Weekly Musings

Fear is a complicated emotion. It serves to protect—alerting us to possible danger. Sensing a threat, we freeze, take flight or fight for survival. When the threat is clear, we can respond appropriately. These instincts keep us safe, offering security and a chance to flourish.
 
Yet fear can also overwhelm us. When the threat is vague, diffuse or constant, we can find ourselves consumed by worry or anxiety. We struggle to make sense of our lives, as we experience times of change, economic uncertainty, natural disasters, terrorism, disease, unemployment, war or death. As we seek to process possible risks, we can find ourselves paralyzed—feeling powerless in front of uncertainty and challenges.
 
It is striking how pervasive anxiety is within our society today. Close to one in five people in the United States experience disruption in their life due to some form of anxiety. I hear it in conversations with parishioners, community members, family and friends of all ages. Manifested in many different ways, our brothers and sisters are struggling to find stability, security and meaning to their life amid challenges and uncertainty. 
 
How do we respond to fear, when it is pervasive and embedded in our lives? How do we reframe the questions we live, to remove the threat?
 
One paradigm to consider: The opposite of fear is trust. When we believe all shall be well and what is needed will be provided, we can let go of fear, worry or anxiety and find peace. 
 
Our faith provides the container for this trust. 
 
Scripture tells us that God understands our tendency to fear, and continually assures us—“It’s alright, I am here.” The phrase “fear not” is used at least 80 times in the Bible. 
• “Don't fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.” Isaiah 43:1
• “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
 
Pope Francis states: "The world has great fear, and spreads it. Often it makes this the key for interpreting history, and not infrequently adopts it as a strategy to build a world based on walls and trenches. We too can understand the reasons for fear, but we cannot embrace it, 'for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.' Let us draw from this spirit, and go: open doors, build bridges; weave bonds; establish friendships; promote unity. (Sept. 17, 2016)
 
Ultimately, where does fear lead us? Pope Francis suggests fear leads us to experience the feeling of being closed in on oneself—trapped. We become paralyzed, loosing an ability to dream, grow and create. He states, “When we are paralyzed, we miss the magic of encountering others, making friends, sharing dreams, walking at the side of others." (Prayer vigil at Campus Misericordiae, Krakow, Poland, July 31, 2016) 
 
This Lent, we have the opportunity to root our trust in God’s love and presence. We have the challenge to identify the anxiety in our lives. As we name the undercurrents of fear, God’s love gives us the courage to attend to our hope and dreams—to think about unfulfilled potential and to work toward unity and peace. With God, all things are possible and all shall be well. 

A few weeks ago I made an attempt (which ultimately was only minimally successful) to clean off my desk. In some ways my cleaning attempt was like an archeological dig. The deeper I got, the more interesting things I discovered. Now I used to feel bad about how my desk looked. Several years ago, though, I went to a talk about how to be better organized. The presenter said one thing in particular that really spoke to my heart. Specifically she said: “Some people file things to find them. If you are one of those people your desk is always neat and clean. Other people, though, file things when they are finished with them. If you are one of those people you almost always have piles on your desk. The reason for this is that you need to keep everything you are working on in plain view. If you put something away you are done with it.” These words immediately brought me a sense of comfort and peace. And while I don’t brag about the appearance of my desk, I no longer feel bad about it either.

I suspect that most of us have had similar experiences—times when someone has said something that calmed our fears, eased our distress, or lessened our guilt. These times are islands of peace amid the often stormy sea of life. There are other times, though, when someone says something that can cause us to feel uneasy or even anxious. For me, the words of Jesus often do both of these things. 

At times, Jesus’ words can be enormously comforting as when he reminds us that God loves us and forgives our sins. At the same time, though, Jesus’s words can also challenge us as they remind us that we are to love others as we have been loved and to forgive others as we have been forgiven. Jesus’ words are often a two-edged sword. They comfort and console us, while at the same time challenging us and perhaps making us feel a bit uneasy about how we are living. 

While I definitely like living in my comfort zone, I find I function best when I am on the edge of my comfort zone as opposed to being in the middle of it. Most often Jesus’ words challenge me to move out of the middle of my comfort zone and live on the edge of it. They remind me that if I want to experience God’s love and forgiveness, then I need to work to extend these to others. This isn’t easy and in fact I fail at it regularly. If I look to Jesus’s words for comfort and consolation, though, I must also hear and be open to the challenge in them. The promise, as well as the challenge of Jesus’s words can not be separated. Being a disciple of Jesus is not just about recognizing this, but also living so as to give witness to it with our lives. 

