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Archives: March 2019
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
This Sunday we celebrate the Fifth Sunday of the Season of Lent. Our Gospel this weekend is taken from the Gospel of John and is the familiar story of the woman caught in adultery.
There are several things that require comment in regard to this Gospel. First, notice that the scene takes place early in the morning. This suggests that someone didn’t just happen upon a late night rendezvous, but rather that a trap had been laid for the woman. This is supported by the custom of the time which required the witness of two or more men to accuse someone of wrongdoing. Obviously, catching the woman in adultery had been prearranged. Second, the last I heard, adultery required two people. Where is the woman’s companion? Third, there has been much speculation about what Jesus wrote when he bent down and wrote on the ground. The fact is, however, that we simply don’t know. Fourth, notice that the crowd begins to disperse “beginning with the elders.” This suggests that wisdom often --- but certainly not always --- comes with age. Finally, notice that Jesus doesn’t excuse or minimize what the woman did. Rather, he did not condemn her. This is significant. It reminds us that judgment belongs to God alone.
The point of this Gospel is clear. All of us are sinners. All of us stand in need of God’s mercy. No one of can stand in judgment of another. Judgment is God’s business, and God doesn’t need our help.
Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. It was a powerful reminder to the Israelites --- and us --- that God has not just been present and active in the past, but that this is still true today. “see, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”
Our second this Sunday is taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians. In it, Paul exults in the life in Christ that has been given him. “I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- The woman in this weekend’s Gospel experienced the grace filled mercy of God. When have you experienced this in your life?
- When have you failed to show mercy to another and instead have stood in judgment of them?
- When and how have you found God doing “something new” in your life?
From the Pastor
It’s not over yet …
As I write this column, it was recently announced that former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been removed from ministry. I suspect that several bishops, along with many members of the Vatican Curia are wiping their brows and muttering: “Whew! Thank God, that’s over.” And yet, the reality is that it isn’t over—not by a long shot. There are things that yet need to be done to bring closure to this very sad and very painful chapter in the history of the Catholic Church in America. Specifically, I think there are four things that need to be done in response to the news about former Cardinal McCarrick.
1. We need to make public all the files that relate to former Cardinal McCarrick. I say this not because I want to encourage voyeurism or to publicly humiliate former Cardinal McCarrick. Rather, until everything is out in the open, I suspect there will always be the suspicion in the public’s mind that the Church is holding something back. At this point in time, however, our Church cannot appear to be anything less than open, honest and transparent. Even the hint that something is being withheld or being covered up is simply unacceptable. We need to publicly share the various files on former Cardinal McCarrick, so that there can be no doubt that our Church leaders understand and are truly committed to a new era of openness, transparency, and honesty. This is called accountability. People should not only expect it, they should demand it.
Related to the above, as I’ve stated in the past, and for the same reasons as above, I think our Archdiocese needs to release the investigations into the conduct of former Archbishop John Nienstedt. Certainly there are ways of protecting the anonymity of those who, when interviewed, were promised anonymity. The faithful of our Archdiocese need and deserve the truth, so that we can move forward into a future with confidence that our Archdiocese is indeed being open, honest, and transparent.
2. Those Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, and priests who knew of former Cardinal McCarrick’s behavior and didn’t say or do anything about it, need to resign. Since the news about former Cardinal McCarrick first became public, the lingering question has been how he was able to remain at the pinnacle of power in the Catholic Church for more than twenty years despite persistent rumors that something was amiss. People need to know who knew what, when did they know it, and why they failed to act. On October 6, the Vatican issued a statement indicating that Pope Francis had ordered a “thorough review” of Vatican files relating to McCarrick. In part the statement read: “Both abuse and its cover-up can no longer be tolerated and a different treatment for Bishops who have committed or covered up abuse, in fact represents a form of clericalism that is no longer acceptable.” While the Vatican indicated that the results of the review would be communicated “in due course,” so far there has been no update. Until that revelation comes, it is doubtful that anyone will consider the McCarrick story closed.
