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Archives: August 2020
In our weekly video series "Art That Surrounds Us," Johan van Parys, Ph.D., our Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts, shares information about a piece from The Basilica of Saint Mary's art collection. This week's installment features a behind-the-scenes tour of the fourth floor of our Reardon Rectory. Thanks to donors to The Basilica Landmark, the fourth floor was completely renovated from an unused attic to offices, professional art storage, and archives space. The addition of an elevator tower made all five floors of the Rectory fully accessible.
Pastoring during a pandemic is a unique, one of kind, never to be forgotten experience. I’m sure that all of us could substitute our own word for “pastoring” and this statement would ring true for all of us. We are in uncharted waters and trying to find our way through them without GPS or even a compass to guide us. Certainly there was nothing in my seminary experience or in my years of ministry that I can look to or lean on for guidance. And yet, somehow we are finding our way through it—often in fits and starts—occasionally stumbling—but, at least in my case, always with a clear sense that I am not alone. I feel the support of family, friends, colleagues, and parishioners. Also, and as importantly, I also have a clear sense that God is with me—that God is with all of us—during this time.
Now, I would like to tell you that the sense that God is with us during this time is always evident and enduring. Truth be told, however, there are times when I struggle to find and/or recognize God’s presence. Usually these times don’t last long, but they are real. Perhaps it is just me, but it is hard to look at the face of pain and suffering and death, and not wonder if and where God is in the midst of it. When I take these times with me to prayer, though, most often I find and feel God’s peaceful presence. And I realize anew that God is with us and for us, and has not and will not leave us alone.
Certainly there are people who would argue that the current pandemic is proof positive that God either can’t or won’t do something to “fix” it and make it better. I suspect there is little that I can say to these people that would change their mind. For myself, though, there are many things that are signs of God’s presence and grace, and I can’t ignore them. An ongoing challenge, though, is that I need to look through the “eyes of faith” in order to recognize these signs.
Now there is a need for clarity here. Seeing things through the eyes of faith does not mean wearing rose colored glasses and approaching things with a certain naiveté. Rather faith is the lens that helps all of us to see God’s hand at work in our lives and in our world, perhaps especially when that presence is not immediately obvious. As we read in Hebrews 11:1 “Faith is confident assurance of what we hope for; conviction about things we do not see.” Seeing with the eyes of faith, then, is nothing more, but certainly nothing less than believing that the God who loved us and our world into existence, will always hold us in love, and ultimately will bring us home to live with God forever.
Faith isn’t always an easy proposition, but I have never found anything to take its place. From my perspective it’s the thing that helps me to make sense of this life and to believe that there is something more and better that awaits us.
I hope this message finds you and your family continuing to stay well during these challenging times.
As you probably have heard, last night there were protests in downtown Minneapolis – I’m grateful to share that there was no damage on The Basilica campus, but a number of neighboring businesses on Harmon and Nicollet did have damage. Please pray for a calm and peace in our city.
Today I would like to spend a few minutes talking with you about our programs, services, and ministries at The Basilica. As you know at the present time almost everything we are doing, with the exception of the celebration of the sacraments, virtually.
While this has the advantage of keeping everyone safe and secure, the disadvantage is not having personal contact. I suspect we all miss that. I know I do. Going forward we still anticipate that for the foreseeable future, most of our activities will continue to be done virtually.
However, given our success in regard to opening The Basilica for daily and Sunday Masses, it makes sense that we explore whether or not we can resume other activities on our campus. In this regard, we have begun to consider resuming some activities on our campus on a case by case basis. Our standard will be ensuring the safety, security, and well being of the participants or attendees.
Now as I said, most of our activities will continue to be done virtually, but we do need to be responsive to people’s needs and open to their ideas. We will do this on a case by case basis. And given the recent spike in the cases of Coronavirus in Minnesota, we will need to continue to be cautious in resuming any activities on The Basilica campus.
When there are activities on our campus, we will use the same protocols that we currently use to check people in for the celebration of daily and Sunday Mass, and weddings and funerals. We will also ask for a list of attendees and their contact information ahead of time, in the unlikely event that we need to do contact tracing.
As I mentioned last week, one of the ministries we have resumed is the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Confessions will be heard in the chapel from 9:00-10:00am on Saturdays. Our protocol for this is posted on our website under the sacraments tab, or you can call the liturgy office for information.
As always, if you would like further information about our protocols or if you have questions or concerns, please contact me at the parish office or send me an email. My contact information is available on our parish website.
Finally, as I have mentioned previously in the event that there is an outbreak of COVID-19 traceable to The Basilica, we will need to reconsider the decision to open The Basilica for public worship. Also if there is a surge in cases of the coronavirus, we will follow any directives/restrictions from the city of Minneapolis or the state. I will alert you as soon as possible, should either of these things occur.
Thank you for your continued prayers and support. Please know they are appreciated more than you know.
Most merciful God,
We come to you in our weakness.
We come to you in our fear.
We come to you with trust.
For you alone are our hope.