 

Music can be defined as “an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color.” I have lived each day of my life surrounded by music. Whether it was listening to my parent’s record collection, participating in my school’s theater department, playing the piano, or hearing the church choir every Sunday at Mass. This passion for music grew as I explored concerts and events beyond my immediate community. It was not long until I discovered the state’s longest running music festival, the Cities 97.1 Basilica Block Party. In 2012, I was one of the lucky block partiers to attend these (very!) sold out nights of music, which marked my first ever festival. 

What astounded me most was the incredible feeling of community and welcome that was found throughout the campus and grounds. As my first introduction to The Basilica of Saint Mary, it was apparent the volunteers and committee members shared a passion in creating a space to celebrate outdoor music, summertime, and their love for The Basilica parish and building. As I have come to know these dedicated groups, it is clear their drive and passion for the Block Party is stronger than ever. Whether it be through attending, serving on the committee, or volunteering, it all begins within our parish community.

The 26th annual Cities 97.1 Basilica Block Party will take place on July 10 and 11 on our beautiful Basilica campus. I am really excited about the variety and energy that this eclectic lineup brings to this year’s event. After celebrating our 25th anniversary in 2019, we are stepping into the next evolution of The Basilica Block Party. I wonder if anyone could have predicted the trajectory and reach of the Block Party at its inception in 1995. Founded 26 years ago in hopes of raising funds for emergency roof repairs, the event has grown in attendance and become a staple summer event in the Twin Cities. 

Since that fateful weekend in 2012, I have served two internships in the Development department, began my post-collegiate career as the Events and Communications Assistant, and finally landed as the Special Events Coordinator. There are moments I wish I could tell my 2012 Block Party self to look around and soak it in, not knowing the best was yet to come. As I enter my sixth Basilica Block Party season as a staff member, I feel a refreshed excitement for the organization’s future. Each year brings new opportunities, new fans, and a new energy to our campus and community. I am certain the 2020 Cities 97.1 Basilica Block Party will be the best yet. 

Tickets, bands, and volunteer opportunities at basilicablockparty.org.

Working previously in college campus ministry, and now with young adults, I have to be engaged with social media, at least to some degree. Usually, it’s a helpful way to invite others into The Basilica, and Basilica Young Adult (BYA) community, but I have to admit it has been a while since I have been on Catholic Twitter. Not Twitter as a whole, just Catholic Twitter. I used to follow a variety of Catholics on Twitter, to keep up on what was happening in the Church and get various perspectives on different issues. After several weeks of seeing the vitriol, name calling, and almost complete lack of charity for one another, it was time to stop following those accounts. (The rest of Twitter isn’t much better, but Christians are called to love their neighbor, so it is especially troubling to see this behavior from people of faith). 

This weekend, we are grateful to have Dr. William Doherty from the University of Minnesota here to present on how we can have difficult political conversations with those who disagree with us. This presentation will lead into a series of workshops in March where we can learn more practical skills in how we engage others. We also are encouraging all interested to take the Civilize It pledge from our  United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to engage others with civility, clarity, and compassion during this 2020 election year—visit mary.org/civilizeit for more information and the link to the pledge form at Civilizeit.org. There is a similar ecumenical effort shared by a number of Christian denominations called Golden Rule 2020, inviting all Christians to engage each other with love.

It strikes me as a little sad that we have to take a pledge to be civil to each other; if we really believe in one God who created all of us out of love, we would treat each other with some level of respect. However, until the Kingdom of God is fully realized, I suppose we will need occasional reminders, myself included. I read an article recently by a priest who shared the saying, “You will know they are Christians by their love, and you will know they are Catholics by their fights.” This priest intimated that this was well known; I was startled by it. I had never heard that before, and if that is how people engage the Catholic community in their daily encounters, it is no wonder people are tempted to disengage from the Church. 

One of the places where I find hope in this community is in the various events I attend with young adults. The young adults I have encountered here, and throughout the Archdiocese, come with diverse ideas involving political issues, and how they engage with, and live out their faith. Certainly I have seen disagreements, but more often than not, everyone is respectful, and comes away with greater understanding, if not agreement. Hopefully we can be an example of a faith community that always practices civility, clarity, and compassion with each other and beyond. 

