your contribution will make a difference in the life of a child.   

There is No Private Dining at the Table of the Lord

Fr. John M. Bauer 

A while back I was going through a file looking for some information I wanted to reference, when a scrap of paper fell out.  I have no idea what the scrap of paper was doing in that particular file, although when closing up a file I am not always as careful as I should be in terms of making sure that the file contains only the things that should properly be in that file. However the scrap of paper got in that file, though, is not nearly as important as the words I had written on it. It said simply: “There is no private dining at the table of the Lord.” I have no idea whether these words were my words, or whether they were a quote from some other source. The handwriting was mine, though, so I know  they were my thoughts, even if they weren’t my words.  

These words reminded me of something important. At times it is easy to think of the Eucharist as exclusively a private encounter between ourselves and Christ. It is that certainly, but it is also much more than that. I don’t think it is by accident that the institution of the Eucharist took place when Jesus was at table with his disciples. In that intimate, and yet very common and communal setting, Jesus took bread and wine, identified himself with it, and shared it with his disciples. And after his death Jesus’ disciples came to understand that it was in the sharing of the bread and wine that Jesus was still with them in a new, but no less real way. 

When we share a meal with others, we have the opportunity to enter into a relationship with them. We share food, but we also have the opportunity to share ourselves. This is certainly true when we gather as a community for Eucharist. In our celebration of the Eucharist, while we gather as individuals, we also gather and are formed into a community. In a very real sense, we can say that when we eat the Body of Christ, we become the Body of Christ.   

Now certainly, receiving the Eucharist is something we do as individuals. We also, though, receive it within the context of the Christian community. And it is within the context of the Christian community that we celebrate and share the Eucharist, and are fed and nourished by the Body of Christ so that we might become the Body of Christ in the world around us. 

There is no private dining at the table of the Lord. There is only one table to which we are called and from which we are all fed. When we recognize this and give witness to it by lives of faith, we truly become what we eat: The Body of Christ.      

Support The Building of Hope

Emily Carlson Hjelm
Executive Director The Basilica Landmark

This Easter season, I am reminded of the incredible gift we have in The Basilica of Saint Mary – America’s first Basilica, our stunning, sacred place. Experiencing such inspiring liturgical celebrations in our beautiful building is a blessing to the thousands of people who visit throughout Holy Week. For some, our treasured church is a magnificent inheritance.  For others, it stands as a reminder of personal investments of time and treasure.  

Throughout the year, our campus is home to inspiring and life-changing Liturgies, supportive and life-saving help for those in need, and meaningful educational opportunities for the young and old – some of many reasons it stands as “The Building of Hope.” 

The Basilica Landmark, a separate non-profit organization from the parish, is committed to the preservation and restoration of our treasured structure, ensuring the Basilica will remain a welcoming place for years to come.  
This year, The Basilica Landmark celebrates the recently completed Narthex and Sacristy restoration and will make significant investments through grants to The Basilica.  We break ground this spring on a new elevator tower adjacent to the Reardon Rectory.  It has been designed to coordinate with the existing structure in order to maintain the integrity of the historic building and will replace the original elevator, built in 1928, which is no longer functional.  This project helps to ensure all programs and ministries remain accessible to our entire community.  It also opens access to the fourth floor, making needed space available for the hundreds of meetings and events in any given month.  A new roof will be installed on the historic Basilica School this summer and work will complete in time for the new year of Kipp Academy and families enrolled in faith formation.  

You are invited to participate in The Basilica Landmark’s “Building of Hope” with a gift to the 2013 Annual Fund.  Each year, hundreds of people from all over the country support the annual fund with gifts ranging from $25 to $25,000, and they all contribute to these improvements on campus.  To make a gift, look for giving envelopes in the church, visit or call Kristian at 612-317-3421. 

Another way to support The Basilica Landmark is participating in the Emmanuel Masqueray Ball, which will take place at Windows on Minnesota on May 4th.  Our committee is planning what is sure to be a memorable evening, with a special dinner, live auction and entertainment. This “Celestial Celebration” will offer sweeping views of the city from the 50th Floor of the IDS Building.  For more information or for tickets, please contact Meghan at or 612.317.3428.

In 2013, The Basilica Landmark will invest more than $2 million, ensuring The Basilica stands strong today and for the next century.  This will be our legacy, and you are invited to preserve the Building of Hope so generations will enjoy its beauty and ministries.

The Cross of Christ...

Fr. John M. Bauer 

During this past season of Lent, I thought a lot about the cross, specifically Jesus’ words: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  We have all heard these words many times. They remind us that, despite the claims of those who preach the Gospel of Prosperity, the cross is an inevitable part of our lives as Christians. Being a follower of Jesus does not guarantee a life free of difficulties or troubles, no matter how slight or trivial.  

Now while the cross is a part of each of our lives, I have begun to wonder lately if some of us --- rather than carrying the cross Jesus would have us carry --- instead carry crosses of our own design or making. By this I mean that sometimes I think we carry the crosses of resentment or anger, selfishness or self-centeredness, jealously or envy, pain or hurt, greed or materialism. Perhaps too, we carry the cross of an unforgiving spirit or a spirit of contentiousness or pride. Certainly all of these things are real and all of them are crosses. But they are also all crosses of our own making. They are not crosses that Jesus wants us to carry. In fact, quite the opposite is true. They are crosses Jesus wants us to put down. More importantly, they are crosses that, because of and through God’s grace, we can set aside. 

We are all called to take up our cross and follow Christ. At times we may feel that the crosses we are called to carry are too heavy for us and that we don’t have the strength or ability to carry them. I think this is particularly true when these crosses are of our own design. Sometimes, though, there are other crosses we are called to carry ---   crosses that are not of our making and certainly not crosses we would choose. These are the crosses we are called to take up and follow in the footsteps of Christ. These crosses could involve the loss of a job, a severe illness, the loss of a dream, depression or other forms of mental illness, or the death of a loved one. These are real and true crosses. They are heavy and hard to carry.  

Now in noting the above, it is also important to remember that when Christ calls us to take up our cross and follow him, he also gives us the grace to do this. The grace that is offered us in Jesus Christ is always sufficient to carry any cross we are called to carry. As, importantly, we also need to remember that we are not alone as we carry our cross. Christ walks with us. He is a companion on our way, and in the Eucharist, he is food for our journey.  

We need to be honest. At times it is difficult to take up our cross and follow Jesus.  And yet this is the call of discipleship. Given this, why --- in addition to the other crosses we are called to carry --- would we also carry crosses of our own making?  As we celebrate this great feast of Easter, let us resolve to put aside any crosses we have designed for ourselves, and instead join the crosses we have been called to carry to the Cross of Christ. For it is in and through the cross of Christ we find new life and new hope, and ultimately are led to eternal life.  

Habemus Papam Franciscum: We have a Pope, Francis…

Dr. Johan van Parys
Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts

We have lived through a remarkable number of ‘firsts’ these past months. It all began with the surprising announcement by now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on February 11 that he would resign. This had not happened in some 600 years. His resignation took effect at 8:00pm Roman time on February 28. With that the time of Sede Vacante or “Empty Chair” began, referring to the fact that the Chair of Peter was now empty. 

Cardinals from around the world gathered in Rome and started their General Congregations during which they discussed the state of the Church and the qualities they were looking for in the next pope. After 11 days of deliberation, 115 Cardinals went into conclave on March 12. They voted once that evening which resulted in black smoke. They voted twice on Wednesday morning which again resulted in black smoke. They voted twice on Wednesday afternoon. As the Wednesday evening smoke did not come at the expected time, anticipation began to build. Thousands of people made their way to St. Peter’s Square while millions of people watched on their electronic devices. 

At 7:06pm Rome time, white smoke appeared. The bells of St. Peter’s Basilica began to ring and the crowd burst into cheers. More people quickly made their way to St. Peter’s Square, abandoning their cars in the middle of busy Roman streets to arrive before the new pope was announced. Everyone’s eyes were on the external Loggia of the Vatican Basilica when at 8:12pm Rome time the most senior Cardinal Deacon Jean-Louis Tauran appeared and made the solemn announcement to the people: Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum, habemus Papam: Eminentissium ac Reverendissium Dominum, Dominum Georgium Marium Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Bergoglio; Qui sibi nomen imposuit Franciscum. (I announce to you with great joy, we have a Pope: the most eminent and most reverend Lord, Lord Jorge Mario Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church Bergoglio; who has taken the name Francis.) With this announcement, several more firsts happened as we welcomed: the first pope from the Americas; the first pope from Latin America; the first pope from the southern hemisphere; the first Jesuit to become pope and the first pope to be called Francis.

Pope Francis is an erudite, pastoral and humble man who refused all the pomp and circumstance attached to his office as Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Theologically he is said to be very much in line with John Paul II and Benedict XVI but with a special emphasis on the social teachings of the church both in word and action. Since his election he has rapidly endeared himself with many people through his engaging and simple style. People took note of the fact that he wore a simple white cassock, the pectoral cross he has been wearing since becoming a bishop and the black shoes given to him by a friend rather than the clothes laid out for him. Before blessing the people he bowed his head and asked for their blessing. Rather than taking the papal limo, he hopped on the bus with the cardinals. Speaking to the Cardinals during dinner, he showed his sense of humor when he asked God to forgive them for what they had done.

These early signs, together with his selection Francis as his papal name, indicate that his papacy may be very different from that of his predecessors. Some are saying that his will be a transitional papacy with little impact; others think we might be in for a surprise. Time will tell. In the mean time, let us pray for our Pope Francis.

None of Us are Without Sin or Above Reproach

Fr. John M. Bauer 

Recently I read an article that contained an interview with Shane Claiborne, 37, a leading activist in the new monasticism movement and a founding member of the Simple Way Community in Philadelphia. In the article, Claiborne was quoted as saying that “at the heart of our Christian faith is the dual conviction that no one is above reproach and no one is beyond redemption.” I really liked this statement and have spent time reflecting on it.  

At different times in our lives, I think we can identify with both of these sentiments. At times it is easy to feel superior to others like the Pharisee in Luke’s Gospel who “with head unbowed prayed in this fashion: ‘I give you thanks, O God, that I am not like the rest of men --- grasping, crooked, adulterous --- or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week. I pay tithes on all I possess.” At other times, we find it is easy to feel like the tax collector in this Gospel who kept his distance from God: “not even daring to raise his eyes to heaven. All he did was beat his breast and say, ‘O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’” At these times, we need to remember Jesus’ insight into these men: “Believe me, this man (the tax collector) went home from the temple justified but the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, while he who humbles himself shall be exalted."  (Luke 18: 9-14).

None of us are without sin or above reproach. We stand in need of God’s grace.  And it is in God’s grace and because of God’s mercy that our sins whatever they may be are always forgiven. We don’t earn God’s forgiveness. We don’t merit it. All we have to do is acknowledge our need for it and God freely bestows it on us. The hitch is acknowledging our need for God’s forgiveness. At times it is easy to assume an “I’m not as bad as some of those others” attitude, which can lead us to believe that we are somehow beyond reproach. The reality is, though, that while some people sin more grievously than others, we are all sinners. In regard to our sinfulness we differ only in degree, not in fact.  

On the other hand, there are times when we can allow our sinfulness to separate us from God and the Christian community. We can feel so weighed down and burdened by our sin that we feel at a distance from God, and in the worst case can think/feel that we are beyond redemption. The reality is, though, that God’s grace is stronger than any estrangement we might feel. We only need be sorry for our sins and be open to God’s grace. The only barrier to the forgiveness of our sins is the hardness of our hearts --- when we don’t allow God’s grace to find a home in our hearts.  

We are all sinners --- none of us is beyond reproach. But we are also all forgiven sinners --- none of us is beyond redemption. If we can remember this, and if we let God’s grace find a home in our hearts, we, like the tax collector in Luke’s Gospel, will be justified by our God.  

Accessibility with New Rectory Elevator Addition = Hospitality

Terri Ashmore
Managing Director 

Last fall, our 1920’s era Reardon Rectory elevator was “red tagged” by an inspector, and could no longer be used.  While no surprise due to its age, we knew change was critical to make the Rectory accessible to all.

Accessibility is one important way we welcome people to The Basilica for community events, meetings and faith based gatherings.  Those of us who get around easily may not think about the hurdles of access for the wheelchair bound, or for someone with a physical disability.  Besides the human impacts, supplies of all kinds (liturgical, coffee, bread and meat for our sandwich ministry, dishes) had to be moved by hand, up and down flights of stairs.  

Buildings and Grounds Director Dave Laurent appealed the inspector’s ruling and received approval in January to use the current elevator for cargo. Today however, visitors in wheel chairs or with physical disabilities are still prevented from accessing the Rectory’s upper floors.  

Thanks to The Basilica Landmark, we have good news to share.  An independent 501 c 3 organization, the Landmark is committed to building awareness and raising funds to ensure The Basilica remains a spiritual home, a center for the arts and outreach to those in need in our city, for generations to come.

The Landmark’s $2 million grant to the parish in 2013 will fund many projects including construction of an elevator tower, new elevator and handicapped accessible restrooms in the Rectory.  Timeline for construction is March through December, 2013.  Watch the newsletter and for impacts, and and Facebook (“like” The Basilica Landmark) for construction progress reports.

Since The Basilica and Reardon Rectory are on the National Register of Historic Places, plans for exterior work must be reviewed and approved by the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC).  Miller Dunwiddie architects, Charles Liddy and Kelly Mastin will present plans to the HPC on March 19th. Ms. Mastin commented, “The role of the HPC is to make sure the addition is sympathetic to the original building, is appropriate on the site, and follows the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.”  The Interior Secretary requires that historic building additions be constructed to allow for future removal to return to a building’s original design.

Elevator addition designs call for similar brick and clay roof tiles that match the Rectory.  Architects’ recommendations include using cast stone to replicate stone bands and window sills at the first, second, and third floors, similar to the Rectory’s terra cotta bands and cornice, but less ornate. Ms. Mastin shared, “We want the addition to be complementary to the historic Rectory, but not look like it had always been there, because that would create a false sense of history.”

Ms. Mastin explained, “excavation is required for the new elevator shaft and lobby spaces.  Under the shaft is a pit extending 5 feet below the basement floor level, with the footing extending over 13 feet below grade level.  Excavation will require soil solidification, a process in which grout is added to the ground to provide stability, to help support and protect the existing Rectory and Sacristy foundations.”  

Handicapped access will continue at the Rectory’s north entrance ramp.  The tower will be located on the Rectory’s east side, with a new 2nd floor bathroom and a remodeled 3rd floor restroom to meet current accessibility codes. This addition makes future access of the Rectory’s 4th floor possible.  Today, the 4th floor is not used.  To meet codes, a new stairwell is required.  In the future, our hope is to add the stairwell and remodel the 4th floor as a conference space for 50 to 70 people. 

Come to God in Prayer...

Fr. John M. Bauer 

I have come to realize that every now and then when things get really busy, the needle on my energy level dips into the red zone. When I recognize this, I try to get some extra rest, spend a little more time in prayer, make sure I touch base with friends, and try to prioritize the things I need to do. Over the years, I have discovered that these things usually help me to get things back in balance and restore my energy level.   

Occasionally, though, for whatever reason there are times when these things don’t help and I feel stuck and a bit overwhelmed.  These times usually occur when I get confused between my work and God’s work. By this I mean that sometimes I fail to realize there are issues/concerns which I can do nothing about and over which I have no control. When I recognize these issues/concerns, I need to make a conscious decision to give over to God.   

I suspect that Saint Jeanne Jugan, the founder of the Little Sisters of the Poor, also encountered this experience in her life. I say this because she once told her sisters: “Go and find Jesus when your patience and strength give out and you feel alone and helpless.  He is waiting for you in the chapel. Say to him, ‘Jesus, you know exactly what is going on. You are all I have, and You know all. Come to my help.’ And then go and don’t worry about how you are going to manage. That you have told God about it is enough. He has a good memory.”    

While it is both good and important to give things over to God, and while I am glad God will remember what I give over to God, In my experience, giving things over to God is easier said than done.  Not only do I have difficulty recognizing those things I can deal with and those things I need to turn over to God, but worse, even when I recognize that I am in over my head, I often childishly wait to bring things to God in prayer. When I am finally able to turn things over to God in prayer,  however, I find God patiently waiting for me and offering me the grace I need to deal with, accept, work through, or overcome whatever the issue or concern is.         

Maybe some day, I’ll learn to bring things to God sooner rather than later. For now, though, I find solace and take great comfort in knowing that whenever I bring those things to God that are beyond my control, God will be there waiting for me and probably wondering what took me so long to bring things to God in prayer. 

Sede Vacante…

Dr. Johan van Parys
Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts

In the same way as many people in the United States measure their lifespan by the number of presidents they have known, I tend to measure mine by the popes I have known. So, when I learned about Pope Benedict’s historic announcement that he was resigning from the papacy I took a moment to ponder the five popes who have come and gone since I was born. And, of course, I could not but wonder who might be the 6th Pope in my life and the 266th Pope in the history of our Church. 

On March 1, 2013, the Catholic Church will enter its second interregnum of this century. This period of time is also known as sede vacante which is Latin for vacant chair. This term refers to the fact that the Chair of Peter, the symbol of the office of the pope, is now empty. 

As has been the custom for centuries, the day-to-day governance of the church during the interregnum befalls the College of Cardinals under the direction of its Dean, Angelo Cardinal Sodano. Though he has no jurisdiction over the other cardinals, it is the Dean who presides over the General Congregations and who calls the Conclave. During the Congregations or gatherings the Cardinals have the opportunity to re-acquaint themselves with one another and to discuss the state of the church in preparation of the election of a new pope during the Conclave. 

The word Conclave is derived from two Latin words: cum (with) and clavis (key). The term indicates that the Cardinals are under lock and key until they have elected a new pope. This medieval custom of locking the Cardinals into the Sistine Chapel has a number of reasons most notably preventing outsiders from influencing the papal election and ensuring a speedy election. Today, the Cardinals are sequestered in The Vatican and are allowed no contact with the outside world.

All Cardinals who are under 80 years of age on the day of the death or resignation of a pope are eligible to cast their vote. Though it has been a long-standing tradition that the new Pope be chosen from among the Cardinals, Canon Law makes provision for the election of someone who is not a bishop in which case this man needs to be ordained a bishop before his installation as the next pope.

The election itself is highly ritualized. The Cardinals cast two ballots in the morning and two in the afternoon. Each Cardinal processes to the altar beneath Michelangelo’s last judgment, recites an oath and places his ballot in a special urn. Two sets of three Cardinals tally up the ballot. Two thirds of the votes are needed to elect a new pope. At the end of the morning and evening sessions the ballots are burned, black smoke indicating no pope has been elected, white smoke confirming the election of a new pope. 

It is the responsibility of the Dean of the College of Cardinals to preside over the Conclave. However, due to the fact that the current Dean is over 80 he cannot attend the conclave meaning that the most senior Cardinal Bishop, Giovanni Baptista Re will preside. Cardinal Re will also be the one asking the newly elected Pope if he accepts his election and if so which name he will take. Following this exchange the new pope goes into the so-called Room of Tears where he changes into papal attire. Shortly thereafter the new pope is introduced to the world by the Dean of Cardinals with the well-known words: “Habemus Papam: we have a Pope.”

During this interregnum let us pray that the Holy Spirit will enlighten the Cardinals as they prepare to elect our next Pope.

Whatever Became of Sin?

Fr. John M. Bauer 

A few weeks ago Fr. Gillespie emailed me a flyer for his upcoming three part Lenten series at St. Albert the Great. The series is entitled: “Whatever became of sin?” I emailed him back and told him I thought it was great that he was going with a topic about which he had some expertise. He told me he thought I might benefit from attending this series.

Now to be honest, I don’t think Fr. Gillespie has any more expertise that anyone else in regard to sin — perhaps more experience — but certainly no greater expertise. It is unfortunate but nonetheless true that we are all sinners. Like St. Paul, we do not do what we want to do, but what we hate. (Rom. 7:15). But while we need to acknowledge that sin is a part of each of our lives, we also need to be clear that in Jesus Christ, we believe we have found the remedy for sin. In God’s love for us and because of the grace God offers us in Jesus Christ, God provides a way out of those sins that ensnare us and keep us from living better and holier lives. 

The only hitch in regard to the above is that God never forces God’s grace on us.  Rather God offers God’s grace. It is always our free choice, though, whether to accept that grace or not. This is the great mystery of our God. It is always our free choice to accept or to reject the love and grace our God offers us.   

Now God could have created us without the gift of free will. And while this would have eliminated the possibility of sin, it would also have eliminated our being able to freely choose to recognize and respond to God’s love. God knew, though, that love can’t be forced. And so God gave us the gift of free will so that we could freely choose to respond to God’s love or reject that love. Unfortunately, sin is our willful failure to respond to God’s love.   

The title of the last night of Fr. Gillespie’s series is: “The Healing Hope of Reconciliation: Moving beyond being a sinner, wretch and reprobate.” I like that title because it reminds me that while sin and failure are a part of each of our lives, more often by far are the times when God’s grace finds a welcome home in our lives and our hearts.  When this happens we experience the healing hope of reconciliation, and we truly become witnesses to the power of God’s grace and the expanse of God’s love.    

Lent is nearly upon us once again...

Paula Kaempffer
Director of Learning 

Lent is nearly upon us once again. This is such a sacred time in the liturgical year for all of us. It is a time when we are called to explore the richness of this season as we delve more deeply into our own faith and look for ways to enrich our experiences as we anticipate the miracle of Easter.

During Lent, the group of catechumens (unbaptized) and candidates (baptized in another Christian tradition) participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) are called to a period of intense reflection during the stage of RCIA called the Period of Purificationand Enlightenment. This stage includes The Rite of Sending and the Rite of Election, three Scrutinies, as well as a series of Lenten focused sessions.

This is a period of intense interior reflection intended to purify the minds and hearts of those preparing to receive sacraments at the Easter Vigil. This is time for spiritual recollection in preparation for the celebration of the paschal mystery, not only for the RCIA group, but for the entire parish community. The focus is on penance and enlightenment through a deeper knowledge of Christ.

The parish community is called to be a part of this process by serving as a witness to some of the most integral rites of the RCIA process. For the past several months, the 9:30am Mass attendees have witnessed the catechumens being called forward and dismissed during Mass where they meet with RCIA team members to further delve into the Sunday readings in anticipation of their baptism at the Easter Vigil. As we move into Lent, the parish community will witness the Rite of Sending at the 5:00pm Mass on February 16. The Basilica will then host the Rite of Election on the afternoon of February 17 with RCIA groups from a number of parishes. At the 9:30am Masses during the third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent, the Scrutinies will be celebrated. This Lent, we ask that you consider becoming further invested in process of RCIA at The Basilica. You will find baskets filled with cards at the back of church and at the side doors. On each card is the name of someone who is preparing to become part of the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. We are asking members of our community to take a card and to pray for this person throughout Lent. A note may also be written to the person and dropped into the collection basket to be given to the RCIA catechumen or candidate. This support means so much to those who are in the final stages of the RCIA process.

Try to make a Lenten resolution to delve deeper into your faith during these holy weeks which the Church offers us. We have many special liturgies and concerts throughout Lent to assist us in our prayer lives and we are offering several opportunities for adult learning sessions to challenge our faith to grow. Also, we have occasions to assist those who are in need through our Saint Vincent de Paul coin banks and many outreach programs. Together let us embrace each other through prayer on this Lenten journey as we take a deeper look into our hearts to find our God.

Local Stewardship Focuses on Our Communities

Janice Anderson
Director of Christian Life

We have entered the season of Local Stewardship at The Basilica. Local Stewardship: the time to focus our attention on creating bridges between communities and advocating for those in need.

What an opportunity! What a challenge! We are living in a time of great division—socially,politically, economically. Our education system has a wide achievement gap. Our neighbors a mile-and-a-quarter north of The Basilica experience disproportionate violence; in 2010, North Minneapolis comprised 18% of the city’s population but accounted for 60% of the city’s homicides.

One of the gifts of The Basilica of Saint Mary is the diversity of our parish community. Wehave people from many different life experiences—covering the continuum from people living in homeless shelters to some of the top wage earners of our state. We are blessed with a wonderful opportunity to build bridges!

A second gift of The Basilica is the sheer size and scope of our parish community. We have people living in over 300 zip codes, representing many legislative districts within the Twin Cities. If the people of The Basilica choose to raise our voices to our elected officials and advocate for the least among us—issues core to our faith and Catholic Social Teaching—our Minnesota State Legislators will take notice!

A third gift of The Basilica parish community is the wealth of professional and experiential expertise in our midst. We have parishioners engaged in restorative justice, education, theology, social services, non-profit governance, and business leadership. As we invite and encourage one another to share our knowledge and skills, we can make an incredible impact in the broad community!

There is already so much that our parish community is doing in regard to Local Stewardship—both through individual and collective efforts. But our faith calls us to keep growing. How can we see the gaps in our communities more clearly and work together to create strong bridges? How can we understand more deeply the injustice or oppression in our society and advocate with those most in need?

The simple answer to these questions lies in our faith. Alone, we are limited. Together,with the power of the transforming love of Christ, we can change the world. It all starts with a willingness to be affected every day by the love of Christ—with a desire to know personally and intimately this forgiving love.

We can ask ourselves and each other, are we prepared to feel the tension inherent increating new bridges? Are we willing to risk speaking out on an issue? Are we willing to stretch ourselves and work together in a new way?

A challenge of our day is to maximize and build on our gifts as a parish community. Look for opportunities to create bridges and advocate for those in need. Learn about community partner organizations and discover new and effective ways to be involved. Consider ways to share your expertise. We are prodded on by our faith, just as we are sustained by our faith. As our second reading today proclaims: Love never fails!

Life has value because we are created in the image and likeness of God

Fr. John M. Bauer 

At the heart of my faith is the unbending and abiding belief that each and every person is a beloved son and daughter of God. Now certainly my words and actions don’t always give witness to this belief. The sad fact is that at times I live and act in ways that seem to deny this core belief. And yet, this failure does not diminish what for me is the most basic fact of our existence: every human being is beloved and sacred in God’s eyes.  

From my perspective, the above belief needs to be applied consistently and without exception. From the unborn life in the womb to the person suffering the ravages of a slow and painful death, all life is sacred. If we start down the road of arguing that only some life has meaning and value, we can easily come to the conclusion that some lives are more important, more significant or more valuable than others. Frankly, this position frightens me. God is the author and sustainer of life. Life has value because we are created in the image and likeness of God, and not because of anything we do, accomplish or possess.  

This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the United States Supreme Court’s decision legalizing abortion. Legalized as a private act, abortion continues to be a divisive, emotionally charged, and very public issue. In regard to the issue of abortion, I believe that those who identify themselves as pro-choice fail to acknowledge the sacredness of the life in the womb. On the other hand, I also believe that those of us who identify ourselves as pro-life fail to appreciate and acknowledge the sacredness of the life of the woman considering an abortion, as well as the sacredness of the lives of those who identify themselves as pro-choice. We often fail to show respect, concern and love for them. It seems to me that those of us who identify ourselves as being pro-life should not condemn those who are considering or an abortion, or who support abortion rights, but rather look at them as God does, and treat them with care, concern, respect, and love. Where we have failed to do this, we need to offer our most sincere and humble apologies. And we must recommit ourselves to have reverence for all life.      

As pro-life people, our challenge and goal is to preserve, protect and enhance life at all stages of development and in all its manifestations. Whenever the opportunity arises and whenever the occasion presents itself, we must freely and unapologetically speak of the value and dignity of every human life. And we must call people to respect the fragile, gracious, and wondrous gift of life. In doing this, however, we must never forget our obligation to love and respect even those who don’t share our position, and not seek to demonize them. We must respect those with whom we disagree and see in them the image of God. If we cannot demonstrate our respect and reverence for life with those we disagree, then our pro-life rhetoric rings hollow. Certainly this task is great, but then too so is the grace our God offers us. Whenever we fail to respect life --- any life --- we fail to appreciate both the tremendous gift that life is, as well as the One who gave us that gift.   

Can We Feed The Hungry?

Terri Ashmore
Managing Director 

Dr. Glenn Pedersen is one of five sons who grew up on a Minnesota family grain and livestock farm. With plans to return to farming, he studied at The University of Minnesota. Realities of family farm income and five brothers set in, and he pursued an academic career. His brother still farms, and Dr. Pedersen also owns farmland.

After receiving a Ph.D. at the University of Michigan, Dr. Pedersen taught at North Dakota State University in Fargo and returned to the U of M in 1985 to the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences.

With expertise in agricultural finance, policy and development he has traveled throughout Africa, and extensively in Uganda and Kenya as well, spending time in the former Soviet Union. He’s experienced the different issues faced in less developed countries in East Africa and those nations' transition to market based economies.

Sharing one corporation’s perspective, Ashley Rajaratnam is Program Manager in the Operations Department of the International Development Division at Land O’Lakes, Inc. Ms. Rajaratnam oversees a portfolio of donor-funded development projects worth over $40 million. She works directly with project staff to ensure efficient and effective implementation following U.S. rules and regulations. Based in Land O’Lakes Shoreview headquarters, Ms. Rajaratnam frequently travels to developing countries supporting startup, close down and ongoing project implementation needs. She also serves as trustee of the Minnesota Women’s Foundation and chairs the Governance and GirlsBEST grant making committees.

Sharing hands on experience, Minnesota native Joe Dyer studied Environmental Studiesand Sociology at Whitman College in Washington State but fled to the mountains at every chance. After college, he sought adventurous pursuits and instructing with Outward Bound. Mr. Dyer joined the Peace Corps in 2010 and planted his first bean crop soon after. Currently, he is pursing a degree in nursing at the U of MN. His favorite activity is buying fresh produce at a local farmer's market.

While it seems as simple as growing enough food to feed the hungry, we invite youto hear our panel discussion and explore the complexity of sustainable agriculture.

Slow Down and Center on Gratitude

Emily Carlson Hjelm
Executive Director The Basilica Landmark

Happy New Year! I hope your heart is warmed and your spirit renewed in this Christmas season.

I must admit, I was consumed by the stress of the season in early December. Instead of a joy-filled heart, I was rushing through the “most wonderful time ofthe year.” The second Sunday of Advent arrived and overnight, a thick, heavy blanket of white buried us and my season of hope had been buried by the stress of an undone to-do list. That particular morning went a little like this: breakfastand bundling, loading the car to slide sideways down the street, skating acrossthe parking lot, rushing one daughter to Good Shepherd in the School andcarrying twenty pounds of bouncing baby girl up the stairs into The Basilica.Finally, we arrived at Mass and took a seat near the crossing. 

Deep breath. And then it hit me. As I sat with my baby in my lap, I noticed herlittle eyes on the statue of Mary atop the baldacchino. It amazes me how aperson so young can see so clearly what we glaze over. This time – the imageof Mary, our example of patience in this season of hope…and as the CathedralChoir led us in “Wait for the Lord,” tears filled my eyes and I remembered. Evenin the small moments, God is with us.

Change is hard. My grandmother was central to all Christmas plans and thisis the first year without her. Each year, Christmas Eve came alive in her littlebrown house with lefse (that few people ate), a visit from Santa Claus and thecaroling neighbors. In this vulnerable time filled with memories, I have foundgreat comfort in The Basilica. From morning prayer when we remember those“who deal with grief of loved ones this season,” to funerals for others that providecomfort, to the weekly prayers of the faithful – instead of sadness, our communityreminds me of my grandmother’s final words: “Life is good, it is so very, very good.”

Perhaps more than anything, a tragedy served as a reminder to slow down andcenter on gratitude. As many others, I still cannot fully acknowledge the horror ofthe reality that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Though answersseem impossible, I’m grateful for a place to come together to pray for peace andcontemplate the unimaginable. A Basilica Vespers service the Sunday followingunited our community and offered hope.
When we face tragedies far from home, when we grieve loved ones and whenwe need a reminder of God’s presence, The Basilica community is here. Theliturgies center us. The community surrounds and supports us. The outreachprovides for the community and transforms our hearts.

By the time Christmas arrived, God gave me grace and I had a new perspective:God has blessed us greatly and when life gets too busy, too fragile, too dark ortoo chaotic, we simply need to wait for Him.
Wait for the Lord, whose day is nearWait for the Lord, be strong, take heart.

Finding The Way Using Directions

Fr. John M. Bauer 

After I received my driver’s license, I would occasionally (and with some trepidation) ask my dad for directions. Now as background, you need to know that once my dad had been someplace, he could always find his way back. The trouble was that he had a hard time translating his knowledge into a clear set of driving directions. In fact, most often his directions would consist of a series of landmarks. Unfortunately, these landmarks were usually a bit odd and, occasionally, even a bit bizarre.

Often my dad’s directions would run something like this: “You take a right at the house that has a dog out front that is always barking; then you stay on that road till you go past the yard with the big tree that was blown down in last summer’s storm; you take a left there and stay on that road till you reach that major cross street and there you’ll take a another left. That road will take you right to the highway. If you get to the house that used to be painted that awful shade of yellow, you’ll know you have missed your turn and need to go back.”

Most often my dad’s directions were accompanied by a hand drawn map that would have sent a cartographer screaming from the room. The interesting thing is, though, that my dad’s directions (with their accompanying maps) usually got me where I wanted to go. Even more interesting, though, is that now I often find myself giving people directions using a set of landmarks, rather than using street names and mileage. I’ve also learned, though, to suggest that people use MapQuest --- just to be on the safe side.

Each of us has a unique way of giving directions. We also probably find it easier to follow directions that are given in a manner that is similar to the way we give directions. I suspect this diversity is part of our human nature. Taking this thought a step further, I would like to suggest that perhaps the manner in which we give directions is part of the reason God has offered us a multiplicity of things that point to and indicate God’s presence and activity in our world. God did not give us just a single set of indicators that would help us discover God’s abiding presence in our world. Rather, God gave us a wide array of things that reveal God’s presence and lead us to find God in our lives. In fact, when seen through the eyes of faith, there are countless things that direct us to God.

As Christians, though, our faith also tells us that of all the things that lead us to God, of all the events that direct us to God, there is one event in particular that surpasses and transcends all of the others. That event is the birth of Jesus Christ. It is our belief that in the birth of Jesus we see the definitive revelation of our God. In Jesus we see our God made visible and so are caught up in love of the God we cannot see.

All those things that lead us to God, all the events that might direct our attention to God, pale in comparison to the birth of Jesus. As we come to the close of this Christmas season, let us give praise and thanks that God loved us so much that God gave form and flesh to that love in the human person of Jesus Christ. And let us pray that we might recognize in the birth of Christ the way that leads to heaven, and that we might follow him with a lively faith and hopeful expectation.

Our Gift of Song: An Epiphany Celebration

Janet Grove
Liturgy/Special Projects

There is not anything much cuter and sweeter than the yearly church Christmas pageant. Tiny angels, little shepherds with painted on beards, children dressed as donkeys, cows, and sheep, the Three Kings, Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus. The Basilica’s celebration, Our Gift of Song: An Epiphany Celebration, is all of this. But the Basilica has combined the pageant with the strength of its parish-wide programs. Our Gift of Song is where our three programming departments come together - Liturgy, Learning, and Life – in a multigenerational event.

Imagine over 100 child, youth, and adult voices joining together to sing music of Christmas from around the world as well as the most familiar and beloved carols of the season.

Imagine the children of our Religious Education programs learning the carols and the stories that are part of the program during their weekly classes starting in November and attending a preparatory Advent event and a dress rehearsal in January.

Imagine collaborating with our caring and justice ministries to designate an organization each year for which funds and products are collected in support of their mission.

Imagine partnerships with The Guthrie Theater, professional actors and musicians, and our neighboring parishes.

These things we imagine are the strengths of our parish and the reasons people join our church: our incredible liturgies, our well-thought out educational curriculum, our ministries that care for those with less, and our place of prominence as a member of our community.

This year’s event is our 16th annual. It was originally called Lessons and Carols and took place during Advent. Several years ago, a conscious change was made to hold the event on Epiphany, because as explained by Music Director, Teri Larson, “We have planned this event as an important part of the education of youth here at The Basilica, acknowledging that Christmas in our liturgical cycle follows through Epiphany and Baptism of the Lord, and is not governed by social norms, thus allowing the children to have a fuller grasp of the Christmas story and its meaning in our lives through the arts.”

The highlights this year include the telling of the folk story, Babushka and The Three Kings; the combined choral piece, Sing for Peace; the Vietnamese dancers from Saint Anne/Saint Joseph Hein Church on the North Side; and a collection for Friends of Chimbote of Peru.