3. Just as dioceses in the United States have policies and procedures for dealing with priests who have been accused of sexual abuse or other sexually inappropriate behaviors, so now Bishops need to be covered by these same policies and procedures. Furthermore, these policies and procedures need to be world-wide. As I write this column the meeting of the heads of the world’s Bishops’ Conferences in Rome has just ended. Perhaps it will produce such a result. If that doesn’t occur, however, the Bishops of the United States need to put into place the same policies and procedures that are in place for priests, for bishops who have been accused of sexual abuse or other sexually inappropriate behavior, or who covered up this behavior. There is no reason why this can’t be done, and no excuse for not doing it. We need this kind of accountability if our Church and its leaders will ever again be seen as creditable.
4. In regard to the issue of clergy sexual abuse we must continue to offer our apologies, and look for ways to reach out to those who are victims/survivors of sexual abuse. However, as I mentioned in an earlier column on this issue, we must also acknowledge and admit with sadness and great sorrow that we can never think that our previous and ongoing apologies are enough, or that we can ever make amends. Yes, we need to continue to offer our ongoing profound and deepest apologies. But this is only the beginning. People have been deeply wounded by individuals they trusted. In most cases, those in positions of authority allowed this to happen. We must seek new and ongoing ways to respond to the hurt and pain that happened to people in our church. I don't know what this will look like, but I do know we need to talk about this in a public forum, so victims/survivors can tell us what they need from us. Apologies—even ongoing apologies—are not enough.
Until and unless the leaders of our Church exercise leadership in regard to the issue of sexual abuse, our church will continue to be embroiled in the sexual abuse crisis. Worse, until and unless the leaders of our Church exercise leadership in regard to the issue of sexual abuse, people will continue to leave our Church in frustration and anger. As we struggle to deal with this crisis and move forward, I believe prayer will be an essential weapon in our arsenal. We need to pray for and with each other and most particularly for those who have 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.
Rev. John M. Bauer
Pastor, The Basilica of Saint Mary
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When I was a young priest, I never used to feel guilty when I hurried through my prayers. I told myself that I had good and important things to do, and that God surely understood that those things needed to be attended to. I would also tell myself that while I could always be more generous, more charitable, less judgmental, and more caring and compassionate, God certainly knew what I had to deal with, so surely God understood when I didn’t do these things. In the past few years, though, I have noticed that when I hurry through my prayers, or when I am not as kind, as tolerant, as accepting, or as generous as I could be, that I feel guilty. And at least for me, guilt is a good motivator to do better, or at least to try harder.
Now certainly there are many people who would suggest that guilt is a bad thing. Some would suggest that guilt can damage our self esteem and lead us to beat ourselves up with remorse or regret. When I encounter these people I politely suggest that they are confusing guilt and shame. Guilt tells us that what we did was wrong or bad. Shame tells us that we are bad because we did it. I think there is a big difference between these two.
There is something terribly amiss if and/or when we are not able and willing to admit that something we did was wrong. None of us is perfect. We all make mistakes. We all fall short of the mark at times. This is part and parcel of what it means to be human. Feeling guilty reminds us that we aren’t perfect. More importantly, it also helps us to remember that we need God’s good grace to help us overcome those faults and failings that are a part of each of our lives. Guilt can be a good motivator for us. In this, it stands in stark contrast to shame, which is ugly and oppressive. Shame weighs us down. It tells us that because we did something wrong or bad, as a consequence we are a bad person.
Sadly, all too often people come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation weighed down by the feeling of shame for something they did. In these situations I gently remind these individuals that we are all beloved daughters and sons of God and that nothing we did or could do would ever cause God to stop loving us. I then tell them that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the ideal place to leave the shame they have been carrying, and take up instead the mantle of God’s love. If they protest that they are not worthy of God’s love, I tell them they are right. None of us is worthy of God’s love. None of us can earn or merit God’s love. God’s love is a gift. And gifts are never earned, they can only be accepted. I then invite them to let go of the shame they are carrying, so they can take up the gift of God’s love—a love that is unearned, unmerited, unwarranted, gratuitous, and undeserved, and yet, oh so very real.
During this season of Lent, one of my prayers has been to ask God to help me allow guilt to motivate me to be more open to God’s grace so that I can be a better person. I have also been praying, though, that God will help me let go any shame I am carrying so that I can more readily accept God’s grace and live in God’s love. I suspect these are prayers that could be on all of our lips.