Last Sunday, I had a wonderful conversation with a new parishioner. She recently moved to Minneapolis and quickly found a church home at The Basilica. She mentioned that she had been very much involved in her home parish. “Surely,” she said “you don’t need any more people to help out with the liturgy. Everything is done so beautifully.” I quickly retorted that despite the fact that our liturgy is celebrated so well, we always need more people and suggested she consider how she might best serve her new home parish.

One of the things that attracted me to The Basilica 25 years ago was the fact that our community cares so deeply about our liturgy. I noticed that when I visited for my interview in May of 1995. Surely, I was impressed with the very talented and committed staff and parishioners who interviewed me. But what really struck me was the way our community celebrates the liturgy. In it I saw and continue to see the embodiment of the liturgical dreams of the Second Vatican Council.

In a speech shortly after the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI remarked that up until the Second Vatican Council it had been sufficient for lay people to merely be present at Mass. The Second Vatican Council changed this fundamentally. “Before,” he said “being there was enough; now attention and activity are required. Before everyone could doze or chatter, now “all must listen and pray.” 

The primary way in which all of us are called to participate is by fully, actively, and consciously engaging in the liturgical actions. We cannot be passive attendees; rather we are to be active participants. So, we stand and sit and kneel. We respond in word and song. And we engage in the occasional prayerful silence.

Another way of participating actively in the liturgy is by responding to our individual calling to become a liturgical minister, celebrating the corresponding talents God has given us. You may have the gift to lead the community in prayer and therefore you may be called to ordination. You may be gifted with musical talents and thus are called to lead the community in song. You may have the talent of public speech and therefore you may be called to proclaim the Word of God. Your love for the Eucharist may be a sign that you are called to become an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. Your welcoming personality and generous smile may be a gift that is to be used as a minister of hospitality/usher.

Signing up for liturgical ministry at The Basilica is very easy: just go to 
mary.org/liturgicalministry. Or if you have any questions, please feel free to contact Travis Salisbury. Travis is our coordinator of liturgical celebrations who will be more than happy to help you discern which ministry works best for you. And as I told our new parishioner last Sunday, “don’t ask what the liturgy can do for you. Ask what you can do for the liturgy!”

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 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 refugee at our border, to the homeless person on the street, to the inmate on death row, 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 life only has meaning and value that we assign to it, we can easily come to the conclusion that some lives are more important, more significant, or valuable than others. Frankly this idea frightens me. God is the author and sustainer of life. Life has value not because of anything we do, accomplish or possess, but rather because we are created in the image and likeness of God. 

This past January marked the 47th 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. I believe those who identify themselves as pro-choice in regard to abortion either do not understand or refuse to acknowledge the sacredness of life, especially and most particularly, life in the womb. By the same token, those of us who identify ourselves as pro-life give the lie to this position when we fail to acknowledge and appreciate the sacredness of the woman considering an abortion, as well as those who identify themselves as being pro-choice. 

If we are truly pro-life I believe we cannot disrespect, or worse condemn, those who are considering an abortion or who support abortion rights. Rather, we need to 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, though, we must never forget our obligation to love and respect even those who don’t share our position, and not seek to demonize or condemn them.

As Catholics, as Christians, as people who are pro-life we must respect those with whom we disagree, and strive to see in them the image of God. If we cannot demonstrate our respect and reverence for life with those with whom we disagree, then our pro-life rhetoric rings hollow. For 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. It is not always easy to give voice and witness to our pro-life beliefs, but we need to remember that our God is always offering us the grace we need to do this. 

From our seats in the pews of The Basilica, we can make a difference around the world. Each year, our parish community helps a global mission cause. This weekend, Meghan Meros, Associate Director of the Franciscan Mission Service (FMS), joins us to raise awareness and financial support for their ministries. This Catholic, 501(c)(3) nonprofit relies on the prayers and financial support of parishes like ours to serve communities in South America, the Caribbean, and here in US. 

How will your donations help FMS around the globe? FMS focuses on making a difference through sustainable agriculture, and prison ministries. Here are just a few examples. 

FMS ministers accompany communities to create organic in-home gardens and provide healthy food for families. The parish of Santa Vera Cruz and the rural Santa Rosa de Lima community used sustainable agriculture techniques the FMS team learned at regional workshops to improve the soil quality and production of the parish garden. They went from growing a single crop of potatoes one year to growing a variety of healthy vegetables the next. Produce is sold to parishioners twice a week. Food waste is fed to the worm bed to produce hummus and other organic matter used for mulch. 

