Archives: October 2014

This past weekend, parish member Bob Kleiber shared his “Basilica moment” -- a defining moment when The Basilica became deeply and abidingly part of his spiritual journey. After their son's unexpected death at age 22, Bob and his wife Nancy found solace and comfort in The Basilica's embrace.
 
Basilica moments are the times in your life that The Basilica has made a difference – a lasting legacy – in your life. 

For Bob and Nancy, their Basilica moment became in invitation to become more involved and to share their time, talent and financial treasure. For them, making a Financial Stewardship pledge was a priceless opportunity to express their gratitude and to make more "Basilica moments" possible in the future.

Fr. Bauer invites you to prayerfully consider a Financial Stewardship commitment to The Basilica parish community for 2015. Your pledge of any size is a celebration of belonging. Pledge forms are in the pews, or click here to make your 2015 pledge today.

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/101914.cfm 

Our Gospel this Sunday is a good example of the saying: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  In this Gospel we see the Pharisees joining forces with the Herodians in an effort to entrap Jesus on the question of paying the census tax to Caesar.  The two groups would have been very unlikely allies.  The Herodians would have favored paying the census tax to Caesar, while the Pharisees would have opposed this.  And yet these two groups united to approach Jesus with the question:  “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”   Jesus was in a tough spot.  If he said yes to paying the tax he would lose standing with those who opposed the Roman occupation of Israel.  If he said no, he could be seen as an insurrectionist.  Jesus, though, shrewdly sidestepped the question by asking to see the coin used to pay the census tax.  (In asking to see the coin he sends the clear message that he himself did not have such a coin.)   When given the coin Jesus asked “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”  They replied “Caesar’s.”  Jesus then said;   “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”   While the coin bore the image of Caesar, the unasked question in this exchange is “What bears the image of God, and therefore needs to be given to God?”  The answer of course is us.  We are all made in the image and likeness of God.   

Our first reading this weekend is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.  In the section we read this Sunday God uses King Cyrus --- who was not Jewish --- to reestablish Israel.  He tells Cyrus: “I have called you by your name, giving you a title, though you knew me not.”   This reminds us that God can call and choose anyone to achieve God’s purpose.

Our second reading this weekend contains the opening verses of the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians.   After an opening greeting Paul thanks the Thessalonians for their “work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ………...” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1.  Do you see yourself as belonging to God because you are created in God’s image? 
2.  Have you ever felt that God had used you to bring about God’s will?
3.  If someone followed you around for a day would they be able to recognize and thank you for your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ?   

Every once in a while, you meet someone whose story has an extraordinary and immediate impact. I had the pleasure of such an experience when I met Bob Kleiber at a parish leadership gathering this spring. Bob is a member of The Basilica’s Finance Committee whose path to involvement and deeper stewardship is not typical.

In our visit, Bob openly shared the tragic story of losing his son, David, to suicide, as a result of mental illness. When he told me this story, something hit me in the gut and tore at my heart. As a parent, the thought of a broken bone is enough to make your stomach churn. The thought of burying a child is unfathomable. But through that loss and beyond his sadness, Bob found a deeper connection at The Basilica and with his faith. The value of community and of belonging increases greatly when you feel their support in a time of need.  

As he shared today, and as you can likely sense, even through his grief Bob lives a life of gratitude. This gratitude has guided stewardship in his life.  

He is an inspiration.

Sometimes, we all need a reminder about living a life of gratitude. Earlier this year, around the time I met Bob, I had a conversation with Fr. Michael O’Connell, former pastor at The Basilica. I had shared with him some of my challenges about how I was finding it to be difficult to juggle things. These “things” were family, children’s activities, my work, and other interests. It seemed I never had the time I really wanted to devote to each area of my life, which is a well-known theme for many working parents.  

When I started this conversation, I was counting on a clear direction of how I might make some adjustments and priorities could become clear. That didn’t happen.

Instead, I heard the one word that needed to be said:  Gratitude.

I didn’t love to hear it at first. Amidst my tension and personal stress, I had forgotten to look at these “things” in my life as the blessings of my life. And they are. God has given me more than I recognize and certainly more than I sometimes deserve.

I love all of it. Perhaps too much. I have a job that not only feeds my family, but feeds my heart and soul. I have a loving family. I have a faith that is constantly forming, on a journey where I’m supported at The Basilica.

Focusing on gratitude—and in Fr. Michael’s words, “Giving gratefully and graciously gives back what God has so generously given to us”—can change you.

The shift changed not only my heart, but it seemed to change my daily life. When you change your mind, the tone of each day is different.  

I hope you will consider your own gratitude when you consider supporting The Basilica this fall. Please consider a pledged commitment for 2015. Pledge forms are available in the pews, or you can pledge online.  Thank you for your consideration and know we are grateful for your generosity.

 

Over 500 owners, and their beloved pets, gathered at the Basilica of Saint Mary Oct. 5 for the annual Blessing of the Animals service.

The event is in its 25th year at the Basilica of Saint Mary and is held annually near the Feast of St. Francis, to recognize him as a patron saint of animals, nature and peace. This year's feast day was Oct. 4. 

Each year, Basilica staff choose a "featured creature" that they choose to highlight during the event. The creature is typically endanged or threatened and in need of prayer and awareness of its issue. This year's featured creature was the honeybee.

