You are here
Archives: August 2018
STATEMENT REGARDING REVIEW BOARD FOR BISHOPS
From Auxiliary Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens
Right now, the Catholic Church desperately needs an independent structure, led by experienced lay personnel, to investigate and review allegations made against bishops, archbishops and cardinals – and not just priests, as is the case in many dioceses throughout the United States. As a practical matter, bishop-led investigations have mixed credibility in the public domain: some inevitably believe the accused bishop is being treated unfairly; others believe he is receiving preferential treatment. A fair resolution becomes unachievable. The accuser deserves better. We all deserve better.
I am acutely aware of this, because I was personally involved, along with Bishop Lee Piché, in guiding the investigation of Archbishop John Nienstedt in 2014. In retrospect, it was doomed to fail. We did not have enough objectivity or experience with such investigations. Nor did we have authority to act. Throughout our efforts, we did not know where we could turn for assistance, because there was no meaningful structure to address allegations against bishops.
In the case of Archbishop Nienstedt, in early 2014, Archbishop Nienstedt asked his subordinates to conduct a review of allegations against him. When affidavits containing serious allegations of misconduct by Archbishop Nienstedt with adults were brought forward, Bishop Piché and I tried our best to bring them to the attention of people who might have authority to act and guide the investigation. This included the then nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó. When Bishop Piché and I believed that we were being told by the nuncio to close the investigation, we strenuously objected. When the nuncio clarified that we should focus the investigation and complete it, we did so. Although there were internal disagreements about how to complete it, Bishop Piché thought it best to hire a second firm to complete the review, because Archbishop Nienstedt contended the first firm had been unfair to him. Father Daniel Griffith strongly disagreed with that decision. During this long period, on more than one occasion, I counseled Archbishop Nienstedt to resign for the good of the Archdiocese.
Throughout this process, there was confusion about who was ultimately in charge and what should be done to ensure a fair outcome. I think that Bishop Piché believes that the investigation was completed to the best of his ability. I understand the strong frustrations expressed by Father Griffith, whom I believe acted in good faith and with sincerity and integrity. We all did the best we could in a difficult situation.
In contrast, today we are better prepared. When there is an allegation against a bishop or archbishop in our Archdiocese, it is reported to the Board of Directors, lay people. They play a vital role in making certain that all allegations are investigated and addressed. I believe that a similar approach utilizing lay expertise is necessary on the national level. An independent national review board would result in a more fair process for holding the hierarchy accountable. In this way, there will be more confidence in our Church leaders in the future.
STATEMENT REGARDING ACTION AND ACCOUNTABILITY
From Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda
In the aftermath of the demoralizing Pennsylvania grand jury report and the troubling claims made by our former nuncio, Archbishop Viganó, much has been said about the scandals in our Church worldwide and here in Minnesota. I can only imagine how jarring those reports must be for those who have survived abuse and for their families. I am sorry for the harm inflicted and the ongoing pain caused to so many.
In recent days, I have continued to hear from many concerned people: young parents worried about the safety of their children, seasoned parishioners wondering when this crisis may end, priests asking how they can serve their parishioners when they themselves no longer know who is trustworthy, and bishops regretting that we were so slow to seek the help of lay experts and act with fuller transparency. In the midst of this darkness, it is the Lord’s promise that he will be with us always (Mt 28:20), that he will never abandon his Church, that gives me hope. As the darkness of the past is brought to light, I am trusting in St. Paul’s insight that what is illuminated will itself be light (Eph. 5:13).
I have been encouraged to put these global issues in a local context and reaffirm publicly both our commitment to justice and healing for those who have been harmed and our conviction that abuse can never be tolerated. Yet, I offer my comments knowing full well that mere words and apologies ring hollow unless accompanied by actions.