About 10 women work alongside the parish team in the parish garden, and in the women’s family gardens. Together as a community, they plant, harvest, and share meals. Their gardens have doubled in productivity. Healthy food is now available in an area lacking water, sanitation systems, quality education, and reliable transportation. People in this area face constant marginalization based on race, class, and culture.

In the prisons, FMS ministers affirm the dignity of all. One minister works at seven prisons around Cochabamba, Bolivia. For context, those incarcerated in Bolivia, lose their freedom and must pay for their cells and food. Often, children are sent to prison with their mothers. Many women end up in prison for stealing just to provide for their families. 

Awaiting trial is a lengthy process, and those incarcerated make crafts and goods to earn funds to pay for food and their cells. FMS ministers assist by selling their goods at market, and helping obtain raw materials to make shoes, cards, and other saleable crafts. FMS works with about 200 artisans, carpenters, and shoemakers. Forming friendships is as important as the crafts sold. These ministers help affirm the prisoners’ dignity as human beings. 

Another minister visits with about 20 women imprisoned in Cochabamba. They have formed friendships, and share in Bible study. The ministers recognize the women’s need for meaningful work and assist with their desire to gain skills to so they can find employment upon their release from prison. Some of the imprisoned women knit for an ethical manufacturing company while others learn how to do hair in the prison salon.

Each of us is called to consider what we can do for our brothers and sisters around the world. One way we can engage is simple - by giving donations and our prayers, we can support the Franciscan Mission Service and their work around the globe. 

The Promise of Eternal Life

During this past Advent, I got up one Sunday morning around 4:00am to pray and get ready for the day. (Since I am not a morning person, my rule is that I need to get up three hours before I have to talk.) After a cup of coffee (half decaf – half regular), I settled in to pray Morning Prayer. After I prayed the psalms and canticle, and reflected on the reading, I started to read the intercessions. The first three were fine, but when I read the fourth one I was somewhat taken aback. I thought it said: “You are praised throughout the ages; in your mercy help us to live devoutly and temporarily in this life, as we wait in joyful hope for the revelation of your glory.” I read it again, and then again. The third time through, I realized the word was temperately, not temporarily. I had to laugh at myself for my malapropism, as I realized I wasn’t as awake/alert as I thought I was. 

Later that evening, I reflected a bit on my inadvertent substitution of temporarily for temperately. It dawned on me that perhaps there was a message for me in my malapropism. As I continued to reflect it occurred to me how easy it is for me to focus almost exclusively on what is right in front of me and forget that this life is not the end, that there is more. Our existence in this world is not all there is. It is temporary. At every Mass in the embolism the priest says after the Our Father we are reminded that “we live in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” These words call us to remember and believe that as good and blessed as this world is, it is temporary. There is something more. There is the promise and hope of eternal life. 

Now certainly it is our sure and certain hope that our faith offers us the promise of eternal life. At times, though, it is easy to let this belief fade into the background, as we focus our time and attention exclusively on this world. For the vast majority of us, I don’t think this is intentional. Rather, sometimes the tasks and challenges of this world not only distract us, but can engulf us and cause us to lose focus of what ultimately matters. At these times, it is good to remember that while this world offers us many blessings, ultimately it is temporary and transitory. Our final destination is heaven. 

As Christians, we are called to live devoutly and temperately in this life. We do this because we realize that this life is temporarily, and that ultimately we hope to share eternal life with our God. The hope of heaven should both challenge and incentivize us to live in such a way in this temporary and passing life, so that we never lose our focus on the life to come. 

World Day of Peace_Dove

Peace as a Journey of Hope

As we approach the year 2020, it seems important to stop and reflect on life. How is it going? Am I living the way I yearn to live—loving my God and my neighbor? Are we, as a society, organizing ourselves as Jesus directed—respecting the dignity of all, making decisions for the common good, offering special consideration to those who are most vulnerable?

I take seriously the call of our faith to participate in the pubic arena: In prayer, informed about current events and formed in faith, I seek to engage—to transform society in light of the Gospel of love. 

Yet, it is hard not to become weary. 

Each year, on January 1st, our Pope offers a message to celebrate World Day of Peace. Speaking to the deepest need of our shared humanity, he addresses realities of the day, through the lens of faith. 

In this year’s World Day of Peace message, Pope Francis offers profound hope, even as he articulates the broken and divided world in which we live. His message describes peace as a journey to be undertaken in a spirit of dialogue, reconciliation and ecological conversion. 