This event is naturally a proud moment for the children and their parents and grandparents. But it is an equally proud moment for our entire parish whether you are a new or long time member, a young adult or a retiree. Our children are our future and the support we show them is critical for our faith community. Come experience the beauty and wonder of the Christmas season as seen through their eyes.

Our Gift of Song: An Epiphany Celebration 
January 6, 2013 at 2:00 P.M.

Rediscovering Catholicism

Fr. John M. Bauer 

Fifty years ago on October 11, 1962 the first session of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) opened. For those too young to remember, the Second Vatican Council was a life changing event for our Church and for individual Catholics. In various sessions, over the course of the next three years the Bishops of our Church met to discuss, debate and eventually produce a series of documents that would more fully define the nature of the Church and the role of bishops; renew the Church and particularly the liturgy; restore unity among all Christians, including seeking pardon for Catholic contributions to separation; and start a dialogue with the contemporary world.

In commemoration of this epochal and historic event Pope Benedict XVI has declared a Year of Faith. This year began on October 11, 2012 and will conclude on November 24, 2013. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, this Year of Faith is a “summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the One Savior of the world. In other words, this Year of Faith is an opportunity for Catholics to experience a conversion --- to enter into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. During this Year of Faith Catholics are invited to rediscover and renew their relationship with Christ and his Church.

To celebrate this Year of Faith at the Basilica, we have planned a variety of activities and events throughout the coming year. In addition to these activities/events, however, we will also be participating in the Rediscover initiative through our Archdiocese. This initiative will begin at Christmas when every family attending Mass at the Basilica will be offered, as a gift, the book: “Rediscovering Catholicism” by Matthew Kelly. People will be invited to join small groups to discuss this book. Another part of the Rediscover initiative will be a Speaker Series on Living God’s Purpose; Living in Communion with God; Overcoming Life’s Challenges through God’s Grace; and Keeping God at the Center of my Life. Information on this series will be included in the Rediscover Catholicism book.

For those who might be interested in joining a small group to discuss the book “Rediscover Catholicism,” we will provide opportunities for you do so. Please contact Paula Kaempffer at or call our learning office to let us know if you would be interested in this. One opportunity in particular I would like to mention is our Thursday morning men’s book discussion group. This group began meeting during Lent a couple of years ago. We meet on the first and third Thursday mornings of each month at 7:00 am in the St. Ambrose and St. Therese meeting rooms on the ground level of the Basilica. We will be begin discussing Rediscover Catholicism the first Thursday in January.

More information about the Rediscover initiative, as well as other events and activities during the Year of Faith, will be available in our upcoming weekly newsletters. There will also be a link on our parish web site where this information will be available.

I believe that our Catholic faith helps us find greater meaning and purpose for our lives. It can also help us deal with life challenges and lead us to peace. It also calls us to remember that we are part of a community of faith and are called to live in care and concern for one another. When we can Rediscover all that our faith offers us, I believe we will be better people and a better community.

The Person Behind the Product: Global Stewardship

Guest Column
Aara Johnson, Basilica Volunteer 

How often do you stop to consider from where the fruits, vegetables and grains in your refrigerator or pantry come? Agriculture is not just another sector in the economy that rises and falls. In some developing countries, it employs and affects a significant portion of its population. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 55% of all workers in developing countries were employed in agriculture; and 70% of the poor in developing countries live in rural areas and derive livelihoods from agriculture directly or indirectly. In some countries, oppressive economies keep rural, impoverished people in the agricultural sector since it is not as successful. Recently, many parts of the world have experienced a food price crisis, and the global financial crisis in 2008 led to significant food issues. Last year, the Global Stewardship Team presented the famine crisis in the Horn of Africa. Agriculture is not simply about the yield of corn or beans; it is about the human face behind the crop and the farmer’s dignity.

When we redirect our focus to the people involved in the agriculture sector, we begin to realize the importance of what agriculture provides and how. By strengthening the sector through business and trade development, and education, farmers have a better chance at moving beyond subsistence farming. Developing countries can now compete with developed countries for imports and exports. They can be seen as an equal player, rather than an aid recipient or struggling state. Furthermore, developing the sector sustainably—protecting agricultural workers and the earth for the future—may extend its future and pull farmers out of oppressive economies. Addressing agriculture is a moral issue, not simply an economic or political one. Since agriculture is the business of producing food, the question of how to successfully feed seven billion people on Earth arises. Some people wonder whether we can feed humanity without destroying the earth.

We Catholics have the calling to focus on the life and dignity of the human person, which is no different in the agriculture sector. We also recognize the calling to protect God’s creation, which in this case is land. The US Council of Catholic Bishops encourages advocating for policies that protect and encourage family farming on a human scale. While there may be machines and larger scale enterprises, farming in much of the world involves people picking the fields. I care about this issue because we can strengthen the social justice in dignifying agricultural work. I also see the importance of agriculture in general, rather than shifting workers to industrial or service sectors. The Global Stewardship Team has researched extensively on this topic, bringing consumer consciousness to the person behind the product and how it can last.

Aara Johnson is a member of the Global Stewardship Team and a recent graduate of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, concentrating on Global Public Policy. In April she enters the Peace Corps and leaves for the country of Georgia to teach English.

What We Can Learn From Modeling Behavior

Fr. John M. Bauer 

A few months ago I had dinner with some friends whose daughter and infant granddaughter were visiting with them for a few days. When I arrived we gathered in the kitchen so that my friends could attend to some last minute details for dinner. Their granddaughter was in a highchair and her mom was trying to feed her some kind of baby food that I couldn’t identify and which was a color that I couldn’t associate with any known food group. The baby was balking at eating whatever it was her mother was trying to feed her and so her mother did what countless other mothers have done before her. She put a spoonful in her own mouth and made a num, num, num, sound. The baby looked skeptical, so her mother suggested that maybe grandma should try some as well. I immediately sensed where this could lead if the baby continued to balk at eating the baby food, so I excused myself and went to the bathroom. When I returned to the kitchen a few minutes later the baby was eating the baby food. Apparently her mother and grandmother’s tasting effort had been enough to convince her, and her grandfather and I were spared the ordeal of serving as taste testers/role models.

As I reflected on this experience later, it struck me that at times the best way to help someone accept something is to model it for them. Certainly this doesn’t work 100% of the time, but it is a good place to start when someone is reluctant or hesitant about doing something.

As I continued my reflection, it occurred to me that perhaps the reason Jesus accepted suffering and death was to model for us that they are not the end. I believe this was the message the author of the Letter to the Hebrews was trying to convey when s/he said: “but we do see Jesus ‘crowned with glory and honor’ because he suffered death, he who ‘for a little while’ was made ‘lower than the angels,’ that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”

Jesus “tasted” death for us so that we might understand that suffering and death do not have the final word. By experiencing suffering and death and triumphing over them, Jesus modeled for us that while they are real and painful, they are not the end. Resurrection and eternal life await all those who follow Jesus in our own suffering and death.

Certainly it would be wonderful if we could escape the trials and tribulations of this life and proceed immediately to heaven. The reality is, though, that to a greater or lesser extent, pain and suffering are part of the human condition. We are fortunate, though, that because of Jesus’ example --- because Jesus has “tasted” death for us --- that we know and believe that there is more. We only have to follow Jesus in faith and we will come to share the new life he has won for us.

Christmas is a Time to....Recycle?

Janice Anderson
Director of Christian Life

If it seems like a stretch to think that recycling your old electronic devices can promote peace throughout the world, consider that one of the metals used to enable your cell phone to run efficiently has been fueling civil war in the Congo for over a decade. Coltan, the African term for the metallic ore columbite-tantalite, has incredible value due to consumer electronic demand. While Coltan is found in several countries including Australia, Canada, and Egypt, the largest supply is coming from the Congo. Mining of this metal in the Congo is stimulating civil war and incredible destruction.

There have been significant efforts made by some tech companies to trace the source of metals used in their devices. However, many other tech companies continue to purchase these minerals from mining companies fueled by violence.

According to CTIA (The Wireless Association), the United States has more cell phones in use in 2012 than total population. Americans also change phones more often than anyone else in the world—upgrading about every 21 months to a new phone. As a result, Americans discard 130 million cell phones every year, with many ending up in landfills or incinerators. In 2011, only eight percent of cell phones were recycled safely, according to the Environmental News Service.

It is staggering to consider that toxic pollution from consumer electronics happens on both ends of its life: in the mining for metals needed to create the device, as well as from haphazard disposal of the device.

It is estimated that there are over 100 million cell phones stockpiled in U.S. households. The good news is that people are holding onto these devices rather than throwing them into landfills. If you are one of these 100 million people with personal electronic devices at home, here is your chance to get rid of them safely and effectively!

Throughout the weekend of January 12th and 13th 2012, the Basilica will have clearly marked bins for you to bring your discarded devices for recycling.

Here is what we can accept:
• Cell phones (keep your chargers, they are not recyclable)
• IPods
• Mp3 players
• Digital cameras
• GPS devices
• Tablets
• Ink cartridges

If you receive any new personal electronics this Christmas, consider recycling your old devices at The Basilica in January. This is a win-win-win activity. Recycling will allow the materials to be turned into new products, removing the need to mine and manufacture anew—reducing the cycle of violence and destruction. Participating in this recycling effort will keep toxins out of our landfills. And, The Basilica will receive payment for all devices presented for recycling from the company we are partnering with! Re-gift your old personal electronics to The Basilica! For more information or to get involved with this effort, call the Christian Life office.

Mistaken Identity

Fr. John M. Bauer 

A few weeks ago I received a mailing for the annual Catholic Directory of parishes and priests of our Archdiocese. After opening it, however, I discovered that it was intended for my cousin, who also happens to be a Fr. John Bauer. I called him and left him a message explaining that I had received the mailing intended for him and if he received mine, please let me know. This experience reminded me of a similar experience that happened several years ago.

I arrived home one evening just as the telephone began ringing. When I answered the phone, a woman said: “Father, this is ……… The name didn’t immediately ring a bell, but I thought I’d eventually remember who she was. She went on to explain that she was calling to invite me to dinner as some people we both knew were coming to town in a few weeks. The names of the people she gave corresponded to the names of some former parishioners from one of the parishes where I had been an associate pastor. They had moved to Arizona in retirement and I hadn’t seen them in several years. I remembered them, though, (or thought I did), but was surprised they would want to get together for dinner since I had not had any contact with them since they had moved to Arizona.

As we set a date for dinner (six weeks out) I had a fleeting feeling that something was not quite right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. As the days went by, my uneasy feeling began to grow, but I still couldn’t figure out why. I even called my former pastor to see if he could shed any light on the subject, but to no avail. Finally, about a week before our scheduled dinner, it hit me what was wrong. There was a problem with one of the names of the couple. The first name of the husband corresponded to that of the couple I remembered, but the first name of the wife didn’t.

Feeling a little foolish and somewhat sheepish, I called the woman who had invited me to dinner and asked if she could clarify exactly why they had invited me to dinner. It turned out that they had meant to invite my uncle (now deceased) who was yet another Fr. John Bauer. After we had discovered our mutual error, we were both able to laugh at our mutual case of “mistaken identity.”

In remembering this experience it struck me how easy it is in our world today to make mistakes and get confused with regard to people, especially when the numbers of people with whom we have contact seems to expand geometrically with each new technological advance.

The exception to the above, of course, is God. No matter how many people there are, no matter how many people share similar names or happen to look alike, our God knows and loves us each individually. Time and time again in the scriptures we are reminded of this most basic fact of our existence. In the Book of the prophet Isaiah, God speaks to us through the prophet telling us: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of my hands I have written your name.” Isaiah 49: 15-16.

It is nice to know that in our increasingly complex and fast paced world that even though we may get confused or make mistakes in regard to each other’s identity, God still manages to be able to tell us apart and love us each individually. In addition to this, God extends to each of us an open invitation to come to God’s house and share in the banquet of God’s Son. And the best part about this is that we don’t need to worry that the invitation might have been meant for someone else.

We Each Have a Choice...

Paula Kaempffer
Director of Learning

So, the elections are finally over... The TV ads have quickly been replaced by ads for buying the best gifts for Christmas. And I have been thinking about how life just flows from one thing to another, seemingly indifferent to every experience. But is this how it is? Does this represent the reality of the Kingdom of God that Jesus talked about?

I know there are those among us who are saddened and disheartened that they did not get what they worked so hard to attain in this election. And there are also those who are triumphant and excited that the election reaped the benefit of their choices and are almost “gloating” over others.

No matter where you are in this scenario, life goes on. But we have the freedom to move on in a new and different way. We can’t allow the elections to immobilize us because then we lose hope. Without hope, our lives lose direction. Without hope, we remain in our separate camps.

I read the following on a young person’s Facebook page the day after the election:

“I'm certainly not happy about election results. But I won't be moving to Canada or issuing a decree about the next four years -- and I won't be writing nasty notes on my wall to rub anything in anyone's face. I'm an American and I'm up early to go to work and offer my gifts to God and country, whatever they may be. Today I will mind my own business, I will respect and love ALL people I come into contact with, and will say a prayer that God will help those in power make good decisions for the common good regardless of who they are.”

I believe there are many options each one of us can choose. Some are better than others. But I would like to propose one that befits a Catholic who is guided and influenced by the Gospel values of Jesus and the rich teachings in our Tradition.

Whenever Jesus was around people, he told stories. He told them stories about God and his mercy and love for us. He told stories about the ancient people who were first called by God to be his alone and of the great leaders and prophets who guided them. And then he told stories about their own lives and the things in life that mattered to them. His message of love was always given through stories.

Did you ever wonder why Jesus used stories to teach and relate to others? What happens when we listen to someone’s story? What is it like to have someone listen to our story?

When we listen to each other's stories, our misunderstandings, and prejudices and hatred cease. When we listen to someone’s story, we find ourselves in their story. We hear things that cause us to say, “I know how that feels” or “I have been through a similar experience.” We begin to see ourselves in their stories. And we begin to form a basis for our relationships to others. That’s the power of stories. That’s where I find God in you and you find God in me. And isn’t this what life is all about? Finding God in each other, no matter who you are or where you come from or what you believe or how you vote.

We each have a choice. Let’s make it a good one.

Civil Conversation

Fr. John M. Bauer 

A few weeks ago I listened a program on public radio which was part of Krista Tippett's "The Civil Conversation Project." The program was moderated by Tippett and it featured David Gushee, a pro-life advocate, and Frances Kissling, who is pro-choice. They engaged in a dialogue about the issue of abortion. Two things struck me about their exchange: First, they were able to engage in respectful conversation with each other. They didn't raise their voices, they didn't use inflammatory language and they didn't talk over each other or try to put eachother down. The second thing that struck me was that, when asked, they were able to acknowledge some value in the other's position and something in their own position about which they weren't entirely comfortable. Both of these things struck me as very important and perhaps a way to offer us a way to talk about the issue of abortion.

As someone who is pro-life, I have become increasingly frustrated over the years with our collective inability as a society to talk about the critical issue of abortion in a civil and respectful manner. As a result, I believe we have become increasingly polarized on the issue of abortion. Legalized as a private act, abortion continues to be a divisive and emotionally charged issue. The consequence of this has been that many good and balanced people have become unwilling to deal with or discuss this issue in any kind of public way. This leaves the public discussion of abortion to people on the fringe of both sides of the issue. Over the years, these people have become more and more vocal and appear to be speaking and acting for far more than the fringe element they represent. 

Given the above, the challenge for those of us on both sides of the abortion issue is to take back the discussion of this issue and make that discussion once again reasonable, responsible and respectful. Now, this does not mean that people should surrender their principles or their values. I am certainly not going to change my position. It does mean, though, that we need to invite each other to join in conversation about the issue of abortion. In this regard, I am convinced that for those of us who are pro-life, we are more apt to convince people than we are to coerce them.

As pro-life people, we have little chance of helping people understand our position on the issue of abortion if we are not able to enter into a civil and respectful conversation with them. I believe we best communicate our respect and reverence for life by modeling that respect and reverence in the way we treat others, especially those with whom we disagree. We cannot ask or expect others to accept the values we proclaim if we don't give witness to them by what we say and do. This witness, it seems to me, begins with being respectful and civil in our conversations. 

An Exhibition of Contemporary Expressionist Art inspired by Traditional Icons

Dr. Johan van Parys
Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts

You have undoubtedly noticed the current art exhibit "Icons in Transformation" by Ludmila Pawlowska. This is the largest and one of the most important exhibits we have ever had at The Basilica. In many instances, art and religion seek to answer the same questions- about life and death, joy and suffering, about our very existence in this complex world. Ludmila's work does just that. But as is often the case with contemporary art, her work is not always easy to understand. I have taken great delight in watching people as they see her art for the first time. Some are completely oblivious and literally walk into the art. Others are delighted as their eyes widen with joy, while others seem taken aback and frown.

Great artists see, understand and feel things that we cannot except when they allowe us a peek into the world they see through their art. Sometimes their vision is complex. Often their art is unusual and uncomfortable. Very striking in Ludmila's work are the omni-present penetrating eyes. They seem to follow you wherever you go in The Basilica. As Icons give us a glimpse into heaven, maybe they are our eyes into heaven? As the artist allows us to see through her eyes, maybe they are the artist's eyes? As we look forward to see God face to face, maybe they are God's eyes? They are not judgemental eyes but loving eyes that seem to watch over us. They seem to invite us into the great world of Icons in Transformation.

Ludmila's work is rooted in orthodox iconography which comforts us as we know them from the past. At the same time, she uses today's artistic expression to challenge us. And her art is just edgy enough to propel us into the future. It is a blessing to experience Ludmila's work in The Basilica.

Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship

Fr. John M. Bauer 

There are times when it feels --- at least to me --- that the Catholic Church has been the victim of identity theft. This seems to be especially true around election time. Depending on the issue and the church teaching that is being sited, the Catholic Church can, at times, look like a wholly owned subsidiary of either one of the major political parties. The reality is, though, that the teachings of our church have something to offend, attract and/or challenge just about everyone and no one political party has an exclusive claim to represent Catholics.

Bishop Richard Pates, the chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was clear about the above in a recent article he wrote for America magazine. In the opening sentences of that article Bishop Pates said: “Catholics who are serious about their faith and want to live it out in the public arena are challenged in today’s political environment. The choice of a party is difficult. The parties themselves have serious flaws, and they often appear to flaunt precisely the issues most at odds with Catholic teaching. This teaching is rooted in the reverential respect and protection of the life and dignity of every human from conception to natural death.”

Given the above, how are we, as Catholics, to navigate in today’s highly charged political environment. Well very specifically and concretely I would suggest that we need to let the values and truths of our faith inform our political positions and not the other way around. The Bishops of the United States said as much in the document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” “As Catholics,” it said, “we should be guided more by our moral convictions than by our attachment to a political party or interest group.”

Now while the above sounds good, how do we do this in specific situations? In this regard, once again the Bishops of the United States in their document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” offer sound guidance when they quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obligated to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right.” Now despite the exclusively male language, I think the above is good counsel for everyone.

So where does this leave us? Quite simply, difficult and important choices require significant prayer, reflection and discussion. They are not made simply or easily. Guided by the teachings of our church and informed by our conscience, each of us must find our way as Catholic Christians in our contemporary society. And each of us must never shirk from the responsibility we have as Catholics and as citizens to exercise our right to vote. Given this, I invite you to pray for each other and to know that I will pray for you as we decide how to vote this year.

The Opposite of Begging

Robin Keyworth
Planned Giving Officer

Sometimes I hear people say, “You’re always asking for money” and you know, that’s true! We ARE always asking for money because we always, always need your generosity to support all that The Basilica is and does. All that The Basilica has to do God’s work in our world comes from you. There’s no corporate sponsor—you won’t see a Nike swoosh or Target bullseye on the building. It’s all from you.

Philosopher Henri Nouwen calls fund-raising “the opposite of begging” but instead offering the opportunity to participate with us in our vision and mission. Donating money to this important place isn’t about money at all—it’s about YOU and it’s about commitment to our mission. Think of the multitude of fruits that come from that commitment:

• Each time you hear the choir sing, you bought the sheet music.
• Each time a child attends a class, you provided learning materials.
• Each time someone who is ill receives a prayer shawl, you visited the sick.
• Each time the volunteers serve a funeral lunch, you comforted the grieving.
• Each time someone attends a New Member Brunch, you extended The Basilica welcome.
• Each time The Basilica hosts an interfaith event, you worked for understanding among believers.
• Each time The Basilica hosts a concert or exhibit, you enriched our community with music and art.

When you pledge to Financial Stewardship for The Basilica you have participated in a form of ministry, one that Nouwen calls “as spiritual as giving a sermon, entering a time of prayer, visiting the sick, or feeding the hungry.” You have answered the call to enter into a new, more spiritual relationship with your needs and your resources.

As you consider your pledge to Financial Stewardship, please remember this is an invitation, as Nouwen says, “to invest yourself through the resources that God has given you—your energy, your prayers, and your money—in this work to which God has called us.” Please be as generous as you can with your energy, your prayers and your money—and thank you for your very meaningful part in the ministry of The Basilica of Saint Mary.

As our Stewardship Campaign theme states, “You become part of The Basilica...and it becomes part of you.” When you make The Basilica a part of your financial priorities, you give your spiritual life planned attention. This generosity can be life-giving. You can discover, or rediscover that when faith is part of your financial priorities, your faith deepens, your spiritual life gets richer, and you open their doors a little wider to let God’s grace come inside.

This fall, we ask you again to please prayerfully make a Financial Stewardship pledge for 2013. Pledge forms are available in the pews. Please prayerfully consider what The Basilica means to you and consider a pledge commitment. You can put your pledge form in the basket, mail it in, or donate online at Your pledge will help keep the Basilica shining brightly, so that we can continue to provide a welcoming house of worship that serves as a joyful, beautiful reminder of God’s presence in our world. Thank you for your commitment!

Prayer is about growing in our relationship with God; not outcome

Fr. John M. Bauer 

“Prayer is a waste of time.” These were the opening words of the retreat director on a retreat I made several years ago. Now let me hasten to add that the director went on to say that what he meant by these words is that if we are serious about prayer we need to be willing to “waste” time on prayer. Prayer is different from our other activities. Unlike other things we do which produce an immediate result or have a clear impact, most often there is no measurable outcome from prayer. We pray, and while we may feel more at peace or feel a sense of consolation or hope when we finish, it would be hard to prove to an outsider that this is a direct result of prayer. Now in saying this I want to be very clear. I do believe in the efficaciousness of prayer. I do believe that prayer “works.” I have also discovered, though, that my belief in the efficacy of prayer is not universally shared. I have also encountered people too numerous to count, who have given up on prayer because they couldn’t discern any measurable result of their prayer.

Given the above, whenever I talk with people about prayer I often tell them that they need to be willing to “waste” time in prayer. Whenever we go to prayer, there will always be something more important to do, something else calling for our attention, something else that needs to be done. There will always be things that --- if we do them --- will have an immediate and measurable outcome. This isn’t always or even often the case with prayer.

Prayer is more about growing in our relationship with God than it is about outcome. In our prayer we seek to build and grow in our relationship with God. And as with all relationships this growth is not always quantifiable. When we look back in time at our various relationships with friends and family we can see how they have grown and developed over the years. Certainly there may even be identifiable moments we can point to that stand out as moments of growth. For the most part, though, relationships grow and develop slowly over time and through ongoing interaction. I believe this is especially true in regard to our relationship with God. We grow and develop in our relationship with God by wasting time with God in prayer and not expecting a measurable/quantifiable outcome every time we spend time with God in prayer.

Prayer may seem like a waste of time to some people, but for believers it is by wasting time with God in prayer that we grow and develop our relationship with God. And for believers it is a waste of time that is well worth it.

Commitment to Shining Brightly

Terri Ashmore
Managing Director

Sometimes I am asked, “What does it take to run The Basilica of Saint Mary?” My answer is simple: commitment. It takes commitment—from our volunteers, members, donors and staff—to keep The Basilica shining brightly.

Together, we are committed to live out the vision from Jeremiah 29:7, to “Seek the well being of the city. Pray for it to the Lord. For in its well-being you will find your own.”

Many of you share your time, talents and treasure to make this vision come to life happen and for this, I’m very grateful. Your commitment gives witness to your grateful spirit and deep faith.

Together, our volunteers and staff keep ministries strong for every member of our diverse, urban community. We welcome anyone who comes to our door, build Habitat homes, and assist people in finding employment. We offer free and low-cost concerts and art exhibits, making it accessible for everyone to enjoy the arts. We prepare our children and adults for sacraments. We celebrate weddings, mourn at funerals and offer beautiful worship every day of the week. We invite university instructors from St. John’s, St. Ben’s, St. Kate’s and St. Thomas come to The Basilica to share their knowledge and engage us in learning about our faith.

Your Financial Stewardship commitment funds all of this and more. Thanks to your generous support, The Basilica serves as a joyful and beautiful reminder of God’s presence in our world. Your gift makes a big difference in The Basilica’s ability to shine God’s light, graciously welcoming all who enter and faithfully serving our entire community.

I invite you to help The Basilica shine brightly with a Financial Stewardship pledge for 2013. Your pledge enables us to make reliable projections, budget appropriately and maximize our resources to deliver the very best ministries to the widest possible community. Every single gift – of any size –helps The Basilica fulfill our mission in the city.

Please make a pledge today. You can find pledge forms in the pew or you can pledge online at

The simple act of pledging is an important gift to The Basilica. Consider a weekly or monthly commitment. If you are giving now, please consider increasing your commitment if possible. I give electronically, and hope you’ll consider that too. It’s easy, convenient and automatic.

When you become part of The Basilica, it becomes part of you. Please help The Basilica to shine God’s light and to serve our community. I hope you will make a Financial Stewardship pledge today.

Encountering the God in One Another

Paula Kaempffer
Director of Learning 

Throughout my years in ministry there have been numerous times when I have been asked, “Why do you stay?” 

“Why do you stay in ministry?” “Why do you work for the church in the midst of all that is going in within the institution today?” “How can you remain working for an institution that is so blemished and seems so broken at times?"

We all know this is not a perfect church — far from it. But I don't know of any other faith community that is without its own set of challenges. We all struggle with our growing pains as we journey through the ups and downs of life.

Each Sunday, when we come together for worship, we bring ourselves as we are for better or for worse. Life happens to each of us and we don't often react well to some of the many experiences that take place during the week. Yet, we bring that with us as we gather. In faith, we know that in some way when we leave, we will be changed and nourished to return to the world to bring the good news of our God's love to those who cross our paths.

For it is in God where we find each other, whom we recognize in each other's stories of triumph and failure, that keeps us coming back week after week. We know we are not in this alone. All of us are there to offer support, prayer and hope to each other. This enables us to carry an important message with us: We have a God who loves us to entrust us with the lives of each other. That is the miracle of what happens each week within our faith community. We are privileged people and have the responsibility of being Christ for one another.

So when someone asks me why I stay, it is quite simple. I need to encounter the God within you, and you need to encounter the God within me. Together we walk hand in hand to bring God to those who desperately need a sign of hope in the midst of the suffering and chaos of this world.

Going Through a Prayer "Dry Spell"

Fr. John M. Bauer

For the past few weeks, I’ve been experiencing a little dry spell in my prayer life. I’m not worried about it. It has happened before and it will probably happen again. Dry spells in prayer seem to be part and parcel of the spiritual life. People much holier than I --- Blessed Mother Teresa for example --- have experienced long periods of dryness in their prayer. Yet they persisted because they believed that at some point they would experience again the God whom they had experienced and known in the past through their prayer and spiritual practices.

As is often the case when I experience a dry spell in my prayer I do some extra reading to help me get through the dryness. In this particular instance, I ran across a book by Murray Bodo, a Franciscan priest, published in 1976 entitled “Song of the Sparrow: Meditations and Poems to Pray By.” Toward the end of the book I came across these words: “If we were to attain what we reach for in prayer, then prayer would be unnecessary. We reach out to God in prayer, and usually we are frustrated. Some books on prayer make me wonder if the author isn’t exaggerating his own experience or putting into the book what he would like his prayer-life to be rather than what it really is. An active prayer-life does not mean an on-going experience of God. On the contrary, it usually means an on-going hunger for the God who seems not to be there. Like everything else worthwhile in the human condition, prayer is difficult and seldom brings with it the comfort and fulfillment so many authors say it is supposed to bring.”

I found enormous comfort in these words. They reminded me that while we might like prayer to be a continuous experience of God’s grace and presence, in fact this is not always --- and sometimes not often --- the case. And yet, we continue to pray. I suspect the reason for this is that God has placed within us a hunger for God’s presence and grace. Once we have experienced this, we consciously or unconsciously yearn for more. It is a desire deep within us that keeps us trying to experience again and anew what we have known in the past.

How, as a person of faith, should I respond to panhandling?

Janice Anderson
Director of Christian Life

It is hard to come to The Basilica any time of the year without coming face-to-face with people who are homeless “signing” for money. The site of people panhandling is powerful and provocative—and it is an experience that pulls at the hearts and minds of every person of faith.

What is the best response to the people who are “signing” and panhandling on the corners of our city? How does one act in accord with our faith when there are so many variables to consider? What is the compassionate thing to do? What is the faithful thing to do?

Recently, The Basilica was part of two programs about panhandling through our work with the Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness. These programs wrestled with the complex issues of homelessness and panhandling. Together with business owners, police officers, neighborhood representatives, mental health experts, and homeless advocates, The Basilica led a conversation that got to the heart of the question: How should I respond to panhandling?

How should I respond to panhandling?
Realizing that you will always be guided by your conscience at the moment of meeting the person panhandling, we offer the following guidelines adopted by the Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness for responding to people who panhandle in our community. I invite you to prayerfully read these suggestions and enter into conversation with your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors.

1. Give recognition and an openness to a relationship
The most important part of a response is to recognize the dignity of the person panhandling. With an open heart, greet the person, and if it is possible, get to know their name and their story.

2. Do not give money
Giving money perpetuates panhandling in our community: If you make money, you keep doing it. Giving money also feeds addictions and leads people into a downward spiral of health. Giving money may be the easy thing to do, but we are challenged to respond in a compassionate way that makes a real difference.

One man who was formerly homeless shared his story of “making” over $400 in less than half an hour panhandling in front of The Basilica one Sunday morning. He admitted that the magnitude scared him. He said, “It was so easy. I could feel myself being pulled toward letting go of everything else in my life and staying there. I had to stop right away or I was going to be lost in my addiction.”

3. Build relationships with and support programs that work to end homelessness
Get to know the programs at The Basilica and in the broader community that work on the important issue of ending homelessness. Specifically, get involved with The Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness, Basilica St. Vincent de Paul Ministry, and St. Stephens Human Services. Support these programs with donations and volunteer time, and direct people who panhandle to them. For more information, contact the Christian Life office.

4. Advocate for policies and laws that will address issues that are the root cause of panhandling (including homelessness, mental illness, poverty, addiction)
Get to know your elected officials, and let them know your priority of ending panhandling. Tell the stories of the people that you meet on the streets. Share with everyone you know about why ending homelessness is important to our community and to you. Get involved in The Basilica Voices for Justice Team and work to empower our community to advocate for these important issues.

The experience of coming face-to-face with people panhandling invites and challenges us to put our faith into action. Let us struggle together as we prayerfully decide what action to take.

Listening to Understand

Fr. John M. Bauer

Several years ago I attended a conference designed for individuals who worked in parishes. As part of the conference, there were a variety of workshops which were designed to explore best practices and innovative ideas for parishes. In one of the workshops we were instructed to break into dyads and talk about our best and worst experiences in the parish. I was paired with a woman whose best experience in the parish centered around the staff and parishioners with whom she worked. Her worst experience had to do with being a woman in the Church and not feeling that her talents and gifts were appreciated and utilized. I listened attentively and carefully for 10 minutes and then made the mistake of saying: “I think I can understand your pain, but what do you want me to do about it?” She looked me in the eye and said very slowly and deliberately: “Just listen, damn it.”

I readily admit I am not the best listener. I listen well and respectfully for 10 minutes or so, and then I want to move on to problem solving and/or trying to fix things. I suspect I am not alone in this. A lot of us are better at listening to respond, then we are at listening to understand. I think the reason for this is that listening to understand takes a lot more energy, patience and effort, then does coming up with options and/or solutions.

In a parish, finding individuals who are willing to listen to your concerns can be challenging, but it is a not an insurmountable challenge. One of the responsibilities of the members of our Parish Council is to listen to the concerns and/or questions of their fellow parishioners. Oftentimes this listening happens informally, but it can also occur in other ways. In this regard, at a meeting this past spring our Parish Council talked very specifically about the proposed marriage amendment and how they might listen to the thoughts and concerns of their fellow parishioners about that amendment. After much discussion, the members of the Council decided it would be both good and important to make themselves available to listen to parishioners’ thoughts and concerns regarding the proposed marriage amendment. I do not view these meetings as something out of the ordinary, e.g. because of the marriage amendment, but rather something we would do for any significant issue. At these meetings the members of the Parish Council will listen to understand, not listen to respond. Listening in this manner can be an excellent way to demonstrate our Christian love and respect for one another.

With the above in mind, if you and/or a small group of parishioners would like to have a member of the Parish Council “listen” to you I would invite you to call the parish office and a meeting will be set up.

Believing in Miracles

Fr. John M. Bauer

Fr. Karl Rahner, one of the preeminent theologians of the 20th century, was once asked whether he believed in miracles. He answered: "I don't believe in them, I rely on them to get through each day!" Indeed, miracles are always present and happening within our lives all the time. Unfortunately, we don’t always recognize them. I think the reason for this is that we have the idea that miracles are always spectacular and amazing events. And while there is some truth to this, I think there are also little miracles that happen all the time, we just don’t recognize them.

What are the little miracles that happen in our lives? Well, from my perspective some examples are when we act unselfishly and put someone else’s needs ahead of our own and not complain about it. Another example is when we are able to forgive and let go of our anger and resentment. Still another example is when we are able to let go of regrets, disappointments or shame from the past and accept God’s unconditional love.   Still another example is when we acknowledge our sadness and sorrow and let God’s healing grace into our hearts. I believe that in these in countless other ways, little miracles occur in each of our lives, sometimes on a daily basis.  

If we are open to the grace these moments carry, they not only can help us get through the day, but also believe that our lives are better because of Jesus Christ and the grace he offers us. The challenge is to see these moments for what they are: “little miracles” and then be open to the grace they offer us.

Miracles do occur in our world and our lives. Sometimes they are spectacular and astounding. Sometimes, though, they are subtle and not immediately obvious. These little miracles remind us that God is still present and active in our lives and in our world.    Like Fr. Karl Rahner I rely on these times to get me through each day.  

Good Liturgy

Dr. Johan van Parys
Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts

People often ask me for the key to good liturgy.  I tell them about the need for beautiful art and architecture, great music, quality preaching, well-trained ministers, etc. However, no matter how lovely the music and inspiring the homily, unless our liturgy compels people to go out and be Christ to the world, it is nothing but ritual turns around the altar. Liturgy can never be a goal in and of itself. Liturgy is the place where we are rehearsed in Christian life. We are nourished at the table of the Word and the Eucharist so we are strengthened to go out into the world and make a difference.

The night before he died, Jesus asked us to do two things: celebrate Eucharist and wash feet. This was his double mandate to the disciples 2000 years ago and it is his mandate to us today. So on Holy Thursday we celebrate the Eucharist and we wash feet. The washing of the feet is not an empty ritual or a simple gesture imitating what Christ did. Washing feet is a rehearsal of a fundamental Christian attitude. We are called to bend down and wash one another’s feet. And it does not matter whose feet we are called to wash.

The church of the paschal mystery must, as the body of Christ in the world, be willing to risk itself in total solidarity with those who are suffering, despised, outcast. Through the activity of the Spirit the church and its members are being conformed to the image of the crucified and risen Christ, the image of ultimate solidarity and gift of self to all of our brothers and sisters, especially to those most despised by society.

The Gospel calls us to radical hospitality. To do anything less is to run the risk of "eating and drinking judgment to ourselves, not recognizing the Lord's Body for what it is." (1 Cor. 11: 29)

Why is it that after celebrating the Eucharist for 2000 years the world is still in absolute shambles?  Is it because we have never truly understood the commandment about the washing of the feet?

As we celebrate our individual gifts during these months of Stewardship of our Gifts, let us consider anew how we might best use our talents to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to our parish, to our city and to our world.

Daily Requirements

Fr. John M. Bauer

A while back I had to wait a few minutes for a prescription to be filled and, having nothing better to do, I filled the time by reading the back of the bottle of multi-vitamins I was purchasing. 