With that in mind, allow me to briefly describe the actions that have been taken in this local Church. Working with the lay volunteers on our Archdiocesan Ministerial Review Board, Corporate Board of Directors and Finance Council, along with many other volunteers, employees and clergy throughout the Archdiocese, we have constructively and openly confronted our failures – the failures that led to criminal and civil charges, bankruptcy, a loss of trust and a weakening of our moral voice. Although we have more to do, we have come a long way. In 2015, we entered into a far-reaching Settlement Agreement with the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office that requires us to take verifiable actions to prevent future abuses. The agreement has improved the way we respond to victim/survivors; the way we hold priests accountable; the way we accept, prepare and promote seminarians; the way we train our priests, employees and volunteers; and how we educate our children and youth in every parish and Catholic school in the Archdiocese. It has helped to improve our culture. We have not only abided by that agreement, but have done more than it requires. This has been verified in court every six months. More recently, we worked with victim survivors to file a joint plan in the bankruptcy court that financially compensates those who have been harmed in our Archdiocese. We have also changed our governance within the Archdiocese, embracing greater involvement and collaboration between the Corporate Board and Finance Council, which assures greater oversight by lay leaders.
Certainly, we cannot rest on these actions alone. There will be challenges in the future, but we now draw on the expertise of a broad range of individuals, primarily laity, to address those issues with integrity, objectivity and transparency. It is my hope that what has been learned here can serve the broader Church nationally and internationally.
Turning now to the issue of bishop accountability, let me first explain the improved process that has been in place here since 2015. Based on the Ramsey County Settlement Agreement, when an allegation is leveled against an auxiliary bishop or archbishop, the Director of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment is required to notify the Corporate Board. Thus, the allegation is made known to lay leadership who have duties to provide oversight and fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities. Moreover, a claim today cannot be settled without the knowledge and involvement of our lay leaders. Both of those measures of accountability are new, and critically important.
Regarding accountability for bishops around the world: I fully support engaging lay leadership. Church leaders must be judged by outsiders who have the independence, objectivity and expertise to be fair and credible. We need the assurance that any cleric whether a newly ordained priest or a Pope who abused minors or knowingly protected or enabled such abusers, will be held accountable. The same is true for those who abuse their position to take advantage of vulnerable adults, persons receiving spiritual care or seminarians. An oversight board similar in make-up, independence and authority to our Archdiocesan Ministerial Review Board should be empaneled to address accusations of misconduct against bishops and archbishops. We would also benefit from the appointment of a number of trusted outsiders who can assist those who have grievances. Locally, former Hennepin County Attorney Tom Johnson fulfills that role as our appointed ombudsperson, giving those aggrieved a safe avenue for pursuing claims without fear of repercussions.
Having had good reasons to place my trust in both Pope Francis and Archbishop Viganó, I am personally at a loss as to how to evaluate the claims that have been made by the Archbishop. Based on my experience in this Archdiocese, I believe that some form of an independent review led by credible outsiders is the only way to resolve such situations and restore trust.
In conclusion, I am fully committed to the course we are on to correct our failings, advance accountability, assist those harmed and prevent future abuse. I realize that I am far from perfect, but I always try to act to the best of my ability and with integrity, collaborating with the many hardworking and committed individuals in this Archdiocese who contribute every day to making our Church a better place through their steadfast dedication to safe environments and the Gospel.
Mindful of Pope Francis’ recent call for prayer and fasting, I invite our priests, and all others, to join me for a Eucharistic holy hour of reparation and prayers for healing at the Cathedral of Saint Paul on the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, Saturday, September 15 at 11 a.m.
This past week as I was reflecting on our Gospel today I kept returning to Jesus’ question to his disciples: “Do you also want to leave?” Given the news involving priests and bishops in the Catholic Church the past couple weeks, this is a question I have asked myself. I suspect many of you have also asked yourself this question.
And to be honest, I know more than a few people for whom the latest news was the straw that broke the camel’s back. They have decided that --- at least for now --- they need to take a step away from the Catholic Church. While I am grieved and deeply saddened by this, I understand and respect their decision.
For myself, though, despite the news of the past couple of weeks, despite the failures of our bishops, and despite the sinful and evil actions of many priests, I cannot leave the Catholic Church. I say this for two specific reasons.
1. I need to belong to a community. I need to be with people who believe as I do. I don’t think we can be our best selves unless we are part of a community. And I don’t believe that we are saved alone, as isolated individuals.
Rather, I believe that God draws us to himself, through the communities of which we are a part, and for me the Catholic Church --- and particularly the Basilica --- is my community. It is too much a part of me for me to let it go.
2. I need the Eucharist and the other sacraments. As I tell the children making their First Communion each year, I know I am not the best person/priest that I could be, BUT I would be far worse without the Eucharist.
The Eucharist helps me to be a better person than I would otherwise be. I need the Eucharist to live as a follower of Jesus, and I need the faith of the community to make the Eucharist real and alive in my life.