It is hard to believe that it has been a year since I was diagnosed with cancer. I remember the moment very well. Early that morning I underwent a routine scan. Following the scan I went for a lovely, though chilly walk in the Minnesota zoo. On my way to lunch I noticed that my physician had tried to call me several times. In the parking lot of the restaurant I called him back. Without much ceremony he told me I had a tumor in my abdomen. I must admit I was taken aback by this news. Needless to say, I did not make it to lunch.
March 26, 2018 was Monday of Holy week. Receiving my diagnosis at the beginning of this week made it all the more meaningful. Of course, I have always known that we celebrate the mystery of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and our incorporation in that mystery during Holy Week. But while that knowledge had been rather theoretical it suddenly became very real. Last year, I experienced the highlights of Holy Week such as the Washing of the Feet, the Celebration of the Eucharist, the Procession with the Blessed Sacrament on Holy Thursday; the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday; and the Easter Fire, Procession with Light, Exultet, readings, and baptisms during the Vigil on Holy Saturday with a new and greater depth than ever.
Most memorable for me was the Easter Alleluia. We fast from this beautiful word during the season of Lent. It is sung anew for the first time during the Easter Vigil. I have sung that first Easter Alleluia in our Basilica for over 20 years. Last Easter it was different. Last Easter, I felt it in my whole being. This beautiful and simple word is our exclamation and affirmation of our faith in the resurrection. As its stirring sound resonated throughout the church, I saw the heavens, there and then, break open in our midst. And all of you were there, with me in this heaven on earth. It was a most beautiful vision. One I will never forget. It gave me strength, and hope and assurance in my faith. And it supported me during my illness.
The next day, Easter Sunday we gathered in our St. Joseph Chapel for the celebration of the Sacrament of the Sick. Earlier that day we had shared my diagnosis with the Cathedral Choir and some of the liturgical ministers. They all joined some of my friends and colleagues for the sacrament. I have taught the Sacraments of the Sick at St. John’s University for many years. I know the theology and I know the rite. However, being on the receiving end of the sacrament gave me a totally different perspective. This is truly a healing sacrament. I felt lifted up, hopeful, almost joyous as Father Bauer anointed me and everyone laid their healing hands on me. It did help that the choir was present to support our singing and to offer a musical meditation. Some 6 months earlier we had asked Don Krubsack, our composer-in-residence to set parts of the rite to music. It was incredibly moving to hear this music enrich the celebration. At the conclusion everyone gathered around me and the choir sang a Hymn of Thanksgiving also composed by Don. The hymn ends with “give me one thing more: a grateful heart.” I could not think of a better line to end this service. As a matter of fact, that line accompanied me throughout my treatment and gave me strength. It accompanies me even today.
By the grace of God, the prayers and support of our community, and the hard work of my many caregivers I am now cancer free. And I so look forward to celebrating another Holy Week with all of you. I most especially anticipate the singing of the first Easter Alleluia during the Great Vigil on Easter Saturday. I am not sure if I will be able to do it without crying but try I will. And should I find myself unable to sing, I know that you will support me as you have done throughout my illness.
We are so blessed to belong to our Basilica community. We are so blessed to have our faith. We are so blessed to have one another. May this Lent and Easter bring us ever closer to our loving God, saving Christ and guiding Spirit.
And so you know, this week I will return to the zoo for a brisk walk and I will go back to the same restaurant to enjoy the lunch I missed out on one year ago.
God is good. God is very good.
This truly has been a horrible year for our Church. As a matter of fact, it has been many horrible years in a row. The leadership of the Church I trust has betrayed us. The leadership of the Church I love has deceived us. The leadership of the Church I believe in has misled us.
In light of this, many people have asked me why I stay. It is a perfectly good question. There have been times I found myself at the threshold of the Church, ready to walk out. Yet, every time something happened that ushered me back in. I still smile at the memory of a young immigrant woman who was so elated to be baptized that she did not want to get out of the font. I rejoice every time ecstatic young couples bring their newly born babies to Church for baptism, filled with hope for a bright future. And I still ache for the family who entrusted me with their pain and sorrow at the unexpected passing of their young son, eager for solace and support.