Bring wisdom to doctors.
Give understanding to scientists.
Endow caregivers with compassion and generosity.
Bring healing to those who are ill.
Protect those who are most at risk.
Give comfort to those who have lost a loved one.
Welcome those who have died into your eternal home.
Stabilize our communities.
Unite us in our compassion.
Remove all fear from our hearts.
Fill us with confidence in your care.
We ask this in the name of Jesus your son.
Prayer for Solace and Peace Recorded Live
Sunday, September 6, 5:30pm
Zoom: Beyond the Political Din
Saturdays, September 19 & October 10, 9:00-10:30am
Tuesday, September 29, 6:30-8:00pm
News and Resources
From The Pastor
A few weeks ago Fr. Tim Backous, OSB, who helped out on weekends at The Basilica several years ago, sent me a copy of a talk on racism that Abbot John Klassen gave at a conference of the monks of Saint John’s Abbey. I have been trying to write something on this topic for a while now with little success. I was so impressed with Abbot John’s talk, though, that I asked his permission to share a portion of it via this newsletter. He willingly gave permission, but with the caveat that I be clear that one of the sources for his talk was Fr. Bryan Massingale. I told him I would be pleased to do that.
Below then is a portion of the talk Abbot John gave to the monks of Saint John’s Abbey on July 7, 2020. While this talk was given specifically to the monks, I believe it has meaning for all of us.
Father Bryan Massingale, a distinguished black faculty member at Fordham University, has written a powerful reflection on the challenge that faces the white community at this time. He makes some concrete suggestions for moving forward which serves as a template for the following reflections.
First, we need to understand the difference between being uncomfortable and being threatened. There is no way to tell the truth about race in this country without white people becoming uncomfortable. Because the plain truth is that if it were up to people of color, racism would have been resolved, over and done, a long time ago. The only reason for racism's persistence is that white people continue to benefit from it, and we benefit from it, whether we know it or not. This truth makes my head and heart hurt.
What to do next? At first, nothing. Sit in the discomfort this hard truth brings. It needs to be agonizing. Let it move me to tears, to anger, to guilt, to frustration, to embarrassment. For what? For my ignorance. For my lack of understanding of the underlying issues that black and Latino people face every day. On any given day, at any given hour, their right to be on this good earth can be challenged. Because only when a critical mass of white people are outraged, grieved and pained over the status quo—only when white people become upset enough to declare, "This cannot and will not be!"—only then will real change begin to become a possibility.
Second, we need to admit our ignorance and do something about it. We need to understand that there is a lot about our history and about life that we're going to have to unlearn. And learn over. We have all been taught an incomplete version of America that masks our terrible racial history. As white Americans we do not have an accurate sense of the long tail of damage that slavery did to our nation. The impact of the Jim Crow laws that neutralized black efforts to become active citizens in our democracy. We probably know very little of the terror of lynching. For a 30-year period from 1885-1915, on average every third day a black person was brutally and savagely and publicly murdered by white mobs. At present, black and brown people experience law enforcement as the latest version of this reign of terror.
Third, are there creative things we can do as a community that allow for learning on a deep existential level? Are there ways to invite our whole campus into this powerful moment and see it as a graced time for conversion toward Gospel justice and the inclusiveness of the reign of God? As a community we are profoundly related to alums and friends, so many of whom have been deeply moved by the events of the past five weeks. They look to us not so much for answers as for moral leadership, for the affirmation that our country needs to deliver on its promise of freedom to all of its citizens and to those who come to our doors.
Fourth, we need to be aware of the expression of racist attitudes in members of our community. When we encounter these expressions, we may not be silent. If there was ever a time and a place for fraternal correction, this is surely it. Sometimes we may be too patient, too tolerant and dismiss a comment as insensitive or ignorant when in fact, it is just racist, and is extremely harmful in a community where we are working every day to be inclusive.
Finally, we need to pray the psalms in fresh and imaginative way. The psalms are filled with lament, with the voices of men and women who are being crushed every day, people who have nowhere to turn. True, racism is a political issue and a social divide. But at its deepest level, racism is a sickness of the soul. It is a profound warping of the human spirit that enables human beings to create communities of callous indifference toward their darker sisters and brothers. As historian Paul Wachtel succinctly declares in his book Race in the Mind of America, The real meaning of race comes down largely to this: Is this someone I should care about?" Our Catholic and Benedictine monastic tradition have powerful responses to these questions and strong spiritual resources to support reflection and action. They also have the ethical foundation on which to stand. Let there be no question: this is an urgent time, a decisive moment, and we may not let it slip away.”
In our weekly video series "Art That Surrounds Us," Johan van Parys, Ph.D., our Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts, shares information about a piece from The Basilica of Saint Mary's art collection. This week's installment is the second in a series on our beloved church building. He focuses on elements of the church interior including the ancient architectural design of a basilica, the various types of stone, the altar, the baldacchino, the entablature statues of eleven apostles and Saint Paul, and the crucifixion scene.