Now in deciding to stay in the Catholic Church, I also want to be absolutely clear that this does not mean that I think we can gloss over the events of the past few weeks.
It is essential that we acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by priests, by bishops and by those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for the most vulnerable among us.
With shame and repentance, we must acknowledge that the leaders of our church allowed grave damage to be done to so many young lives. We need to beg forgiveness for this. As Pope Francis said in his recent letter: “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”
We also need to be clear that no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient.
The pain of the victims and their families is a wound from which our church will not soon recover. It is vital that we reaffirm our commitment --- and take steps to ensure --- the protection of children and vulnerable adults. Specifically what this means is that all of us must demand honesty, accountability, transparency, and a willingness on the part of our leader to accept responsibility for their actions.
No effort must be spared to create a culture which will prevent such situations from reoccurring and to ensure that there is no possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated.
I believe that if there is a lesson to be learned from the current crisis facing our church, it is that we must listen to the voice of you --- the laity --- the people in the pews. Reform, healing, renewal must come about from every single member of the church. Since the ordained haven’t or can’t provide it, you must demand it of us. You’ve been commissioned by your baptism to be salt and light, leaven and courage, agents of renewal, and witnesses to hope in our world. And at this moment, particularly, our church desperately needs to hear your voice.
As sinful and incompetent as the leaders of our church have been in responding to the issue of sexual abuse, however, this Church is still my home. And so as I close today I paraphrase Peter’s words in our Gospel today: “Master to whom shall I go? Your church is my home. I can have no other.”
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
After reading from the Gospel of John for the past five weeks, this weekend we return to the Gospel of Mark. In our Gospel this weekend, we find a scene that is often repeated in the Gospels. Jesus is at odds with some of the Pharisees and the scribes. (Often in the Gospels Jesus is depicted as being in conflict with either or both of these groups.) The scribes and Pharisees were strict adherents to the law. Now, in and of itself adherence to the law is not a bad thing. In the case of the scribes and Pharisees, however, it was problematic, because in many cases their relationship to God had taken a back seat to their adherence to the law.
The issue is our Gospel today had to do with the fact that Jesus’ disciples “ate their meals with unclean, that is unwashed hands.” Prior to eating, Jews were supposed to purify themselves. These and other “rites of purification” were prescribed for Jews, and yet Jesus’ disciples were ignoring them. Jesus challenged their position and reminded them that what “defiles” people does not come from outside, but from within a person. If our hearts are set on God the appropriate actions will follow accordingly.
Our first reading for this weekend is taken from the Book of Deuteronomy. In it Moses reminds the people of the “statues and decrees” they have been given by God. “For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God is to us whenever we call upon him?” For Moses, the law was to lead people to God, not take the place of their relationship with God.
Our second reading for this weekend is from the letter of James. We will read from it for the next four weeks. In the section we read today, James reminds us that we are to “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- Have you ever allowed “following the rules” to take the place of your relationship with God?
- When have you called upon God and felt close to God?
- How do “doers of the word” act?
Events of this year, and particularly this summer, have gotten me thinking about how we, as Catholics, respond to all attacks on the dignity of human life.
Many times, I only hear Catholics speak about the sanctity of life regarding the abortion debate. I believe that we are called to support policies that promote and protect ALL life: life that is easy to protect as well as lives which are more complex to defend.
Jesus was clear about our obligations toward our neighbor. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, he is clear that loving our neighbor even means caring for our enemy (Lk 10:29-37). Jesus also speaks of a rich man who finds himself in Hades for failing to care for the poor man at his door (Lk 16:19-31). Moreover, Jesus tells us that when we fail to help “the least of these” we fail to care for Him (Mt 25:31-46). As Christians we must allow Jesus’ teaching to form our consciences. Like every moral question, there are rights that must be protected as well as duties that must be observed.
The Vatican announced this month that Pope Francis approved changes to the compendium of Catholic teaching published under Pope John Paul II. “The death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,” reads the Catechism of the Catholic Church now on the death penalty. Pope Francis declared on October 11, 2017 that the death penalty is “contrary to the Gospel.” He said that “however grave the crime that may be committed, the death penalty is inadmissible because it attacks the inviolability and the dignity of the person.”