Actors from "In the Heart of the Beast" theater in Minneapolis, Minn., were dressed in life-size honeybee costumes to add an increased presence for the small creature. Members of the Bees Kneez honeybee advocacy organization were also availabe to discuss the current bee population and how we can all protect our pollinators. 

In earlier times, people took their animals and food to monasteries for a special blessing around harvest time. They depended on these gifts for survival. Now, the blessing invokes a connection between people and their animals, as well as a connection with all of nature.

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/101214.cfm   

R.S.V.P.  Re’pondez  s’il vous plait.   This seems like such a simple request, and yet, so often it is ignored.   Certainly this indicates a lack of social grace.  The people in our Gospel parable today, however, were guilty of more than just a lack of social graces when they ignored the invitation to the wedding feast.   We are told they not only “refused to come to the feast,” but in some cases “laid hold of and mistreated the King’s servants and even killed them.”   What kind of people would do this?   Well, I suspect they differ from us in only in degree. They were people who had become so self-absorbed that they couldn’t recognize the gift/invitation that was being offered to them.        

While the angry response of the King seems exaggerated, it is tempered by his largess and generosity in sending his servants to invite to the feast whomever they could find.    This reminds us that no one is beyond the reach and embrace of our God’s love.   But what about the person who was ejected because he didn’t wear a wedding garment.   Well, since guests frequently came from a distance over dirty and dusty roads, the host often provided an opportunity for them to clean up, as well as a fresh garment for them to wear.  The guest’s refusal to comply with this custom went beyond rudeness and would have been insulting to the host.   The message in this is clear.  It is not enough just to show up.  Something more is required.  

Our first reading this weekend from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, speaks of the lavish banquet that God has prepared for his people.   But, as in the Gospel reading, it is necessary that people respond to God’s invitation to this banquet. 

In our second reading this weekend from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians, Paul reminds us that in every situation and circumstance he “can do all things in him who strengthens me.”   

Questions for Reflection:

1.  Looking back can you see where you have failed to respond to or even rejected an invitation from God?
2.  Have there been times when you’ve just shown up in response to God’s invitation, without doing anything else?  
3.  In our second reading Paul talked about living in widely divergent circumstances.   He then said:  “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.”   Can you think of a time when you were strengthened to do something that initially you didn’t think you could do?  

It was October 1979, my second year in seminary when I had the great opportunity to spend the feast of St. Francis in Assisi. I had never been there and I fell in love with the place immediately. Not only is this the loveliest of Umbrian hill top towns, more importantly it is truly the town of St. Francis. His presence can be felt everywhere as his spirit permeates the skinny cobbles stoned streets, the grand and small churches alike, the hills he walked with his early brothers and the forests where he communed with “brother sun and sister moon.” I remember closing my eyes and almost seeing him walking the streets of Assisi.

On the morning of October 4, after having celebrated the liturgy of the hours at the Basilica of Saint Francis near the resting place of the saint’s mortal remains we made our way to San Damiano. It was in the church of this small but lovely monastery that in 1205 Francis had a vision. He saw Jesus on the cross come alive and he heard him say:  "Francis, don't you see my house is crumbling? Go, and restore it!"  Thus he and his brothers took it upon themselves to restore not only the church of San Damiano itself but many other dilapidated churches in the region. This physical work, however, was but a symbol for Francis’ real mission: assuring that the Church was true to its mission. He praised people whenever he saw fit, and he did not shy away from chastising anyone, lay people, priests or bishops alike when they claimed to be Christian but embraced values that were incompatible with the Gospel.

San Damiano is also the place where St. Clare founded her monastic community. The spiritual bond between Clare and Francis was very strong and lasted throughout their lives. Both wanted the same: a church true to the Gospel. At first Francis was the leader of the community of sisters, until Clare assumed the role of abbess. Once named abbess, Clare wrote a rule for her community rooted in the Franciscan spirituality. This is the oldest known rule written by a woman. Strong in faith she managed to resist the pressures by some prelates who tried to impose the Rule of St. Benedict on her and she scared off many an invader by simply facing up to them monstrance in hand.

It was at this holy place, on this holy day that we hoped to participate in the Eucharist. To our great surprise Eucharist was to be celebrated in the courtyard of the monastery. As we sat around waiting for everything to begin neighboring farmers arrived, carrying baskets full of vegetables and fruits. They also brought in a veritable menagerie of farm animals. The courtyard quickly turned into what looked more like a bustling market square than the proper place to celebrate the Eucharist. Nevertheless, that is where we celebrated the Eucharist. By the end of Mass I was profoundly moved by this highly spiritual experience. The liturgy brought home the fact that all of creation is sacred and that we are to honor, respect and protect all of creation as it is of God.

Today we celebrate the Blessing of the Animals at The Basilica of Saint Mary on the Sunday closest to the feast of St. Francis. To some this is the silliest thing imaginable, even bordering on disrespectful. To others it is as spiritual as the experience I had some 35 years ago in Assisi. Regardless of people’s thoughts about this event or their reason for participating or not, the fact is that with this celebration we do what Francis and the Franciscans have done for centuries: we honor all of creation as sacred because it is of God. And we remind ourselves of our responsibility to care for creation and to protect it as that is what God has tasked us to do.

I fondly remember one of my teachers in Louvain pointing out that children occasion their parents to return to church. Having been involved in parish work for over 20 years I know this to be true. I have also come to realize that sometimes it is the animals that bring their humans to church. And in the great realization of the sacredness of all creation this, perhaps this is not all that strange.

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