I was amazed how much of the “minimum daily requirement” of various vitamins and nutrients the multi-vitamins contained. Because I take a multi-vitamin every day, I began to wonder why I am not a lot healthier than I am. It then dawned on me that probably the most important of those three words was “minimum.” Whenever we do the minimum, we probably shouldn’t expect great results.

Sometimes, without being consciously aware of it, I take the “minimum daily requirement” approach to my spiritual life. I pray and preside at Mass, but at times this can become more a routine part of my day than a mindful and attentive time with God. In effect, I go through the motions, but my mind and heart are somewhere else. Now this is not a deliberate choice on my part; rather I just fall into a bad habit of doing the minimum daily requirement in terms my spiritual life. I suspect I am not alone in this. At times, without our deliberately choosing it, we can put our relationship with God on autopilot and we can settle for the minimum daily requirement of time and effort in terms of our spiritual life.

When the above happens, we need to do something to jump start our spiritual life. Things that might help include: spending some extra time in prayer or trying to pray in new or different ways. Making time for some spiritual reading or for a day of reflection or a retreat can also help. Being part of a community of faith that nurtures and challenges us can also give a boost to our spiritual life. The important thing is to realize when we have settled for the minimum daily requirement in regard to our spiritual life, and then make some positive choices to get back on track.

At times the minimum daily requirement can be a good thing. This is certainly true in regard to multi-vitamins. The minimum daily requirement is not a very good long term strategy, though, in terms of our spiritual life. To keep our relationship with God on track, we need to do more than the minimal daily requirement. This is both our challenge and our goal as followers of Jesus.

Meaningful Ministry

Robin Keyworth
Major Gifts and Planned Giving Officer 

So much that is spiritual, beautiful, caring and meaningful happens at The Basilica of Saint Mary all the time. Walk in any door — the great bronze front doors, the leather doors from the Narthex into the church, the doors of the Reardon Rectory, Cowley Center or the school building — and what you’ll find is activity, participation, dedication and, yes, love. Our parish is blessed with an abundance of spirit, commitment, devotion to God and to justice, and, yes, financial resources.

The energy that characterizes our parish comes directly from parishioners, friends, staff, volunteers, our pastor and the priests who celebrate Mass with us each day. And every single ministry, yes, every single one, is supported by the abundant generosity of all those who contribute financially to The Basilica of Saint Mary in support of its liturgies, programs and ministries.

In fact, our buildings themselves are supported, literally as well as figuratively, by your gifts to The Basilica Landmark for their preservation and restoration. It’s because of you that The Basilica wasn’t demolished in the early 1990s, and it’s because of you that it is structurally sound today. You funded The Basilica Landmark’s restoration of those leather doors, the bronze doors and now the crumbling entrance to the Reardon Rectory — what a symbolic gift that honors all who enter here.

YOU make all of this possible by making The Basilica and The Basilica Landmark part of both your spiritual life and your philanthropic priorities. It may not seem that money has anything to do with ministry, but the opposite is true: money enables ministry. Without your financial support, all our critical, beautiful, humane, spiritual work would be impossible and the very home that houses our ministries would be rubble.

When you make a pledge to Financial Stewardship, put money or a check in the basket at Mass, contribute to St. Vincent de Paul, give to The Basilica Landmark Annual Fund, attend the Masqueray Ball or include The Basilica Landmark in your estate planning, you participate in ministry. Your generosity is one way, with your prayers and your energy, to share God’s work.

So next time you read an email or a letter or an article in this newsletter or receive a phone call asking for your financial assistance, please hear what is really being offered: an invitation to play a very meaningful part in the mission of The Basilica of Saint Mary and The Basilica Landmark.

You know your well-being is The Basilica’s priority. Thank you for understanding the importance of giving and for your generosity in making The Basilica and The Basilica Landmark your priority.


Fr. John M. Bauer

A few weeks ago an individual made an appointment to meet with me to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
After visiting with him for a few minutes, he took out a sheet of paper on which he had listed his sins, explaining that as he got older he needed to write things down so he wouldn’t forget them. While I’m not at that point quite yet, I did utter some consoling words in response. He then went on to say that while he was in the process of making his list of sins, he had gotten a call from his wife asking him to pick up a few things at the grocery store. He dutifully made a list of things to purchase, and then went to the store only to discover that instead of the grocery list, he had brought his list of sins with him. Since this sounded like something I would do, I asked him if I could share his story and he readily agreed.

While we may need a list to remember our sins, God does not. I say this because God doesn’t need or want a complete and detailed accounting of our sins. In fact, quite the opposite is true. In Psalm 103: 10-12 we read: “Not according to our sins does God deal with us; nor does he requite us according to our crimes. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him. As far as the East is from the West, so far had he put our transgressions from us.”

God is not so much interested in what we have done wrong, as God is interested in what we are going to do right. In regard to our sins, God only asks that we acknowledge them and are sorry for them. If we do this, then God does indeed forgive us. In fact, when I speak about the sacrament of Reconciliation, I remind people that God is always ready to forgive our sins and that the only barrier to the forgiveness of our sins is the hardness of our hearts. We need to accept God’s forgiveness of our sins. God doesn’t force this on us.

While we may occasionally need to make a list so we can remember the sins we want to bring to the sacrament of Reconciliation, the list is solely for our benefit. God neither needs nor wants a list of our sins. God only wants to know that we are sorry for them. If we are, God will do the rest.


Terri Ashmore
Managing Director 

All we have and all that we are comes from God.

I struggled with this idea for a long time. At first I felt my skills and talents were ones I worked hard to develop. But the more I learn about my Catholic faith, the more I recognize God’s hands and spirit at work around me everyday.

Today I see that our spiritual gifts, including our interests, talents, skills and abilities, are God given. At The Basilica of Saint Mary, the words — heartbeat, pulse, lifeblood — describe the very essence of what volunteers mean to our parish. Volunteers are involved in every facet of our church community. Day by day, volunteers make The Basilica run. We are blessed with volunteers committed to recurring roles — like choir members, catechists who teach our children, liturgical ministers, and those who reach out to community members in need. Others help with one-time activities, like decorating the church for Christmas and Easter, or putting on the Parish Picnic and Basilica Block Party.

Time and again, my experience is of wonderful volunteers, rolling up their sleeves and diving in. This summer, volunteers cleaned the Reardon Rectory kitchen top to bottom. Others moved furniture so we could lay a new floor and paint the St. Joseph Chapel, and they helped again to move vestments, furnishings and tools out of the sacristy prior to its restoration. To wrap up the Basilica Block Party, about 40 volunteers finally stopped for a break after clean-up at 2:00am on Sunday morning. Energetic Basilica young adults have organized softball teams, a young adult women’s group and more.

Oftentimes volunteers undertake specific jobs, but the experience goes far beyond the work they do. They bring a warm welcoming spirit and an openness to those they meet. In everyday ways, they live their faith. It’s amazing to me to begin the day with a group of strangers coming together to work, and by day’s end, they know about each other’s families, hopes, and often are helping each other make life connections for work or fun.

Many opportunities are just waiting for the right person to express an interest. Consider taking the “Gifts Survey” to learn more about the spiritual gifts God has given you. ( Or, go to, log in to “MyBasilica,” and look for “MySkills” to share your unique skills and talents for future needs.

The “Gifts Survey” may lead you to a specific job at The Basilica. To learn more about volunteer opportunities at The Basilica, please check out the many listings on The Basilica’s website or contact Sally Carlson-Bancroft at 612.317.3417, or Please explore the many ways to get connected and make this parish your own.


Fr. John M. Bauer

A while back I was listening to public radio and heard a portion of an interview with author Anne Lamott. She said that one of her favorite new acronyms is W.A.I.T. (Why Am I Talking.) I laughed out loud when I heard this, and have shared this acronym with several people. I don’t know about anyone else, but I constantly seem to encounter people who talk incessantly without ever saying very much of substance. Worse, I have discovered that more often than I care to admit, I am one of those people. Worse still, I have discovered that often where I do this is in prayer.

It is so easy in prayer to “babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.” (Mt. 6.7) In prayer it is easy to use lots of words. In fact, this was the way I first learned to pray. From early on I memorized prayers. The Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be were first, but soon they were followed by the Confiteor, the Acts of Faith, Hope and Charity, and when I became a server, all the prayers for Mass — in Latin, no less. (Of course, as luck would have it, I only used the Latin for a year, then I had to learn the Mass prayers all over again in English.)

Learning these prayers was good and important. It was foundational to my prayer life. Later on, though, I discovered that prayer is more than just talking to God. It is also about listening to how God responds to us. Now, while I know this is true, old habits are hard to break, and as a result every now and again I find myself filling my prayer time with lots and lots of words.

In regard to the above, Anne Lamott’s acronym has been good for me. When I catch myself running off at the mouth, especially at prayer, I say to myself: W.A.I.T. And I stop talking and remind myself to start listening to God. Of course, in listening for God the challenge is to remember that God can communicate with us in any number of ways. If we only listen with our ears, we will miss much of what God wants us to know. We need to listen for God not just with our ears, but with our mind, our heart and our spirit. We need to say to ourselves: W.A.I.T. and then just be quiet. For it is in the quiet and stillness that God will let us know what God wants us to know.

Catholics Coming Home

Paula Kaempffer
Director of Learning 

Since coming to The Basilica five years ago, I have been involved with the Catholics Coming Home process which Carrie Kemp began here many years ago. 

True, I had lots of experience with Catholics who had left the church for many reasons, but I was excited to be working with this program and with the team of volunteer parishioners who guided and facilitated the process: Roger Pare, Christian Beckler, Carla Adams, Dutch Fischer and Leo Guzman. Some of them have remained on the team to this day.

Most of my experience over the last 30+ years in ministry has been with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). Through that process I have witnessed God working in people’s lives on many different levels. And RCIA is a much longer and more involved process than Catholics Coming Home (CCH). RCIA also deals with those interested in learning more about the Catholic faith or already know that they want to become Catholic. 

It is very different listening to Catholics who have been away from the church for so many years that they have lost count. Some have been deeply hurt by individuals within the church and those scars don’t heal easily. Others are confused and questioning the church and its stand on many issues relevant to our daily lives. Others just want to find out more about the faith and don’t know where to begin. As many people walk through the doors, that is about how many reasons people come through the CCH process.

I remember vividly the last evening of the very first session of which I was a part. We shared dinner together with Fr. Bauer and they related their stories to him. We closed with an anointing prayer service of healing. It was a very powerful night. But I remember how amazed I was at the growth and depth which the group came to in those six evenings together. I just couldn’t believe that God had worked to bring them to the point they were in just six weeks. I was so used to God doing this in seven or eight months during RCIA but not in just six weeks. I still wonder how God does it every session.

We run two tracks of CCH, one in the fall and another in the spring. And anyone is welcome to attend. We have no criteria, no hidden agenda, no expectations whatsoever. We are there to listen deeply to their stories and to offer a welcoming heart to all. Our purpose is not to “coerce” people to come back. Jesus never forced anyone to believe in him. Jesus just invited. And we do the same and leave the rest to each individual and to God. It goes so much better that way.

The Effect of Prayer

Fr. John M. Bauer

The past few weeks three events have been much on my mind and in my prayer.
First, recently a priest of our Archdiocese was accused of sexual misconduct with a minor and removed from his assignment. Second, after a 12-week trial and 13 days of deliberations, a jury found Msgr. William Lynn, the Philadelphia Archdiocese's chief of clergy personnel from 1992 to 2004, guilty of endangering the welfare of a minor. Third, later this year, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St Joseph is slated to stand trial on a charge of failing to report a priest whose alleged possession of child pornography was found to have been known by officials in the Missouri diocese for months before civil authorities were alerted. All three of these events are cause for profound sorrow and great sadness, certainly first and foremost for the victims, but also for our church which has the right to expect so much more from our leaders.

In regard to the priest from our Archdiocese who was accused of sexual misconduct with a minor, following archdiocesan policy, the Archdiocese immediately reported the allegations to the police, and an investigation into the allegations has begun. The Archdiocese has been cooperating fully with police in their investigation. In the case of Msgr. Lynn, his defense was that his actions were carried out on the orders of the late archbishop of Philadelphia, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. In the case of Bishop Finn, he maintains that because others in the diocese were primarily tasked with reporting abuse, he was absolved of primary responsibility in the case and should not be considered a mandated reporter.
The sexual abuse or the exploitation of children is a grave evil. Further, I believe it is simply unacceptable for anyone to maintain that they were either following orders, or that someone else had reporting responsibility. In the face of these incidents, there would appear to be little that anyone could or should say, particularly another priest. And yet to say nothing could be misconstrued as acquiescence to or acceptance of these things. Given this, I would like to offer the following observations.

1. First and foremost, we must be completely clear about the absolute wrongness of the sexual abuse or exploitation of children. There is no excuse to be made for it and no defense for those who would victimize a child or protect someone who would victimize children. When a child is the victim of sexual abuse or exploitation, we must be clear and unequivocal in our condemnation of it. Any attempt to minimize these behaviors is quite simply wrong.

2. When priests engage in behavior that is abusive, exploitive or harassing, or protect those who engage in these behaviors, they cannot, nor should they be shielded from the consequences of their actions. Where illegality has occurred or is suspected, our legal system must be engaged and allowed to function without hindrance. When actions of Church officials are found to be insufficient or negligent, they must face the legal consequences of their actions. In saying this, however, we also need to be clear that this does not mean people can engage in vindictive or vengeful behavior. As people who follow the Lord Jesus, difficult as it may be, we must always eschew hatred, vindictiveness and an unforgiving spirit.

3. When people (most particularly children) have been victimized and hurt, while nothing can restore what has been taken from them, some form of reparation must be made to them. Certainly we need to pray for victims of abuse and exploitation, but we must also provide assistance that is concrete, practical and specific. We need to be clear, though, that whatever we do is not enough to replace the innocence that has been lost. We cannot simply apologize and think that is enough.

4. While words cannot describe the tragedy of the sexual abuse or exploitation of children, our church, and particularly our Archdiocese, has developed policies and procedures to handle accusations of sexual abuse, exploitation or harassment on the part of priests or people who work for the church. Anyone with concerns involving sexually inappropriate behavior on the part of a priest, church employee or volunteer, or anyone wishing to file a compliant should contact the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, 226 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55102-2197; 651.291.4497.

In closing I invite your prayers for those who have been victims of sexual abuse or exploitation, as well as all those who have been impacted by this activity. Certainly prayer cannot change what has happened, but it can have a salving effect on wounded souls and can bring about healing and peace.


Janice Andersen
Director of Christian Life 

I am in the process of helping plan my daughter’s wedding—our family’s first wedding.
As the days get closer, there are more and more details that need confirming and decisions that need to be made. While this is all a joy and an exciting time, I have also begun to realize that I am carrying extra tension in my neck, my back is tight, and in general I am feeling physically stiff.

It has surprised me to recognize the amount of tension that I am carrying in my body. My normal routine usually enables me to feel more at ease. The physical tightness I am feeling has invited me to intentionally reflect on my inner health and the serenity and peace that I am experiencing — or not!

At The Basilica, we focus on personal stewardship in June and July — actively caring for ourselves in body, mind, and spirit. This is exactly what I need to remember these days. When I take time to intentionally care for myself, I recognize that under the busyness of planning and working, I feel deep emotions about my daughter’s wedding. I begin to see the small things I am worrying about, and I am invited to recognize my fears and insecurities. Yes, there is much to be joyful about. But, truthfully, there is also a lot of letting go that I need to do.

It is specifically this “letting go” that is a recurring and challenging spiritual practice in my life. Over and over I am reminded that I must let go of control, let go of expectations, let go of assumptions, even let go of people. I know in my heart that the only way I can really let go — that I can truthfully surrender those things that I care and worry about — is through a deep and abiding trust in what I am letting go to. This is the gift of my physical tension. I am reminded ever more clearly that I must grow in my relationship with God and grow in my trust of God. Recognizing my stress drives me more deeply into the practice of prayer. Recognizing my tension gets me to finally go out and exercise. The focus of personal stewardship reminds me that I am not alone in my struggle to care for myself. It also affirms this care as a spiritual priority.

During June and July, let us join together to pray a prayer of St. Benedict. Let us use this prayer to realign our lives, to let go of all that distracts us from trusting and loving our God. Let us pray together to grow in our relationship with God, and collectively allow our stress to melt away.

Father, give us
Wisdom to perceive you,
Intellect to understand you,
Diligence to seek you,
Patience to wait for you,
Eyes to behold you,
A heart to meditate on you,
And a life to proclaim you,
Through the power of the spirit
of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Pick up a Personal Stewardship booklet in the back of church or at


Fr. John M. Bauer

After 10 years of imprisonment, then 20 years of banishment to Europe and later Vermont, Alexander Solzhenitsyn famously concluded:
"When I lay there on rotting prison was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there un-uprooted small corner of evil."

I think Solzhenitsyn’s comments are right on target. At times it is easy for us to think of evil as a force exterior to ourselves that impacts and influences our lives and causes us to do things we would not ordinarily do. The reality is, though, that good and evil exist within each of us. None of us is completely good, and none of us is totally evil. We all struggle with sin and failure in our lives, and we are all capable of works of astonishing and selfless goodness.
This situation is not new. St. Paul wrote about it in his letter to the Hebrews: “I cannot even understand my own actions. I do not do what I want to do, but what I hate...What happens is that I do, not the good I will to do, but the evil I do not intend.” I would suggest that St. Paul’s dilemma is not unique to him. Nor is it unique to Christians. It is the universal human condition. Sin and failure are a part of each of our lives. And while Christians share in this universal human condition, we also believe that we have found the remedy for sin in Jesus Christ.

In Jesus Christ, and because of the grace he offers us, while we do sin and fail, we know and believe that sin is not the final word. The grace that is offered to us in Jesus Christ is greater than any sin, any failure, any evil that manifests itself in our lives. It is because of God’s grace that we can rise from our sins and once again live in holiness and goodness.

The hitch to this is that the only barrier to God’s grace is the hardness of our own hearts. God never forces God’s grace on us. When, for whatever reason, we are not open to God’s grace, sin finds safe haven in a small corner of our heart. Fortunately, God does not offer God’s grace to us just once and then the offer is withdrawn. God’s grace is offered to us continually and constantly. And when we say yes to God’s grace and open our hearts to it, great goodness will flow from our lives.

Musings on Father’s Day

Johan van Parys
Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts

My mother’s father had a great and generous heart. As a young man he was a successful cyclist. “One year,” he proudly told me, “I won every race I participated in.” We have great old photos of him riding his bike or posing with victory bouquets. After he married my grandmother, he decided to hang up the bike and to dedicate himself to his family and her business. During the Second World War, he was sent to a work camp in Germany together with all my grandmother’s employees because she refused to collaborate with the Nazis. The house was occupied by Nazi officers. My youngest aunt was born shortly after my grandfather was sent to Germany. The day my aunt got married, my grandfather welcomed one of the officers back into his house, now not as an occupier, but as a guest. Despite everything the Nazi regime had put him through, he was able to forgive.

My father’s father was as a strong leader in town and a good provider for his family. He died just before I was born. According to my mother, he was very much looking forward to his first grandchild. The wounds he sustained in the Second World War eventually claimed his life. I only know him from pictures and stories. His life was not always easy. He did not speak much, but when he spoke his words tended to be memorable. As a family, we often recall the one-liners he used when admonishing his children. The one we still use in the family is “eat slowly, then you don’t have to eat as much.” Though it sounded funny to us, of course, it was born in a time when food was scarce. Through these and other words, he keeps encouraging us to be the best we can be, even today.

My father was a strict yet loving man. This coming November it will be 10 years since his death. In him I lost a life-long supporter, a trusted counselor, a great friend. It had not always been that way. Growing up I often envied my friends. Their fathers seemed much cooler than mine. I often fantasized about what it would be like to have a different father.

When I became an adult I discovered my father in a new and different light. I suddenly realized he had been my quiet fan all along. When I joined the Boy Scouts, he cheered me on. When I left the Boy Scouts, he refrained from saying, “I told you so.” When I decided to go to the seminary, he took me there. When I changed my mind about my vocation, he picked me up. When I opted to study in the United States, he accompanied me to the airport. Every time I came home, he was at the airport, waiting for me. The car rides were often very quiet as we did not speak much, but he was there for me, always.

I really started to appreciate my father when my parents visited me in the United States. Their first visit was for two weeks. Their last visits were as long as their tourist visas would allow them to stay. At the end of each visit my father wrote in my guest book. Those genuine and heartfelt writings are an incredible gift, especially the last words: “Your mother and I love you very much.”

Today’s Gospel offered me a another understanding of my father. As a landscape architect he designed many, many gardens and taught many students to do the same. One of his great design strategies was to carefully select the trees and the plants, to plant them strategically and then to wait. Sometimes he would not return to a garden he designed for months, or even years, as he was waiting for nature to happen. Very much like the man in the Gospel today, he would sow and plant and then he would “sleep and rise night and day” knowing that the harvest would come.

This great landscape principle is a great relationship principle as well. We are called to do all we can to make things work, but at some point we need to step back and just wait so the seeds can sprout and the plants can mature. This is the story of the relationship between my father and my grandfathers and me. They did many things and then waited for them to come to fruition, sometimes even past their own death and without ever having met me: “forgive,” “eat slowly,” “love and be patient.”

Happy Father’s Day.

The Butler did it.

Fr. John M. Bauer

Within the past few weeks, you may have read or heard that Paolo Gabriele, the pope’s butler, was recently charged with stealing and then leaking certain confidential documents from the Vatican. The documents contain private Vatican correspondence that alleges corruption in the Vatican and internal conflict over the role of the Vatican Bank. They also allege cronyism and corruption in contracts with Italian companies, conspiracies among cardinals and clashes over management at the Vatican's bank, the Institute for Works of Religion, or IOR.

Some of the documents are private letters to Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and the pope from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former deputy governor of the Vatican City State, who recently was appointed as the Vatican’s ambassador to the United States. The letters show that Vigano was transferred after he exposed what he said was a web of corruption and cronyism linked to the awarding of contracts at inflated prices to Italian contractors.

The Vatican has not contested the authenticity of the documents but says their leak was part of a "brutal" personal attack on the pope, and their publication "a criminal act.” The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told reporters: “It is painful to see such a negative image” emerge of the Holy See, the scandals “put trust in the church and the Holy See to the test.” He added, “That’s why we must confront them directly and not hide.”

Let’s hope Fr. Lombardi was speaking the truth when he uttered this last sentence. In this instance, it would be easy to put the emphasis on the alleged breach of trust by the pope’s butler, and make him the issue. Frankly, that would be wrong. If, in fact, it is proven that he did leak the documents, his behavior should not be excused or minimized. We need to be clear, though, that the real issue is the corruption and conspiracies the documents allege.

In the past few years, beginning with the sexual abuse scandals, our church has not exactly been forthcoming in the way it has dealt with certain issues. This has been painful for many of us. Worse, it has led some people to lose confidence and trust in our church and its leaders, and in some cases to leave the church altogether. This has been and continues to be a tragic loss for our church.

If our church and its leaders want to regain the trust of people, we must do what Fr. Lombadi said: “We must confront these issues directly and not hide.” This is both my hope and my prayer.

What is Personal Stewardship?

Angie Lien 
Director of Communications & Marketing

At The Basilica, we refer to it as actively caring for ourselves in body, mind and spirit. Over the next couple of months, we’ll highlight how to care for ourselves with compassion and greater awareness. By taking time to care for ourselves, we are better able to serve God and all those in our lives.

So, for the months of June and July, it’s finally time to say: “It’s all about me!”
We’ll provide tips to help you create a healthier and more balanced life. Some of the topics we’ll be covering include:

Make A Change:
Often times we know we need to change something in our lives (maybe it’s in our diet or how we’re managing our time) but we don’t know how to get started. Or we get started, but can’t seem to stick with it. We’ll cover the important steps to help you make that change and stay committed.

Move Your Body:
We all know that regular physical activity is important for our health and overall fitness level. And the warm sunny months of June and July make it easy and fun to get outdoors for exercise. Get ready to walk, bike, garden or even kayak.

Meditate And Pray:
The regular practice of prayer and meditation is essential to living out a spiritually-focused life. Daily prayer allows us to talk to God and share our troubles as well as our joys and gratitude for our many blessings. Meditation allows us to quiet our busy minds, finding stillness as we focus on our breath. You’ll learn how prayer and meditation can help heal our bodies and minds.

Learn About Healthful Practices At Church:
We’ll cover many of the Judeo-Christian symbols and healthful elements and practices; and why we still use them today.

Additional topics include mental health, chemical dependency and nutrition. You’ll find more Personal Stewardship information on the inside cover of this weekly newsletter each week through the end of July. We hope that you will find it helpful and that you do take time to care for yourselves.

Also, please join us for these events. A great way to feel better is to have fun!

Festival of Bikes
June 3, 10:30am-2:00pm (Blessing of Bikes, 1:30pm)

Cities 97 Basilica Block Party
July 6 and 7, 5:00pm-10:30pm

Move and Groove
Family Fun Day
July 8, 10:30am-3:00pm

Please consider sharing this information with friends and family. And if you’re interested in joining the Personal Stewardship Team, please contact me at


Come Holy Spirit, Enlighten Our Hearts and Our Minds!

Johan van Parys
Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts 

Many, many years ago I was asked to proclaim the first reading on the solemnity of Pentecost. I had just been confirmed and was extremely excited to be asked. Little did I know that this is one of the most difficult readings to proclaim. My dear great-aunt who was a nun told me to make sure I prepared the reading well as it had many difficult words in it. Looking over the reading, I soon discovered words I had never encountered: Who were the Parthians, the Medes or the Elamites? Despite my careful preparation, I stumbled over a couple, but it was Phrygia and Pamphilia that did me in. Embarrassed, I swore to myself I would never proclaim in church again.

And yet, I was intrigued by what appeared to be the description of a colorful and somewhat exotic gathering. I imagined life in Jerusalem some 2000 years ago to be complex and extremely diverse, not unlike my experience of the Sunday Market in Brussels, the capital of Belgium and of the European Union. When my grandmother took me there for the first time, I could not believe my eyes. Coming from a small and traditional town in Flanders, the sight of people from all over the world made me dizzy with excitement. They wore all sorts of different clothes. They spoke different languages. They sold interesting foods, much less bland than I was used to. It was an absolute delight and it felt like I was traveling from country to country in a matter of moments. Jerusalem must have looked somewhat like that.

Then my imagination invited me into the upper room where the apostles were hiding. By contrast with the festive market outside, inside, the apostles were laden with fear and burdened by uncertainty. I could see the fear in their eyes and feel their burden on my shoulders. And then, in an instant, everything changed. Overcoming their fear and inspired by the Holy Spirit, they threw open the windows and burst into the street.

The site of the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking about the marvelous deeds of God, must have quieted the market gathering. And miraculously, no matter their ethnicity and language, everyone could understand what the apostles were saying. By the power of the Holy Spirit, all of a sudden, the differences between all these people were overcome by the good news which everyone was able to understand despite ethnic differences and linguistic barriers.

Our world today is even more diverse than Jerusalem, and many a capital, 2000 years ago. In addition, the friendly hustle and bustle which is characteristic for above described markets is replaced with fear and anger. Though many of us speak, or at least understand, the same language, we seem to be unable to hear one another. The political world is particularly affected by this. The kind of linguistic cacophony typical for political discourse is often maddening. And rather than inviting dialogue, everyone just speaks louder so as to be heard above the rest and to win whichever issue is at stake.

Our church is not immune to this either. Though we speak the same language, many of us say different things, and again, rather than listening to one another, we just speak louder and louder in a desperate attempt to be heard and to win whichever battle we are waging. Sadly, we lack the inner peace and the mutual respect needed to listen intently to one another and learn from one another and together become more like Christ.

On this Solemnity of Pentecost, let us pray that the Holy Spirit may cleanse our souls from any hatred, alleviate all fear from our hearts and give us the gift of attentive listening, so we may hear one another and be respectful of one another and move forward together. Maybe one day we will hear it said: “We are Republicans, Democrats and Independents; rich and poor; liberals, conservatives and moderates; women and men and children; Africans, Asians and Americans; Jews, Christians and Muslims, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongue of the mighty acts of God.”

May that day come soon.

Come Holy Spirit, enlighten our hearts and our minds!

New Roof, Plumbing, Restrooms for Basilica School

Terri Ashmore
Managing Director

Critical infrastructure projects are in the works. Grants from The Basilica Landmark of nearly $1.2 million this year will fund major renovation projects. The Basilica Landmark is a separate 501(c)3 dedicated to renovating and restoring America’s first Basilica.

After being deferred for years due to lack of funding, a new school roof is in the works. Plumbing repairs and renovations to school bathrooms will be completed and result in handicap-accessible bathrooms.

Volunteer Peter Crain has been involved in the Facilities Assessment Committee since its start in 2000 and now serves as Facilities Chairman and as a Landmark Board member. “Deferred maintenance is a Catch 22,” Peter said. “You never want to defer major repairs, but budgets are a reality. Delayed maintenance simply costs more money in the long run.” Peter commented, “The Basilica School roof is a good example. The school roof has been examined and closely monitored for the past 10 years. The roof has really outlived its designed longevity, and the time to replace it is now.”

Upon opening in 1913, the school had a slate roof. For the last 20 years it has had a rolled asphalt type of roof. It’s still a mystery when the slate roof was removed. Because the school, church and rectory are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, approvals are needed from the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission before work can proceed. After research, plans are to install a copper roof that will last 50 years plus, if properly maintained. Miller Dunwiddie architect Chuck Liddy will take the request for a copper roof through the approval process. If all goes smoothly, work will begin and be completed before the snow falls.
A campus-wide “roof analysis” is being developed to track when each roof was last repaired, costs and work completed, and when future repairs are anticipated. This will be a great tool for future planning and budgeting.

For years, school plumbing has also deteriorated. Over the past two years, plumbing repairs made on the school’s west side led to discoveries of cast iron pipes that had rotted away, sewer gas leaks and corroded vents. The restrooms weren’t compliant with ADA accessibility requirements. Thanks to the support of donors through grants from The Basilica Landmark, repair and remodel of the school’s east side restrooms will be completed this summer.

This school renovation is good for the parish and for our tenant. Evenings and weekends, The Basilica School is home to parish ministries and programs for all ages. Daytimes from August through June, KIPP Stand Academy is in session. A Minnesota public charter school, KIPP serves fifth–eighth grade students, primarily from North Minneapolis. They focus on catching children up in reading, math and science so they can successfully go on to college, no matter where they attend high school.

To learn more about planned building projects at The Basilica, please visit


Welcoming first-time visitors to The Basilica of Saint Mary is always a delight.

Emily Carlson Hjelm
Executive Director The Basilica Landmark

Last Sunday, I sat behind a youth group at Mass from a parish outside the Twin Cities. It must have been unique to be surrounded by the history and grandeur of The Basilica because I couldn’t help but notice they were spellbound. Their gazes seemed captivated, and their eyes looked up toward Mary, welcoming them at the top of the baldachin. That morning, I was reminded of the value of our building and the innate inspiration that lives in the architecture. This magnificence shouldn’t be taken for granted — even for those who have the opportunity to enjoy it weekly, or even daily.

Our Basilica building is a true gift, one that is here for anyone who enters. We are indebted to the generation who joined together to save our magnificent building over 20 years ago. Decades of neglected structural maintenance left The Basilica’s foundation crumbling. I feel a great sense of appreciation to those who invested their resources — time, talent and financial support — to halt that deterioration. The Basilica of Saint Mary is a cherished landmark worth protecting and preserving. Could you write your Basilica story without the building, the home for ministry and outreach?
The Basilica Landmark carries forward this tradition in our mission to continue the work to save and protect The Basilica. This spring, The Basilica Landmark is launching a marketing effort to share our good news beyond our parish audience. “The Building of Hope” campaign will launch with ads in publications including the Star Tribune, Catholic Spirit and Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine. This campaign is possible through a generous gift from an anonymous donor as we work to inspire our parish and community to invest in the treasure that is The Basilica of Saint Mary.

This investment is imperative because the needs of our campus buildings will never end. Just last winter, a 300-pound piece of granite fell from The Basilica's west bell tower and crashed through the church's front steps. This incident illustrates the challenges of maintaining a historic building and reinforces the need of our ongoing restoration efforts.

The Basilica Landmark will provide more than $1.1 million for our church and campus buildings in 2012, funding overdue updates to the school building, replacing the inefficient rectory boiler, organ chamber restoration work, and of course the restoration of the narthex and sacristy, along with dozens of other restoration projects.

Thousands of people have come together to save and protect America's first Basilica — a stunning, sacred place and an architectural landmark. And in return, this building serves as a foundation for our community as a center for the arts, a refuge for those in need, and a beacon of hope for our entire metropolitan area. Hundreds of thousands of people will enjoy the benefits of our building in the future, and their stories will be possible because of our commitment.

The Building of Hope needs your dedicated support with a financial gift today. Your gift to The Basilica Landmark ensures The Basilica stands strong for the next 100 years. Please consider a gift, volunteer your time, or tell others about The Basilica Landmark. Donate online at or call 612.317.3421.


Ever been frustrated by home repairs? Multiply that tenfold for The Basilica.

Terri Ashmore
Managing Director

Think home repairs on steroids. On the National Register of Historic Places, our church and school are over 100 years old and the rectory is pushing 80. Cowley Center is 50 years old.  

From the 1950s to 1989, campus maintenance was delayed or non-existent. In 1989, the church was in such serious structural disrepair, the parish was faced with closing the church, or raising the funds to save it. Thankfully parishioners rallied and saved The Basilica for us and for future generations. But the challenge of caring for The Basilica campus remains. Repairs are frequently put on hold until funds are available, often resulting in more costly repairs.  

After years of crisis, a Facilities Assessment Committee was formalized in 2000 to systematically plan for The Basilica’s long-term maintenance needs. Parishioner Peter Crain started helping out in the 1990s. Today Peter leads the Facilities Committee and also serves on The Basilica Landmark Board. The Landmark is a separate 501(c)3 non-profit organization committed to building awareness of America’s first Basilica, and raising funds for its ongoing renovation and restoration as a spiritual beacon and a cultural center. 

Facilities Committee members share expertise in building and construction, and include parishioners and staff in partnership with our contractor, Wayne Anderson of Crawford Merz Anderson Construction and Chuck Liddy, our architect from Miller Dunwiddie who provide invaluable assistance. Annually, members walk the grounds and every campus building to assess needs based on building use, safety concerns and building integrity. They set funding priorities and make recommendations to Fr. Bauer, the Parish Council and Finance Committee. Each year, the parish requests funding for campus improvements from The Basilica Landmark. Staff Director of Building and Grounds, Dave Laurent, capably schedules and oversees day-to-day project management to insure efficient stewardship of donors’ financial support.

Thanks to grants of nearly $1.2 million from The Basilica Landmark, many projects are planned in 2012. I’d like to highlight three happening this summer. In the church, buckling wooden floor boards in St. Joseph’s Chapel have created a safety hazard for worshippers. A new $30,000 more durable, refinishable replacement floor should last 10 to 20 years. During May, 7:00am and noon daily Masses will move to the church sacristy (its “pre-undercroft” location). Next, a $59,000 sacristy restoration will begin including lighting upgrades and improved vestment storage. Nationally known restorers, Conrad Schmitt Studios, Inc., will lead this effort. Last October, Basilica supporters won a “Partners in Preservation” Facebook vote resulting in funding from an American Express grant.

Every decade, The Basilica’s bronze entry doors need restoration and repair due to discoloration caused by weather and acid rain, and the impacts of heavy use and the sheer weight of the doors. This $44,000 project will repair the bronze finish, crash bars, hinges, and locking mechanisms.

The Basilica is doubly blessed, by volunteers who share their expertise on the Facilities Assessment Committee, and by generous funding from The Basilica Landmark.  


Why do I have to do it? Growing up in a family of seven children, those words were heard frequently in our house.

Father John Bauer

Usually they were uttered when someone was being told to do something he or she didn’t want to do to or that they didn’t think was their responsibility. In these situations, since my parents were the final arbiter, seldom did our words change their decision.   

One of the areas where this question arose with some frequency was when my parents — usually my mother — decided that we needed to do something for a friend or neighbor. Often these were small tasks, e.g. mowing a yard, shoveling snow, or running an errand, but we were expected to do them without complaint and without delay. I remember one time in particular one of our neighbors paid my older brother and me for shoveling her driveway and sidewalk. When we arrived home my mother made us turn around and go and give the money back. When we asked why we had to do that, her rationale was simple. We help others not in expectation of reward, but simply because we can. We have been blessed; therefore we have a responsibility to share our blessings.   

