Sunday, May 3, 2015


Someone on the staff here commented that they are looking forward to answering the telephone by saying, "hello, the Basilica." It has a nice ring tone to it doesn't it?

But the question remains, does St. Joseph Church have what it takes to be "The Basilica of Saint Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary"?

This is what the Vatican tells us is necessary in black print. The blue print tells you what we have:


1. A church for which the title of basilica is proposed must have been dedicated to God by a liturgical rite and must stand out as a center of active and pastoral liturgy, especially through celebrations of the Most Holy Eucharist, of penance, and of the other sacraments, which celebrations set an example for others on account of their preparation and realization according to liturgical norms and with the active participation of the people of God.

Certainly this want to be basilica does all of this. It was dedicated to God and stands as a center of active and pastoral liturgy. We celebrate both forms of the one Latin Rite and encourage active participation in both. Confessions are celebrated daily, Monday through Saturday and during Lent on Sunday prior to the morning Masses. We have the Communal celebration of the Sacrament of Penance during Advent and Lent. We strive to set an example for liturgical excellence and active participation and videos of our more solemn Masses have been seen around the world. 

2. To further the possibility of truly carrying out worthy and exemplary celebrations, the aforesaid church should be of an appropriate size and with a sufficiently large sanctuary. The various elements required for the liturgical celebration (altar, ambo [lectern], celebrant's chair) must be placed according to the requirements of the restored liturgy (cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, nos. 288-318).

The want-to-be Basilica of Saint Joseph is of appropriate size, seating close to 700 and the sanctuary is sufficiently large enough having been expanded in 2005/6 for the more adequate celebration of the "restored" liturgy but not excluding the proper celebration of the Extraordinary Form Liturgy. Altar, ambo and chair are according to the requirements of the GIRM, nos. 288-318.

3. The church may enjoy a certain renown throughout the diocese, for example, because it has been constructed and dedicated to God on the occasion of some particular historical and religious event, or because the body or significant relics of a saint are reserved in it, or because some sacred image is there venerated in a special way.
The historical value or importance of the church and the worthiness of its art are also be considered.

The want-to-be Basilica of Saint Joseph has had a renown throughout the diocese, which when built was the entire state of Georgia. Its imposing architecture, both inside and out, even with a bit of whimsical creativity is a landmark and place of pilgrimage for visitors from around the world. The old high altar contains the relics of a saint and the newer free-standing Cararra marble altar contains the relics of Saint Francis Xavier in honor of the Jesuits who built this church.  The images of the Most Sacred Heat of Jesus as well as Our Lady are venerated here with great devotion. The Miraculous Medal Novena is prayed each Monday before our Lady's Chapel. 

The church also hosts ecumenical and inter-faith services for the community. 

4. So that, as the liturgical year progresses, the celebrations of the various seasons may be carried out in a praiseworthy manner, a fitting number of priests is necessary; they are to be assigned to the liturgical and pastoral care of the church, especially for the celebration of the Eucharist and penance (there should also be an appropriate number of confessors who at stated hours are available to the faithful).
In addition, a sufficient number of ministers is required as well as an adequate schola cantorum, which is to encourage the participation of the faithful with sacred music and singing.

The want-to-be Basilica of Saint Joseph celebrates the liturgical year in grand style and in the most praiseworthy way. We have sufficient number of priests in the parish (three) and others are available for the Liturgical celebration of the Sacrament of Penance during the year.

Solemn Evening Prayer and Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament is each Wednesday at 5:30 PM.

We have well trained cantors and two choirs. The mixed voice choir sings every Sunday at our 9:30 AM High Mass. Our men's Schola Cantorum chants exquisite Gregorian Chant at our monthly 2:00 PM Extraordinary Form Mass. Plans are in the works to have the men's schola chant the 12:10 PM Mass each week with the last Sunday of the month being in the Extraordinary Form.

Our elementary school has a choir as well that sings as school Masses and special Masses on Sunday during the year. 