Founded on natural law and enlightened by faith, the Church’s position on immigration also recognizes certain rights and obligations. These include the requirement to defend the right to life for all individuals, regardless of legal status.
The Church expects us to protect the right to life of those who cannot find work, food, or safety where they live. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “The more prosperous nations are obliged to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin” (No. 2241). While nations are not obliged to have open borders, Christians are obliged to welcome those whose lives are in danger due to conditions such as violence or extreme poverty. To be pro-life means promoting consistent protection of those whose lives are in danger. Therefore, Christians must advocate that life should be the standard for immigration reform.
Because the family plays an important role in Catholic social teaching, the rights of the family must also be taken into consideration when looking at how Catholics should view immigration. The Church teaches that needs of the family precede the desires of the state. When we see families torn apart at the border and parents deported while their children remain in cages or foster care in the US, we are not fulfilling our responsibilities to respect the sanctity of human life and families.
Human dignity must be under consideration in any implementation of new, or enforcement of existing, laws. Rules must be “aimed at protecting and promoting the human person,” said Pope Francis in 2014.
As we close this summer, The Basilica wraps up strategic planning for the next 3-5 years and as our country enters the contentious election season, I encourage you to consider what it truly means to be pro-life. Do we as Catholics defend life in all forms, in all places, regardless of our perception of “worthiness"?
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
This weekend is the last weekend when our Gospel reading is taken from the Gospel of John. (We are in year B of a three year cycle for our weekend readings, and in year B we read from the Gospel of Mark. However, since Mark is the shortest Gospel, we have to supplement it with selections from the Gospel of John.) Our Gospel today is the conclusion of what is known as the “Bread of Life” discourse.
In the Gospels preceding today’s Gospel, Jesus has identified himself as the living bread come down from heaven, and his invited people to eat his flesh and drink his blood. In our Gospel today we are told “Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said, ‘This saying is hard, who can accept it?’” And “As a result of this many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” Clearly Jesus knew that some of his followers would not be able to accept his words. He wanted them to make a clear choice, though, whether to continue as his followers. Peter responded for the disciples who had decided to remain with the unambiguous statement: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Our first reading for this weekend also emphasizes the idea of choice. In this reading Joshua challenges the tribes of Israel to make a clear choice in regard to God. “If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve………………As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Our second reading for this weekend is taken from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Its opening lines --- which are usually omitted --- are every preacher’s nightmare: “Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.” As we read these words we need to remember, though, that they were written at a time and place, and in culture, where wives were often considered property. I suspect Paul would have written them differently, if we were writing today. Also, and more importantly, the main point of Paul’s words is to remind us of how we are to conduct ourselves as followers of Jesus Christ. In this regard, we are to be “Subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- Has there been a time when you have found Jesus’ words too demanding/challenging?
- Has there been a time when you have had to make a clear and decisive choice for God?
- What words of Scripture do you find difficult or that rankle you?
Lately it has been hard to be a Catholic. A few weeks ago we heard of multiple accusations of sexually inappropriate behavior against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. More recently, a grand jury in Pennsylvania released a report about the widespread sexual abuse of children by priests in six dioceses in Pennsylvania. In regard to former Cardinal McCarrick, the accusations go as far back as his time as a newly ordained priest. In regard to the grand jury report, it listed credible allegations of sexual abuse of children by 300 priests over a period of 70 years. In each case, those who were in positions to do something either chose not to, or simply looked the other way. This was not just bad decision making. Those individuals bear both legal and moral culpability for their inaction. In the face of this situation, it would seem that there is very little I, or any other priest or bishop, could or should say. And yet to say nothing could be misconstrued as acquiescence to or acceptance of this situation. Given this, I would like to offer the following thoughts.
1. First and foremost, we must be clear and unmistakable in our absolute condemnation of the sexual abuse of children. There is no excuse to be made for it and no defense to be offered for those who would victimize a child in this way. When anyone (most particularly a child) is a victim of sexual abuse, we must be clear and unequivocal in our condemnation of this activity. Any attempt to explain or minimize this behavior is quite simply wrong.
When priests or bishops engage in behavior that is sexually abusive or exploitive they cannot, nor should they be shielded from the consequences of their actions. Where illegality has occurred or is suspected, our legal system must be engaged and allowed to function without hindrance. Where actions of Church officials are found to be insufficient or negligent, they also must face the consequences of their actions or inaction.