Now I mention this today because next weekend we will take up a second collection for the benefit of Ascension School, the ministry of our Ascension Church, our sister parish in North Minneapolis. As many of you know, our relationship with Ascension parish and school started many years ago when my predecessor, Fr. Michael O’Connell, served as pastor of both The Basilica and Ascension. Since leaving The Basilica, Fr. O’Connell has served full time as pastor of Ascension parish. The relationship between our two parishes, though, continues.   

Although The Basilica and Ascension are only a mile and a quarter apart, I’m sure we are all aware that a very different reality exists for our North Side neighbors from the one we are accustomed to in our communities. It is a reality that is full of significant challenges. Ascension is in the midst of a neighborhood where the futures for youth are often severely limited. Ascension School provides its students with an environment of achievement. Students are expected — and nurtured — to perform at a level that matches the best schools in this city and state, all in a neighborhood where the statistics would suggest a very different expectation. The eighth graders at Ascension regularly exceed the state and city average on the MCA-II test scores. In a neighborhood where many students aren’t graduating from high school, Ascension students not only graduate from high school, they go on to attend college. In fact, Fr. O’Connell regularly refers to Ascension School as a “miracle factory.” I stand in awe of the difference Ascension School is making on the North Side of Minneapolis.   

Given the critical importance of this school and its students to the future of the North Side, as well as our city, we will take up a second collection next weekend in support of Ascension School. While the students of Ascension achieve at the level of any of their suburban peers, their families do not have this level of financial resources. At Ascension, 85 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch, the federal standard for poverty. Almost every student receives scholarship funding to attend Ascension. Without the support of outside donors — donors who believe in the importance of Catholic education, particularly in the inner city — this school would likely have to close its doors. 

Given the above, I ask you to please prayerfully consider a contribution in support of Ascension School. I thank you in advance for your generosity.  

If you have any further questions about Ascension or wish to inquire about other scholarship opportunities, please contact Teresa Floberg at Ascension at 612.424.6207.  


I am one of the many people who followed the call of the Spirit to join the Roman Catholic Church as an adult.

Janice Andersen
Director of Christian Life

My journey into Catholicism was not prompted by social pressures. It was truly a spiritual journey, lead by the Holy Spirit and fed by my hunger for a full and deep sacramental life.  

I am deeply grateful for my experience of growing up in a strong, faith-filled Lutheran home. The Lutheran Church was the center of my life. It was through the formation I received in Zion Lutheran Church—in Brooklyn, New York—that lead me to yearn for a more intentional expression of my faith.

In the late 80’s, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) began an intentional process to articulate the church’s stand on abortion. In 1991, after several years of national dialogue and debate, representatives from all around the country gathered in Orlando, Florida to take a vote on the church’s stand on abortion. With a more than two-thirds majority vote, the ECLA adopted a church-wide social teaching statement on abortion.  

I can vividly remember how I felt when I heard the final results of the vote. My feelings were not triggered by the results of the vote—but by the process that had just been completed. I felt empty and confused. Is this the way a church should take a stand that directs the lives of the faithful—by a majority vote? Was there another way?

As I experienced the power of the Roman Catholic liturgical rites, and I was exposed to the clarity of Catholic Social Teaching, I discovered that the Catholic Church had a different way to invite the faithful to make choices in their lives. The Catholic Church offers a non-comprised stand on the sacredness of all life. This is the starting point for each and every decision of our day and every facet of our life. In all things, we are invited to bump up against this truth: All life is sacred. From this place, we have the right and obligation to learn what the church teaches and to prayerfully discern what choice to make.  

From this perspective, a simple two-third majority vote seems like the easier, softer way. The Roman Catholic Church asks us to be mature, responsible Catholic Christians. The Roman Catholic Church requires us to do the work to bump up against the sacredness of all life, and to make a decision from a well-formed and informed conscience. We must learn what the Church teaches. We must be disciplined and committed to a life of prayer and community. And then, we are act. Our society and our Church will flourish when people live a mature faithful life.

The Basilica is offering a three-part series entitled: Forming Our Conscience lead by Dr. Bernie Evans. As we move into an important election year, with so many crucial decisions to be made by each adult member of our society, we are invited to do the work that our adult faith demands. Let us learn together, so that we can make individual decisions and shape society to reflect the sacredness of all life and the dignity of every human person.

Please join Dr. Evans, the Learning Department, and the Basilica Voices for Justice Team at 1:00 pm on Sunday, April 22nd, 29th and May 6th in the Lower Level of the Basilica.   


We all know it is an election year and along with that comes the privilege and duty to participate in the electoral process by casting our vote.

Paula Kaempffer
Director of Learning 

Taken seriously, our participation in this process is often no easy task because of the complexity, not only of the issues facing our nation, but also of the candidates themselves. Almost never is there a single candidate who represents our individual thinking on every issue. As a result we are frequently faced with supporting candidates with whom we differ on some significant issues because, on balance, they most closely represent our wishes.

Our voting decisions do not take place in a vacuum. They are informed by our political backgrounds, our personal socio-economic situations, our life experiences, perhaps our family backgrounds, in addition to other influences. As tempting as it is sometimes, we can't compartmentalize our lives and leave our faith in one compartment isolated from the rest of our lives. All the facets should inform one another. Our lives have to influence our faith and our faith has to influence our lives. So, how do we integrate our faith and Catholic teaching into the rest of life, including our voting decisions?

We as Catholics are blessed because we have many teachings and guidelines that keep us focused on what is important in this life and these come from a variety of sources. One such set of teachings we might not be familiar with are our principles of Catholic Social Teaching. They are as follows:

1. Human Dignity : We believe that every human life is sacred from conception to natural death, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is to protect and respect the life and dignity of every human person. 

2. Community and the Common Good : Our Church teaches that the role of the government and other institutions is to protect human life and human dignity and promote the common good. Every person has a right to participate in social, economic, and political life and a corresponding duty to work for the advancement of the common good and the well-being of all, especially the poor and weak. 

3. Rights and Responsibilities: Every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency — faith and family life, food and shelter, education and employment, health care and housing.

4. Preferential Option for the Poor: A fundamental measure of our society is how we care for and stand with the poor and vulnerable. We will be judged by what we choose to do or not to do in regard to the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the homeless, the prisoner. 

5. Participation : All people have a right to participate in the economic, political, and cultural life of society. 

6. Dignity of Work and Rights of Workers: We believe that the economy must serve people, not the other way around. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected.

7. Stewardship of Creation: We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation. Good stewardship of the earth shows our respect for the Creator.

8. Solidarity : We are our brothers' and sisters' keepers, wherever they may live.

9. Role of Government : The state is an instrument to promote human dignity, protect human rights, and build the common good and to assist us in fulfilling our responsibility to others in society. 

10. Promotion of Peace : Catholic teaching promotes peace as a positive, action-oriented concept. Peace is the fruit of justice and is dependent upon right order among human beings. 


Beginning next weekend we will have an opportunity to participate in a very important adult learning experience in preparation for this election year. Dr. Bernard Evans, from St. John's University School of Theology/Seminary, will offer a three part series entitled, Forming Our Conscience. This is not intended to influence or direct your voting decisions on any issue. Rather, he will assist us in a very practical approach to looking at some of the more crucial issues in light of Catholic Social Teaching and take us through a process in forming our conscience around each of them, while giving us many resources as aids in doing this. Among some of the issues that he will consider as examples in forming our conscience are health care, immigration, inequality and poverty, and the environment.

Comforting words in the English language are: "me too."

Fr. Bauer
April 8, 2012

I think some of the most comforting words in the English language are: “me too.”  Oftentimes we hear them when someone tells us that they have shared our struggle.  These simple words suggest that we are not alone and that others have been down the same road we have. From my perspective, they remind us that we are more alike than we are different. They also remind us that we all struggle with sinfulness and failings in our lives. And while there may be some differences in how our sins find expression in our individual lives, at root our sins are the result of our failure to live as Jesus has taught us, by loving God and our neighbor.   

Now in addition to reminding us that we are not alone in our sinfulness and failings, more importantly the words “me too” remind us that we all need Jesus Christ as our Savior. No one can achieve salvation through one’s own efforts. No matter how much good we do, no matter how holy we are, we do not merit and cannot earn salvation through our own efforts. Salvation is God’s doing, not our own. It is God’s gift. Our task and our challenge is to be open to the gift of salvation as it is offered to us in Jesus Christ. 

Through his life, death and resurrection Jesus has opened the gates of heaven and shown us the way to the Father. It is for this reason that our celebration of Easter is so important. For this Feast celebrates this wonderful gift that is offered to us, and it invites us to accept that gift through lives lived out in faith, in hope and in love.  

It can be easy to forget how important—how necessary—Easter is. For this reason, it is good to be reminded that not only does Easter celebrate Christ’s resurrection, but also, it celebrates the fact that through his life, death, and resurrection Jesus Christ offer us the promise of eternal life. This promise is made to all believers. Truly this is a wondrous gift. It is worthy of our most heartfelt thanks and our most glorious celebration. 

As we gather today on the great feast of Easter, my prayer is that our celebration might be an opportunity for us to remember how important this feast is for us, that it might be a time for us to celebrate our faith in Jesus Christ, that it might be the occasion for us to renew our hope in the promise of eternal life, so that together we might utter a silent “me too” as we affirm and acknowledge our need for Jesus Christ as our savior.   




Final installment of 4-part series on determining if something is "of God."

Fr. Bauer
April 1, 2012

10.   We need to ask ourselves if we feel comfortable when or if others disagree with or even challenge our decision? It is easy for us to move forward when seemingly everyone around us is in agreement with our decision. The issue, though, is how do we respond when someone disagrees with or challenges our decision. Do we become defensive or angry? Do we avoid those people, or instead are we able to listen to their concerns and criticisms. Are we able to hear them, take them in and wrestle with them?  If we can listen to those who disagree with us --- or who even criticize us, without becoming angry or defensive, the chances are pretty good that the decision we come to will be “of God.”  On the other hand if we isolate ourselves, dismiss what others have to say to us, or angrily reject both what is being said and the person who is saying it, I would suggest that the decision was not “of God,” but of ourselves. 

11.   As far as possible, we need to be honest and open about our fears. All too often, fear --- whether we know it or not --- can have a major impact on our thought process and decision making. This seems simple, but the difficulty is that we are not always aware of our fears. It is easy to be honest about being afraid of heights, or confined spaces, or public speaking. It is much harder to admit, or in some cases even to be aware of, a fear of intimacy, or loneliness, or inadequacy. It is those fears that exist deep within us that can drive our decision making --- often without our awareness. Given this, we need to try as best we can to be honest with ourselves in terms of the fears we carry within us.
Perhaps the best way to begin the above is to sit quietly with God in prayer, asking God to help us accept God’s love for us, a love that is unconditional, unmerited, beyond belief and without reason. Once we can rest in God’s love, it is far easier to acknowledge and set aside any fears that may be driving our decision. We can then be more open to God’s will and work, which in turn will enable us to make decisions that are truly “of God.”  

12.  Finally in order to ensure that a decision is “of God” we always need to be willing to re-evaluate our decision when new information becomes available or if someone suggests something we had not considered. Additionally, when making a decision, we need to look to the future, and not just the present. We need to be aware of the long term effects of a decision. Both of these things are important. Despite our best efforts, when we are making decisions we can sometimes be unaware of or simply blind to some information. Unlike God, we are not omniscient. Likewise, when we take the long view of a decision, we can see that it may have consequences we had not envisioned or anticipated. 

If we usually view our decisions as irrevocable or having meaning only for the present, it is likely that we will miss something of what God wants us to know. While looking to the future and being open to re-evaluating a decision won’t necessary ensure that a decision is “of God,” it does increase that possibility.
It is hard to determine, when something is “of God,” and not just our own wants and whims asserting themselves. It is harder still to know when a decision we have made is truly “of God.” It is important to remember, though, that God is with us and for us and that God does want to help us make decisions that are really “of God.”  While the above steps certainly can’t guarantee that all of our decisions will be “of God,” at the very least they can help us invite God into our decision making process.    

This week we continue with the third installment of a four-part series on determining whether something is “of God.”

Father Bauer

6.   We need to bring things to the Christian community for their input. As I am fond of saying, the Christian community provides two vital functions in our lives. It is both supportive and corrective. It supports us when our own resources are not enough. But it also corrects us when/if we go “off the rails.” It is good to seek out the wisdom of others when we are trying to decide if something is “of God.” Other people can help us see things in a different light, or can challenge us to take off our blinders and see a broader picture. As one of my former spiritual directors used to tell me: “When we are trying to discern God’s will, bringing things to the Christian community gives us more eyes, ears, hearts and minds to help ensure that we are truly open to and listening for the voice of God.”   

7.  In order to discern whether something is “of God,” we need to ask ourselves what our head is telling us, where our heart is moving us, and where our spirit is leading us. We need to be honest and acknowledge that the logic of the mind, the love of the heart, or the passion or enthusiasm of the spirit can unknowingly influence our decisions. Thus, while it is difficult, we need to try to distinguish the separate influence of the head, the heart, and the spirit, so that we can determine whether one has overridden or muted the others. 

Logic, love and passion are not always in accord. This is not a bad thing. We do need to be aware of it, though, lest one —unbeknownst to us — overwhelms the others. And since God can communicate with us via one or all three, we need to continually ask ourselves if we are open to that communication from God, whenever and however it is coming to us.   

8.  We need to ask ourselves where we experience consolation. God always verifies our decisions. Internally, verification of a right decision brings a deep sense of peace and joy, an abiding sense that this is what God wants and everything is going to be OK. Externally God verifies our decisions, too. But, when we make a decision, if inner turmoil rises, then you can bet the decision is wrong and something’s askew in the process.

God always offers us verification of our decisions internally and externally. Waiting for that verification, attending to it, and responding to it as best we can, are at the core of understanding when something is “of God.”
9.  We also need to ask ourselves where we experience desolation. Signs of desolation are deep feelings of sadness, anger, fear, anxiety or sometimes being preoccupied and thus distracted by sex, food, alcohol, etc. When we feel bad and down, when our internal cup is full, I don’t believe we can make a decision that is “of God.” Decisions made in desolation are often decisions that are attempting to move us out the feeling of desolation. Given this, they are not “of God” so much as they are “of ourselves.”    

Intensity, turmoil and desolation block the Holy Spirit and paralyze us in self-preoccupation and inhibit our ability to be open to God. When we are experiencing desolation, there is a desire to move out of it as quickly, painlessly and as easily as possible. For this reason, decisions made in desolation are seldom “of God.”  When we are in desolation, we need to acknowledge this and invite God’s Spirit to be a part of our decision-making.  

Continued with second installment of 4-part series on determining if something is "of God."

Fr. Bauer

3.  In a vein similar to the above, when we come to prayer to try to determine whether something is “of God” we need to honestly acknowledge any biases or prejudices of which we are aware. This means we need to apply a ruthless candor both to ourselves and to the issue we are bringing to prayer. Are we emotionally involved with the object of our prayer? Do we have a vested interest in the outcome of our prayer? By being brutally honest with ourselves, we can come to see where our judgment might be clouded or where something or someone outside ourselves is influencing our thoughts.
Perhaps more importantly, when we are trying to determine whether something is “of God,” not only do we need to bring an openness to prayer, but also a willingness to change our hearts and minds. In this regard, something that can be very helpful is to ask the simple question:  “What are all the alternatives I should be bringing to prayer?” It is too easy to come to prayer with just a couple of options. We need to bring the full range of possibilities --- the pros and the cons --- to prayer if we truly want to discern God’s will and way. 
The process of separating the issues into cons and pros is critical. It takes quiet, prayer, time, and hardnosed honesty for all the cons and pros to bubble up in us. The purpose of separating the issues into cons and pros is to uncover eventually all of the reasons, and thus hopefully discover the real reasons, for a decision. Cons are best done first, simply because they tend to disappear when done second.   
4.   We need to approach prayer with what St. Ignatius of Loyola called holy indifference.  When we have examined all sides of the concern at hand, we need to step back and just let things steep for awhile. If we are attached to one side of the equation in our decision-making, then we have no assurance that we are making our decision in the Holy Spirit. Good decision-making requires us, always, to give ourselves to whatever it is God wants of us. That means letting go and opening deeply to, in fact, whatever it is that God wants of us. That is holy indifference. 
Only when we are truly open --- in faith, in prayer, in freedom --- to whatever it is that God wants of us, will our direction emerge --- in God’s good time --- not ours. The bottom line for holy indifference is that --- all things considered --- this direction seems to be what God desires for me.  This can help us understand when something is truly “of God.”   
5.  We need to understand that determining whether something is “of God” is more often a process, than an event. All too often it is easy to pray about something once or even twice and think that is sufficient time for us to discern God’s will. The fact of the matter is, though, that sometimes it takes us a while to let God’s grace penetrate our defenses and/or overcome our resistance to the point where we are able to see things differently, or to understand what God might be asking of us or where God might be leading us. Determining when or if something is “of God” is more often a process than it is an event and that means that we need to devote sufficient time and energy to this endeavor to make sure we are not deluding ourselves. 

I Prayed About It

Father John Bauer

Most often when I hear these words, it is right before someone announces a decision they have made or an action they have taken. Praying about something is a good thing. I strongly endorse and wholeheartedly encourage prayer. Unfortunately I have discovered that sometimes people use “I prayed about it” as a way of justifying an attitude they already hold or a decision they have already made. I would like to suggest, though, that if we are serious about prayer and about wanting God’s input in regard to how we are to live and think, then we need to do more than just spend a few minutes theoretically “praying” about something. Given this, the question becomes how we really know when something is “of God” and not just our own wants and whims asserting themselves. How do we really know when God is the author of our impulses and desires and not just ourselves? In this column, and for the next three weeks, I would like to suggest 12 things that I believe can help us do this.

1. First, we need to begin by realizing that prayer is not about trying to get God to endorse a decision we have already made. Rather it is about our trying to discern God’s will and work in our lives. If I am honest, I have to admit that all too often when I pray about something I already have an idea and sometimes even a decision in mind. Prayer in these instances is pretty mechanical. I usually end up by telling myself that since God didn’t say “no,” it’s okay to do what I want to do. However, when we understand that prayer is not about trying to persuade God that what we’ve already decided is the thing to do or the way to go, we are challenged to let God be a part of our decision making process, rather than a silent partner.   

Something can be “of God” only if we let God into the process from the very beginning, instead of including God as an afterthought.   

2. Second, we need to focus clearly on what it is we are praying about. Perhaps this sounds simplistic, but at times in order to determine whether something is “of God,” we need to do some data gathering. Sometimes this means sorting through mental or emotional stress or confusion. Sometimes it means going over the same ground a second or even a third time in order to frame the question correctly. A critical step in discerning whether something is “of God” is determining: What is my decision about, really?

Given the above, the question we need to ask is: Given who I am, what does God want me to do? It is not: God, what is the easiest or most expedient thing to do? Nor is it: God, what will cause the least difficulty or disruption? Rather, the right question is: God, given who I am, what is it you want me to do in this situation? Getting the question right shapes everything that follows.  


What if you didn’t have a place to call home?

Terri Ashmore
Managing Director

We all know how critical “home” is to our own sense of safety, security and well-being. That’s why the Northside Housing Initiative is so exciting.  

In 2010, parishioner Dan Millea called Christian Life Director Janice Andersen to volunteer. The Northside Housing Initiative was being organized and he started going to meetings. Dan commented, “Before volunteering, I supported the parish financially which is very important. By giving my time to something meaningful and lasting, I feel closer to The Basilica and the community.” Today, Dan serves as chairman and keeps information flowing to everyone involved.

Seeking a partner knowledgeable in community development who shared The Basilica’s goals, The Northside Housing Initiative quickly settled on CommonBond. A nonprofit since 1971, CommonBond serves families, seniors and people living with disabilities by providing stable housing for 5,000 families in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.

Together with CommonBond and community leaders, they searched for property and weighed pros and cons of many options. Learning about the needs and hopes of people in the community, and insuring the project met their needs and had their support were critical first steps, and these conversations are ongoing. Next, they went to the Minneapolis City Council. Over the past year, in consultation with neighborhood and city leaders, they have focused on the West Broadway Curve in North Minneapolis.  

Ann Ruff, CommonBond’s Vice President for Resource Development, shared, “Last year’s tornado damage intensified the need for new workforce housing for families and the ongoing need for new investment in the Jordan neighborhood. Located in the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ), the “Curve” is a very high priority city redevelopment area with a number of major transit-related initiatives underway and is consistent with neighborhood and city goals.”

With a location in sight, the focus has shifted to funding. The Basilica Landmark is raising another $142,500 in start-up funds with a matching challenge gift, so donations will be matched dollar for dollar. These funds allow CommonBond to seek grants and financing from city sources.  

The Basilica’s partnership with CommonBond and the government will address neighborhood needs for safe, permanent, and dignified housing so people living at the margins of society achieve stability, advancement and independence, and in the process, build community and economic vibrancy for the entire neighborhood.

Chairman Millea was surprised by the slow pace, but looking back agrees “the step-by-step approach was exactly what was needed.” Plans call for 50 new mixed-income rental housing units on West Broadway to serve singles and families with children. With the help of Basilica volunteers, CommonBond will offer comprehensive on-site resident “Advantage Services,” like study assistance for students and life skills classes for parents. The “Curve” will be more than just a place to live — it will be a place for community outreach and services. Construction could begin later this year, or in early 2013.  


One of the great characteristics about Christians in the early Church was their incredible love and care for one another.

Paula Kaempffer
Director of Learning

Saint Paul tells us how that love was manifested throughout the communities that existed at that time. Those communities were considered to be “house churches,” or as we call them today, “domestic churches.”  Throughout his writings, Paul speaks about the members of such churches’ love for one another, their sacrifices on behalf of the community and their many disagreements over matters of passing on the faith to others, especially to the Gentiles (non-Jews).
Disagreement has always been present in the Church. And one of the beautiful things about our Catholic Church has been that people on both sides of an issue can and do exist next to one another. Whenever there are people gathered for any purpose, disagreement between them is a given. So we are not much different than the early Church.
When I am with those who think differently from me I find myself internally digging my heels in a bit. I tend to want to resist their opinions or write them off as well-intentioned but wrong. It is at those times when I need to move beyond my personal feelings and allow the Spirit to help me to love them and not judge them. I wish I could say that I was good at it, but I’m not. But I am very aware of it and they say that awareness is half the battle.

It helps if I remember that I don’t have to have the last word, and I don’t have to respond in anger and escalate the situation. I can listen with my heart to what they are really saying or not saying. For me that means having the willingness to be open to the other and to accept them where they are. That is the hardest part for me. I don’t like it when others judge me and that is why I don’t get to judge them.

Within our Church, we have as many opinions as we do people. That’s a whole lot of opinions floating around! But remembering that there are good, heartfelt, faith-filled, loving members of our faith community on both sides of an issue makes it easier to stay at the table and continue the dialogue. We must be able to talk with one another and not allow any issue to divide who we are as a faith community. And that is worth remembering as we walk this journey together.

A while back, I read an article by one of my favorite theologians, Father Ronald Rolheiser, O.M.I.

Father John Bauer

In the article, Rolheiser wrote about Yale theologian Miroslav Volf, who in his book A Public Faith (2011), told how the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor once heard Mother Teresa explain why she served the poor. She often complained: "People say we're social workers. We're not social workers! We're Christians who worship Jesus as Lord and therefore serve people made in the image of God." Taylor, a practicing Catholic, thought to himself: "I could have said that too!" Upon further reflection, though, he then wondered, "But could I have meant it?"

It’s easy enough to confess a creed; that's what we do, especially as Christians.  But like Taylor, we need to ask ourselves: "Do I mean it?" It is easy to get the words right, to know what it is we believe and profess.  It is quite another thing to be able to “mean” those words and give witness to them in our lives.  
All too often, in my own life, I fail to live out the beliefs I profess.  I suspect (and perhaps secretly hope) I am not alone in this.  Giving meaning to our beliefs through lives lived out in faith, in hope, and in love is not as easy it seems.  Our selfishness and sinfulness often get in the way.  They cloud our judgment and influence our actions.  There are other times, though, when we get it right, when our lives truly give witness to the faith we profess. What makes the difference? Well, I have to believe that prayer makes the difference.

In and through our prayer we make a conscious effort to attend to something greater than ourselves, something external to us, yet at the same time deeply rooted within us.  It is at those times —sometimes those fleeting moments of prayer — that we realize that we are loved by God, and that in return we are called to love God but also to love our neighbor as our self.   It is at these times that we understand that we are called to give meaning to our beliefs through our actions — through the witness of our faith.  

In the Rite of Ordination of a Deacon, the newly ordained deacon kneels before the bishop and is presented with the Book of the Gospels.  As he places the Book of the Gospels in the hands of the deacon, the bishop says: “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are.  Believe what your read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” 

I remember when those words were spoken to me when I was ordained a deacon.  They reminded me then and now that when we “practice” the words of the scriptures, that we give “meaning” to those words.   I believe this is true for all of us.  It is easy to know the words to say. We give meaning to those words, though, through lives lived out in the practice of our faith.

Local Stewardship is fundamentally about relationships.

Janice Anderson
Director of Life

Defined as creating bridges between communities and advocating for those in need, Local Stewardship requires us to be open to the rewarding, yet challenging, activities of building relationships.  

There are two movements to relationship building that are important in Local Stewardship. The first movement requires deep listening and being open to hear the other person’s story. The second movement requires us to share our experiences and stories with people who are in positions to make policies and laws for our community.

The first and perhaps most essential movement to building a relationship is to listen. Listening with an openness to hear the other’s story can bridge the gap between people. Listening to another’s story—to really work to get a glimpse into what life has been and is like for them—can be transforming. What is important to them and why? What experiences have shaped them? What hopes and dreams do they hold?

When we understand another person’s story from their perspective, the dynamics of a relationship are changed: We are no longer strangers. Listening can transform the person listening. It can also transform the person who is telling their story—you are invited to find your own answers and hear your own voice.

Deep, non-judgmental listening can transform people and build relationships, yet it is rare in our lives. It is hard to remain open and listen to the story of someone we disagree with or we hate. It is hard to remain open and listen to someone we are afraid of or who has hurt us.

The restorative justice movement in our communities highlights the power of sharing stories even in the worst of times. Restorative justice brings offenders and victims together. Through courageous sharing and listening, people are invited to move toward healing and reconciliation. Transformation takes place on both sides of the transgression.

The second movement of relationship building in Local Stewardship is to advocate for those in need. Advocacy can simply be defined as sharing your story with people in power. We are asked to share our experiences with those in our community who can make a difference. Let them know our personal story and the stories that we hear from others who have touched us. We share these stories to give voice to those who are voiceless. We advocate to place a high priority on the needs of the most vulnerable as decisions are made on budgets, policies, and laws.

Stewardship is a way of life rooted in scripture. The way we live our life each and every day—our choices and decisions—defines our character. Small steps, taken repeatedly, move great distances. As we open ourselves up to listen deeply to another, and as we move into the public arena to share these stories, we can transform our community in the image of love.

If you would like to get involved in specific activities of Local Stewardship call 612.317.3477. We are working to build relationships through listening and advocacy together!


The famous American writer and humorist, Will Rogers, once said, “Never pass up an opportunity to shut up.”

Father John Bauer

While these words can and should be applied to the conversations we have with others, I also think they can and should be applied to the idea of prayer. If we are to listen to others — and especially if we want to listen to God — we need to close our mouths, and open our ears, hearts, and minds.

To really listen, especially if we want to listen to God, we need to “shut up,” and open up to what God would have us know. Being quiet does not mean that nothing is going on; rather it offers us the opportunity for something to go in.

Now, while I am embarrassed to admit it — and while I know the truth of the above — all too often in my prayer I “babble on like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.” (Matthew 6.7)  I try to inform God of all the things I think God needs to know, forgetting that before a prayer is ever on my lips, God knows the whole of it.

On my better days, though, I can be still (if only for a few minutes) and let God be God. At these moments, I experience God’s grace and love, and know beyond doubt that God is with me and for me, and will never abandon me.

How, though, do we still our hearts, calm our minds, and quiet our spirits so we can be open to what God would have us know.

Perhaps it is easy for some people.  I suspect, though, that for the majority of us it is a matter of practice, practice, practice.  We need to begin by consciously shutting up, and then making the equally conscious choice to tune out all the extraneous noise that constantly invades our lives. It is then in the quiet and silence that we can “listen” for the voice of our God. In this, though, we need to remember that God can “speak” to us in any number of ways. If we listen only with our ears, we will miss much that God has to say to us.

Passing up an opportunity to shut up is difficult. It requires effort and practice. It is only in shutting up, though, that we can really listen to others. And it is only in shutting up and entering into the quiet of prayer that we can listen to what God wants us to know.

Pope Paul VI said that up until the second Vatican Council it had been sufficient for lay people to merely assist at Mass.

Johan van Parys
Director of Liturgy

He went on to say that the Second Vatican Council essentially changed this. “Before, being there was enough; now attention and activity are required. Before everyone could doze or chatter, now all must listen and pray. [see Documents on the Liturgy, 1963-1979 (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1982) 27, 401, 115].

This most major shift from ‘assisting at Mass’ to ‘actively participating in the liturgy’ has revolutionized Catholic understanding of the liturgy. No longer was it acceptable for the laity to watch the ordained ministers celebrate the rites of the church. Since the mid 1960s, all Catholics are invited, encouraged and even required to participate in many and various ways in the celebration of the liturgy.

The specific way in which people are to participate in the liturgy has been debated vigorously. The Pauline image of the Body of Christ gives us a glimpse at how this participation might be best understood. According to St. Paul, we are the body of Christ and like every part of the body has its own function, so does every member of the church. The church, as the body of Christ participates in a similar way in the liturgy. As the body has different parts that do different things, similarly, members of the Body of Christ exercise different ministries in the liturgy.

What kind of ministries, then, are there in the context of the liturgy? The first ministry is that of the entire Church. We, the Church, celebrate the liturgy as the one Body of Christ. Therefore it is important that the entire Body of Christ be present at the liturgy. And it is important that the entire Body of Christ participate actively, fully and consciously.

Second, in addition to the participation of the entire Body in a general way, this image suggests that some members of the Body are also called to participate in a more particular way relative to our gifts and talent. Certain members of the Body, for instance, have been given the talents to lead the community in prayer and are ordained to do so. Other members of the Body of Christ who have been gifted with musical talents ought to lead the community in song. Those who have the talent of public speech ought to proclaim the Word of God…etc.

Talents are entrusted to us by God for the betterment of the world and the Church. Liturgical talents are entrusted to us for the betterment of the liturgy. We ought to use them. Like the young man who stopped me after Mass, you may wonder if we need you for the celebration of the liturgy at The Basilica? The answer is plain and simple: “Yes, we do!” First of all we need you to actively participate in the liturgy through praying, singing, and listening. Second, we need you as a minister of hospitality; as a lector; as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion; as a cantor; as a choir member; as… Whatever your talents are, they can surely be put to the service of the liturgy.

As you serve in one of those capacities you will discover a new and deeper appreciation for the celebration of the liturgy; you will learn how to better serve the church and ultimately you will assist with the bringing about of the Reign of God. If you have thought our community too large, this is a perfect way to meet other members of our community. And remember: ‘don’t ask what the liturgy can do for you. Ask what you can do for the liturgy.

I may be in the minority, but I love the Christmas letters that many people enclose in their Christmas cards.

Father John Bauer

I know a lot people think these letters are a tedious litany of achievements and accomplishments that are somewhat suspect. And to be fair, some of them are a little over the top, especially when they brag about “junior” being first in his day care class, or “sis” winning the coveted role of the pumpkin queen in the kindergarten play. For the most part, though, I really like the fact that they provide an update on individuals and families I don’t see as often as I once did.

My practice with Christmas letters is to read them quickly when they first arrive and then to re-read them at a slower pace after the rush of Christmas is over. In fact, I usually take them to my cabin and re-read them in front of a roaring fire and a nice Scotch. When I do this, almost always I discover something I missed the first time through. It could be a small detail or a major life event, but I am always surprised and occasionally amazed that I missed something (particularly something important) on the first reading.

Re-reading Christmas letters and discovering something new, is a good example of why we read the same scripture passages every three years. (We are on a three year cycle for our Sunday readings.) Since we believe the scriptures are the inspired word of God, there is always something new we can find in the scriptures. Something may have happened in the world, our life situation may have changed, or perhaps we just are paying more attention — whatever the reason — the scriptures always have something new to tell us.

In light of the above, we need to read the scriptures prayerfully and frequently in order to discover not just what they say, but also to discern the meaning they have for us and what they are calling us to do. This doesn’t always happen in one quick reading. It requires time and an openness to what God would have us know. If we take time to read the scriptures, though, we will discover that they have much to say to us. Sometimes, even familiar passages can surprise us with the new message they have for us.

Just as we can find new information when we re-read a Christmas letter, so too we can find something new whenever we read the scriptures. Given this, we need to read them over and over again with an openness to what God is trying to tell us through them. It is in this way that we find guidance for our lives and hope for our future

Though you’ll read this in January, I write this column on Boxing Day.

Emily Carlson Hjelm
Director of Development

Similar to other bank holidays, I’ve always found this a curious observance that shows up on calendars, wondering its significance. And perhaps admitting my own ignorance, I believed there to be a connection to the sport. Once again, I’m wrong.

I didn’t see my younger sister on Christmas or Boxing Day this year.  This was the first year we celebrated Christmas without one of my siblings.  My sister moved to Australia in September and couldn’t make the five-connection flight between Sydney and Sioux Falls (South Dakota) work within the few days of holiday she was provided.  Thanks to the invention of Skype conferencing, we saw her on Christmas, but even that technology can’t compare to having her presence and sense of humor in the room.  We missed her.
When she posted something about observing Boxing Day on Facebook, I turned to the great knowers of random facts for the significance of Boxing Day.  My mother and husband fill this role with great ease.  In fact, I’m certain they could give the contestants on Jeopardy a good run for their money. 

My mother told me the story of Boxing Day as if I was a fifth grader in her classroom, looking up at her with inquisitive eyes, fully attentive.  This was a holiday originating in Europe.  The day after Christmas, aristocrats would box up their leftovers for their servants. 

It later became tradition for parish communities to celebrate December 26 by boxing up gifts for those less fortunate.  This inspired me.  It was really the first day after Christmas and perhaps the first step toward continuing the Christmas season. I’m sure for many who observe this bank holiday throughout the world, the tradition and significance is as lost as I was while combing the mall in search of that perfect toy for the last child on our list.  I’m not so sure God meant for us to find the “true” meaning of Christmas in giving the perfect American Girl doll, but in giving of our love in the same way God gave his only Son.

So, my New Year’s (or Boxing Day) resolution will be focusing on the true meaning of Christmas and celebrating the entirety of the Christmas Season. Christmas isn’t one or even two days.  The “Twelve Days of Christmas” isn’t a short carol, after all. It is a season that endures and is central to everything in our Christian tradition.
As we celebrate the gift of Christ into January, we’ll have many opportunities to give thanks and share of the gift of God’s love, including considering how you can help our Saint Vincent de Paul

Outreach Ministries.  Throughout the year at The Basilica, you can celebrate the spirit of Christmas.  I wish you a very happy and healthy New Year and may the season of Christmas continue to be celebrated in our hearts and minds throughout 2012. 

I have to admit that there are times when I am enormously jealous of those people for whom faith is regularly and deeply felt, and openly expressed.

Father John Bauer

I wish faith and the expression of faith came that easily for me. I suspect, though, that for many of us faith will never be — other than for short periods of time — a passionate force that empowers our lives and fills our hearts with love and our lives with courage and hope.  I don’t think this is indicative of a lack of belief or a deficiency of devotion.  Rather, I think faith finds expression in different ways in different people’s lives.  For some it is like a fire that burns deeply and brightly and is evident to all.  For others, faith is the sure foundation that undergirds our lives.  It is present and firm, but not always evident.

For those of us in the latter category, while we may not be able to guarantee how we will feel on any given day, and while we can't promise that we will always have emotional passion about our faith, we can promise that we’ll try to be faithful, that we'll always act with respect, and will always do what we can — as far as our human weakness allows — to help others and to bring God's love to the world. We can't guarantee how we will always feel, but we can live with the firm resolve never to live contrary to what we believe.