Pope Francis affirms that our lives are deeply damaged when we are subjected to conflict, violence or hate in any form. Personally, we are wounded. Collectively we are scarred. “Our human community bears, in its memory and its flesh, the scars of ever more devastating wars and conflicts….The terrible trials of internal and international conflicts…have enduring effects on the body and soul of humanity.”

Pope Francis describes a cycle of fear and division we are all subject to. “War…often begins with the inability to accept the diversity of others, which then fosters attitudes of aggrandizement and domination born of selfishness and pride, hatred and the desire to caricature, exclude and even destroy the other.” 

This cycle of fear and destruction can be self-perpetuating. “Mistrust and fear weaken relationships and increase the risk of violence, creating a vicious circle that can never lead to a relationship of peace.”

Pope Francis asks, “How do we undertake a journey of peace and mutual respect? How do we break the unhealthy mentality of threats and fears? How do we break the current dynamic of distrust?”

To frame these questions, Pope Francis states: Peace is a journey of hope in the face of obstacles and trial. “Hope is the virtue that inspires us and keeps us moving forward, even when obstacles seem insurmountable.”

We must identify and overcome our fears. We must shatter the culture of conflict through encounters with diversity. We must pray and repent of our own failures, finding healing and wholeness.

As we journey through these transformations, we will find hope. We will send ripples of compassion into our community. Together, we will find courage to speak boldly, in love, to power.

“The journey of reconciliation calls for patience and trust. Peace will not be obtained unless it is hoped for.” 

Just in time to move into 2020, we are reminded of God’s incredible love, forgiveness and steadfast presence. Pope Francis prays, “May the God of peace bless us and come to our aid.”

This Great Gift

Many years ago an older man from a neighboring parish came to see me. He was distraught and troubled. He said, “Father, one of the priests at my parish told me I that my hands weren’t clean enough to receive communion, and that I should come back after I had washed them. Father, I’m a mechanic, and I work with my hands. I did wash them, but apparently they weren’t clean enough.” He then showed me his hands. He concluded by saying: “I didn’t mean to be disrespectful. Did I do something wrong?” His hands were indeed gnarled, and displayed the signs of years of manual labor. They also bore the telltale traces of grease and grime. 

As I looked at the man’s hands, I thought of St. Joseph. As a carpenter his hands must also have been gnarled, and most likely callused and stained from working with wood. And yet they were the same hands that carried and caressed the infant Jesus. They were the same hands that held and hugged Jesus as a child. They were the same hands that guided Jesus’ hands as he learned to use the plane and chisel. And I suspect Jesus held Joseph’s hands as Joseph was dying. With this image in my mind, I talked with the man about St. Joseph’s hands. I told him that Jesus knew that calloused and stained hands were not the measure of a person’s piety or what was in their heart.

I am continually surprised that there are there are many good and well intentioned people who think it is their responsibility and role to publicly determine who can receive communion and/or how they should receive it. Many years ago when I was in the seminary I attended a lecture on Ecumenism. The priest who spoke was not someone who would have been identified as being “liberal.” He was very kind person, though and quite articulate about our Church’s dogmas, doctrines, and teachings. As importantly, he was able to represent our Catholic beliefs well in an Ecumenical dialogue. During the question and answer period following his talk an individual asked when it was appropriate to deny someone communion. The priest’s answer surprised me. He said: “You don’t know what has happened in that person’s life in the last ten minutes. If you have a concern, you mention it privately.” He was clear that publicly refusing to give someone communion is seldom, if ever, appropriate.

We are told that in his life and ministry Jesus associated with tax collectors and sinners. He was also known to spent time with foreigners and other outcasts from society. Jesus also touched lepers and others who had been marginalized or ostracized because of an illness or other physical malady. Jesus was indiscriminate in regard to whom he touched and with whom he spent time. He accepted people as they were, whoever they were.

In addition to hanging around with some questionable people during his life on earth, Jesus continued this practice when he gave us the gift of himself in the Eucharist. It is in and through the Eucharist that Jesus continues to abide with us as individuals and with our Church. None of us is worthy of this great gift. No one earns the right to receive the Eucharist. And no one has the right to determine the worthiness of someone else to receive the Eucharist. 

On the Feast of Christmas, I can’t help but think of St. Joseph holding the infant Jesus immediately after Jesus’ birth. In his callused and stained hands he held the savior of the world. I suspect that Joseph intuitively knew that Jesus wouldn’t object to anyone who held and received him with love and devotion. Like Joseph, may we who hold and receive Jesus today never forget this fundamental and abiding truth.

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