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A trip to the Basilica

March 10, 2008

by Kristen Miller

By no means is waking up before 8 a.m. on a Sunday ever ideal, but on this particular Sunday, it was well worth it.

This particular Sunday included 9:30 a.m. Mass at the Basilica of Saint Mary in downtown Minneapolis. You might have seen this huge church as you drove by it on Interstate 394.

The day had been set aside for a confirmation trip with my nephew and St. John’s Catholic Church.

Being the confirmation sponsor for my nephew is quite an honor. Being the aunt of a 16-year-old, on the other hand, can be trying, at times!

I remember being 16, though, and going through my own confirmation. Luckily, I had a good sponsor or I probably wouldn’t have gotten much out of it.

Christianity and religion are hard things to fathom at any age, especially for teenagers. This topic is, many times, farthest from their minds.

As teens turn into young adults, and as young adults turn into mature adults, the topic becomes a little more important for most people.

Anyway, back to the Basilica. I, being my nephew’s confirmation sponsor, was in charge of planning an act of mercy. An act of mercy can be going to visit the elderly at a nursing home or feeding the homeless.

Luckily, I got in on the St. John’s confirmation group that was going on an all-day trip to the Cities. The first stop was Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis.

Afterward, the group was to visit Mary’s Place, a transitional housing complex, to play with the kids there.

I was particularly excited to see the inside of the Basilica. I’ve admired this large and beautiful work of art as a passerby, but I never had the opportunity, until now, to see the inside, or even get up close and personal.

Upon walking up the steps and opening the giant doors, I felt like I was entering a piece of history.

The architecture, statues, and stained glass were amazing. It was breathtaking. All my nephew could say was, “This is too much.”

After doing a little history, I found St. Mary’s to be the first basilica built in the United States. It’s even on the National Register of Historic Places.

The entire construction of the church was done between 1907 and 1915. Frenchman Emmanuel Masqueray was the chief architect and designer of the Basilica. Masqueray was asked to build the new church by Archbishop John Ireland. They both were inspired by French cathedrals.

The Basilica is recognized as one of the finest examples of Beaux-Arts architecture in the US. This fine art combines ancient Greek and Roman forms with Renaissance ideas. The style was popular between 1885 and 1920, and used for buildings like courthouses, museums, government buildings, and railroad terminals, including Grand Central Terminal in New York City, according to About.com.

Besides the magnificent architecture, the service I attended was so celestial.

At the start of Mass, a 90-voice choir came down from the choir loft in the far front of the church – half on the right side of the church and the other half on the left.

The words, sung in Latin, resonated throughout the church. The entire service was a wonderful experience.

After Mass, the group went downstairs for coffee and rolls, and to roam around Lux Eterna, the Basilca’s store.

Then, the group moved on to Mary’s Place, a transitional housing complex which is part of Sharing and Caring Hands.

Sharing and Caring Hands was founded in 1985 by Mary Jo Copeland and provides meals, clothing, showers, shelter, and much more for people in need. It serves 20,000 people a month.

Its mission is to be a “compassionate response to the needs of the poor.”

As a group, our afternoon was spent with the children staying in the 92 furnished apartments on site.

Apparently, Sundays are long for the kids there and they need something fun to do.

After playing with the children in the play area, we moved to the community room to make snow globes.

Each of us seemed to have enjoyed the afternoon, and I think we were all reminded of other people’s needs.

We set all selfishness aside, and focused on the lives of these children that day. It’s important to know just how blessed we are, no matter how unblessed we may feel at times.

At the end of the day, we were all pretty exhausted, but it was well worth it.