Now on the surface, a faith that is foundational to life — but not necessarily emotional — may seem to pale in comparison to a faith that is passionate, fervent, and expressive, but I would suggest that faith takes root and is expressed in any number of ways.  What matters is not so much the way faith is felt and conveyed, but rather that it finds expression in what we say and do, in how we live and act. Faith is not just a body of beliefs, a set of creedal formulations — important as they are — faith also needs to be lived out in and through our words and actions.

A life lived in response to the message of Jesus — a life lived out in love and care for others — is the heart and essence of faith. This kind of faith may not be regularly and deeply felt and evident to all, but I believe it is a sufficient creed for those who sincerely and honestly seek to follow Jesus.

Several weeks ago, a small group of us was privileged to hear our Cathedral Choir perform a version of Ubi Caritas et Amor by composer Morten Lauridsen.

Father John Bauer

These Latin words are the opening lines of the familiar prayer: “Where charity and love prevail, there God is ever found.” In her introductory comments to the piece, Teri Larson, our Director of Music, urged us to notice the intensity when the choir got to the words: “Cessent jurgia maligna, cessent lites. Et in medio nostri sit Christus Deus. — Let us cease all quarrels and strife. And let Christ dwell in the midst of us.” I am grateful Teri gave us an insight into what was coming. Not only was it a beautiful piece of music, but the intensity of that particular phrase has been much on my mind and in my prayer since then. When I asked Teri about it, she said: “I just love that moment in the piece. . .and he sets it twice in the music. First time, forte. Second time, even LOUDER … as if to say —“Did you really hear the message?!”

The message of Christ dwelling in our midst is deeply ingrained in our Christian consciousness. This is what we celebrate on Christmas. I think we need to work harder, though, on taking into our mind and heart the idea of ceasing all quarrels and strife. Now certainly there is much in our world, in our country and yes, in our Church that can lead to division and strife. For us, as Christians, though, the challenge is to see the things that might divide us through the lens of God’s love — a love revealed to us and poured out on us in the birth of God’s son, Jesus.   

Now there is a need for clarity. Seeing things through the lens of God’s love does not mean that divisions cease and we are suddenly in accord with one another. What it does mean is that we see each other not as foes or rivals, but as brothers and sisters in the Lord. From this perspective, our divisions become distinctions we can talk about, and our squabbles become lover’s quarrels. In other words, they don’t disappear, but rather they shrink in comparison to something greater.     

When we see others through the lens of God’s love, we realize that despite the things that might divide us, there is something greater that unites us — and that is the love of God poured out on us in Jesus the Christ. We recognize each other as brothers and sisters in Christ and this recognition drives us to treat one another with respect, dignity, care, and compassion.

As we celebrate this great Feast of Christmas, we are reminded that Christ has come to dwell in our midst. But let us also strive to allow this indwelling presence to put an end to any and all quarrels and strife that might divide us.    


It happened several years ago. I was distributing communion and the last individual in line knelt down and stuck out his tongue to receive the Eucharist.

Father John Bauer

I leaned over and invited him to stand as was the practice at our parish. He continued to kneel, so I gave him communion and asked him to see me after Mass. When he arrived, I asked about the decision not to respect the custom of our parish and stand to receive communion. He replied that he wanted to call attention to the Lord. I said I thought he was calling more attention to himself than to God. He said kneeling showed more reverence and respect than standing. I asked whether those individuals who were unable to kneel were being less respectful. At that point the individual said: “Father, I wonder if you really believe in the Eucharist.” I was offended and angry, but managed to maintain my composure. I asked the individual his parish and name of the pastor so I could contact him. He  refused to give me this information, so I asked him to follow me as I wanted to show them something. As we approached the exit to the Church he asked what I wanted to show him. I replied: “The door. Please leave.” And so he did.

I have to admit I’m more than a little embarrassed to relate this story. I don’t think it speaks highly of me or the other person involved. We both missed a critical opportunity for dialogue. More importantly we both missed an important opportunity to give concrete and specific witness to our faith. I say this because it is one thing to know and profess what we believe. It is another thing to give witness to our beliefs in our lives. Jesus told us that loving God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind was the first and greatest commandment. He added that loving our neighbor as our self was the second. In this instance, I don’t think either of us showed much love for God and certainly no love for our neighbor.

It is good and important to know the tenets of our faith.  As Christians, though, knowing them is only part of what we are called to do. We are also called to give witness to these tenets in our lives. People may be able to recite whole sections of the catechism from memory, but if they don’t give witness to a love of God and neighbor in their lives something is terribly wrong. The faith we profess needs to be the faith we live.

In the end, faith is just as much about fidelity in actions as it is fervor in feeling. When we don’t keep these two things in balance, we run the risk of becoming either ungrounded do-gooders or pious demagogues. For a Christian, neither of these is an alternative we should be willing to settle for.

Good Advice for the Season of Advent

Fr. John Bauer
December 11

A few years ago I was on my way to a meeting when I happened upon a discussion on the radio where a woman was talking about child safety. Since I was almost at my destination, I didn’t catch much of the discussion, but one thing in particular that the speaker said made good sense to me. Specifically she said that parents should teach their children that if they ever become separated they should tell their child to stop where they are, call out their parent’s name and wait for the parent to find them. The speaker’s rationale was that if both the child and the parent are in motion at the same time, if they are each moving about looking for one another, it is much more difficult for them to find each other and be reunited. However, if the child remains stationary and calls out the parent’s name, that gives the parent a better chance to retrace his or her steps and find the child.

 Now even though I am not a parent, the above advice made good sense to me.   When any two people (regardless of their ages) become separated and are looking for each other, it can be difficult to find one another, particularly if they are both moving about in a crowd or in an area where there is a lot of activity. If one of them remains stationary, however, and calls out for the other, it seems much more likely that they will find each other.

 As I reflected on this idea, it struck me that not only was it good advice for parents with their children, but also it was good advice for Christians, especially during this season of Advent. It is easy during this busy time of the year to get caught up in doing things ----- good things, certainly ----- but things that occupy our time and keep us on the go. At these times it is easy for us to become separated from God. At those times when we have become separated from God’s presence, we need to stop where we are, call on God’s name and wait for God to find us.

 I realize this might sound a bit simplistic, but in my experience, it has a ring of truth to it. Sometimes for a variety of reasons we can become separated from God. When we realize this has happened, we can easily become alarmed and run around in the proverbial circle trying to find God. The problem with this is that it doesn’t take into account the fact that God is also looking for us. (If you have any doubt about this, I would refer you to the parable of the Shepherd who left the ninety-nine sheep in search of the one who had strayed.) It is for this reason that we should always bear in mind that whenever we stray or become separated from God, God recognizes this fact before we do and immediately comes looking for us. If we can remember this and if we can just keep still and call on God’s name, God will find us, and when God finds us, God, like a loving parent will rejoice and gently lead us home.  


True confessions: I’m writing about famine and the food security crisis in the Horn of Africa, but all I can offer are my own struggles to learn about people in crisis in a world away.

Terri Ashmore
Managing Director

The problems are complex, depressing, and the numbers are staggering. The Horn of Africa’s escalating food crisis involves over 12 million people in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Uganda in need of emergency assistance. 

Look at Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, where the American Refugee Committee (ARC) is one of the few groups providing relief.  ARC’s President and CEO, Daniel Wordsworth is continually asked, “Is the situation in Somalia hopeless?” 

Mr. Wordsworth challenges us to give the gift of belief — to believe in Somalia and its people. He asks us to not give up on a country and a people in crisis.  He tells of desperate families who left home because they had no food and no water.  They did the only thing they could to try and save their children — they walked for weeks through the desert searching for help.  What should happen when they arrive in Mogadishu?  Should someone be there to greet them? Should doctors and nurses be available to help? He witnessed the difference three weeks of nutritional supplements make to children once listless and starving, now smiling and playing.  Mr. Wordsworth contends — it is not hopeless. 

During December and January, we ask you to explore Global Stewardship. Take time to learn about famine and the food security crisis in the Horn of Africa.  Consider what our faith calls us to do. Watch for:

1. Global Stewardship columns in the weekly newsletter.  Learn about the “triple failure” that leads to famine. Explore connections between famine and food security. Read interviews and success stories. 

2. Online Resource Kit. Find prayers, facts and figures, articles, and links to ARC, Catholic Relief Services, and other groups, and ways you can make a difference.

3. Save Sunday, January 29. Attend a panel discussion and hear experts discuss the issues and learn about impacts on local Somali immigrants trying to help families left behind.

Please open your hearts to learn about people in the Horn of Africa, especially in Somalia, which is so tightly connected to the Twin Cities. We have the largest Somali population outside of the country of Somalia. 

Recently, the gospel from Matthew 25:31–46 was read at Mass and it stuck with me.  “Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?” Jesus replied, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for the least of my brothers, you did for me.”

The challenge of the gospel is clear. Our faith is meant to be lived everyday. We are called to reach out and respond to our brothers and sisters in need — neighbors and strangers alike. 

I first experienced Thanksgiving at The American College in Louvain in 1984.

John Van Parys
Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts

It was a community celebration highly anticipated by friends and neighbors of this venerable American Seminary. To us Belgians, the concept of a national holiday set aside to give thanks was sort of novel with a touch of the exotic. The festivities began with a beautifully celebrated Eucharist. Then we moved the celebration to the dining room where a typical Thanksgiving meal was served. During the meal we were asked to share our individual reasons for gratitude. Although we all loved being there, sharing is not something that comes naturally to us Belgians. However, in exchange for the beautiful liturgy and the great meal, we obliged, though with some trepidation.

In 1989, I celebrated my first Thanksgiving in the United States. I was a first-year student at the University of Notre Dame. One of my professors and his wife invited me to their home for Thanksgiving. We marveled at the Macy’s Parade, ate turkey and apple pie, and we watched football. What I remember the most though is the time we spent around the dining room table. Once we sat down for dinner we took the time to talk about all the things we were grateful for. Having done this for five years I had grown accustomed to it and learned to love it almost as much as the food that accompanied the conversation.

Today, after almost 30 years of celebrating this authentically American holiday I have grown very fond of it and host my own Thanksgiving dinner. Though my menu always comprises the traditional staples, I serve it with a twist borrowed from the cuisine of one country or another, just to give it some international flair. The element of sharing gratitude has also been turned up a notch. The meal now begins with everyone standing around the table for a table prayer written for the occasion by one of the guests. Then we sit down and engage in a table conversation inspired by gratitude which may take hours.

Thanksgiving 2011 will have an extra layer of meaning as we will be blessing the new dining room table in my home. The beautifully created table will be blessed by prayer, blessed by the bread we will break, and blessed by the words we will share. Not surprisingly, everyone around the table is involved in some way or another in the liturgy. The segue from the table of the Eucharist where we gather to give thanks for God’s marvelous gifts of creation and salvation is easily made to the table of Thanksgiving. What was awkward a long time ago has become familiar and almost second nature. Thanks
be to God.

With a deep sense of gratitude: A very Blessed Thanksgiving to all!

This coming week each of us will most likely spend time reflecting on the many blessings in our lives.

Paula Kaempffer
Director of Learning

It might be a bit more difficult this year considering the state of the world economy and the increased suffering seen in those around us, many of whom we know personally. Nevertheless, our time is much better spent on what we have rather than on what we don’t have.

This weekend during the 9:30am Mass we are celebrating one of the rituals which is found in the Rite of Christian Initiation (RCIA) process: The Rite of Welcome. The many individuals who are seeking to continue their faith journey in our Catholic tradition will be welcomed into our faith community and gifted with the sign of our faith – the cross.

During these prior weeks I have met with each one individually and asked them if they had a desire to take the next step in becoming part of our community of faith. The responses have indeed been overwhelming. Some were moved by the fact that our church was so open and welcoming to those coming from other faith traditions. Some expressed great surprise to find out that the Catholic church was not a “closed society” or as “odd and crazy” as they had heard. Others were glad to hear that the church was more than a list of rules and requirements. And still others were most appreciative of the rich traditions and historical fortitude the church has demonstrated throughout the ages.

But, perhaps, most of all, the inquirers have experienced a warm and welcoming presence from their sponsors. And this is probably the most important aspect of the whole process – the love and care they experience from our community represented in the sponsors.
And what is your role in this RCIA process? To be Christ for each of them. To offer them your heartfelt prayers as they continue their journey toward the Easter sacraments, when they will, for the first time, join us at the table of the Lord. To be present to them as they seek to find their place among us and to serve alongside us. To love them and lift them up if they stumble and fall, and to stand beside them as they search and grapple with the mystery of life’s meaning.

During our Catholics Coming Home program this fall, it was clear to me that those who came were looking for a reason to come back. In the depths of their souls they were missing something and didn’t quite know what it was. They were each wrestling with different, yet similar, issues. But what they all had in common was that they were seeking what they once had: a faith which held meaning for them, a God who loved them totally and completely, and a community who wanted them to come home.

So, I guess, one of the things I am most grateful for this Thanksgiving Day is my Catholic faith and my community which is each one of you, because I know that I don’t have to walk this road alone; for the care and love I find here shows me the face of Christ each day.

A few months ago I had an “I am not Mother Teresa” moment.

Father John Bauer

It happened during that week of extremely hot and steamy weather last summer.  I was coming into the office building one afternoon when I encountered a visitor looking for a sandwich and glass of water.

He had obviously spent most of the day in the hot sun, as his clothes had a moist sheen to them, his hair was plastered to skull, and there was a distinctive odor about him. I asked him if he would like to come in out of the heat and humidity for a few minutes, while I got his sandwich and water. He said that would be great and then asked if he could talk with me for a few minutes. I invited him to my office and we visited for a few minutes while he ate his sandwich. As we were leaving, I asked if he wanted another sandwich or more water. He said he was fine. I mentioned that our St. Vincent de Paul was open most mornings and suggested he might stop there.  I then asked if there was anything else I could do for him. He looked at me and said:  “Yeah, I could really use a hug.”  Not being Mother Teresa, I was taken aback and momentarily hesitant so it took me a few moments to respond. I did give him a hug, though, and he went on his way.

I have been reflecting on this experience since it occurred. I am not proud of my momentary hesitation in responding to a request for a hug. My response certainly wasn’t that of Mother Teresa.  After all, it was Mother Teresa who, in response to a question about her care for the poor, said:  “Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.” 

Now, perhaps I am feeling a bit self-protective, but I suspect that Mother Teresa was probably more disposed than most people to see Jesus in the face of the poor. I also believe, though, that she consistently worked at looking for Christ in the faces of those she encountered. Both by temperament and by training she had come to understand the truth of Jesus’ words: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brother and sisters you do for me.” 

As followers of Jesus, the task of recognizing him in the faces of all those we meet — especially the poor and vulnerable — is not easy.  The fact is it is quite challenging. For most of us, I suspect it is the work of a lifetime. But if we continue to work on it, while we may never be Mother Teresa, I believe it will become easier.  It is a task we dare not shrink from, though. For I believe that it is by recognizing Christ here on earth that Christ will recognize us at the end of our lives.

Several weeks ago, I read an article about Mother Teresa’s spiritual struggles and the deep interior darkness she experienced for much of her adult life.

Fr. John Bauer

These issues were revealed with the publication of her letters and writings in Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta. The tone and tenor of many of these writings reveal that for a long period of time Mother Teresa experienced a sense of abandonment by God. So great was this sense of abandonment that at one point she wrote: “In my heart there is no faith — no love — no trust — there is so much pain — the pain of longing, the pain of not being wanted. I want God with all the powers of my soul — and yet between us — there is terrible separation. I don’t pray any longer.”

These words are so honest they hurt. What are we to make of them? Well, I’m sure some people would say that they are evidence that Mother Teresa was confused or depressed, or worse, an out and out fraud. I believe, though, that they are an honest reflection of an all too real part of the spiritual journey that many — if not most of us — have experienced at some point, or for a period of time, in our lives. Fortunate and blessed is the person for whom the spiritual journey is always on the ascent. For most of us, though, the spiritual journey is a series of ups and downs, without a lot of clarity as to the causes and/or reasons for this seeming roller coaster ride.

When thinking about our spiritual journey, however, it is important to keep two things in mind. First, as I mentioned above, we need to always keep in mind that there are peaks and valleys in our relationship with God. If we were to chart our spiritual journey on a graph, I suspect it would look much like the stock market. The fact of the matter is that we all have ups and downs in terms of our relationship with God. I would guess, though, that for the vast majority there is a “trend line” that tells us that over the long haul we are growing in our relationship with God. This “trend line” should help us feel hopeful on those days when we seem at a distance from God.

The second thing we need to keep in mind when thinking about our spiritual journey is that the dryness in prayer and the sense of abandonment by God that Mother Teresa experienced are not common and do not last nearly as long as they did with her.  Perhaps more importantly, I believe they are usually experienced by only truly holy people. I say this, because I believe that it is truly holy people who have come to a point in their relationship with God where they are challenged to let go of their ideas of God so that they can truly experience God. I realize this perhaps sounds vague, but I think the challenge of loving God is to let go of what we know or presume to know about God, so that we can come simply to know God. And this quest can sometimes lead us into dark and unfamiliar terrain.

It is apparent from her writings that Mother Teresa accepted the dryness and darkness of her spiritual journey. More than this, though, she allowed it to propel her missionary zeal. And she continued to believe and hope that God’s hand was guiding her even though she could not feel God’s presence. In this, she is a model for all of us.  Because of this she is rightly called: Blessed.

The best kept secret of our faith is the treasure of Catholic Social Teaching.

Janice Andersen
Director of Christian Life

Recently I was asked if our faith specifically addresses the complicated issues of today.  Catholic Social Teaching (CST)  provides an essential framework to guide our choices and actions. 

Rooted in scripture, CST is a constitutive part of our faith.

Some of the key principles of CST include:

Dignity of the Human Person: Belief in the inherent dignity of every person is the foundation of all Catholic social teaching. Human life is sacred, and the dignity of every human person is the starting point for a moral vision for society.

Common Good and Community: Human beings grow and achieve fulfillment in community. How we organize our society directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow.

Option for the Poor and Vulnerable: The moral test of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable members.
We are called to look at public policy decisions in terms of how they affect the poor. This is not a slogan meant to pit one group or class against another. Rather it states that the deprivation and powerlessness of the poor wounds the whole community.

Economic Justice: The economy must serve people, not the other way around. All workers have a right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, and to safe working conditions. They also have a fundamental right to organize and join unions.

Role of Government and Subsidiarity:  The state has a positive moral function that promotes human dignity, protects human rights, and builds the common good. The principle of subsidiarity holds that these functions should be performed at the lowest level possible, as long as they can be performed adequately. When this cannot happen, it is imperative that higher levels of government intervene. 

Promotion of Peace and Disarmament: Catholic teaching promotes peace as a positive, action-oriented concept.  In the words of Pope John Paul II, “Peace is not just the absence of war.  It involves mutual respect and confidence between peoples and nations.”  There is a close relationship between peace and justice.  Peace is the fruit of justice and is dependent upon right order among human beings.

Stewardship of God’s Creation: We are to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation.  We need to treat our earth with care and in a way that allows for regeneration and sustainability.

Global Solidarity: Solidarity helps us to see the "other” as a neighbor. There is an interconnection among all peoples demanding that we value and respect the experience of all.

In times of scarcity and conflict, we are called to root ourselves deeply in our faith.  CST provides an essential framework to shape our lives every day. Look for opportunities to learn more about how these principles intersect with our lives through The Basilica Voices for Justice Network.

Several years after my father’s parents had passed away, my mother told us the story of the first Thanksgiving she hosted for my father’s family.

Fr. John Bauer

She and my dad had only been married a few months, so she wanted to make a good impression. She had planned all the details and even had a timeline as to when things had to be ready. On Thanksgiving morning she got up early to make pies so they would be fresh for dinner.  She made two pumpkin pies, a mincemeat pie, an apple pie, and then looking at three bananas languishing on the counter decided on the spur of the moment to make a banana cream pie.

The dinner went well. And the company and conversation had been very enjoyable. When it came time for dessert, my mother announced with a flourish that she had pumpkin pie, mincemeat pie, apple pie and banana cream pie. She then asked everyone for their preference starting with my grandfather. As you can probably guess the responses were:  banana cream, banana cream, banana cream, banana cream, banana cream. There were a couple requests for pumpkin, but at least six people at the table had requested banana cream. As my mother was mentally deciding how small the pieces would have to be to give everyone who had requested banana cream a slice, my dad piped up and said that instead of having mincemeat, he’d go along with the crowd and have banana cream. My mother invited him into the kitchen to help her serve dessert and after serving everyone else, my dad sat down with a piece of mincemeat pie. My mother didn’t ask anyone if they wanted seconds on the pie.

While years later my mother was able to find humor in the above situation, at the time it was anything but humorous. Over the years each time this memory has come to mind, I have been reminded once again how easy it is to go along with the crowd.  Certainly this happens in regard to many small issues, but it can also happen with larger issues. Now in some cases, going along with the crowd or being silent could simply be a matter of discretion. And sometimes going along with the crowd isn’t really a bad thing. Occasionally, being discreet about what we take a stand on is important. But in other cases it could be a fear of making waves, or being nervous about what we say or believe will be received. We could also fear there will be repercussions or consequences if we let our voices and ideas be heard. I believe there are some situations, however, where despite our fear, silence isn’t the better part of valor and it is important that our voices be heard.  I think this is particularly true in regard to life issues.

For many years now our Church has designated October as “Respect Life Month.”  During this month we are called to remember and give witness to our belief that life — in all stages of development and in all its manifestations — is a gracious gift from a loving God. There are no qualifications or limitations to this belief. Because God is the author and source of life, all life is sacred. Our task — our challenge — is to seek to promote and enhance life at every moment and in every circumstance.

Unfortunately our belief in the sanctity of life runs counter to the message that is often subtly put forward in today’s culture. In today’s culture, life is often deemed valuable or having worth because of what one possesses, accomplishes, earns, or is able to do. The flaw in this thinking, however, is that these things all fade or could be taken away in a moment. The value and dignity of life needs to be based on something fundamental and inherent. From our Christian perspective, we believe that because we are made in the image and likeness of God, that all life has inherent worth and dignity.   And because we are made in God’s image, all life —from the unborn life in the womb to those approaching death — has an enduring value that can never be denied or taken away.

As we acknowledge and affirm our respect for life during the month of October, let us renew our commitment to be what Blessed John Paul II called “a people of life and a people for life.” And by our words and actions, let us strive to be and to bring God’s love to all human beings, and in doing so demonstrate our respect for life in all its diversity and beauty.

Yesterday, a friend posed this question: “What if everything I have today was what I’d thanked God for yesterday?”

Terri Ashmore
Managing Director

Honestly, I wouldn’t have anything. My excuse was a hectic travel day focused on making a connecting flight, not on appreciating the abundance in my life. But this simple question actually challenged me to think.
Taking even a moment to intentionally consider the many blessings I’ve received from God reminds me of the overwhelming abundance in my life.  Today my list begins with the beautiful weather of fall, the love of my family and friends, a bed to sleep in, inspiring work — and that’s just the start. When I take this time, what I feel is gratitude, and my day becomes better.

At work I’m grateful for the amazing people I come in contact with everyday. Excited new parishioners, committed co-workers, volunteers greeting guests, mowing the lawn, or keeping church records, people coming for a kind word and a cup of coffee.

We’ve tried to capture some of these stories in The Basilica’s Annual Report now posted online. Please take a look, and contact us if you have any questions. The report opens with a great photo spread titled, “You become part of The Basilica and The Basilica becomes part of you.”

I know this is true for me.  So often the people I meet at The Basilica share comments about finding a home at The Basilica or feeling welcome here.

If you share these feelings and appreciate your experiences at inspiring liturgies, learning opportunities that challenge us to grow in our faith, or because of the outreach volunteers make happen daily, please consider making a financial commitment to The Basilica for the coming year.

If you are giving now, please consider increasing your financial commitment if you possibly can, and start that increase today.  If you haven’t made a pledged financial commitment in the past, please think about a gift, whatever the size, that you can make weekly or monthly.  And if you can, give electronically.  That’s what I do and it is so easy.  The commitment is fulfilled if you are here, or if you are travelling.

A co-worker recently commented that you could tell what you value by looking through your checkbook.  A look at my own made it clear that by making some intentional changes, my husband and I could find funds for The Basilica and for other organizations we care about.

What motivates you to you give? For me, the reasons vary.  Someone I know asked me to help, or I see a need, or I just feel like I should.  At The Basilica. I’ve learned about financial giving as an active part of my Catholic faith, and this helps me stay grounded and keep life in perspective every day.

Several years ago I was invited to give a presentation to our second year seminarians. The title I was given to work with was: “Taking Responsibility for Your Own Spiritual Growth.”

Fr. John Bauer

As part of my presentation, I listed twenty things that can aid our spiritual growth. One thing in particular that always seemed to raise an eyebrow or two when I mentioned it was my suggestion that they:  EMBRACE FAILURE. When questioned, I would always explain that I thought failure could be an excellent runway for the plane of spiritual growth to take off on.

As Christians, we are not called to be successful, but we are called to be faithful.  And fidelity requires an openness that leaves us vulnerable to failure. If we fail infrequently, it probably means that we aren’t acting boldly enough, enough of the time. 

Moreover, unless we fail on a regular basis we aren’t giving God any “raw material” with which to work.  

Now the above does not mean that we should engage in harebrained schemes or risky ventures. It does mean, though, that we need to step out of our comfort zone on a regular basis. We need to be open to new ideas, and/or different ways of seeing/doing things. It may be that a number of these things will result in failure, but this serves to remind us that we are not sufficient unto ourselves. If we never fail or only fail occasionally, we may never come to understand how much we need God in our lives.    

Our God is a God of second chances and new beginnings. God’s grace is greater than any of our mistakes or failures. If we never fail, we will never realize our need for and our dependence upon God. I believe that failure is an important and even necessary part of our spiritual growth. Mother Teresa said it best many years ago when asked about her own spiritual practices. In reply she said: “What God asks of me is not perfection, but fidelity in my efforts.” God does not ask or demand that we be successful or perfect.  Failure occurs in each of our lives. If we embrace our failures, however, they can and will lead us back to God, and to God’s grace.

A few gut-wrenching experiences lately led me to one of those “ah-ha” moments, the reminder of how much we take for granted when we aren’t paying attention.

Emily Carlson Hjelm
Director of Development

My friend’s husband shared his unrelenting faith in God as his 29-year-old wife battles brain cancer.  In an email the next day, I was inspired to read about another Basilica member’s motivation each week to get to Mass on Sunday, despite how she is weak and sick from cancer treatments.  She said the Eucharist is the best thing she would taste that week. Two lives, two friends, two people who will probably never take things for granted the same way they once did.

It served as a reminder for me of the need for gratitude. It isn’t money or the things money can buy that we should appreciate.  Instead, it is true gifts: the love of God, time with family and friends, and our lives.  Consider the routine of going to church; we have a magnificent space, a magnificent message of God’s love and magnificent soul-inspiring music. All of these things are gifts that shouldn’t be taken for granted — but if you are like me, sometimes you don’t appreciate them.

Please know that all of the gifts you share are appreciated at The Basilica.  You’ve probably heard the analogy: give up one coffee a week and give $2 to charity.  That one $2 weekly commitment would completely support our new prayer shawl ministry.  Volunteer knitters combine their skills and love to make shawls delivered to friends in our parish suffering from illness.   We will not take $2 gifts for granted.  We can’t — these ministries mean too much.  Together, through the $2 and $2,000 gifts, we can continue to fulfill our mission and provide life-changing ministries to thousands of people.

A few things I would like you to consider this fall:  please pray for our parish and the volunteers and staff that lead us.  Give your time and talent if possible; it makes amazing things happen.  And this fall, I hope you will make a pledge to support The Basilica financially.  The amount doesn’t matter as much as your participation.  Our parish — the place you chose to worship and be inspired — needs your commitments in all of these ways to truly thrive.  You
become part of The Basilica.  And it becomes part of you.

For more information about the ministries your gifts make possible, visit to view the annual report online.  And one other thing — watch The Basilica take on a pink hue this fall as we support the American Cancer Society’s Light the Town Pink — a chance to remember and celebrate the heroes in our lives who have battled breast cancer. 

Family Hold Back

Fr. John Bauer

When I was growing up this was a familiar phrase in our house. My dad was a great one for inviting guests for dinner after a golf game, or inviting relatives over for dinner if he happened to be talking with one of them.  My mother, being Irish, considered running out of food to be one of the seven deadly sins, so in whispered tones she would remind us: F. H. B. and so we did, knowing that it wasn’t an option to do otherwise.

I suspect in each of our lives there have been times when we have faced a shortage or scarcity of something. It could have been food, money, material goods, or whatever. Hopefully these times were short lived and without any consequences.  Unfortunately, in some cases we carry these experiences with us and they have an impact on the way we live. In the worst cases we can develop an attitude of scarcity, where we worry and wonder if we’ll have enough, and we live our lives accordingly.    

In stark contrast to the people who live with an attitude of scarcity is our God.  We don’t have to worry that God will run out of love or grace. With God there is always abundance. And as importantly, this abundance is not just reserved for a chosen few.  There is no such thing as F. H. B. with God. God’s abundant love and grace are poured out generously on anyone who is open to them.  

In saying the above, we need to remember, though, that God can share God’s abundant love and grace with us in a variety of ways. It can come through family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, or complete strangers. It can even come though people we don’t like. It can come through the events of our lives, through the world of nature, or the situations in which we find ourselves. God’s abundant love and grace are revealed to us and showered upon us in innumerable ways. And to share in this abundance, we simply have to be open to all that God wants to share with us. 

F. H. B. is a good rule in some situations. It doesn’t apply to God, though. With God there is always an abundance of grace upon grace — love following love. We have only to be open to God’s abundance, and God will do the rest.   

Art That Inspires Prayer

Johan van Parys
Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts

In the fall of 2002 I was asked by The Walker to give a Catholic tour of an exhibit entitled “Ultra-Baroque.” I accepted the invitation as I recognized the word Baroque and thought this would be an easy thing to do for the Catholic art historian that I am. However, when I received the catalogue of the exhibit I was surprised not to find richly decorated chalices and brocaded vestments. Rather the exhibit showed very contemporary art from South America with faint allusions to Baroque art as it was celebrated in South America some three centuries earlier.

As I visited the exhibit in preparation for my Catholic tour of this not so Catholic exhibit I found myself in front of a work entitled Milagros or miracles. I was reminded of the Catholic custom to bring the image of a body part that is failing to a sacred place such as a Marian shrine and leave it there while praying for a miraculous cure. As I was mesmerized by this work of art my mobile rang. It was my sister letting me know my dad had been taken to the hospital for emergence surgery. In an instant, this museum dedicated to modern art became a sacred place and I prayed for a miracle as I continued to be inspired by Milagros.

This contemporary work of art which was not at all intended to inspire prayer, all the sudden did just that. The setting was not religious, the art was not religious, at least neither intended to be religious, on the contrary. Yet all the sudden that element which is present in all good art, namely the connection with the divine creative power surfaced, and inspired hope and courage.

Because good art indeed is born out of the artist’s share in the divine creative power art can communicate in ways that cannot be expressed in other ways. This kind of communication happens as an encounter. All the sudden a deeper meaning is revealed. It is sort of like falling in love. All the sudden we realize we love a person. We don’t reason ourselves into falling in love. It just happens and we all the sudden know. Art works in a similar way. It is not often reasonable and it does not explain. Rather, art reveals and it often does so in unexpected ways and sometimes in unexpected places, such as a contemporary art museum.

Milagros was the right piece of art, in the right location, at the right time for this sacred moment to happen. I felt strangely comforted and at peace as I prayed for the best possible outcome for my dad Then my phone rand again. My dad had just died. Though painful for all of us, I trust that my request was granted.


Volunteering was a part of everyday life where I grew up in northwest Iowa

Terri Ashmore
Managing Director

At church, volunteers made the lunch after funerals, and others took care of the altar linens.  My Dad sang in the choir.  That spirit continued beyond the church pews, and volunteers coached little league teams and students going to speech contests.  Mom made crafts to be sold as part of the Hospital Auxiliary.  As children we were often invited to help.  I learned to pour coffee and serve pie at the annual fundraising turkey dinner.  Small ways of helping to be sure, but sharing your skills, talents, or simply your time was just part of what everyone did.

Back then, I didn’t have the words to define it, but looking back, I realize I was surrounded by stewards, people who were caring for their parish and their community every day.  Living in a city expands and challenges how and where we share our gifts and talents.  At The Basilica, what I see and experience every day mirrors my experiences growing up. 
Our parish vision is from a Bible verse — Jeremiah 29:7.  It calls us to “Seek the well-being of the city.  Pray for it to the Lord. For in its well-being you will find your own.” 

Seek.  Pray.  Find. 

There is nothing passive about this Bible quote — it is a direct call to action.  During September, The Basilica comes together as a parish to examine this call as we focus our conversation on Stewardship of our Gifts — “to share our knowledge, talent, love and experience to serve others.”

How do you share the gifts God has given you?  Is it in the choir, or welcoming people as a hospitality minister at Mass?  Is it mowing the church lawn or gardening?  Helping with daily St. Vincent de Paul Outreach, or welcoming people at the rectory door?  Do you have the gift of leadership?  We continue to seek those willing to tap the gifts of others and build cohesive working groups to accomplish key goals. 

Last May, I met some new people at our Basilica Clean Up Day. As we hauled out trash and recycling, I learned more about their unique talents — one was a human resources expert, another a retired nurse and another a graphic designer.  Chance encounters resulted in the formation of a new group of volunteers coming together and changing our parish for the better by sharing their incredible gifts.

On September 24-25, we will ask you to make a pledged commitment of how you will share your skills and talents.  Please consider the unique gifts God has given to each one of us, his beloved children.  Consider how you will choose to use these God- given gifts at home, in our parish, and in our city. 

For over thirty years now, I have worked in and for the Church

Fr. John Bauer

For over thirty years now, I have worked in and for the Church. With but few exceptions, the people I have encountered along the way have been sincere, committed people who have striven mightily to live out their faith. There have been very few hypocrites among the folks I have encountered during these years. This is the good news.  The bad news is that more and more lately, I have found myself and others exhibiting a judgmental attitude about those who think or believe differently than we do. Worse, this attitude sometimes gives way to an unhealthy anger that is often dressed up as being visionary, prophetic, or as being passionate about an issue.   

We excuse or rationalize this judgment and anger because we believe that what we hold to be true is so important that it justifies the way we behave toward those with whom disagree. We allow ourselves to give vent to a certain mean-spiritedness in the name of a higher truth -- our truth -- or at least truth as we define or see it. The result is that we often look at those with whom we disagree, and instead of seeing sincere persons trying to live the gospel, or brothers and sisters struggling to follow Jesus, we see “people in error,” “dangerous relativists,” “traditionalists who want to turn the clock back,” “religious flakes”, or perhaps in our more generous moments, “poor misguided souls”.   Seldom, if ever, though, do we look at what this kind of judgment is saying about us, about the health of our own soul, and our own following of Jesus.

Now I want to be clear, truth is not relative. It is not something we put to a vote.  Likewise, moral issues are important and need to be defended. But we need to remember that clarity about truth sometimes develops over time and that not all moral issues are created equal. We must know and defend truth and morality as they come to us in our traditions, but knowing right truth and right morals doesn’t necessary equate with being genuine disciples of Jesus.  

What does make us genuine disciples of Jesus is striving to live as Jesus taught us  -- respecting those with whom we disagree, loving our neighbor wherever and however we find them, and sharing generously with those in need. These things are not abstract and vague. They are the tangible signs of our commitment to Jesus Christ. As often and as far as we give witness to them, we are living as Jesus’ disciples.    

The challenge for all of us is to be more self-critical in regards to our harsh judgments, our anger, our mean-spiritedness, and our disdain for those with whom we disagree. As T.S. Eliot once said: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: to do the right deed for the wrong reason.” We may have truth and right morals on our side. But our anger and harsh judgments towards those who don’t share our truth and morals can lead us more away from God than toward God.  

Our God is a God of mercy and love. We need to acknowledge that we, like everyone else -- even those with whom we disagree -- stand in need of that mercy and love. We dare not begrudge this to others, or we risk losing it for ourselves.    



Sharing My Faith

Fr. Bauer

A few weeks ago I was at my cabin on my day off when someone knocked at the door. I thought it might be one of my neighbors, but when I opened the door a well dressed woman stood there. She asked me if she could speak with me for a few minutes. I was immediately suspicious, but didn’t want to be rude, so I told her I could spare a few minutes. She began by saying that she realized I probably had my own religion, but could she tell me about the Jehovah’s Witnesses. At that point I had to make a quick decision about whether to tell her I was a priest. Since I was planning a day of yard work and was dressed accordingly, I decided that silence was the better part of valor and listened politely for the next few minutes as she talked about the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Something about the expression on my face must have told her I wasn’t a likely candidate for her to convert, so she offered me a couple copies of The Watchtower and suggested I check their Web site if I had any questions.   