As well the church hosts a Third Thursday Organ Interlude for the city, ecumenical in nature. Mercer University (a Baptist university) hosts "Lessons and Carols" during the Advent season as well as Handel's Messiah.

Here are videos of liturgies from the want-to-be Basilica of Saint Joseph seen around the world!


JBS said...

It sounds like it should have been the title of some Eighties BBC comedy, featuring an inept rector who once accidentally did some profoundly beneficial deed for a visiting pope, a congregation of mostly Irish descendants learning to get along with their new West Indies neighbors, one of whom wishes to marry the sacristan's daughter but has no job prospects except for playing cricket. And also a no-nonsense nun who deep inside really has a kind heart, along with a newly professed sister who seems to be the only sensible person in the parish. And, of course, the less-than-clever, but ever loyal, housekeeper who answers the telephone with: "Hello! The Basilica" at the beginning of each episode.

By the way, EWTN should create a situation comedy.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

All churches in the diocese are "centers of active and pastoral liturgy" and the other sacraments. All churches follow the liturgical norms and have active participation.

All churches are of appropriate size, whether it seats 150 or 1500. They all contain the various elements according to the requirements of the restored liturgy.

The historical value of St. Joseph's is pretty standard. We have churches that are older, including Holy Trinity in Augusta and, I think, Old St. Teresa in Albany. The one-time presence of the Jesuits is not of particular historical importance - they served in other churches in the diocese as well. Other churches have schools and contain "worthy" art.

Many churches have choirs, sufficient priests, and confessions are heard at stated hours. Others have occasional concerts by local choral groups.

So, it doesn't seem that there is anything exceptional to recommend the title of "minor basilica" for St. Joseph's.

Most churches have relics of saints in the altars or in the floors beneath the altars.

I don't know that any of our churches have sacred images that are "venerated in a special way," at least, not out of the ordinary way.

Who am I to judge?! said...

I'm sure that you can make a very strong case for St Joseph's, and I hope that geography doesn't count against you. While you are 80 miles from the nearest minor basilica, some towns and cities in the north west (e.g. Seattle) are at least 500 miles from the nearest basilica. So it may be that the USCCB treat applications from those areas as the priority ones.

That being said, the US overall had a disproportionately small number of basilicas for the size of its Catholic population, so I hope they just judge the application on its merits.

John mentioned yesterday the ex-basilica in Miles Platting, which is 5 miles north of our parish (very near to the Manchester City football stadium.) It's now a moslem banqueting hall, although the new owners have done a brilliant job restoring the building, both inside and out. It's depressing how demographic changes can make much-loved buildings redundant within the space of a generation or two, although I guess there's a long history of this, when you think of all those titular dioceses in countries that today have a minimal Catholic presence.

Lefebvrian said...

They actually call the Novus Ordo "the restored liturgy"! That is hilarious!

Is this saying that, to be a basilica, a church must have a table instead of an altar?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Evidently it must have a free-standing altar as all the major basilicas in Rome have and most of the ancient churches to do. The attached altar to the wall was a later novelty.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Former PI, I'd love to see your church become Basilica of the Holy Spirit. See how far you get, though!

I'm not sure aimless strumming of cords on a guitar with a country western twang of a gaggle of in your face microphones and choristers next to a cabinet with their music in it overpowering the tabernacle next to it counts as a schola cantorum, but I could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

You two "Revs." sound like two children with your embarrassing arguments.

Anonymous said...

You say: "The old high altar contacts the relics of a saint and the newer free-standing Cararra marble altar contains the relics of Saint Francis Xavier in honor of the Jesuits who built this church." I'm sure you meant "the old high altar CONTAINS the relics of a saint ..." Do you have any additional information on which saint that is? Was the old high altar ever deconsecrated or, could it still be used to celebrate mass, especially the EF?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I've fixed the contact to contains. At present I do not know which relic is in the older altar. It may be used for Mass, but publicly it would look funny and the free standing one would cut the priest at this altar (if one views it from the congregation) almost in half.

Priests have used our side altars for private Masses or Masses with small numbers of people.

I'm not sure that the side altars contain relics or not.