2. While several Bishops have offered their apologies for the mistakes that occurred in the past and the suffering these mistakes caused, I am deeply disappointed that those Bishops, whose ill-advised decisions to re-assign priest abusers led to the further abuse of children, have not resigned their positions, or if they are already retired, why they haven’t publicly acknowledged their failure and begged for forgiveness. Where their actions were illegal they need to be charged. And even if there are no legal repercussions for their actions, for the sake of those who were abused and for the good of the church, I think these bishops need to publicly take responsibility for their actions. While this act in itself will not restore the trust that has been broken, it is a beginning.
3. While acknowledgement of the source and depth of the problem and offering our deepest and most humble apologies are necessary first steps in responding to the victims of sexual abuse, our efforts cannot stop there. When innocent people, most particularly children, have been the victims of sexual abuse we, as a Church, must recognize our responsibility and offer the full measure of our support and assistance to those who have been victimized. Very practically this means that we must offer recompense to victims of sexual abuse in the form of services and monetary compensation. Further, we must ensure that the policies, procedures and safeguards that have been put in place to protect children and vulnerable adults are adhered to strictly. We must also offer programs to help our individuals and parishes grapple with this issue. In this regard, specifically, I would invite you to attend a program here at The Basilica entitled “Restorative Justice as a Path to Healing.” It is scheduled for Thursday evening September 20, from 6:30-9:30pm in the lower level of The Basilica.
4. At some point we, as individual Catholics, and as a parish community, are going to need to begin the hard work of forgiveness. I don’t know how we will go about this, but for the spiritual health and vitality of our Church, I believe that eventually we will need to forgive those priests who abused children, as well as those bishops and other leaders who allowed this abuse to happen. This is not to say that forgiveness is easy, or that in forgiving we are accepting and/or forgetting the horror of sexual abuse. Rather it is an acknowledgement that, as followers of Jesus, ultimately forgiveness is not optional for us.
Personally, I find forgiveness to be one of the hardest things that is asked of us as Christians. I do know, though, that with God’s grace forgiveness is possible, and that it starts with prayer. Prayer is the essential first ingredient to forgiveness. We need to pray for and with each other, and most particularly for those who brought this stain upon our Church. Certainly prayer cannot change what has happened, but it can have a salving effect on wounded souls and eventually it can bring about healing and peace.
Over the course of the past several years each time new charges of sexual impropriety against a priest has become public, I have been shocked, saddened, and angry. These incidents have been and continue to be a source of great pain and sadness for me. I had hoped that by this time we would have dealt with all the instances of sexual impropriety on the part of priests. Unfortunately, these latest cases have proven this to be a false hope. These cases are a wound from which our church will not soon recover. I do know and believe, though, that in order to move forward, prayer is where we need to begin.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
John M. Bauer
Pastor, The Basilica of Saint Mary
Throughout my 40-plus years in ministry, some have asked me why I have worked for such a long time in the Church. I admit, this question always causes me to pause. It brings me back to the beginning days when everything was new and fresh and exciting. Since coming to The Basilica years ago, it is much like those beginning days. One never knows what each day will bring. Some days are filled with wonderful surprises while others seem laden with painful stories of long-lost faith or times of deep loss. We are all less than human at times and sometimes it shows through a bit more than we would like it to.
We all know this is not a perfect Church. Far from it. I don’t know of any other faith community that is without its own set of challenges. We all struggle with our growing pains as we journey through the ups and downs of life. Each Sunday when we come together for worship we bring ourselves as we are and sometimes that isn't exactly our best self.
Life just happens to each of us and we don't often react well to some of those many experiences that take place during the week. Yet we bring that with us each week as we gather, and in faith we know in some way that when we leave, we will be changed and nourished to return to the world and in some small way, bring the good news of our God’s love to those who cross our paths. For it is the very God whom we find in each other, whom we recognize in each other’s stories of triumph and failure, that keeps us coming back week after week.
We know we are not in this alone. All of us are there to offer prayer and hope to each other which enables us to carry the important message with us that we have a God who loves us enough to entrust us with each other’s lives. And that is the miracle of what happens each week as we celebrate Eucharist together. We are a privileged people. We have the responsibility of being Christ for each other.