 I have to admit that while I am not interested in changing religions, I was impressed by the woman’s evangelical zeal. I can’t imagine going door to door trying to talk with people about my faith. Perhaps there are people who can do this, but I am not one of them. It is not that I am embarrassed about being a person of faith. Rather the thought of being rudely and verbally rebuffed and possibly having a door slammed in my face sends shivers down my spine. I guess I don’t deal with rejection very well.  

 As I thought about this, it occurred to me that while going door to door is one way to share one’s faith, there are many other ways to do this. Specifically, I thought of all those people in my life who shared their faith simply by the way they lived. Through the years, grandparents, parents, relatives, friends, and sometimes complete strangers have shared their faith by the example of their lives. Simply by what they said and did, by how they responded to people and situations, they gave witness to their faith. These people reminded me over and over again that most often faith is not so much taught as it is caught. 

 I suspect there are days when I give fairly good witness to my faith by the way I live. I am not naïve enough, though, to believe that I do this well each and every day. My hope and prayer, though, is that there is a “trend line” so that if people see me on a regular basis they will know that faith is an important part of my life. More importantly, though, I hope that by the witness of my life, others might want to come to know the God who inspires my life and any good works that come from it.  

Share God's Love

Fr. John Bauer

A few weeks ago I read an article by a priest who recounted a conversation he had with an elderly priest shortly after he was ordained. He asked the priest for any advice he might have for a young priest. In response the elderly priest said: “Go easy on people. If I had to do it over again, I would be easier on people. I wouldn’t be so stingy with God’s love, with the sacraments, with forgiveness. I worry that I was too hard on people. Most people have enough pain in their lives without us causing them more. Don’t be afraid to risk God’s love!” This story reminded me of a similar conversation I had as a young priest. I too asked one of our senior priests if he had any advice for a young priest. I thought he might have a few suggestions, but he had only one. And surprisingly it was remarkably similar to the advice the elderly priest gave in the article mentioned above. I guess there is truth to the adage that wisdom comes with age.  

In the years since I have been ordained I have often thought back on my conversation with that priest. At times it is easy for all of us to cast a judgmental eye toward others. “How can they say that?” “Why are they doing that?” “Who do they think they are?” Worse, we can presume that God shares our judgment. When we do this, though, we are making God into our image rather than remembering the God Jesus came to reveal. One of the truly amazing things Jesus proclaimed and taught is that God loves us all, freely undeservedly, unconditionally, and without end. At times, though, by our words and actions we can be stingy with God’s love. We can be judgmental toward people who think, act, look, or believe differently than we do. We can forget that Jesus proclaimed that God loves us indiscriminately and unconditionally with a love that is beyond belief and without reason.  

The challenge for all of is not to be stingy with God’s love, but rather to risk proclaiming the prodigal nature of God’s love. God’s love is not ours to dole out to those we think are worthy or deserving. God’s love is for all of us. God doesn’t want or need us to try to restrict whom God can love. What God does want is for everyone, regardless of age, culture, race, language, way of life, social standing, or ideology to drink deeply of the unlimited waters of God’s divine love. 

 Even though there are times when I don’t live out the advice that priest gave me many years ago, I know the truth of it. Yes, we need to go easy on each other. We need to risk God’s love with each other. And we need to believe and accept the love that God offers to each one of us.

As a new Catholic, what is the best part about being Catholic?

Paula Kaempffer
Director of Learning

It was heartwarming to receive so many responses. It was obvious that all of them had given it much thought before replying and it is quite different to hear “new” Catholics express what the faith means to them.  Here are some of their replies:

“Being Catholic just feels right. It feels good and natural. It’s like a slight but steady feeling of contentment in my chest.”

“The best part of being Catholic is the encouragement I receive to love my brothers and sisters and know that if I honestly try to live my faith, it is okay if I am not perfect.”

“Going through the RCIA process became my journey to finding ‘home.’ It’s the community of the past, present and future that makes it ‘home’ for me to continue the journey toward a deeper relationship with God and I found this in the Catholic Church.”

“…it’s the clear, never-ending love that is felt within this community and how the Church strives to reach out to the homeless and others in need.”

“…it is that my relationship with God is becoming stronger each day. That relationship is giving me so much strength, more than I ever could have imagined. I never thought I would be Catholic. But now I cannot imagine not being Catholic. The blessings I have received in my life, the insight, the understanding, the peace….those are all of the very best things.”

Now, to a cradle Catholic like myself, it is so easy to take these things for granted. The rituals, teachings, traditions and community can become very commonplace. I can easily get into a mindless routine in practicing my faith. Or I allow the reasons why I am Catholic today to get pushed into the corner for a while due to the busyness of life. So I need to take them out and dust them off once in a while and really look closely at why I still remain Catholic.

The greatest blessing of being involved in the RCIA process year after year is the fact that I witness firsthand what the faith comes to mean to those who come to us for the very first time. If your reasons why you remain Catholic have gotten buried, use the next month to uncover them and relish each one.  You may discover that you have a desire for something more. One way to deepen your appreciation of your Catholic faith is by sponsoring someone who comes to us seeking to explore their faith and consider membership in the church through the RCIA process. If you would like to participate, contact the Learning office. Training and ongoing support is provided.

As you explore the reasons why you are Catholic, may you feel renewed and re-energized in your faith life.

“Religion is for those who don’t want to go to hell. Spirituality is for those who have already been there.”

Fr John Bauer

An acquaintance, who is involved in a 12 step program, often quotes these words whenever the topic of religion/church comes up. Now I am not naïve enough to believe that organized religion is everyone’s cup of tea. I say this because studies show there has been a dramatic decline in membership and/or attendance at most mainline Christian Churches. At the same time there has been an increase in the number of people who are joining various groups/activities that could loosely be gathered under the heading of “spiritual.” I believe, though, that it is a mistake to set up a dichotomy between religion and spirituality, as though a person can be one or the other, but not both. They both have an important place and serve an important need.

One of the things that religion does best is to give us a perspective and a creed by which to live. It also offers a community that both supports and corrects us. Certainly these things can be found outside of organized religion, but organized religion has been doing them well for centuries. At its worst, religion can become a hollow and sterile set of rubrics and rules that doesn’t engage or involve the individual at a deep level or help them to grow in their relationship with God. 

Spirituality on the other hand, offers a direction/stance toward life, and often an intentional way to live. Spirituality invites people to look beyond the surface to a deeper level of life and living. At its best, spirituality encourages people to take their relationship with God seriously and challenges them to make it a priority in their life. (Of course, religion also offers these things, but sometimes they get lost amidst the conventions of a particular religion.) At its worst, spirituality can be reduced to the latest trend that focuses exclusively on the self, with no reference to a higher power. 

I believe we need both religion and spirituality in our lives. We need religion to provide the underpinnings and the superstructure for our spiritual lives. We need it to keep us from going off the rails and thinking only of ourselves. Most importantly, though, we need religion because it offers us those things that we can’t provide for ourselves, e.g., formal worship, a community of faith and a tradition of service. On the other hand, we need spirituality because it helps personalize religion and our relationship with God. It reminds us that we need to take seriously our responsibility to develop our relationship with God. Ideally, religion and spirituality work together to help us develop as persons as well as to grow in our relationship with God. 

Perhaps the reason there has been a decline in mainline Christian Churches is that they have lost focus on the important and necessary fact that we are all called to a personal and intimate relationship with God. This is what the spiritual life is all about. To the extent that any religion isn’t working to foster the spiritual growth of its members, it shouldn’t be surprising that that religion is losing both members and vitality.

I am struck, lately, by how many people I speak with that are weary.

Janice Andersen
Director of Christian Life

They are tired and worn out.  As I listen, I hear weariness stemming from different sources.  Some are weary from grief and loss.  Some are weary from illness. Some are tired of rigid battles of ideologies or systems that don’t work.  Some simply need a rest from the busyness of life.

As I listen, I hear two things underneath the weariness.  I often hear anger.  People seem to be angry at perceived injustice or unfairness.  They may be angry at irresponsibility or ineffectiveness.  They may be angry at the lack of power or choice that they hold over their own life.  I also hear a sense of feeling alone, forgotten, or ignored. Somehow, when we need it most, the support systems that we rely on in our lives do not seem present.  Somehow, the sense of the sacred self has become fragile.

It is in these stories of weariness that we find an important challenge and opportunity to our Basilica community. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus offers us a powerful invitation:  “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” How are we creating a space for people to find deep peace and rest in their lives?  How are we living out the Gospel call to wholeness, to justice, to compassion?

Our faith is a communal faith.  We find wholeness through connection and unity. As we recognize the weariness and suffering in our own lives, we are able to more boldly embrace it in the lives of our neighbors.  The Body of Christ becomes present as we embrace the brokenness and healing in our lives and in our diverse community.

In the book, Souls in the Hands of a Tender God, author Craig Rennebohm suggests that the groundwork for peace begins with building communities that include those who are most isolated.  He suggests that what is crucial and fundamental is what each of us does on the most local level:  How do I treat the person I meet at each intersection and moment of my life? “Learning to care for the stranger on our own street gives us the basic tools and understanding we need to engage those we fear in the larger world.  If we are afraid of our troubled neighbor, if we steel ourselves to pass by and ignore the suffering of our fellow human being on the sidewalk...we give support to the societal attitudes and policies that have left them without home and care.”

This challenge is alive for us, each and every day of our lives.  In whatever place we find ourselves — in our family or neighborhoods, in stores or businesses, in government or policy institutions — we are invited to practice compassion and learn to live in harmony with those who are different than us.  We are invited to help those who are suffering.  Our faith invites us to dig deep to find our commonality and to nurture the sacredness of each life.  This is most important when people are in need.

If you would like to get involved in ministries of caring and service, or work for justice through The Basilica, please call the Christian Life office.  Through the Spirit, we are transformed as we work together.

Church for people who don’t ‘do’ Church

Fr John Bauer

Recently I received a mailing from a “Church for people who don’t ‘do’ Church.”    Really, I’m not kidding. Initially, it struck me that the statement was a contradiction in terms. I mean a church is a church is a church, isn’t it? It may be a non-traditional church, or a church with a particular purpose or a special charism, or even a church that doesn’t profess a specific creed, but it’s still a church. Why else would you refer to it as a church for people who don’t “do” church. As I thought about this seeming contradiction in terms it occurred to me that perhaps they were trying to appeal to people who have had a bad experience with a church, or who haven’t found a church that fits their needs. Perhaps this is the case. If so, I wish them well. While I found the Catholic Church to be the Church that best fits my needs, I am not naïve enough to think that it can meet everyone’s needs

At their best, churches help people on their spiritual journey. At their worst, though, Churches can do exactly the opposite. They can stunt or even prevent spiritual growth and they can wound one’s relationship with God. Certainly the recent history of our Church in regard to the sexual abuse crisis is a good example of when churches can be injurious to one’s spiritual well being.

Despite the fact that Churches are not always and at all times helpful for people’s spiritual growth, I have come to believe, that they are important and perhaps essential for people’s spiritual growth. They can nourish and strengthen faith, and aid and abet people’s relationship with God. I don’t know that most of us can begin and continue the spiritual journey through our own efforts. Certainly some people can and do, but I don’t think this is true for the vast majority of people. I say this because whenever anyone tells me they don’t go to church anymore I always ask them if they spend the time they would have spent in church in private prayer. I have yet to have someone say they do.  

Perhaps formalized religion and church aren’t for everyone. Maybe that is why we have “churches for people who don’t do church.”  I do believe, though, that we need the community and structure of some kind of church to help us on our spiritual journey. I have found that the Catholic Church does this best for me. I hope those who don’t currently have a church home will not give up the search, but will find a church or even a “church for people don’t do church” that can help and support them on their spiritual journey.  

Thanks be to God

Fr John Bauer

During these summer months many people are fortunate to have some vacation time. Some of us will enjoy a couple of weeks at home, catching up on much needed domestic tasks. Others will spend time at a cabin by a lake or in the woods reveling in the pleasures of country living. Still others will travel around Minnesota or maybe venture into other states. And for some, this is the year to fly east or west, north or south in search of some relaxation and some rejuvenation in other countries.

Having grown up in Belgium my recollection of vacations places me mostly in different cities around my home country. Since Belgium is so small though we sometimes crossed the border into The Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg or France. These trips were never a simple matter. There were five of us with an age difference of 8 years between the oldest (me) and the youngest (my only sister). On top of that, even from an early age, no matter where we went and no matter what it took, I simply had to get in at least one museum and a few churches.
One year we went to Burgundy in France. One of my father’s uncles, a Franciscan had been a pastor in a small Burgundian town and we wanted to see where he had lived and where he was buried. Thankfully his little church was still in good shape and his tomb was very well cared for. We even found a painting signed J. van Parys on the High Altar in the church.

Although this was all quite wonderful, for me, the high point of the trip was our visit to the abbey of Fontenay which happened despite some great protestations by my siblings. Founded in 1180 as a daughter house of the Cistercian abbey of Clervaux Fontenay is set in the rolling hills of the Burgundian landscape. In its 800+ years of history the abbey and its monastic community knew waves of success and downfall. At the end of the 18th century as a consequence of the French Revolution the monks were dispersed and the abbey was turned into a paper mill. In 1906 new owners began the restoration of the abbey and opened it to the public.

As soon as I walked through the doors of the majestic abbey church, stripped of all its liturgical and devotional accoutrements, I could almost hear the monks chant the office and I could very nearly smell burning candles and wafting incense. My siblings thought me in a trance. How could I not be? This building which had harbored monastic prayer for nearly a thousand years still bore witness to the sounds, the sights and smells of the prayers offered beneath its sheltering roof and under its reaching arches.

I walked away from that place with a sense of awe for the persistent presence of prayer. Even though this building had not been used as an active abbey for a couple of centuries, it still was able to tell the story of our faith and inspire the thousands of tourists wandering through it. The only thing I could say was “Thanks be to God.”
May your holidays afford you similar experiences that will allow you to say: “Thanks be to God” be it in the wood, by the lake or in a church.

A While Back I Participated in a Funeral Service

Fr. John Bauer

A while back I participated in the funeral service for an individual for whom faith was not an easy proposition. As part of my remarks, I used a quote from Leonard Bernstein’s Mass: A Theatre Piece For Singers, Players and Dancers. The particular text I used was: “I believe in one God, but then I’ll believe in three. I’ll believe in twenty gods, if they’ll believe in me.” From my perspective, these words are so honest they are painful. They remind us of the universal desire—some would say need—to believe in something “more.” Now I know that I come from a very biased perspective, but I believe that this longing for something more is to be found ultimately and completely in God. And even more importantly, I have come to know that faith is not a requirement for God to believe in us. 

It is unfortunate that for many people belief in God does not come easily, if at all. (Any atheist will attest to this.) However, despite the fact that faith doesn’t come easily for some people, we are fortunate that belief in God is not a prerequisite for God believing in us. God has loved this world—and each of us—into existence. We don’t have to believe in God to enjoy the wonder of life and the beauty of creation. Rather, simply by living in a world created by God’s hands we are bathed in God’s love and enveloped in God’s grace, and more importantly we are in relationship with God even though we may not be aware of it. I think this is what it means for God to believe in us.  
Belief in God is not always an easy proposition. But fortunately, faith is not a requirement for God to believe in us. Our God is a God of infinite goodness and unfathomable love, and God wants to share God’s love with us. “Belief in God” is not a requirement for this. It is enough that God believes in us. God has loved us into being and God’s love holds us in this world. And God wants to share God’s life and God’s love with us. God will figure out how to do this. Our task, our challenge is simply to continue to long for a God we can believe in and then to let God do the rest. 



The Celebration of Corpus Christi

By Johan van Parys (Reprint article from 2010)
Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts

A number of years ago I found myself in one of our major cities on Corpus Christi Sunday. I decided to participate in the celebrations at the local Cathedral.  On my way there, I walked by an Episcopal church. The service was in full swing and revealed great dedication to the liturgy. At the Catholic Cathedral, the celebration was even more magnificent. It was truly a beautiful event, a liturgist’s delight.

 As I made my way back to the hotel I stumbled over a man who was sleeping in the street. Only then did I notice that several large cardboard boxes lined the avenue. A man crawled out of one of them and asked me for money saying he was hungry. The pathway connecting both churches was dotted with these makeshift shelters housing many hungry people. Blinded by the splendor of both liturgies, I had not noticed them.

 That afternoon two protestant friends invited me to accompany them to their church for the celebration of what I experienced as a liturgist’s nightmare: bad music, horrible décor, poor preaching. One thing I will never forget though: at the end of communion the minister placed all the remaining pieces of bread in the hands of the man who had asked me for money. He sat down and ate all of it. When finished he looked to see if there was more, but there was none.

That image is for ever burned in my memory. It reminded me that as John Paul II wrote in Mane Nobiscum the Eucharist calls us to share “not only in spiritual goods but in material goods as well”. Indeed, it is our mutual love, and in particular our “concern for those in need which is the criterion by which the authenticity of our Eucharistic celebration is judged.”

 The celebration of the Eucharist invites us to become the One we honor with our song; the One we raise up in a blessing; the One we carry in procession. That very One lived a humble life of love for the poor and of service unto the cross. He is the One we are to follow, to imitate and to become. He is the one we carry in procession. These processions are not only to be processions WITH the Body of Christ they also are a procession OF the Body of Christ.

In a way, by walking with the Body of Christ we rehearse in our own bodies the path Jesus took and takes today.  This path is not one of pomp and circumstance, but rather a path of humility and service. This path is one that leads to the cross and from there to life everlasting. Those of us who take part in the celebration of the Eucharist as well as in Eucharistic processions should ready ourselves to pick up that cross and follow him wherever he may lead us.
 May the blessing of this great feast of Corpus Christi be with all of us.

I’m quite certain it isn’t just me when I ask if we just bypassed spring this year.

Emily Carlson Hjelm
Director of Development

I think we have arrived… finally the grass is green, finally we can plant flowers without the fear of frost and finally it is warm enough to put away the winter parka, for good this time.  Spring is always an exciting time, especially so at The Basilica (to be fair, there isn’t really a down time, though…and every season has its own energy). 

When the calendar finally turns to June, a fun but nervous energy infuses our office as the final details of the Block Party fall into place.  I hope you have plans to join us on July 8 and 9 this year.  The buzz around town is this is our best line-up in years.  Visit us online at  If you are interested in VIP tickets (a great value,) be sure to get them early as we suspect a sell-out for this special experience.

And spring cleaning.  This year, we put our house on the market.  My version of “clean” would no longer pass muster.  This isn’t an easy task for someone whose frugal side wants to hold on to things “just in case….”  The out of sight, out of mind mantra in hiding anything unsightly in the closet doesn’t work when potential buyers open the door and dusty photo albums, shoes or Christmas ornaments fall upon them.  Not a good sales tactic, I understand.  And so we cleaned.  It took several committed adults several days, but it finally happened.  There wasn’t a space in our house that looked like it should be condemned.  It felt so good. 

One week later, we undertook the same task at The Basilica.  Dozens of volunteers and every staff member took a day to sort, recycle and part with things of the past.  I sorted irrelevant files dating back to the late 1980s.  I don’t really need to know the details of flower arrangements from a fundraising event from 1988…do I?  Cleaning out can do more than add free space.  It can free your mind.  Having the areas surrounding me clean — both at home and work — make me even feel more peaceful. 

And if this wasn’t enough excitement for one month, this spring I had a chance to experience a First Communion Mass at The Basilica for the first time.  The children, who are actually making that turn into adulthood, had their own anticipation.  It was amazing to see their focus on the significance of what was about to happen.  They listened so carefully to the words Fr. Bauer shared with them, about how even if we do not always obey God, he will forgive us and welcome us back to his table; those simple but oh-so-important words.  If only we could manufacture this excitement for our own re-energizing when we need it.  I wasn’t the only one with tears in my eyes to witness something so inspiring.

Spring:  What better time to clean out the distractions on our hearts and minds and focus on the gifts God has provided in our lives and be grateful.  Even if we missed out on spring weather, I hope this season brings renewal to our lives.   That we can de-clutter and make room for what is most important: our relationship with God.

Back in the 70’s, during the Vietnam war, I was a student at our college seminary.

Fr. John Bauer

For those of you who are old enough to remember the Vietnam way, you will also remember that people held very strong opinions both pro and con about our country’s involvement in that war. If you were so inclined, it took almost no effort to initiate a discussion, debate, or argument about the war.

An incident that took place at this time and stands out in my mind occurred at one of the daily Masses at the seminary. The priest has just finished his homily and had begun the general intercessions. After articulating a few petitions he then invited prayers from the congregation. At that point someone prayed for the defeat of the godless communists in Vietnam. A few seconds later, someone responded by praying for the end of the killing of innocent civilians in Vietnam. This petition was followed by someone who prayed for a change of heart for those who opposed the war in Vietnam. A response to this came from someone who prayed for those who were caught up in their own self-righteousness. Just when things were getting interesting, the priest who was saying Mass intervened and gave us a brief lecture about the nature of prayer, and the responsibilities of those who would pray publicly.

This incident came to mind recently when I read about the minister who offered the opening prayer a few weeks ago at the Minnesota House of Representatives. He ended his prayer with the words: “I know this is a non-denominational prayer in this Chamber and its not about the Baptists and its not about the Catholics alone or the Lutherans or the Wesleyans. Or the Presbyterians the evangelicals or any other denomination but rather the head of the denomination and his name is Jesus. As every president up until 2008 has acknowledged. And we pray it. In Jesus’ name.” The minister’s words were met with anger and an immediate outcry from some of the representatives. Eventually, the Speaker of the House issued an apology for the minister’s words, and the next day struck his words from the office record.

Now there are several issues that are worthy of comment in regard to this incident. However given the limitations of space and time, I would like to focus specifically on the rationale for and purpose of public prayer. In this regard two things come immediately to mind.

First, we need to be clear that public prayer in a public forum is different from preaching, exhortation, or instruction. It is also very different from private prayer. The reason for public prayer is to focus a group’s communal attention on something beyond themselves, i.e. GOD. At its best, public prayer serves to turn us away from our personal (and sometimes petty) concerns and issues and lift our minds and hearts to God. The intent of public prayer is not to convey information, or to explain or defend something. Rather, though public prayer we are reminded that there is something greater than ourselves to whom we need to attend and from whom we ask for guidance. In our public prayer we try to dispose ourselves to God and open ourselves up to God’s presence and God’s will.

Second, we also need to be clear that the purpose of public prayer in a public forum is not to cajole, coerce, persuade, elucidate, entice or influence God or whoever else happens to be listening to that particular prayer. When public prayer attempts to do any of these things, it ceases to be prayer and become speechifying at best and self-serving grandstanding at worse. Whenever public prayer is used for any other purpose than to help people attend to God, it is misused and cheapened. In fact, it is not prayer at all but merely another weapon in an orator’s arsenal.

There are times when all of us (even the most pious and holy among us) use public prayer in a public forum in inappropriate ways. Most often these times occur unconsciously and spontaneously. However, when there is a conscious and intentional attempt to use public prayer in a public forum to manipulate people or exploit a situation, something is seriously wide of the mark with both the prayer and the person who offers it.

I would hope that the minister who lead the aforementioned prayer at the Minnesota House of Representatives was only temporarily confused and/or misinformed about the role and purpose of public prayer in a public forum. I would be enormously disappointed if, in retrospect, he thought his prayer was appropriate. More than this, though, I would hope that in the future when someone is asked to pray publicly they would remember and take seriously the both the role of prayer in a public forum, and the responsibility of those who would lead public prayer. It is only in this way that public prayer can achieve its true purpose and help us to attend to the One who is greater than ourselves.

The Feast Of The Ascension Of Jesus Into Heaven Of Nature And Grace.

Johan van Parys
Director of Liturgy and Worship

After working on it for many years, director Terrence Malick released his newest film at the much acclaimed Film Festival of Cannes where The Tree of Life was granted the prestigious 2011 Palm d’Or. This highly metaphysical, almost cosmic and deeply spiritual film deals with issues that are often avoided in mainstream film-making. Using scarce dialogue and intensely beautiful imagery, Malick invites viewers into a journey pondering the mystery on the one hand of the brute force of Nature and on the other hand of the saving presence of Grace, be that human or divine as they touch our individual and collective human lives.

Although not explicitly mentioned, the evocative visual imagery and the pointed questions which punctuate the film suggest a correlation in the relationships between nature and grace, between the human and the Divine, between earth and heaven. Though highly intellectual, the film invites viewers to meditate rather than reflect on these profound realities which all of us face knowingly or not, day in and day out. How should we live our lives? Are we to live guided by nature or guided by grace; by the ways of the earth or by the ways of heaven? And are these ways indeed divided or are they possibly connected?

As Catholics we are not new to these kinds of questions. As a matter of fact, the feast we celebrate today, the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven speaks very clearly to the relationship between heaven and earth; between nature and grace.

On Christmas we celebrated that the Son of God took on our human likeness and joined us in our earthly life. Since then we have celebrated how the earthly Jesus showed us how to live according to the will of God even if that meant suffering and death. At Easter we rejoiced in the Resurrection. Today we remember how Jesus ascended into heaven after completing his earthly mission.

According to the tradition, the Ascension of Christ into heaven happened on the Mount of Olives. A small octagonal building marks the place. It contains the stone from where Christ is said to have ascended. That stone bares an imprint of his right foot, the last tangible relic of the human presence of Christ on earth.

For Catholics, this imprint of the foot of Jesus has come to symbolize the connection between heaven and earth. It is indeed Christ himself who, through the Incarnation, binds heaven and earth together once and for all.

One of the most striking images of The Tree of Life is the strong hand of the father holding the little foot of his newly born baby; nature and grace united; heaven and earth bound together.


Continued from the three previous weeks, below are more reasons for claiming the Catholic Church as one’s spiritual home...

Fr. John Bauer

7.   Several people mentioned that one of the reasons they were Catholic is that there is a bond between Catholics and their Church. We may not be very good Catholics, but we’re still Catholics. People have an amazing ability to claim the Catholic Church as their own, but without at the same time actually practicing their religion on a regular basis. I realize that initially this may not sound like a great reason to be Catholic. But when you stop and think about it I think it is important. In the years since I have been ordained, I have encountered people too numerous to mention who have reconnected with the Catholic Church after having been away from it for a while. It wasn’t that they had joined another church; rather they had taken a break from religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular. During this time, though, they never stopped identifying themselves as Catholics. 

The bond which exists between Catholics and their Church in many cases unites us and keeps us anchored to the Catholic Church. Even when people drift away, they know they can always reestablish their relationship with the Catholic Church. This bond is another reason many people are Catholic.  

8.  Finally, another reason many people mentioned for remaining Catholic is because the Catholic Church has survived over 2000 years. Despite its ups and downs, it has stood the test of time. Several months ago, at the height of the sexual abuse crisis in Ireland, Germany and Australia, a journalist asked an unnamed member of the hierarchy, if he thought the sexual abuse crisis would be the end of the Church. The unnamed cleric reportedly said: “If the hierarchy hasn’t destroyed the Church in 2000 years, I don’t think this crisis will either.” Perhaps this comment is a bit cryptic, but underneath there is an important truth. We have had bad Popes, corrupt Cardinals and Bishops, and incompetent priests and deacons, but the Catholic Church has continued on in spite of all of them. I believe this is because the Holy Spirit leads and guides our Church. And because of this, while our Church may occasionally veer off course, it never is completely lost or unable to find its way back.   

The fact that the Catholic Church has stood the test of time, is another reason many people are and remain Catholic

I am sure there are many other reasons people chose the Catholic Church. I am also sure there are many reasons why people have left and continue to leave the Catholic Church. From my perspective, though, more by far are the reasons to stay. I hope the reasons mentioned here, along with the ones that were printed in earlier newsletters, will prompt and encourage your own thinking as to why you are a Catholic.  


Continued from last week, below are more reasons for claiming the Catholic Church as one's spiritual home...

Fr. John Bauer

4.   Many people also mentioned that they are Catholic because the Catholic Church is able to transform a secular event into a sacred event. In this regard, they mentioned specifically weddings and funerals. Now clearly in today’s society we are fighting an uphill battle to help people realize that weddings and funerals have a sacred as well as a secular component. When we celebrate these events well, though, I think people understand there is something of the “divine” at these moments. When celebrated in a worthy and dignified manner within a religious context, these events have a different feeling—and I would argue a different meaning, than they would otherwise have. They remind us that God is a part of our lives, and that when we attend to God’s presence that which otherwise would be merely a secular event becomes a holy moment.   

The ability to transform ordinary events into sacred moments is another reason many people choose to be Catholics.   

5.   In one way or another several people also mentioned that they were Catholic because the Catholic Church is able to carry us, when our own efforts fall short. I don’t know if I can express this as well as they did, but this had to do with the fact that being a Catholic is habitual, so that even when it is not intentional on our part, the Church holds us and keeps us moving forward. It enables our faith and our relationship with God, even when we are not consciously aware of this. People can come to Church and be enveloped and sustained by the liturgy, the ritual and the prayer. And this can keep them going on their faith journey. 

I think the above is important. It is good to be part of an institution that doesn’t abandon us when our efforts fall short or our interest lags. No one I am aware of is able to remain energized and enthused about their faith and their spiritual growth all the time. At these times the Catholic Church carries us. It keeps us going when the way is difficult and the path uncertain.  This is another reason many people remain part of the Catholic Church.     

6.   Another reason mentioned as to why they are Catholic is that the Catholic Church allows mystery. Now given the many issues/subjects about which our Church has issued pronouncements this may seem like a strange thing to say. The fact of the matter is, though, that even though our Church has issued pronouncements about our beliefs and has expectations of us in terms of our moral behavior; it has not done this with some of the really “big” questions of life. In this regard as Catholics we live with the mystery of why bad things happen to good people, why evil people sometimes thrive and why good behavior remains unrewarded. This is not to say that the Catholic Church doesn’t have something to say about these things. Our Church, though, has never issued authoritative statements about them. It is content to accept that mystery exists.  And it invites us to do the same.   

The Catholic Church allows mystery and unanswered questions and helps us to move forward without having the answers. This is another reason why many people choose to be Catholic. 


In last week’s newsletter I shared a couple of things that surprised me in our conversations. (Continued from May 8th)

Fr. John Bauer

Beginning this week, I would like to share some of their reasons for claiming the Catholic Church as their spiritual home. 

1.  Several people mentioned that they are Catholic because of the variety of forms/expressions of spirituality that exist in our Church. We have people who live a contemplative form of spirituality, (e.g., Trappists and Poor Clares) as well as people who live a very active style of spirituality, (e.g., Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement). The Catholic Church also counts among its members people whose spirituality is somewhere on the continuum between these two poles.                                                                                                         

The range of spirituality that exists within the Catholic Church offers “something for everyone.”  It reminds us that there is no “one” form or style of spirituality that is normative within the Catholic Church. The breadth of the spiritual traditions in our Church is one of the reasons many people are Catholic. 

2.   In a vein related to the above, many people mentioned that they were Catholic because the Catholic Church appealed to both the head and the heart. By this they meant that while the Catholic Church, perhaps more than any other Church, has tried to articulate what it believes and professes, it doesn’t just appeal to the intellect. Our Church also invites people to enter into a personal relationship with our God—these “reasons of the heart” are important. The dogmas and doctrines of our Church help us understand what we believe about the God we worship. We also believe, though, that our God came to live among us in the human person of Jesus Christ and that because of Jesus we are invited to enter into a personal relationship with our God. We know this because Jesus has told us that we can call on God with the very intimate and personal name: “Father,” and that he has modeled for us what that relationship of love looks like. The fact that the Catholic Church isn’t just an intellectual exercise, but also an affair of the heart, is another reason many people are Catholic.  

3.  Several people also mentioned that they were Catholic because they liked the tradition of retreats that are part of our Catholic tradition. These people obviously have participated in retreats and some make a yearly retreat. The opportunities to get away from the tasks and concerns of daily life for a few days, and spend some time in prayer and reflection, tending to our relationship with God, are an important part of many people’s lives. These retreats are an ongoing part of their spiritual lives. Now clearly, the Catholic Church is not the only church that offers and encourages people to make a retreat. The Catholic Church, though, has been in the forefront of recognizing and responding to this spiritual need.  (As an aside, I like the fact that our Church thinks retreats are so important that it mandates that priests and deacons make a yearly retreat.)   

The history and tradition in our Church of encouraging people to time away from the tasks and concerns of their daily lives and spend some focused prayer and reflection is another reason many people are Catholics.  

To be continued...

A while back I wrote a series about why I am and why I remain a Catholic.

Fr. John Bauer

Within the past few months, over drinks and dinner, I shared the document, as well as a couple other articles, with a few “test” groups of friends. We have known each other long enough that we aren’t afraid to speak freely and honestly. I have to admit I was both impressed and a bit surprised at their responses. They all had their own reasons for claiming the Catholic Church as their spiritual home, but for some it was a question of “in spite of” and not “because.” There were also some who no longer go to the Catholic Church. I would like to share some of their thoughts in the next few newsletters, but before that, I’d like to share two things that surprised me. 

The first thing that surprised me was the enormous anger they carried regarding the handling of the sexual abuse crisis, as well as the way certain groups in our Church, i.e. women and sexual minorities, are treated. In regard to the former, it was clear that they thought the leadership of our Church had not taken the sexual abuse issue seriously, and once it did become a crisis, those in leadership positions took no responsibility for their role in allowing it to develop and didn’t display any courage in responding to it. Not only were they angry, though, they were also disappointed that the leadership had allowed it to continue for so long, and only dealt with it when they were forced to by the public outcry. It is clear to me that all of us in leadership positions in the Church bear some responsibility for this. Our credibility has taken a direct hit from which we won’t soon recover.

In regard to the latter, there was also a great deal of anger about how our Church has treated women and sexual minorities. Clearly we have not always recognized and respected the gifts that women have brought and continue to bring to our Church. And our church’s treatment of sexual minorities has at times seemed mean spirited and hurtful. While it would be an overstatement to say that these are issues for everyone, at least for the people I talked with it was clear that they were significant issues about which they carried some anger and disappointment.    I don’t think we have realized the extent of that anger, and at some point I suspect we’re going to have to deal with it.

The second thing that surprised me when I talked with these people was that with only a couple of exceptions, all of them were still committed to the Catholic Church, “warts and all.”   Clearly that commitment had been tested and tried, but at least at this point they weren’t willing to give up the Catholic Church and find another spiritual home. As someone who loves our Church, this gives me great hope. There are many reasons why people have left and continue to leave our Church. No one should presume to judge them. It is my personal belief, though, that there are many more reasons to remain in our Church than there are to leave. I articulated my reasons in previous newsletters. Beginning next week and for the next two weeks, I would like to share why others continue to call the Catholic Church their spiritual home.  

To be continued...

When I was growing up, one of the things that was emphasized both at home and at school was that we had a responsibility to care for people and things beyond ourselves.

Fr. John Bauer

While we didn’t have a lot of money, my mother regularly supplied meals or baked goods to friends and neighbors who were homebound or laid up because of illness. My older brother and I were often “farmed out” to help people in the neighborhood who needed their lawn raked or their driveway shoveled. And my father made sure to put an envelope in the collection basket each week. If that meant we had to wait for new shoes or clothes, that was just the way it was. At school too, there always seemed to be a need for our nickels and dimes — whether it was pagan babies, (Yes, there really was such a thing.) or priests and nuns working in the foreign missions. Both at home and at school the message was clear: We have a responsibility to and for others.   

Now I mention this today because next weekend we will take up a second collection for the benefit of Ascension School, a ministry of our sister parish in North Minneapolis, Ascension.  As many of you know, our relationship with Ascension parish and school started many years ago when my predecessor, Fr. Michael O’Connell, served as pastor at both The Basilica and Ascension. Since leaving The Basilica, Fr. O’Connell has served full time as pastor of Ascension Parish. The relationship between our two parishes, though, continues. 

Although The Basilica and Ascension are only a mile and a quarter apart, I’m sure we are all aware that a very different reality exists for our North Side neighbors from the one we are accustomed to in our own communities. It is a reality that is full of significant challenges. In the midst of a neighborhood where the futures for youth are often severely limited, Ascension school provides its 260 students with an environment of achievement. Students are expected — and nurtured — to perform at a level that matches the best schools in this city and state, all in a neighborhood where the statistics would suggest a very different expectation. The eighth graders at Ascension regularly exceed the state and city average on their MCA-II test scores. In a neighborhood where many students aren’t graduating from high school, Ascension students not only graduate from high school, they go on to attend college. In fact, Fr. O’Connell regularly refers to Ascension School as a “miracle factory.” I stand in awe of the difference Ascension School is making on the North Side.

