National shrine is truly 'Mary's House'

On behalf of our board of trustees, clergy, staff and pilgrims, allow me to express my deep appreciation to you and your staff for including a visit to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., among the top 15 Catholic things to do before one dies.

Dedicated to the Blessed Mother under her title the Immaculate Conception, patroness of the United States, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is one of the 10 largest churches in the world, is a National Historic Landmark and is the patronal church of the United States.

More importantly, however, Mary's House, as I oftentimes affectionately refer to this magnificent basilica, seeks to nourish visitors through Word and Sacrament and help deepen their relationship with Our Lord and Blessed Mother.

Offering six Masses and five hours of confession daily, along with guided tours, a cafeteria, book store and gift shop, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is open 365 days a year and hosts more than 750,000 people annually who come on pilgrimage.

With more than 70 chapels and oratories, awe-inspiring sacred art and architecture, and a clergy and staff that exist solely to serve you and assist you in deepening your relationship with God, I welcome all to Mary's House, and again thank Our Sunday Visitor for including a visit to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on your list of 15 Catholic things to do before you die.

-- Msgr. Walter R. Rossi, Washington, D.C.

Cut priests slack

I take exception to the tone of R. Luthin's letter to the editor regarding uninteresting homilies ("Always Be Prepared," Letters, Oct. 28).

The duties falling upon the priests of today are ever increasing, so when does the work-challenged priest find time to prepare an inspiring sermon?

This topic came up in our diocese, and I suggested that an archive of sermons that were timely, interesting and inspiring preached by great orators of the past be made available to parish priests. Whether such an archive exists I wasn't informed, but wouldn't you think today's priests and their congregations would benefit from them?

-- Robert J. Rigney, Blackwood, N.J.

Mass is what matters

I've followed with interest the article and letters regarding homilies. I've listened to homilies and sermons for some 60 years now, and have sat through my share of boring and/or poorly prepared ones. However, I have also had the pleasure of listening to excellent homilies and sermons. On the balance, the majority have fallen somewhere in between. It is rare, though, to not find something of value -- assuming I'm listening and properly disposed.

Moreover, the Mass itself is so powerful that homilies, while important, take second place to the praying of a holy Mass on the part of the priest. On this score, I have to rate my experiences very, very high over my entire lifetime. While I would like to hear more dynamic homilies and sermons, I'm thankful for the vast majority of priests who say a devout Mass and administer to their people so well.

-- Jerry Heil, White Bear Lake, Minn.

Hostile climate

Gerald Korson's article on the environment ("The pope and the pol address climate change," Oct. 28) was disappointing. To draw any parallel between Al Gore and Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI does a great disservice to two great and holy men.

Undoubtedly, stewardship of the earth's resources is a moral issue. As is accurately pointed out, Catholics have historically held nature to be sacred. Catholics have always been taught to be good stewards of all of God's gifts, both talents entrusted to us personally and God's gifts rendered through nature. Any waste or destruction of God's gifts is morally wrong and sinful.

Al Gore's statement, "The climate crisis is not a political issue; it is a moral and spiritual challenge to humanity," is hypocrisy worthy of the Pharisees. Al Gore and his fellow travelers have used the "climate crisis" as a tool to advance their political agenda -- an agenda that is far from friendly to humanity, particularly the world's poor.

Population control, the only "problem" issue discussed at all in Korson's article, is not given proper examination. How does one equate population control with a "moral and spiritual challenge"?

The dismissive attitude toward "moral conservatives who dismiss ecological warnings because they associate them with a liberal political agenda" is an insult to thinking, moral Catholics who care deeply about environmental issues but are skeptical of politicians intent on creating and exploiting problems in order to impose solutions that will result in loss of our freedoms, infringement on our belief system and negatively impact our way of life.

-- Miguel A. Cabrera, Davie, Fla.

Extra baggage

Re OSV's list of "15 Catholic things to do before you die" (Family, Oct. 14) and the reader feedback it generated (Letters, Nov. 4), one comment from a reader -- "Write a letter to someone who has hurt you, forgiving them and letting them know about God's mercy" -- hit a nerve. It reminded me of a very unpleasant situation I experience several years ago.

A friend of mine and I developed a close relationship. Then, almost overnight, something happened. On certain matters of some importance we found that we had strong differences, and we became archenemies and ended up publicly abusing each other. This strained relationship left me with a very uncomfortable feeling that just would not go away.

Finally, a member of our group collared me with this advice: "Whatever your differences may be, they do not warrant perpetuating and harboring a grudge. It can only fester and get worse. Until both of you are willing to forget and forgive, you're not going to have peace of mind."

It took a while for that to sink in, but it finally made sense. We restored peace and went our separate ways much relieved.

Strained relationships and family feuds that seem to last forever are all too common and while it may not be easy to do, they are resolvable. It is extra baggage that should be removed before departing.

- - Jerome Hinkel, Mentor, Ohio