So when someone asks me why I continue to work in the Church, it is quite simple. I need to encounter the God within you and you need to meet the God within me so that together, we will walk hand in hand to bring that God to those who so desperately need a sign of hope in the midst of the suffering and chaos of this world.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
As I have mentioned previously, on the Sundays of August we read the “bread of life” discourse from the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel. In the section of the discourse we read this weekend, Jesus urges the crowd to believe that: he is “the living bread that came down from heaven, whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” In response to Jesus’ words we are told that “The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’”
The Jews would have had great difficulty with these words of Jesus. The idea of eating someone’s flesh would have been repugnant to them. They were not able to see beyond the surface and to understand that at a deeper level Jesus was talking about being present to and within his disciples in the Eucharist under the forms of bread and wine. As Catholics, it is our belief in the Eucharist that really distinguishes us from other religions. For as Catholics we believe that in the Eucharist we share in Jesus’ name and memory that Jesus Christ is really and truly present. This presence is not transitory or conditional. It is not based on logic or rational argument. It is for us a matter of faith. The Eucharist inspires and empowers us in this life, but also it is the foretaste and the promise of the life to come.
Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of Proverbs. It speaks of a meal that truly satisfies. “Come eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed! Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding.” As Christians we see this feast as fulfilled in the Eucharist.
In our second reading this weekend, we continue to read from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians. In the section we read this weekend, Paul urges the Ephesians “not to continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- As Catholics, the Eucharist is at the core of our faith. How would you explain the Eucharist to a non-believer?
- What helped/caused you to believe in the Eucharist?
- How do you come to know the will of the Lord in your life?
My journey with cancer began on March 26, Monday of Holy Week. It made for the most incredible celebration of the Paschal Mystery. Then, on June 29, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul I received the great news that after three months of chemo the tumor was gone. For the next five years I will continue to be monitored very closely to make sure the cancer does not return.
As I have mentioned before, this has been a physical and spiritual adventure of great proportions. I do not believe for a second that God causes us to suffer. Rather I believe that life may present us with challenges. And when that happens, our faith in God offers us the necessary strength to handle it and the much needed insights to find meaning in it. So I did not ask God the question “why?” Rather, I asked God for strength and for wisdom so this experience might allow me to grow as a person and as a believer. And God obliged.
On Pentecost, half-way through my treatment I was the Master of Ceremonies for one of our liturgies. When I looked out at our congregation and saw your faces I had the most intense experience of God’s presence I have ever had. Hearing my name spoken during the Intercessory Prayers I felt the power of prayer strengthening my body and nourishing my soul. By the end of this most beautiful Eucharist I was too overwhelmed to do my usual meet and greet. I needed silence and solitude to process what just happened and to stay in the profound experience of God’s love and the support of my sisters and brothers in Christ.
As I sat quietly and listened to my inner voice, I realized again how important Sunday Eucharist is for us. And I thought of the many people who have asked me over the years: “Why should we participate in the celebration of the Eucharist every Sunday? What do we get out of it?” The answer I have given in the past all the sudden was no longer theoretical but thanks to my experience with cancer I found it to be very real.
Above all we gather to give thanks to God for the many miracles in our lives. We also gather so we might be changed in three profound ways. First, in the words of St. Teresa of Avilla, we celebrate the Eucharist so we may be “all on fire with the love of God.” For indeed, when we are on fire with God’s love no fear can overcome us. Second, in the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, we celebrate the Eucharist so we may be gathered into a “deep communion of existence” because in the Eucharist “the Lord joins us to one another.” It is this sense of community, the sense that we are never alone that gives us the strength to face whatever life brings us. And third, in the words of my late professor Mark Searle, we celebrate the Eucharist so we may be rehearsed in what it means to live the Paschal Mystery. And if we do this well we will be able to say “I have lived the Paschal Mystery long enough not to forsake it or doubt it when it becomes most real.”
As we celebrate Basilica Day let us remember why we, like so many Basilica members before us have come together for the celebration of the Eucharist every Sunday. And let us gather with ever greater fervor and devotion so that when our time of sorrow or suffering comes we will feel strengthened by the love of God, we will feel supported by our community and we will be able to say: “I have lived the Paschal Mystery long enough not to forsake it our doubt it when it becomes most real.” But above all, in the Eucharist we are assured that God works miracles in our lives, even if we might not recognize them.
Thank you all for your great support during this incredible journey.