Given the critical importance of this school and its students to the future of the North Side and our city, as I mentioned above, we will take up a second collection next weekend in support of Ascension School. While the students of Ascension achieve at the level of any of their suburban peers, their families do not have anywhere near that level of financial resources. At  Ascension, 85% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch, the federal standard for poverty. Almost every student receives scholarship funding to attend Ascension. Without the support of outside donors  — donors who believe in the importance of Catholic education, particularly in the inner city  —  this school would likely have to close its doors. 

Knowing the above, I ask you to please prayerfully consider a contribution to our collection next weekend in support of Ascension School. Thank you in advance for your generosity.

If you have further questions about Ascension or wish to inquire about other scholarship opportunities, please contact Tom Nehil at Ascension at 612.424.6207.


Many years ago when I was a young priest, I filled in for the Catholic chaplain at one of our local hospitals while he was on vacation.

Fr. John Bauer

During the time I was covering for him I received a few calls to anoint people who were going into surgery.  I didn’t receive any traumatic calls  until one morning around 4:30 am. A man in his early 70’s had gone into cardiac arrest at his home and had been brought to the emergency room by ambulance. By the time I arrived, efforts at resuscitation had failed, and the man’s wife and daughter had just been informed that he had died. As we went in with them to say the prayers for the commendation of those who have died, I could not help but be touched by the manner in which the woman and her daughter reacted to this tragic situation. To be sure, their loss was great, yet in the midst of their grief and pain there seemed to be about them what I can only describe as the quiet assurance of faith. At the risk of sounding very subjective, there seemed to me something particularly Christian about their reaction to death. 

For some people, the death of a loved one creates emptiness in their lives that will forever remain an unfilled void. For others, though, while death is certainly a tragic and often devastating event, they are willing to allow faith and the hope of eternal life to gradually fill that void. I believe these are the people who have allowed the message of Jesus Christ to take root in their lives. Even faced with the tragedy of death, there is within and about them the quiet assurance of faith. I would describe the faith of these people as Easter faith. For Easter faith is a belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and his promise of eternal life to all those who believe in and seek to follow him in their lives.

In the years since this incident, I have often thought about the reaction of that mother and daughter that night. It has stayed with me as a great example of Easter faith. It has also been a good model for me as I prepare each year to celebrate this great feast of Easter.  It continues to remind me that preeminently the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus is also the celebration of our belief, as followers of Jesus, in our own ultimate resurrection with him.

My prayer this Easter Day is that through our celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus, our faith might be renewed and strengthened, and that we might live always with hope in the promise of eternal life.   


Do this in memory of me!

Johan van Parys
Director of Liturgy and Worship

On Palm Sunday of Our Lord's Passion quite some years ago I was visiting one of our major cities to experience the liturgy at the famed cathedral there.  I was not disappointed. The Cardinal Archbishop himself was presiding flanked by auxiliary bishops and a throng of priests. The service was marked by exquisite music, beautiful vestments, countless candles, bellowing incense... a liturgist’s delight.

As prescribed, we gathered in "another place" for the first part of the liturgy and then processed to the Cathedral commemorating Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  While making our way to the Cathedral we walked by large cardboard boxes. Blinded by the splendor of the liturgy, I had not noticed these until I nearly tripped over a man who crawled out of his box, awakened by the procession that was passing by. He was dirty and smelly and I was tempted to make a wide circle around him.

As I reflected on the service, I could not but wonder who had gathered in the streets of Jerusalem to cheer on Jesus. I also thought of Jesus bending down and washing the dirty feet of his followers. Finally, I paused for a long time at the thought of Jesus giving his life on the Cross for the salvation of the world some two thousand years ago.

What has happened since that time? Who was it that asked why the world was in such a mess even after two thousand years of Christianity?  The succinct answer I remember is that we have not learned what it means to wash one another's feet.

And then His words rang through loud and clear: "Do this in memory of me." We are indeed called to bend down and to wash one another's feet, no matter whose feet they are. To do anything less is to run the risk of "eating and drinking judgment to ourselves, not recognizing the Lord's Body for what it is." (1 Cor 11: 29)

Bonnhoefer, in The Cost of Discipleship (p. 99) observes that, "When Christ calls someone, God bids this person come and die."  Christian discipleship indeed requires all of us to bend down and to wash one another's feet. Christian discipleship indeed takes the shape of the cross.  Christian discipleship indeed demands we truly become the Body of Christ.

May the celebrations of this Most Holy Week inspire us to become who we were meant to be when at our Baptism we were incorporated into the Body of Christ and we were invited to become His hands that wash other's feet.

A Very Blessed Holy Week!

The Basilica parish is unique.

Emily Carlson-Hjelm
Director of Development

We have an incredible building, we provide outreach programs to those in need in our community and we have inspiring programs and liturgies every day.  These blessings may have been reasons you initially visited or joined the parish, but for many, they are also the reasons they get involved as active parishioners. 

Just like other gifts in our lives, these blessings require our help and we need to invest in them to sustain them.  In the fall, we ask for your stewardship pledge to support the life inside the church.  In the Lenten season, we ask for your gifts and pledges for the St. Vincent de Paul outreach programs.  And we also ask for your support of The Basilica Landmark through capital campaigns, the annual fund and the Masqueray Ball.  Sounds like a lot, but this is the way we are able to maintain these gifts in our community.  We are grateful for your help whenever possible.

Specifically, The Basilica Landmark works to preserve and restore The Basilica and its campus. When we take care of our buildings, we invest in a landmark. The Basilica is home to hundreds of life-changing and life-saving programs and ministries:

  • It serves as a home for those who have nowhere to turn in times of crisis.  The Basilica’s St. Vincent de Paul outreach programs provide shoes and transportation assistance to 250 people every week, as well as food and shelter to more than 2,500 people every month.
  • The Basilica is a home for employment programs for 400 unemployed adults each year, providing training and job search support.
  • The Basilica is home for celebrations and mourning, a place where the community gathers in crisis.  On September 11, 2001 people gathered in the church to pray, reflect and grieve.  The day the 35W bridge collapsed, again we gathered as a community in The Basilica.  In times of tragedy, people of all faiths and backgrounds seek this place.
  • The Basilica School is home to the largest weekly gathering of Alcoholics Anonymous in the state.
  • The Basilica is home to a variety of interfaith learning opportunities, celebrations and musical programs throughout the year.

This magnificent landmark in the Minneapolis skyline, which houses a valuable piece of our community’s history, also serves as a reminder that as stewards for The Basilica, it is our responsibility to protect this beautiful beacon for future generations and families.  Each year, it costs $500,000 just to keep our buildings ahead of emergency repairs.  You can be a part of these efforts by making a gift to The Basilica Landmark’s Annual Fund. 

If you haven’t purchased tickets yet for the 2011 Emmanuel Masqueray “Ball in the Ballpark,” I suggest you send in your reservation today!  We will celebrate the rich history of one landmark while celebrating in our city’s newest landmark, Target Field. The committee is planning a very fun evening of dining, entertainment, auctions and dancing.  This will be one event you won’t want to miss — and, we’ll raise money for our beloved Basilica Landmark building. 

For tickets to the Masqueray Ball or to make a donation, please call Kristian Mauel at 612.317.3421.  The Basilica Landmark is a separate 501(c) 3 non-profit organization from The Basilica of Saint Mary, Federal Tax ID #41-1754864.


The reality of violence in our world is immense.

Janice Andersen
Director of Christian Life

It shapes our lives in large and small ways.  Reflected in the news, in our entertainment, in our neighborhoods, and in our personal relationships, violence permeates our culture to such an extent that we often become numb to it.

In March, I was privileged to spend a weekend with fourteen people who are part of a powerful ministry called From Death To Life.  Rooted in north Minneapolis, this ministry is dedicated to ending violence through the facilitation of healing and reconciliation between families of victims and perpetrators.  Nine of the women present for the weekend had lost a son to murder in north Minneapolis.  Violence was real, raw, and painful in their lives. 

As I listened to their stories of moving from death to the hope of new life, I became aware of the presence of violence throughout my life.  I was able to see ways violence destroys through words and actions.  I came to see how violence pulls me from knowing and believing the goodness of God in my life and in the world.   

The women who lost their sons to violent murder are wrestling with deep questions of healing and reconciliation.  Inspirational in their courage, they directly face the violence of their life and society.  They look to God to bring healing and wholeness.

The weekend was one of deep joy, profound sadness, transforming faith, and life-giving relationships.  As I returned home, I recommitted to finding ways to address the violence in our midst, and to follow Jesus ever-more closely. 

This Lent, I invite you to consider adopting the Vow of Nonviolence by Pax Christi, the international Catholic peace movement.  I offer this vow to you in solidarity and love:

“Recognizing the violence in my own heart, yet trusting in the goodness and mercy of God, I vow for one year to practice the nonviolence of Jesus who taught us in the Sermon on the Mount:  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons and daughters of God…You have learned how it was said, “You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy: but I say to you, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.  In this way, you will be daughters and sons of your Creator in heaven.”

Before God the Creator and the Sanctifying Spirit, I vow to carry out in my life the love and example of Jesus

  • By striving for peace within myself and seeking to be a peacemaker in my daily life;
  • By accepting suffering rather than inflicting it;
  • By refusing to retaliate in the face of provocation and violence;
  • By persevering in nonviolence of tongue and heart;
  • By living conscientiously and simply so that I do not deprive others of the means to live;
  • By actively resisting evil and working nonviolently to abolish war and the causes of war from my own heart and from the face of the earth.

"God, I trust in Your sustaining love and believe that just as You gave me the grace and desire to offer this, so You will also bestow abundant grace to fulfill it.”

Five days a week, Basilica volunteers greet people coming to our door for help.

Terri Ashmore
Managing Director

In 1988, Deacon George Babcock wanted to provide new shoes to children and families in need.  Today, through outreach, the St. Vincent de Paul ministry is one of listening, hospitality and hope.

In partnership, volunteers and staff follow in Deacon Babcock’s footsteps to provide over 230,000 pairs of new shoes to children and adults.  But more importantly, they provide a welcome presence to hear the stories.  Through listening and prayer, as volunteers grow in their faith and comfort, healing and hope are the end results.

I’m often asked — does the SVdP ministry have enough money?  It’s a great question — and in recent years, the answer is simply “no.”   More and more people, often in desperate need, are seeking support.

As we contemplate our Catholic faith’s Lenten call to prayer, fasting and almsgiving, I hope you consider how you might support The Basilica’s St. Vincent de Paul ministry.

With the economy struggling to recover, our SVdP volunteers encounter dire need daily.  Impacts tailspin as people can’t pay their rent or mortgage and are faced with devastating choices.

If you are faced with financial uncertainty, consider what our Basilica parish community might do to help support you spiritually and emotionally or with practical help from our SVdP ministry, Befriender ministry or our employment ministry.

But if you are in a position to share what you have and feel called to help, please consider making a pledged commitment to support our SVdP ministries throughout the year.  Think about what your pledge might mean to a family facing the loss of their home, or a parent who can’t buy school shoes for their child.

Everyday at The Basilica, I encounter so many people with generous hearts and spirits.  Often people that I might describe as needing our help are the very ones who lift me up with their kind words of greeting, wishing me a good day or saying “God Bless You” when our paths cross.  They’ve come for a sandwich or a cup of coffee or a kind word — and it’s their kindness and sincere good wishes that can change my day and call me back to my faith.

Next weekend you’ll learn more from Theresa Olson, a volunteer in our SVdP Pathways ministry, and there will be a second collection for our outreach ministries.  Please consider how you can help.

“Let us do the good that presents itself to be done.  I do not say that it is necessary to undertake all things without distinction, but those things that God let’s us see, He asks of us.   We are His and not our own.  If he increases our work He will also increase our strength.” 

— St. Vincent de Paul, 1581-1660


Fourteen reasons why I am Catholic (Continued From March 13th)

Fr. John Bauer

10.   I am a Catholic because I think the Catholic Church does “community” well.   By this I mean that we don’t see ourselves simply as individuals who happen to worship together on a regular basis. Rather, we realize that we have a responsibility to each other and for each other. We understand that we need to live in common care and concern for one another. Now certainly we don’t do this 100% of the time and in every situation. We do it often enough, though, that it is really one of the hallmarks of our church. Whether there is a crisis on the other side of the world, on the other side of town, or in our own midst, time and again the Catholic Church has responded as a community to those in need.  

In addition to responding to those in need, though, our Church as a community also supports, challenges and corrects its members. From my perspective, this is an important component of a church. While our relationship with God is unique and personal, it is lived out within the context of a community. I think the Catholic Church does “community” well in that it helps keep us on track and on target as we try to live out our calling as Christians. 

11.   I am a Catholic because I like the sacramental system that exists in the Catholic Church. The seven sacraments which we celebrate in the Catholic Church are not magical ways in which God suddenly becomes present to us in our lives. Rather they are ways in which we celebrate God’s abiding presence with us. They occur at those times in our lives when we particularly need to do this: times when we begin or renew our relationship with God in Jesus Christ (Baptism and Confirmation); times when we want to experience God’s forgiveness or healing presence (Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick);  times of vocational choice, when we want God’s help as we make a significant life choice (Marriage and Holy Orders); times when we need to be strengthened as we seek to follow the Lord in our lives (the Eucharist).  

The sacraments are the ways in which at very specific times in our lives we can attend to and celebrate God’s abiding presence with us. The sacraments — and most particularly the Eucharist — are not incidental to the Catholic Church; rather they are among the things that define it. They are among the most important reasons I am a Catholic. 

12.  I am a Catholic because I like the fact that the Catholic Church is a world-wide entity. We are not just a local church or one confined by a specific territory or defined by a particular charism of a preacher or congregation. The universality of the Catholic Church reminds us that the message of Jesus is for all people of all time.   Moreover, the world-wide nature of the Catholic Church helps us broaden our perspective. Often as Americans we tend to judge things by our own set of standards.   However, we need to bear in mind that this is not always the only, nor the best way to operate. The things that are issues for us in America (e.g. the ordination of women) are not the same things that are issues for Catholics in Africa or South America. When we look at things or issues that concern us from the broader perspective of a world view, it helps us remember that it is God who is in charge and not us.

13.  I am a Catholic because I like the liturgies and rituals we celebrate. From my perspective (biased though it may be) there is nothing quite so inspiring or uplifting as liturgy and ritual that are done well. I feel a certain degree of sadness for churches that have a paucity of liturgical or ritual experiences. They don’t seem to realize that when ritual is well designed and well celebrated, it can lead us beyond the sometimes narrow confines of our own lives, and help bring us to an experience of the divine. When done well,  liturgy and ritual can lead us from our human experience to an experience of the transcendent. 

Now I realize that to some the above may seem like a foreign notion, but to them I would reply that once you have experienced the mysterious ability of ritual to transform and uplift, you will know and appreciate its power.  

14.  I am a Catholic because I have never found another church that is a better fit for me.   Now this is not to say that there are not some things that I don’t like or wish were different about the Catholic Church. Over the years, though, while I have been exposed to many other churches, and while I am sure they have much to recommend them, I have never found a church that has offered as much to me as does the Catholic Church.  

I am a Catholic because the Catholic Church more than any other church of which I am aware, helps me as I strive to understand and respond to God’s abiding presence in my life.  It also helps me grow in my relationship with God. For all of the above reasons, I am a Catholic.  As I said at the beginning of this list, my purpose in trying to articulate the reasons I am a Catholic was not to put down other religions, but rather to clarify some things for myself, and to prompt and promote your thoughts as to why you are a Catholic.  If anyone comes up with additional reasons for why they are a Catholic, I would be happy to print an addendum to this column at some future date.


Fourteen reasons why I am Catholic (Continued from March 6th)

Fr. John Bauer

5.  I am a Catholic because I like the fact that the Catholic Church has expectations of me in terms of my beliefs and moral behavior. Certainly I may not always live up to these standards. Sin and failure are all too often a part of my life. I like the fact, though, that I am called to be more than I am at the present moment. Left on my own, without being called by my church to specific beliefs and moral behavior, I don’t know that I would strive to be a better person. I need to be called to do more than just read the Bible, pray, love Jesus, and then do whatever I want. I need the church to which I belong to ask something of me. From my perspective, the Church that doesn’t ask very much of its members isn’t much of a church. 

6.  I am a Catholic because I like the varied forms and ways of prayer that are part of our tradition. In addition to our liturgical prayer, we also have memorized prayers like the Our Father and Hail Mary. There are spontaneous personal prayers and prayers that come to us from the saints and other holy people. There is meditation, contemplation, centering prayer, and group devotions such as the rosary and benediction. We also have Eucharistic adoration and prayer with scripture. There are many more kinds of prayer and subdivisions within each form. All of these ways and forms of prayer come to us from our tradition. And with this “smorgasbord” of possibilities at our disposal, there is a prayer form or a style of prayer that fits for everyone. All of these ways and forms of prayer are part of our Catholic tradition. They remind us of the breadth and depth of prayer that exits in our Church.  

7.   I am a Catholic because I like the fact that the Catholic Church has tried and continues to try to articulate what we believe about the God we worship. Our dogmas and doctrines, along with the various teachings of our Church, the Pope and our Bishops help us understand and articulate our faith. While this side of heaven we can never have a full understanding of God, I believe it is good and important to continually grapple with the limits of our understanding.  I would not be comfortable with a Church that was satisfied with simple answers to the very real and complex questions that accompany faith issues.  Now certainly no Church can or should claim to have the complete and final word on God. Yet this does not mean that we shouldn’t question and wonder and continually try to explain the “whys” and “wherefores” of the God we worship. I like the fact that this is something the Catholic Church tries to do in its dogmas, doctrines and various teachings.

8.  I am a Catholic because of those generations of Catholics that have gone before us that have given us a history of lives of service and witness to the Gospel. I stand in wonder and awe of the countless believers who have given their lives to work in the Catholic Church to continue the mission and ministry of Jesus. Now certainly other churches can claim that they have people in their tradition who have done this.  At the risk of bragging, though, I think the numbers of people in the Catholic Church who have given their lives in witness and service to the Gospel far out numbers those from other traditions. The fact that so many people, over so many years have done this tells me there is something unique about the Catholic Church. Those faithful and faith-filled witnesses through the centuries are another reason why I am a Catholic.  

9.  I am a Catholic because I like the renewed emphasis that has developed in the past several years in the Catholic Church in regard to scripture. Biblical scholarship has helped us understand that the words of scripture are living and dynamic, and have meaning and import for each of our lives. The various Bible study programs that have come into being in the past several years have helped us to see that it is not enough merely to know what the Bible says. We must also examine, study, and pray about it so that we can come to know what it  means.  

Certainly we have not always taken this approach to the Bible. When I was growing up we never read the Bible; we read Bible stories. We have come to realize, though, that because the Bible is the inspired word of God, it speaks to each of us in our lives. It is our task and privilege to study and pray over the scriptures that we might come to know their meaning, and more specifically what they mean to us individually. 

To be continued next week...


Two events occurred within the past couple of months that have been the source of much reflection to me.

Fr. John Bauer

The first occurred at a dinner party where religion came up in conversation. During the course of the conversation, one of the individuals made the comment that: “now days there really isn’t all that much difference between religions and, after all, isn’t one religion pretty much like every other one?”  The second was a conversation with a friend who told me that the latest revelations of sexual abuse on the part of priests in the United States, Ireland, Germany and Australia had pushed her over the edge. She was taking a break from the Catholic Church and wasn’t all that sure when or if she would be back. 

These two events caused me to start thinking about why I am a Catholic.   Certainly there are many reasons why people leave the Catholic Church, but — at least for me — there are also compelling reasons to stay. As I reflected on it, there are at least fourteen reasons why I am and why I remain a Catholic. I share them with you not to put down other religions. In fact, I would hope those from other religions would be able to compile a similar list as to why they are a member of their particular religion. Rather, I share them to prompt and promote your own thinking as to why you are a Catholic.

Below please find the fourteen reasons why I am a Catholic.

1.  I am a Catholic because I was baptized and raised Catholic. While on the surface this may not seem like much of a reason, it is an important one from my perspective. Both my parents, all of my grandparents and great grandparents were Catholic. (You might say being Catholic is a family tradition.) Watching my parents worship each week in the Catholic Church and seeing the importance this had in their lives has had a profound impact on me. From them I inherited a deep and abiding love for the Catholic Church — warts and all.

2.  I am a Catholic because I like the diversity that exists in the Catholic Church in terms of the way we worship. To be sure there is a basic format to our liturgies, but on any given Sunday in our Archdiocese you can find Mass celebrated in several languages and with varying degrees of solemnity, and with music that runs the gamut from Gregorian chant to jazz. It impresses me that each of these can be an authentic and meaningful form of worship for Catholics; and that all of them are ways we celebrate our belief in God, and receive in return the Body and Blood of Christ our Lord.

3.  I am a Catholic because I like the fact that only in very rare cases does the Catholic Church feel the need to exclude people. Most often this occurs only when the individual has taken some action to separate themselves from the Catholic Church. Several years ago we included on the rolls of the Catholic Church both the Rev. Charles Curran and Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. Before his death, it was Archbishop Lefebvre’s actions which separated him from the Catholic Church, and then only after a protracted period of dialogue and attempts at reconciliation. At the present time, while Fr. Curran’s license to teach as a Catholic theologian has been withdrawn, the suggestion has never been made that he is no longer a Catholic. The embrace of the Catholic Church is very large.  It includes all those (from the far right to the far left) who have not purposely and deliberately removed themselves from it. We have a Big God. We have a Big Church.

4.  I am a Catholic because of our Church’s commitment to the poor, the  marginalized and immigrants. Archbishop Nienstedt was very clear about this in the new Strategic Plan for our Archdiocese. The Strategic Plan said: “Throughout our history the poor, marginalized, and immigrant have been acknowledged as a gift to the Church. The Strategic Plan calls for all parishes within the Archdiocese to help support certain parishes and schools in locations most critical to advancing this mission yet are not likely to be financially sustainable for the foreseeable future because of the  economic circumstances of those they serve.”  

Here at The Basilica we serve the poor, the marginalized and immigrants through our St. Vincent de Paul ministry. Recently someone asked me if the people we served in this ministry were Catholics. Initially the question caught me off guard, but then I remembered the wise words of a priest who was challenged by an individual because the student body of the school for which he was advocating was not primarily Catholic. He responded simply by saying: “We are not here because they are Catholic. We are here because we are Catholic.” 

To be continued next  week...


A few weeks ago I received an email from a friend of mine that read:

Fr. John Bauer

A few weeks ago I received an email from a friend of mine that read: “A distressed driver stopped me as I walked and announced that she was completely lost.  Agitated and berating our town's apparent lack of signposts, she told me she was late for an appointment. I knew exactly where she wanted to go and how to get there. I explained the correct way slowly and clearly, despite her impatience. "If you listen," I found myself saying, "you won't get lost." She nodded, relaxed, then reversed her car and disappeared from view.

As I watched her go, I wondered how often I ask God for direction but don't stop and listen. Am I just speeding on in life or rushing through the day with just a cursory glance heavenward? This stranger was a timely reminder to me of my need to study God's word, the Bible, more closely and to take the time to listen receptively to God.”

I think the above is true for all of us. I know it is true for me. Often times I pray and read the scriptures, and ask God for guidance, but I really don’t take the time to listen to how God might be responding to me. I patiently give God a few minutes to respond to my prayer, and when I don’t receive a response, I unconsciously (and sometimes consciously) move on. 

The thing is, though, we need to remember that God is not limited in the way God can respond and communicate with us. God can communicate with us through our minds, and hearts, and the movements of our spirits. Further, God can use the people, experiences, and events of our lives to communicate to us. God can also communicate with us through the scriptures, in the sacraments, and in our quite moments of prayer and reflection. In order to hear what God has to say to us, though, we need to stop and listen. 

More often than I care to admit when I pray or read the scriptures, I’m like the woman who asked for directions but was too agitated to listen for the response to her question. I believe this is true for all of us. The challenge for all of us is to stop and take the time to listen. If and when we can do this, I am convinced that we will be amazed at what God wants to communicate to us. And perhaps more importantly, we won’t get lost as we seek to follow Jesus in our lives.      


The New Text for the Celebration of Mass

Johan van Parys
Director of Liturgy and Worship

As you may know, in 2002 Pope John Paul II promulgated a new version of the Roman Missal, the book that contains all the texts for the celebration of the Eucharist. This was necessary for a number of reasons, not in the least to incorporate the Masses for the many new saints that had been canonized by him.

This version of the Roman Missal is the third edition since the Second Vatican Council requested a complete revision of the Mass. The first version was promulgated shortly after the end of the Second Vatican Council in 1969 by Pope Paul VI. Already in 1975 a revised version of the Missal was promulgated by the same Pope.

Like the other two, the 2002 Missal, which was slightly modified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, was originally published in Latin. This Latin version of the Missal is known as the editio typica or the normative edition. The English translation of the Missal was approved in the spring of 2010 after eight years of hard work by the International Committee on English in the Liturgy and a Vatican appointed commission known as Vox Clara with the assistance and input of all the Catholic bishops of the English speaking world.

The translation was a long and arduous process which was guided by a document approved by John Paul II known by the first two words of its Latin version: Liturgiam Authenticam. This document shifted the basic norms of translation from a “dynamic equivalency” to a “formal equivalency.” The difference between the two principles is that though both try to relay the meaning of the text, the former takes more liberty with the text while the latter is more true to the original Latin and provides a more faithful translation. The greeting: Dominus vobiscum. Et cum spiritu tuo, for example is currently translated as “The Lord be with you. And also with you.” The new translation will be: “The Lord be with you. And with your spirit” Although it might seem a bit strange, the latter is much closer to the Latin and much closer to the intent of the text.

In the United States we will begin using the new text on the first Sunday of Advent 2011. In order to prepare ourselves we are planning a series of talks and workshops. Please check upcoming bulletins to learn about these opportunities.

Though change is never easy, one thing to remember is that while we will be using new words, we will still celebrate the same Eucharist. The Basilica staff, most especially the liturgy team and all the liturgical ministers, are committed to work hard so we may continue to celebrate the Eucharist as well as we possibly can. The Eucharist after all is what continues to give us life and spiritual nourishment and nothing can take that away from us.


One of my favorite short stories is by the Southern writer Flannery O'Connor.

Fr. John Bauer

It is entitled:  “Revelation.” It tells the story of Mrs. Turpin - a good, decent, upright, and proud woman who did everything right, except that she was a self-righteous racist. She was a person, wrote O'Connor, who when she entered heaven needed “even her virtues burned away.”

There is a common misperception by people like Mrs. Turpin that in doing everything “right” (or at least their version of “right”) they are accumulating virtues, and that as a result they are earning their way to heaven. The fact of the matter is, however, that we don’t “earn” heaven. Heaven is a gracious gift from a loving God. We don’t earn gifts; we can only accept or reject them. And in the case of heaven, we need to accept this wonderful gift with open hands and open hearts. We need to let go of everything else. In the case of Mrs. Turpin, this meant that even her “virtues” needed to be burned away.  

I don’t think people like Mrs. Turpin make the choice to be self-righteous. Rather I think we simply drift into self-righteousness because we begin to see ourselves as self-sufficient. This in turn leads us into thinking that because we are self-sufficient, we are therefore superior to others. And in its worst manifestation this sense of superiority can lead us into thinking that God owes us something for our superior lives and the good we have done. This was Mrs. Turpin’s great failing. She believed that heaven was hers by right, and not as gift. At the end of her life when Mrs. Turpin encountered the immeasurable and incomprehensible love of God even her supposed “virtues” needed to be burned away before she could accept the gift of heaven. 

I believe the wondrous gift of heaven will be offered to all of us. The thing is, though, this gift can only be accepted when we let go of everything else, including and perhaps especially our “supposed” virtues, so that we can accept it with open hands and open hearts. The challenge for all of us is to be willing to “let go” so that we can take hold of the gift of heaven when it is offered.

Local Stewardship is fundamentally about relationships.

Janice Andersen
Director of Christian Life

Defined as creating bridges between communities and advocating for those in need, Local Stewardship requires us to be open to the rewarding, yet challenging, activities of building relationships.

There are two movements to relationship building that are important in Local Stewardship. The first movement requires deep listening and being open to hear the other person’s story. The second movement requires us to share our experiences and stories with people who are in positions to make policies and laws for our community.

The first and perhaps most essential movement to building a relationship is to listen. Listening with an openness to hear the other’s story can bridge the gap between people. Listening to another’s story — to really work to get a glimpse into what life has been and is like for them —can be transforming. What is important to them and why? What experiences have shaped them? What hopes and dreams do they hold?

When we understand another person’s story from their perspective, the dynamics of a relationship are changed: we are no longer strangers. Listening can transform the person listening. It can also transform the person who is telling their story — you are invited to find your own answers and hear your own voice.

Deep, non-judgmental listening can transform people and build relationships, yet it is rare in our lives. It is hard to remain open and listen to the story of someone we disagree with or we hate. It is hard to remain open and listen to someone we are afraid of or who has hurt us.

The restorative justice movement in our communities highlights the power of sharing stories even in the worst of times. Restorative justice brings offenders and victims together. Through courageous sharing and listening, people are invited to move toward healing and reconciliation. Transformation takes place on both sides of the transgression.

The second movement of relationship building in Local Stewardship is to advocate for those in need. Advocacy can simply be defined as sharing your story with people in power. We are asked to share our experiences with those in our community who can make a difference. Let them know our personal story and the stories that we hear from others who have touched us. We share these stories to give voice to those who are voiceless. We advocate to place a high priority on the needs of the most vulnerable as decisions are made on budgets, policies, and laws.

Stewardship is a way of life rooted in scripture. The way we live our life each and every day — our choices and decisions — defines our character. Small steps, taken repeatedly, move great distances. As we open ourselves up to listen deeply to another, and as we move into the public arena to share these stories, we can transform our community in the image of love.

If you would like to get involved in specific activities of Local Stewardship call 612.317.3477. We are working to build relationships through listening and advocacy together!

On a fall evening, a discussion amongst friends went to an unexpected place: Religion.

Emily Carlson-Hjelm
Director of Development

Each person at the table had a similar background — a conservative religious upbringing.  Within this close-knit group, we were already aware of our differing points of view on God and spirituality.  As I felt the conversation shift, I held tight to my chair and worried about how I might defend my point of view as a Catholic.

One friend is still “recovering” from a strict religious upbringing and had a bad taste in her mouth — at sixteen, she was the focus of a peer prayer circle.  As she sat and listened to friends plea to God for her reconciliation, she thought that church wasn’t the place for her.  And more than a decade later, her feelings haven’t changed.

A young couple in the group has made several attempts to find a religious home for their young family.  They searched, but sadly, what they heard from the pulpit was more about what we lack instead of God’s love.  They didn’t find a nurturing place for their spiritual growth and so their rare quiet time at home on Sunday morning is more appealing than what they have found at any church. 

And then the next person expressed with 100% certainty that organized religion’s only purpose is financial.  The message they have heard in church centered on donations.  The truth is, not everyone is in a place of giving from gratitude.  Some might be trying religion for the first time in years.  Some might be more doubtful than sure.  If this sounds familiar, please know that your involvement and participation is a blessing and The Basilica is grateful for this. 

Instead of defending an invitation to give, I am encouraged by The Basilica’s message of stewardship.  The six themes provide a framework for our lives: Global Stewardship (promoting peace throughout the world), Local Stewardship (creating bridges between communities and caring for those in need), Ecological Stewardship (leaving the world a better place for the future), Personal Stewardship (caring for ourselves in body, mind and spirit), Stewardship of our Gifts (sharing our knowledge, talents and experiences), and Financial Stewardship (giving generously and joyfully).
Months later, I still think about that conversation.  Sad, but true, these experiences are not unique to this one gathering and there are many beyond this with personal stories of deep pain. For all the reasons to doubt, I find myself grateful for the positive message I’ve heard at The Basilica.  Fr. Bauer welcomes us to Mass and says, “No matter where you are on your faith journey, we welcome you.”  I hope in this New Year, I don’t take this message of unconditional love for granted. God and I hope I will be able to share my faith through love. 

And I hope as a parish, we appreciate the blessing of the thousands of people who visited The Basilica at Christmas.  Perhaps some have felt the way my friends have and perhaps they found a positive example of how religion can help individuals, the community and hopefully even the world…as the members of The Basilica live the message of love wherever they may go.

There is a reason why The Basilica continues to grow, even amidst a great growth of questioning.  As I hear again and again from parishioners and volunteers, we are deeply blessed to have a parish community like The Basilica.  I will continue to be grateful that The Basilica welcomed me, and continues to welcome thousands of people through our doors. 

This month we observe the 38th Anniversary of the United States Supreme Court’s decision legalizing abortion.

Fr. John Bauer

Legalized as a private act, abortion continues to be a divisive, emotionally charged and very public issue. As someone who has long been a pro-life advocate, I must candidly admit that it is a mystery to me why more people – especially Catholics – don’t speak out and take a stronger stance about this vital issue. It seems that we are at best uncomfortable, and at worst embarrassed, to speak out about the value, dignity and importance of life, most especially the life of the unborn.

As I reflected on this, it occurred to me that the above may be the result of the histrionics and invective that all too often have been associated with the issue of abortion. This tone has caused many good and balanced people to become unwilling to deal with or discuss this issue in any kind of public way. The result has been that fringe people on both sides of the abortion debate have become more vocal and appear to be speaking and acting for far more than the fringe element they represent. Given this, I believe the challenge for the rest of us, both pro-life and pro-choice is to take back the discussion of the issue of abortion and make it once again reasonable, responsible and respectful. In 2004, then Archbishop Alfred Hughes of New Orleans spoke to this when he wrote in a column for the Clarion-Herald: “We need courage and honesty to speak the truth about human life. We need humility to listen to both friend and opponent. We need perseverance to continue the struggle for the protection of human life. We need prudence to know when and how to act in the public arena.”

How do we put the above into practice? I have four suggestions.

1. As people who affirm and profess a pro-life position, we need to be clear about why we believe what we believe. In this regard, we need to be clear and unequivocal about our belief that life is a precious gift from a loving God. As Pope John Paul II said in this encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), “We need to bring the Gospel of life to the heart of every man and woman, and to make it penetrate every part of society.” The core of the Gospel of Life is this: “the proclamation of a living God who is close to us, who calls us to profound communion with Himself and awakens in us the certain hope of eternal life……………….It is the presentation of human life as a life of relationship, a gift of God, the fruit and sign of his love. It is the proclamation that Jesus has a unique relationship with every person, which enables us to see in every human face the face of Christ.” These words remind us that God is the author and sustainer of life. Life is a gift from God. This is why we are prolife and why we have an obligation to proclaim the Gospel of Life.

2. As people committed to life we must acknowledge that it does precious good for us to use rhetoric that is derisive or disdainful of others. Rhetoric that is intentionally inflammatory or hostile does not help an already volatile situation. If we are ever to convince people of the rightness of our position it can only be through the force and weight of our arguments and not through the volume and tenor of our invective.

3. As pro-life people we must always and everywhere condemn and repudiate anyone who sees violence or the threat of violence as an acceptable way to convey the pro-life message. It is never appropriate for us to countenance – in any way – violence against the very life we seek to promote and respect. Life is not more precious in one instance or setting than another. All life is precious and all life must be respected and reverenced.

4. As people committed to life we must never cease to look for common ground between ourselves and those who hold positions contrary to ours. Now in saying this, I want to be clear. Looking for common ground does not mean that we abandon our principles or the values we hold dear. Rather it means inviting people to join us in dialogue. When we deal only with our differences, it is hard to make any progress. When we can acknowledge some common ground, however, and start at that point, I believe the chance of helping others see our the rightness of our position is greatly enhanced.

In regard to abortion, I believe this common ground begins with the agreement that there are too many abortions being performed in this country, and continues when we ask how we can reduce the number of abortions. We can also dialogue about when life begins and what we can do to enhance the quality of all life. I believe common ground can be found when we begin to address these issues.

I believe the challenge we face as people committed to life is great. In the face of the culture of death and the diminishment of life that often times is found in our world, we must strive to build a new culture of life. This culture of life must invite people to confront the problems and difficulties of life instead of turning away from them. It must encourage people to see the hand of the Creator at work in all of life. And it must call people to respect the fragile, gracious and wondrous gift of life. Certainly this task is great, but then so too is the grace our God offers to bring it to completion.