I do not know which relic is in the older altar. That will be part of our homework to find out and I am sure the diocesan archives may help us as well as the Jesuits from the southern province although it has been merged with the Baltimore province.

Fr. Michael j. Kavanaugh said...

Good Father - I'm not seeking basilica status, you are.

And from the rest of your reply we can see, I think, the real reasons for your application.

rcg said...

JBS, good idea. It could be called 'Proctor Tu' and have a clairvoyant priest who finds an alien transporter in the basement of his church. He uses to travel back and forth in time between 1970 and 1962 retreiving artifacts to restore his beloved church that was ransacked by a race of aliens who took over the bodies of his brother priests and have been carrying on a campaign of disinformation. He discovers how to tell the possessed priests from the real ones when he starts a blog wherein he posts some simple truths that are key to the disinformation of the Aliens. the simpler the truth, such as about the Real Presence, tasteless Liturgical music used to confuse the Faithful or architecture the fake priests will rail and fume. Often their heads explode but no damage is done and they grow back in time for the next episode. Minor aliens will also appear in cameo, or 'Anonymous', parts carrying the water of the larger Priest-possessing Aliens. But these minor aliens can't quite fill the shoes of a priest, much less posses one, and are relegated to posting the noises in their heads and controlling the bodies of ground hogs. The protagonist priest expresses little irritation at these characters and even babbles back at them in Functionally Equivalent English form of Italian.

Julian Barkin said...

I say do it! In addition this adds an additional layer of protection for the Latin Mass. Closing a basilica would be a much bigger upset versus a regular diocese. Go for It! You meek ALL the criteria according to that Vatican Document.

just saying said...

Fr Mike K, I agree to some degree that many and maybe even most parish churches do the things Fr McD listed, but I don't know of a church in the diocese that does ALL that St Joe does.
It really is an amazingly active parish with wide spread parishioner participation.
I am not a parishioner there and do not always agree with FrMcD, but i will say he is a focused and opens the parish to many diverse and community related activities. The life of the parish and the physical church are considered gems in the community.
Fr McD, I say go for it! What a witness to a vibrant Catholic parish and faith community.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

just saying - Most of the parishes in the diocese do what is done at St. Joseph's with the exception of the EF mass.

It's done in churches as ornate and less ornate, bigger and smaller, mostly Anglo or mostly African-American or with a mix of ethnicities.

While most other parishes don't have a dozen torch bearers for any liturgies, I hardly think that that qualifies a parish for basilica status.

John Nolan said...

Musicam Sacram mentions basilicas in the context of retaining larger choirs. It also seems to draw a distinction between the 'capella musica' and the 'schola cantorum', without being clear as to what this distinction is. A basilica by implication should have both.

Most musicians would define the capella as a choir with a range of voices (SATB) capable of singing polyphony, and the schola as a smaller group which concentrates on Gregorian Chant. In my experience, SATB choirs are unfamiliar with chant, both in its notation and its underlying principles. The choir should be positioned where it does not distract (preferably in a choir loft) whereas the schola is better 'up front'; even in the sanctuary provided it is of a modest size, male, and wearing choir dress. The congregation should be encouraged to sing something other than metrical hymns, and this is an important function of the schola.

A depressingly large number of churches rely on a 'music group' of vocalists and instrumentalists (guitars and keyboards predominating) who perform music in a faux-folk or sacro-pop style. Often they have a flautist whose job it is to double the melody line at the interval of a cloying major third. I'm not sure where I would locate them. I'm tempted to suggest the parking lot.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many Basilica's there are in the USA?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I don't know, but one more soon I hope!

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

There are 82 basilicas in the USA. The first so named is the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, 1926, and the latest is the National Shrine of the Little Flower in Detroit, 2014.

WSquared said...

I'm watching the St. Joseph's Holy Communion video.

Way to go in bringing both the kids and everybody else up to speed on how the Sacraments work.

I especially appreciate that you mentioned that Confession is not "First One and Done." Way too many parishes tend to take this attitude with their First Communicants.