Why do I stay? I stay because I believe in the saving message of the Gospel. I stay because I am strengthened and nourished by the liturgy. And I stay because I sense a profound connection with you, the Body of Christ, the People of God.
I stay because of my love for the Gospel. The Gospel truly is my guide and rudder on my journey. All of us carry our share of pain and suffering. And our world as a whole is in great agony. There are wars, civil unrest, natural disasters, disease, hunger, loneliness. Left to our own devices we are clearly unable to escape this spiral of death. The Gospel, when interpreted correctly, is an absolute antidote to all the evil that seems to control our world today. The Gospel is a most effective guide in our struggle to save humanity and all of creation. Such is the power of the Gospel.
I stay because of my love for the liturgy. At the Easter Vigil I offer the Blood of Christ to the newly baptized. Inevitably I have to fight back tears as I look the neophytes into the eyes and say “The Body of Christ.” As they share in the Body and Blood of Christ for the first time their sharing in the Church as the Body of Christ is confirmed. From that moment on the liturgy becomes their source of much needed direction, affirmation, and nourishment, as it is to all of us. It is in the liturgy that we are rehearsed in what it means to be followers of Christ. It is in the liturgy that God molds us into being more like Christ. It is in the liturgy that our communion of shared existence is nourished and affirmed. We may not experience this every time we gather for worship but it happens, whether we realize it or not. Such is the power of the liturgy.
I stay because of my love for you. Throughout my journey with cancer you have supported me. You have made me food. You have brought me to appointments. You have sat with me during my infusions. You have sent me cards and flowers. And above all you have supported me with your prayers. Every Sunday night as I wrote thank you notes I was deeply moved by the great support you offered to me. And I was reminded that we are the Body of Christ. We are the People of God. We are the Salt of the Earth. We are the Light of the World. It is our shared calling to change our suffering world into what God intends it to be. It is also our shared calling to change our suffering church into what God intends it to be. Such is the power of the Body of Christ.
It has indeed been a run of horrible years for the church. Anyone who has studied the history of our church knows that we have been here before, not in the same circumstances but in crisis. When we have been willing to follow the often surprising movements of the Holy Spirit we have risen from our crisis stronger and purified. This is our time and our chance to trust in the Holy Spirit and embrace the inevitable and necessary change with faith, hope and love. That is why I stay.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/032419-yearc.cfm
This weekend we celebrate the third Sunday of the season of Lent. Our Gospel this Sunday comes in two seemingly unrelated sections. In the first section (Lk. 13:1-5) Jesus rejects the Jewish belief that bad things happen to people because they have sinned. He refers to two incidents in which people had either been killed or died in an accident. He then states unequivocally that “By no means!” did they die because they were sinners.
In the second section of this Gospel (Lk. 13: 6-9) Jesus tells a parable of a fig tree that had borne no fruit. The owner of the vineyard wants to cut it down. “Why should it exhaust the soil?” he asks." The gardener responds by asking for one more year so that he can “cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.”
The connecting point for these two sections is clear. We may not experience judgment in this life for our sins, but judgment eventually will come. God is incredibly patient, but ultimately there will come a time of judgment for all of us.
Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Exodus. It contains the wonderful story of Moses’ encounter with the burning bush. In this encounter Moses had this exchange with God: “But when I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ if they ask me ‘What is his name?’ what am I to tell them?’ God replied, ‘I am who am.’” This is an important and profound moment. The fact that God would tell Moses’ God’s name is a sign of God’s covenant with God’s people and God’s abiding presence with them.
Our second reading for this weekend is taken from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians. In it Paul reminds us that the things that happened to the Israelites happened “as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil things as they did.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- When bad things happen to people, especially good people, if they aren’t a punishment from God, why do they happen?
- If someone asked you by what name you call on God, how would you reply?
- God is incredibly patient with us, but ultimately there will be a time of judgment. What’s your image of the final judgment?
Parishioners are invited to nominate excellent candidates to represent the Liturgy and Sacred Art and Learning areas to the Parish Council by April 15.
You may nominate yourself or someone you think would thrive in one of the positions.