Someone once suggested to Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement, that she would be named a saint one day.

Fr. John Bauer

In response she said: “Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.” Being pictured as a saint brings with it the image of perfection, and for those of us who are less than perfect, it is easy to dismiss perfection.

Throughout her life, Dorothy Day did what she believed to be the right thing, not because it made her rich, famous, or well-liked, but because she saw suffering and felt called to help. She saw a need and responded to it. As importantly, though, she also acknowledged that she was only human, and that she was someone who could and did make mistakes. She didn’t see herself as a saint, but rather as someone who took seriously the call of Jesus and tried to live as one of his followers.

It is easy for us to look at the lives of people like Dorothy Day or Mother Teresa and see them as “perfect” and therefore beyond our ability to imitate. The truth of the matter is, though, that they were people who heard the call of Jesus in their time and place and responded to it. When you come down to it, that is all that is expected of any of us. The difficulty is, though, that many of us are too busy, too preoccupied, too consumed with too many things to hear and respond wholeheartedly to that call of Jesus. This does not mean that we are bad people or that we are sinners. Rather, we are simply weak and imperfect beings who need God’s grace, perhaps more than we realize.

Most likely, few of us are destined to be declared saints upon our death. Most of us, though, are destined to share eternal life with our God in heaven. For this to happen, however, we need to listen for the voice of the shepherd in our lives. Certainly we may fail in our efforts. Sin is all too often a part of our lives. Yet, as Christians, we believe we have found the remedy for sin in Jesus Christ. And so with trust in Christ, and with an openness to the grace that is offered to us, let us strive to follow the call of the shepherd, and be willing do what is asked of us, so that with all the saints — both known and unknown — we may come to share eternal life with our God.

I first heard Viola Vaughn’s name on a typical 100+ degree day in Senegal, West Africa.

Derek Johnson
Guest Columnist
Parishioner and Global Stewardship Team Member

Newly sworn in as a Peace Corps volunteer, I was on my way to the village I would call home for two years. On the way we stopped in the regional capitol of Kaolack. Someone mentioned an American-style restaurant aptly named “Celebration,” run by Viola Vaughn. For an American living on fish and rice for three months, the bacon, eggs and pancakes were cause for “Celebration.”

A graduate of Columbia University's Teachers College in New York, Dr. Viola M. Vaughn’s life is devoted to healthcare and education in the U.S. and Africa. Viola faced a mother’s worst fear when her daughter died in 2000. Committed to raising their five grandchildren, Viola and her husband, jazz musician Sam Sanders, moved to Senegal, West Africa to educate them in a positive, multicultural environment. Tragedy struck again when Viola's husband of 20 years died. Determination and spirit kept her moving as she homeschooled her grandchildren.

The surrounding community noticed Viola and her dedication to teaching her grandchildren. Her infectious charisma and undying love of family drew neighborhood children to Viola. Some wanted help with their homework. Others were attracted to Viola’s culinary skills. Soon, Viola’s home became a learning center teaching mathematics, cooking and everything in between. She organized the non-profit Women’s Health Education and Prevention Strategies Alliances (WHEPSA) focusing on women’s education, and 10,000 Girls was born.

WHEPSA's 10,000 Girls has six locations and over 1500 students. They provide both education and business training to African girls. Actively involved in their education, the girls teach each other, and have also opened a bakery and sewing workshop. The businesses provide educational supplies and give the girls entry into the workforce. Viola's goal is to keep young girls in school and give them opportunities to become responsible leaders in their communities. Graduates are given scholarship opportunities and continue the cycle of success by returning to help 10,000 Girls continue to grow.

Lessons in humility are easily earned but not easily learned.

Fr. John Bauer

This became clear to me several weeks ago. I was at a meeting in the rectory that necessitated a conference call. I duly punched in the numbers to initiate the conference call ... and nothing happened. I repeated the procedure ... and again nothing happened. I looked at the other attendees and admitted my ignorance of the technology in making conference calls. I was hopeful that the others would agree that I had done all that I could and we would quickly move on. One of the other attendees, however, suggested that perhaps we should check the connection. Of course, as luck would have it, the phone line wasn’t properly connected and within moments we had the other meeting attendee on line. Somewhat (but not completely) humbled, I once again acknowledged my technological limitations and the meeting continued.

Fast-forward an hour, and I happened upon Dr. Johan van Parys, our Director of Worship and Sacred Arts, in the third floor hallway of the rectory. Since his office is on the second floor, I queried him as to why he was on the third floor. He explained that the default on his computer printer was set to the copier on the third floor. I asked why he didn’t reset his computer so that it would default to the printer in his office. He looked at me suspiciously and said: “What?” A trip to his office and a few minutes later we had reset his office printer as his default printer. I left pleased (and somewhat smug) that I was somewhat more adept “technologically speaking” than a man with a Ph. D.

Later that night at prayer it occurred to me (not for the first time) that “lessons in humility are easily earned, but not easily learned.” I should have learned from my experience earlier in the afternoon and graciously acknowledged that we all have our limitations, but that our limitations — be they in the area of technology or in any other area — are of no importance or meaning to God. God loves us as we are, simply because we are. Our abilities (or disabilities) have no meaning for God. We are all loved equally, freely, unreservedly and undeservedly by God.

I think a good measure of our humility is the ability to admit that we don’t deserve or earn God’s love; we simply have to accept it. This is a lesson that I suspect I’ll continue to earn but also have to learn in my life. I am grateful, though, that God is a patient teacher. And I am hopeful that one day this lesson will take root in my life.

A few weeks ago I got together with some long time friends.

Fr. John Bauer

In the years we have known one another we certainly have had our ups and downs. We have shared times of great joy and happiness, as well as times of sadness and sorrow. We have been angry and disappointed in each other, but have also rejoiced in each other’s triumphs and accomplishments. Through it all, we have stuck together. I guess you could say we “bonded” with one another, but we did so long before that term gained popularity.

On the night we got together, we spent some time, as we always do, catching up on each other’s lives and our respective families. We also spent some time discussing our present woes and worries, as well as the good things going on in our lives. At one point in the conversation, someone said something that triggered a memory from the past. This led us on a trip down memory lane as she shared stories, the content of which could only be described as “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” As we shared these memories we also talked about the fact that there weren’t all that many people in our lives we could presume upon and take for granted—people whom we could call on and know they would be there for us. In talking about this, we decided that it wasn’t that we weren’t popular or that we were loners. Rather it was just that in a difficult situation or a time of need, there were very few people we could call on and trust to know that those people would be there for us. Other than each other, our families and a few other people in each of our lives, we had to agree that there weren’t that many people in our respective lives whom we could count on absolutely.

I suspect the above is true for almost all of us. In each of our lives there are those people we know we can rely on and trust—people who will be there unconditionally in our times of need. Usually these people have seen the best and the worst in us, and they love us just the same. We all need those people who are “there for us” no matter what happens. They might not be able to do anything to make a bad situation better or they might not be able to solve any problems we have, but their presence, their care, their empathy, and their love help us to deal with or get through whatever problems or troubles we face. I hope we all have these people in our lives. They are the people who give life to our lives and who make living less difficult and far more enjoyable.

Now I mention this today because it is my belief that God is present in our lives in a way very similar to the way these special people are present in our lives. God is with us in each of our lives. God is there for us at all the times and moments of our lives—both good and bad. God never abandons us or leaves us to face the difficulties and trials of life alone. In and through our prayer we can feel God’s presence and experience God’s grace. And as a result, we are strengthened and sustained as we go about our lives.

Sometimes, though, for a variety of reasons, we can fail to remember or we can’t grasp God’s abiding presence with us. It is for this very reason that Christmas is such an important celebration for us. When we celebrate Christmas, we are reminded that God loves us so much that God gave form and flesh to that love in the human person of Jesus Christ. In Jesus, God has touched and continues to touch our world and our individual lives with God’s presence and grace. Jesus is the preeminent and enduring revelation of God’s love for us. He is the way God has chosen to dwell with us and to abide with us always.

Clearly we do not always live with an awareness of God’s presence with us. But when we can attend to God in our prayer, when we can make room for God in our hearts, this can and will make a difference in our lives. For then we will come to understand anew that no matter what, we are never alone. God is with us and for us. And ultimately, like old and good friends, God’s abiding presence with us will give rest to our souls, joy to our lives and peace to our hearts.

Marantha! Come, Lord Jesus!

Johan van Parys
Director of Worship and Sacred Arts

Advent has come and is almost gone, just one more week. Every year, this magical season which prepares us for the celebration of Christmas, provides us with a great opportunity to pause and evaluate our lives. The English word Advent comes from the Latin Adventus Domini, meaning the Coming of the Lord. Most of us understand this to mean Jesus’ presence with us at Christmas as we commemorate and celebrate his birth. The full meaning of Adventus Domini, however, embraces Jesus’ birth 2000 years ago; his presence with us today as well as his return at the end of time. Advent thus becomes a time of preparation not only for the celebration of Jesus’ birth 2000 years ago, but also a time when we become more aware of Jesus’ presence in our lives today, and prepare for his Second Coming.

Let’s remember that when we pray Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus, Come, we not only pray for his presence in our midst at Christmas, but we also pray for his Second Coming and for the hastening of the end of time. This is a rather awesome concept: to pray for the end of time. As Christians we believe that when Christ returns he will inaugurate the completion of the Messianic Times, when according to the prophet Isaiah “they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks;” when “the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;” when “there shall be no more ruin on all my holy Mountain;” when “the steppe and the parched land…will bloom with abundant flowers.”

Advent is that season when we are invited to dream of that perfect world without disasters, disease or death; a world where all God’s children and all of creation exist together in perfect harmony. It is also a season during which we commit ourselves to making this harmonious world a bit more possible. So, let’s sing Maranatha with full voice and let’s act in ways that will hasten the arrival of that perfect world.

As Advent comes to a close, we anticipate Christmas on December 19 when our children will present Our Gift of Song, a beautiful 60-minute musical and prayerful preparation for the celebration of Christmas. We also have several Christmas liturgies on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for you to choose from. Please go to our website for a description of the details of each one of these.

We wish you a wonderful Fourth Week of Advent and may the blessings of the Christmas season be yours abundantly. Maranatha.

Advent is a wonderful season that points us to a time when all shall be right and just in the world.

Janice Andersen
Director of Christian Life

We are invited to imagine the world healed and made whole. The scripture readings describe a time when the blind shall see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, and the oppressed secure justice. This is a time we all long for. This is a time that we want to believe is possible.

Advent, from the Latin, means “coming.” These days of healing and wholeness are coming. The days when the lion will lie down with the lamb are coming. The days when justice will flourish with the fullness of peace are coming.

Why is it so hard to wait!

As we prepare to bring the year 2010 to a close, we find ourselves in a time that is full of civil discord, war, and economic distress. At this time, especially, Advent invites us to hold on to the promise that God comes to save us.

Waiting is hard. Advent teaches us to wait actively, not passively, and to prepare for the coming of God’s reign of peace. Throughout Advent we are prodded into action: the scripture readings call us to repent, be strong, fear not, be patient, not complain, not judge, be joyful. Over and over we are called to act out of love — inspired by the healing and reconciling actions of our Lord.

The actions of God continually heal and reconcile. Our challenge is to stop our busyness and listen to the promise of God’s healing love. We are invited to recognize the actions of God in our everyday life, and to join in the work of transformation.

There are some things that don’t come soon enough. Our faith invites us to trust. Step by step, stage by stage, we are invited to grow into greater knowledge and understanding of God’s love for us. Things that we see only dimly right now will be made clear. As our eyes and ears are opened, and we can recognize God’s presence in every person and experience, our faith is deepened and our world is changed.

The presence of God is coming to us now in the Scripture, in the Eucharist, and in the community. This coming makes Jesus present in our lives every day. The more attentive we are to this presence, the more prepared we will be for the future coming, in all its fullness.

This Advent, consider an action of spending a few minutes at the end of each day noticing how God has been present in the experiences and events of your day. As we notice the presence of God in our lives, we are enabled to act out of this love more boldly. Hope, peace, and joy can become real in our lives amid the suffering and trials of our day.

God is revealing himself in our experiences every day. Let us prepare for this coming and rejoice.

Do you like to read?

Terri Ashmore
Managing Director

Seattle Reads” was an experiment tried in cities around the country. Seattle chose a book and encouraged everyone to read it. As we explore Global Stewardship in December and January, we’d like to challenge you to our own version of “The Basilica Reads.”

Our global team volunteers selected and read the book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide written by Nicholas D. Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn, the first married couple to win a Pulitzer Prize in journalism for their coverage of China as New York Times correspondents.

Once I started reading Half the Sky, I could hardly put it down, and I still can’t get some of the stories out of my mind. The title is from a Chinese proverb — “Women hold up half the sky.” The book jacket describes the authors as “our guides as we undertake an odyssey through Africa and Asia to meet the extraordinary women struggling there.”

Half the Sky is an easy read because it is a book of stories. We meet Ann and Angeline, Saima and Roashaneh and many other women and girls. The authors share facts and figures, and go on to put names and faces together with the stories of women and girls impacted by incredible poverty, oppression and violence. They honestly describe successes and failures. I read the newspaper and watch the news, but really hadn’t absorbed the magnitude of the impacts of poverty and violence around the world until I read Half the Sky. The book doesn’t pull punches about the violence and despair, but what I walked away with was a sense of hope. Things can change. Remarkably, a microloan of $25 or even $65 really can change the lives of women, their families and their communities. I learned about the difference a uniform can make for a girl to stay in school and how staying in school can positively change the entire course of a girl’s life. Simple things to us . . . but life changing in some parts of the world.

Please join the Global Stewardship Team in exploring the difference microfinance and education can make in changing lives of women, girls and communities. Read Half the Sky, and if not the whole book, take a look at Chapter 10, Investing in Education, and Chapter 11, Microcredit — the Financial Revolution. If this captures your imagination, Chapter 14 offers some practical suggestions about what you can do.

In this busy season, please take a moment to open you minds, open your hearts, and consider what our Catholic faith calls us to do as we think about women and children around the world.

My freezer is looking like Old Mother Hubbard's cupboard these days.

Fr. John Bauer

It’s not that I can’t afford to resupply it; rather I decided that it was time to clean it out and use up the items in it before buying anything more to put in it. It is especially important to make sure the items I can’t identify or date are disposed of properly. At this point I’m down to two frozen chicken breasts, a salmon fillet, a partial loaf of bread, a bag of frozen corn, and a package of turkey bacon that is being held together by frost from freezer burn. At this point it’s fifty–fifty as to whether I’ll eat the turkey bacon. It will depend on how hungry I am at the time.

It is easy for things to accumulate in my freezer. If I see something on sale, I’ll buy extra and the extra goes into the freezer. Leftovers and things that have spent too much time in the refrigerator also go in the freezer. And if someone gives me something that is too much to consume in one sitting, the remains join the other items in the freezer. Now when I put things in the freezer, I fully intend to use them in a timely matter, but sometimes I just forget. And unfortunately in a short while the freezer is brimming over. When this occurs I resolve not to buy anything more until I have consumed or disposed of the contents of the freezer. To be sure, this has made for some interesting meal choices, (microwaved frozen peas really aren’t that bad for breakfast) but it does get the job done.

Just as there are times when things accumulate in our freezers, so too there are times when things can build up in other areas of our lives. I believe this is particularly true in regard to our spiritual life. There are times when because of the busyness of our lives we don’t get a chance to step back and take inventory of where we are at, where we want to go and what we need for that journey. The remedy for this, I believe, is the Sacrament of Reconciliation (A.K.A. the Sacrament of Penance or Confession). Personally, I find this sacrament to be a great way to reflect on my life, determine if I’m going in the right direction, and then let go of those things that might hinder me or take me off course. The Sacrament of Reconciliation helps us cull through our lives and let go of those things that are hindering our spiritual journey.

Certainly the Sacrament of Reconciliation is not everyone’s favorite sacrament, but I believe it is an important one. I think it is especially important during the Season of Advent. During this season, as we celebrate the beginning of a new church year, it is also a wonderful time to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is offered every Saturday morning at 9:00am in the chapel on the ground floor. Also, every month we offer a Taize prayer service where there is also an opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If it has been a while since you have celebrated this sacrament, or if you are finding that things are accumulating and hindering your spiritual journey, I invite you to join us at one of these times. Not only is it spiritually beneficial, but it also might be a springboard to cleaning out your freezer.

A while back my brother, sister-in-law and niece spent an evening with me at my cabin.

Fr. John Bauer

After dinner we decided to watch a movie and fortunately were able to agree on one without too much argument. Since I am usually by myself when I’m at the cabin and thus tend to watch movies alone, I suggested some “rules” for the evening. No talking on our cell phones was agreed to reluctantly. No talking or asking questions about the movie without pausing it was also agreed to. No texting was vetoed by my niece. She did agree, though, to text while sitting quietly and without interrupting the movie. She proceeded to send and receive texts throughout the movie. Now, not having children of my own, while I have heard about the amount of texting teenagers do, this was the first time I have seen it up close and personal. It was amazing.

As I reflected on this experience later it struck me that with all the means of communication that are available to us these days,we are seldom out of touch with each other. But while we are always “in touch” with each other, I wonder if we are “engaged” with each other. In this fast-paced world it is easy to substitute exchanging trivialities and quick messages for really communicating with each other. As a result, it is easy to grow distant from people without even realizing it. Now don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of email. I like Facebook. I do some texting. And I’ve wondered if Twitter might be a way to reach more young people. I have come to realize, though, that the relationships that are important to me require some regular “face time” if they are to continue to grow and develop.

I believe the above is especially true in terms of prayer and our relationship with God. Specifically, I think it is easy to fall into the trap of communicating with God in prayer the same way we communicate with others. Our prayer becomes brief, to the point, and often times very superficial. The thing is, though, prayer is not about exchanging pleasantries or chitchatting with God. God already knows all that stuff — God is God, after all. More importantly, prayer is more than just our communicating with God. It is also about God communicating with us. This means we need to do more than exchange trivialities and share information with God. We need to spend time with God, listening to God with our hearts, our minds and our spirits so we can come to understand what God would have us know.

The idea of spending some quality time with God and having a conversation with God can be a bit frightening. (God has never been known for making small talk.) When God does communicate with us, though, God always has something significant to say. Given this, it behooves us to spend some quality time with God in prayer on a regular basis. After all, we don’t want to miss out on something important.

A few weeks ago during those hot and humid days at the end of July and the first part of August, the air conditioning in my car went on the fritz.

Fr. John Bauer

When I took my car in to the repair shop I discovered (as per my luck) that it wasn’t going to be a simple or inexpensive fix. The compressor had died. They needed to order a new one and it wasn’t going to be cheap. I considered my options. On the one hand, I am tight with a dollar. On the other hand, though, I couldn’t see going the rest of the summer without air conditioning. Further, I knew that if I ever wanted to sell or trade in the car that I would need to get the air conditioning fixed. After dithering about it for a couple of days, my decision was made when the forecast called for an extended period of hot and humid temperature. As I write this column, the compressor has been installed and I am once again enjoying the luxury of an air conditioned ride.

It is a sad but true that sometimes we only miss something when it is gone. That certainly was true in terms of the air conditioning in my car. I have also discovered, though, that this is true in terms of prayer.

Now almost always I pray every day without exception. There are some days, though, when for whatever reason my prayer is rushed or abbreviated. I have discovered that if there are several days in a row like that things change—and the most notable thing to change is me. I become a slightly ill-tempered, somewhat out of sorts and a bit selfish. As soon as I become aware of this, I ramp up my prayer time and get back on an even keel. It is interesting, though, how quickly I experience the effects of a diminished prayer time.

I used to think that prayer was a good thing for me. I still believe that, but I have also come to realize that prayer is an essential part of my life. On any given day when my prayer is abbreviated or rushed, I am not the best person I can be. Prayer is a necessary part of my life. I think is true for all of us.

As a result of this insight, I now end my prayer every morning by asking God to help me be open to the grace that God will offer me that day, and that that grace might help me to be a good priest, a good pastor and a good person. With this in mind, if you should encounter me when I seem cranky or out of sorts, please give me the benefit of the doubt and just presume that I slept in that morning and my prayer was more rushed than usual.

A while back one of my brothers (who lives in Georgia) was in town for a college reunion.

Fr. John Bauer

Knowing he was going to be in town, we arranged a time for our family to get together for pizza. As we get older it seems to be more and more difficult for all of us to get together at the same time, so we try to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. In this case we staked out a corner of a pizzeria and 14 out of 21 of us were able to gather. At one point my nephew and I were blowing the paper wrappings from our straws at each other when my brother (and my nephew’s father) scowled at us. I pointed at my nephew to indicate that he had started it, and then in my best adult voice told him to stop acting like a 10 year old. He looked at me and said: “But I am 10 years old.” My brother scowled at me again and said he expected better of me. The best I could do in response was to tell him that being a role model isn’t all its cracked up to be.

Being a role model isn’t always easy. I think this is particularly true in regard to being a Christian. There are times when, if someone followed me around for a day, I suspect they would have difficulty identifying me as a Christian, let alone a priest. On my better days, though, my life truly does give witness to my beliefs. I suspect (and hope) that I am not alone in this. I would guess there are times in each of our lives when we fail to give witness to the faith we profess. Perhaps we gossip about a co-worker, or we do something selfish or without regard to how our actions might affect another, or we hold on to a grudge or refuse to forgive. In these and countless other ways we are not role models for our faith.

I also believe, though, that there many more times when we do give witness to our faith by acts of kindness, generosity, and goodness. I am not sure why we don’t do this all the time, but when I discover myself or someone else truly giving witness to their faith, it gives me great hope that if we keep at it, maybe this behavior might become more regular than occasional, more instinctive than planned, and that maybe it might lead others to Christ.

As I write this I am reflecting on the events of this past weekend. There were fifty-five people from this year’s RCIA class who attended a weekend retreat at Mt. Olivet Retreat Center in Farmington, MN.

Paula Kaempffer
Director of Learning

These included the inquirers, sponsors and the team. Many had never attended a retreat before and were a little anxious over what to expect. Others had been on several different retreats over the years and were looking forward to the time away. After all, what an opportunity to step away from our very busy lives and spend some time sharing and reflecting about our relationship with God and how we are putting into practice the Gospel values that we hear each Sunday at liturgy.

It always amazes me how God works in my life but to witness how God works in the lives of those around us, is uplifting and inspiring. It was easy to see the change take place in the faces of the inquirers as the weekend unfolded. Their ease was evident after playing a few games and taking part in some artsy type activities which got them talking, laughing and sharing together.

As we contemplated certain scripture passages and applied them to our lives, we were able to see God’s love for us and what we are called to be for others. And we were able to listen to other’s struggles to try to bring Jesus to their workplaces, schools, and homes.

One theme which ran as a common thread throughout the weekend discussions that I overheard was that we cannot do this “alone.” We need each other, our community, to support us, to pick us up when we fail, to pray for us, and to encourage us throughout the journey.

The RCIA team is made up of myself and eight parishioners who have hearts that are able to accept all those who come through our doors searching for a deeper sense of the holy in their lives. This team, along with many sponsors and inquirers, entered into the whole experience with hearts that were open to the movement of the Holy Spirit bringing us to a sense of love and acceptance of each other and a greater sense of being rooted in Christ. We moved from being a group who was so timid and cautious to one that was very willing to share faith with each other, knowing we are on this journey together. I can see the beginnings of “community” happening already.

A few weeks ago I took some vacation time to do a few projects at my cabin.


Fr. John Bauer


Now I have never claimed to be a handy person. In fact, whenever I go to a hardware or home improvement store, the first words out of my mouth are often: “I’m not as handy as I look.” I have found that after this introduction the salespeople are much more solicitous and attentive than they might otherwise be.

One of the projects on my list this year was trying to fix a leak in my roof that I suspected was located near one of the roof vents. I purchased a big can of something called “roof sealant” and with the appropriate tools in hand climbed the ladder to the roof. I opened the can of roof sealant and with a trowel begin to slather it around the vent. Things were going reasonably well until I started to move and suddenly felt like I was going to lose my balance. Fearing I would

topple off the roof and break something important, I dropped the trowel and the can of roof sealant, and grabbed for the vent. I caught it but fell face forward, landing on the freshly applied sealant and overturning the can. Suffice to say, by the time I had righted myself, I had a pretty good idea of what it must have been like to be tarred and feathered — minus the feathers. I spent the next few days with a rag and a can of turpentine cleaning roof sealant off various parts of my body.

As I reflected on this experience it occurred to me that often it is better not to know in advance what the end result of something is going to be. It would be easy to become discouraged or perhaps not even begin if we knew in advance that something was going to be difficult, messy, or painful. Certainly this was true in regard to trying to fix my leaky roof. I think this is also true in regard to the Christian life and journey. As Christians, there are times when our life and journey may involve some pain and trials.

The thing is, though, that because of Jesus Christ, we know that despite the difficulties we face in this life, the end is assured. We are meant to share eternal life with God. Certainly we may face trials and difficulties in this life. Jesus never promised that following him would assure a life of ease and comfort. What Jesus did promise us, though, is that if we held out to the end that we would share eternal life with our God in heaven. It is this promise that guides our way here on earth and that gives us hope and strength to continue even when the way is not easy.

The other day, I pulled out the Basilica history book “Voices from a Landmark” – and was again struck by the generations of people who made this church community their spiritual home.

Terri Ashmore
Managing Director

It’s fun to the read stories of the early members – about the first St Vincent de Paul outreach in the late 1800’s, and the church band who played at the first church picnic in 1870. During WW I, women prepared hospital kits with surgical dressings and knitted caps, sock and sweaters for servicemen. By the 1960s and 70s, the parish outreach was reinvigorated with a Care Guild and Food Shelf.

Throughout the years the patterns are clear and consistent. Parishioners have come together to share their faith in prayer, worship and working together for their growing city. The Basilica we experience today seems no different.

Why did you join the Basilica? We ask that question monthly at our new member dinner. As you might imagine, the answers are as diverse as the group who gathers from many different towns and countries. Some are becoming Catholics, others are life long Catholics.

They love the liturgy – from the homilies that inspire them through the week, to the beautiful music. Many come because of the St. Vincent de Paul outreach to those most in need in our community. All are looking to engage and to become part of a community. Many describe the feeling as coming home.

I believe it’s the people who make the community. One of our parishioners recently shared a goal that inspires me. The challenge to all of us – is to “be the church we want the church to be.”

Together, we can continue to build the Basilica community as we live our Catholic faith and carry out the vision from Jeremiah 29:7 – “Seek the well being of the city to which I have sent you. Pray for it to the Lord, for in it’s well being you will find your own.”

Will you help us continue this work? Today, we ask you to consider making a financial commitment for the coming year. We hope you will consider what gift you can make on a weekly or monthly basis, and make a written pledge.

Our goal is $2.2 million in pledged commitments – and while that sounds like a lot – consider that today our Basilica community is the spiritual home to 6,200 households and we reach out to many more who come to us for spiritual and emotional support.

Like the earliest members of our parish, seven days a week through hundreds of events and activities, we welcome those who come – for daily mass, funerals, baptisms, religious education for children, youth and adults, employment ministry, Sunday Night Live for young adults, Prayer Shawl Ministry, Eucharist for the Homebound and so much more.

Your personal financial commitment makes all this possible.

I am a little embarrassed to admit it, but every now and again I will come across a scripture reading or a prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours (formerly the Breviary) and something will strike me for the first time.

Fr. John M. Bauer

Since I have used the same books for prayer for 31 years, I’m always surprised when this happens. I have come to accept it, though, as God’s way of getting my attention. Most recently this happened while I was praying some of the prayers of intercession.

The particular prayer that caught my attention read as follows: “Teach me to be loving not only in great and exceptional moments, but above all in the ordinary events of daily life.” I don’t know why I never noticed this prayer before, but it struck me that while occasionally we may encounter great and exceptional moments when we are called to be loving, I would guess more often by far are those ordinary moments in our everyday life where the opportunity to be loving presents itself. For me this is a real challenge.

Since I have lived by myself  for well over 20 years, it is very easy for me to be myopic in terms of whom I notice, or what needs I see. There are days when I can become so task centered that I notice very little that is not immediately on my radar screen. I would guess there are times when this is true for all of us. We can become so focused on the task at hand that we can fail to notice the needs that are presented to us in the ordinary events of daily life. It isn’t that we ignore these  needs. It is rather that we  simply fail to notice them.

This was the point of the parable Jesus told about the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus (Lk. 16:19-31). In that parable we are not told that the rich man refused to help Lazarus. Rather Lazarus had become a part of the background to the point that the rich man didn’t even notice his need. I think this can happen to all of us. It is easy to be loving in the great and exceptional moments of our lives. It is much harder to do this in the ordinary events of daily life. However, as Mother Teresa of Calcutta said many years ago: “We may not do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” As Christians, this is both our challenge and our goal.

I write this as I sit next to my dear Aunt Ann at Abbott Northwestern hospital.

Emily Carlson Hjelm
Director of Development

She is recovering wonderfully from a surgery that sent a scare throughout our family.  She has always been a generous person; she took care of three children under the age of six for a week when my mother recovered from an illness.  As a child growing up on a farm in South Dakota, she would invite me to Minneapolis for weekend visits. My aunt would bring me to work at her downtown office in the IDS building high above the city and watch me dream as I looked out the window at the city, so big and sprawling.  I could almost feel my heart swell knowing this city would someday be my home.   In college she offered even more support, helping me out with my rent while I balanced classes, jobs and internships in school.  This allowed me to experience one internship, and then another, and eventually led to my job that I love so dearly at The Basilica.

I suspect many of us have an Aunt Ann, the person who offers support and models behavior that sets a tone in your life.  One of the things I think about today is the beauty of her ongoing selflessness.  It is easier to learn life’s important lessons when those things are not simply told to us philosophically, but shown by living an example. 

Part of a very long list of things I hope to model for my one-year-old daughter is this spirit of generosity.  Not one that waits for reciprocation, but true selfless giving.  Even as adults, it is hard to not hear a thank you (at least) when you know you have done something special for someone else.  But shouldn’t the joy of giving be sufficient?  It is a challenge — and also a great responsibility — to model cheerful giving.   It takes a village, as they say — and our parish is blessed to have a deep commitment to generosity.

In our youth programs, children are able to learn about giving by doing — collecting items for children in need or sharing coins from their allowance in a children’s collection.  And of course, they learn from the example of so many generous parishioners to share what they are able, even through challenging economic times.

Whatever gifts you are able to share, whether it is caring selflessly for others, sharing financial gifts, or your valuable time, please know that it is appreciated.  Thousands of people receive spiritual growth in our inspiring liturgies, neighbors receive sustenance from a sandwich handed out at the door, and children learn about Christ’s love in religious education classes.  This fall, we ask for your generosity by making a financial stewardship pledge for 2011.  I know we will once again receive abundant gifts and for this, we are grateful.  Your generosity is modeling many wonderful things for everyone in our community — for children and adults alike.

It is now a little after noon and my aunt is resting well.  I again am looking out the window at this beautiful city, thinking about her charitable spirit.  We have spent the morning catching up about the people in our lives.  Even as she recovers from major surgery, her concern is about  her nieces and nephews, and grandnieces and grandnephews, her colleagues.  This selflessness runs in the family.  I’m still working on it, but I’ve got a great model. 

I have a friend who, every now and again, I will refer to as “Miss Diva.”

Fr. John M. Bauer

It’s not that she always demands to be the center of attention. Rather, it is that every now and again she enjoys the occasional moment in the spotlight. I think this is true for all of us.  Every now and again I think all of us like to be noticed and appreciated for something we have done or said. I think we get this trait from God.

God doesn’t demand always to be the center of attention. In fact, most often God is content simply to be part of the background fabric of our lives. In my own life I have discovered, though, that there are times when God does want to be the center of my attention. At these times, God isn’t demanding or unreasonable. Rather, God simply, and in a not so subtle manner, makes it clear that I need to pay attention — and at least for a few moments make God the center of my attention. These times occur when I see a beautiful sunset, or when someone does something unexpectedly kind, or at moments of great joy or sadness, or at times of prayer. In these and countless other ways God makes it clear to me that God wants to be the center of my attention.

I don’t know why God doesn’t demand to be the center of my attention more often. I am grateful, though, for those times when God does. For they help keep me humble and ever mindful that in reality something bigger than myself deserves and ought to be at the center of my attention and the center of my life.

Lectio Divina –- Visio Divina: On the Importance of the Sacred Arts

Johan Van Parys
Director of Worship and Sacred Arts

The ancient Christian practice of Lectio Divina or Divine Reading consists of the meditative reading of the Bible with the intent to change one’s own life in favor of Scripture values. This practice was very popular in monastic communities. The Rule of Saint Benedict prescribes this practice as essential to one’s spiritual life.

More recently the practice of meditating on visual images has been identified as Visio Divina or Divine Seeing.  This form of meditation relies on the visual arts as a source of divine revelation which the viewer approaches in a meditative way in order to glean inspiration and insight.

Lectio Divina differs from Visio Divina in that the Bible, which is the object of meditation of the former is divinely inspired and thus communicates divine truth and will directly. Sacred art, on the other hand is mostly understood as a human interpretation of the divine truth, revealed in sacred scripture but enlightened by two millennia of human experience. In a sense, sacred art then is not a “primary source” but rather a “secondary source” for the knowledge of God’s truth. In this way, sacred art can be compared to the homily or sermon which is a textual interpretation of the Bible, with the intent to make the readings more accessible to 21st century Christians.

However, in some instances, sacred art is considered directly inspired by God. Orthodox Christians view Icons as inspired by God in a similar way as the writers of the Bible were divinely inspired. Because of that, Icons are venerated with as much respect as the Holy Bible.

The Church in the West does not have the same understanding. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church embraces sacred art as an “echo of the mystery of Creation with which God, the sole creator of all things, has wished in some way to associate” artists (1).  In other words, even though Christian art is not understood to be the direct result of Divine inspiration, there is a clear recognition of the fact that sacred artists connect with the creative power of God.

Over the past two millennia many great artists have given “vision” to our Scriptural narrative. As a result, the Catholic Church is the repository of an immense treasure of sacred art from all places and all times. Our age too has produced great sacred art. The Catholic Church indeed continues to be graced with artists who provide new materials for Visio Divina. When you visit our exhibits in the John XXIII Gallery, please take your time and allow the art to speak to you.

(1) John Paul II, Letter to Artists (Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1999) 1.

A few weeks ago I read that Anne Rice gave up on Christianity.

Fr. John M. Bauer

As you may remember, the New Orleans novelist, famed for her vampire novels, was raised a Catholic, but then left the Church for a good share of her adult life. She returned to the Church several years ago. Sometime after her return she wrote about spirituality, including a well received spiritual memoir entitled, Called Out of Darkness.

When Rice decided to leave Christianity, she did so with a flourish saying: “It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious and deservedly infamous group. For 10 years, I tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.” She wrote on her Facebook page:  “My conversion from a pessimistic atheist ….. to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following his followers.”

Well I, for one, am sad at Ms. Rice’s departure. Of course, I am always sad whenever anyone leaves Christianity and, more specifically, the Catholic Church.

Now certainly our Church has been criticized deservedly for the way it has handled the sexual abuse crisis. At times too, we have looked petty and mean-spirited in the way we have dealt publicly with some people and/or issues. Despite this, though — and admittedly I come from a very biased perspective — I need the Church in my life.

Without the Church — and very particularly the Christian community — I don’t know that I would be able to stay on track in terms of following Christ. Left to my own devices, it is all too easy for me to rationalize my behavior, limit my responsibility, act selfishly, and in general fail to live as I know I am called to live as a follower of Jesus.   In fact, if the truth be told, I have trouble doing this now. I can only imagine what I’d be like without the Church and the Christian community to encourage and support me, and call me to accountability.

At times all of us fail —sometimes publicly — in our efforts at following Jesus.  This is no less true of the leaders of our Church than it is any of its members. But we need to remember that Christ is both our model and our Shepherd. It is Christ, whom we are called to imitate and follow. In order to do this, though, we need the encouragement and support of other believers. For me, the best place to find that support is within the Catholic Church.

I hope Ms. Rice finds another community to support and encourage her as a Christian. If she doesn’t, though, I hope she finds her way back to the Catholic Church.   To a greater or lesser degree we all fail in our efforts at following Christ. In this regard, we are all hypocrites. And as a friend of mine likes to say:  “In a church full of hypocrites there is always room for one more.”

Imagine being ab