Please call Terri Ashmore at 612.317.3471 for more information.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
Each year on the Second Sunday of Lent we read one of the accounts of the Transfiguration of Jesus. Since this is year C in our three year cycle of readings, we read from the Gospel of Luke. In Luke’s account, we are told that “Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah………………… As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master it is good that we are here;’ ……………… from a cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my chosen Son; listen to him”
There are several elements that are common to all three accounts of the Transfiguration. 1. It took place on a mountain, which in the Old Testament often was the place where God’s presence was made known; 2. Jesus’ clothes become dazzling white or white as light; 3. Moses and Elijah are identified as appearing with Christ; 4. Peter suggested that they stay; and 5. A voice came from a cloud identifying Jesus as God’s chosen/beloved son.
The experience of the Transfiguration certainly must have been overwhelming and awe inspiring. I would suggest, though, that we all have had similar experiences in our lives ----- perhaps not to the depth or degree of the Transfiguration ----- but we all have experiences of God’s presence and grace ----“transfiguring” experiences. These experiences give us hope when we encounter difficult or uncertain times in our lives.
Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of Genesis. It is the story of God’s covenant with Abram (later Abraham) that his descendants would be as numerous as the “stars in the sky” and that: “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates.”
Our second reading this weekend is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians. In it Paul reminds us that “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- When have you had a “transfiguring” experience in your life?
- What stands out in your memory about that experience?
- Have you ever thought of yourself as a citizen of heaven?
We are all aware of the hard Minnesota winter we have been experiencing. With it comes additional expenses to keep our Basilica sidewalks clear and the building warm. We are currently $7,000 over budget on snow removal and $17,760 over budget on utilities. If you are able please consider a donation today to help The Basilica with our additional expenses.
Lent is my favorite season of the liturgical year. It can easily be thought of as a somber or gloomy period, with a focus on giving things up or carrying a cross. We enter forty days of penance and prayer, as we prepare for Easter. Yet, there is great joy found in recommitting to our faith. Our hearts are renewed, as we are invited into the deep love of God.
In Lent, we are invited to embrace and practice the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Of course, these are disciplines we could practice every day of the year. Yet, so often we fall short—distracted or sidetracked. I know well the sentiment of St. Paul, in Romans 7:19: “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.”
Lent is an intentional time for individuals and communities to begin again. We gather together, hold one another accountable in a new way, and commit to pray, fast, and give alms. We commit to refocus and draw near to our God—seeking purification, enlightenment, and mercy.
A gift of Lent is the joy, comfort and grace we experience as we are called into a deeper relationship with God. As we are formed by God’s forgiving, redeeming love, we are transformed in the way we think, speak and act. During Lent, all things lead us toward this transformation.
In his 2019 Message for Lent, Pope Francis offers provocative encouragement and guidance on our Lenten journey. He reminds us Lent is a journey of conversion—opening ourselves ever deeper to the priceless gift of God’s mercy. “The path to Easter demands that we renew our faces and hearts as Christians through repentance, conversion and forgiveness, so as to live fully the abundant grace of the pascal mystery.”
Fasting: We are invited to take a fresh look at how we might fast this Lent: Pope Francis suggests that fasting is “learning to change our attitude towards others and all of creation, turning away from the temptation to ‘devour’ everything to satisfy our voracity and being ready to suffer for love, which can fill the emptiness of our hearts.” This experience of fasting is a challenge. It asks so much more than giving something up. It asks us to go deep into our attitudes, assumptions and actions—and to move concretely toward a love that can hold joy, as well as pain, in our relationships.
Prayer: Our prayer can shape and change us. Pope Francis invites us to embrace “prayer, which teaches us to abandon idolatry and the self-sufficiency of our ego, and to acknowledge our need of the Lord and his mercy.” We are invited into a deep peace that recognizes our powerlessness—coming to believe the love of God will sustain, heal and save us.
Almsgiving: What do we keep and what do we give away? Again, Pope Francis challenges us: “Almsgiving, whereby we escape from insanity of hoarding everything for ourselves in the illusory belief that we can secure a future that does not belong to us.” Almsgiving brings us freedom.
“Let us not allow this season to pass in vain!” Let us embrace Lent together. Let us say “yes” to the disciplines of our faith—finding joy individually and collectively, as we are transformed by God’s love.