Johan's Blog

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. In preparation for the beginning of the third Christian Millennium, The Basilica of Saint Mary commissioned mono-prints of the fifteen Scriptural Stations introduced by Saint Pope John Paul II in 1991. We explicitly requested an abstract rendition of the Stations, which Johan will discuss in this video.

Please join us on the Fridays of Lent for the celebration of the Stations of the Cross at 5:30pm (central time), either in person or via livestream. This year we will be praying a different version of the Stations each Friday and will meditate on different art.

 

 

 

In his Lenten message of 2013, the last of his pontificate, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote about the priority of faith and the primacy of charity. On the one hand he praised a deepening of our prayer life and strengthening of our faith as good and worthy Lenten disciplines. In addition, he challenged us to witness to our faith by extending charity to others and to allow our prayer life to drive our charity. This, according to Benedict XVI is the key to a fruitful Lent and the essence of our Christian life.
 
As we embark on the Third Week of Lent we invite you to consider the following suggestions for the three Lenten disciplines of fasting, prayer and charity. These can either be in addition to our previous suggestions or you can start anew. 
 
Fasting from putting ourselves first
• Putting ourselves first as an individual and even as a nation is quite popular these days. Individualism and nationalism are celebrated by many, even by Christians despite the fact that both are antithetical to Christianity. 
• Christianity is rooted in Jesus’ willingness to give his life for others. He embraced death so we might live, all of us. This is as far removed from individualism and nationalism as one can possibly imagine. Followers of Jesus are called to do the same. In the words of St. Francis:  “…it is in giving that we receive…and in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
• Lent is the perfect time to practice fasting from putting ourselves first by putting the needs of others before our own. The way we do that is by starting with small things such as checking in on a elderly neighbor. The ultimate goal is that we embody in our own lives the sacrificial life of Jesus. 
 
Prayer: Vision Divina on the Passion of Christ
• As we try to live out our Christian calling it might be good to meditate on the Passion of Jesus. One way of doing that is through Visio Divina or Divine Seeing which is an intentional and prayerful contemplation of an image of the crucifixion. The objective is to allow God to speak through the art in a most profound way. 
• As you prepare for Visio Divina chose an image of the crucifixion and select a Passion Narrative as found in one of the Gospels.
1. Lectio: take you time to slowly read through part of one of the Passion Narratives. Be attentive to any words that speak to you and feel free to write those down.
2. Visio: after reminding yourself of the textual description of the Passion of Christ now spend some time contemplating the art you selected. What is it you see? If you are using a figurative representation ask yourself who and what is represented in the image. If non-figurative, consider the shapes, the forms, and the colors. Feel free to write down any words that come to mind.
3. Meditatio: Now let your imagination dialogue with what you see. There is always more to an image than what the eyes behold. Is a deeper story forming in your imagination? Are you experiencing any specific feelings or emotions? Again, feel free to write down any words that come to mind.
4. Oratio: Once you are content that the image has fully spoken to you it is now time to formulate a prayer response. This can be a prayer of gratitude or it might be a prayer of intercessions. Feel free to use the words you have written down in step 1 or 2.
5. Contemplatio: After praying with words it is now time to let go of all words and to quietly rest in prayer. Give yourself over to God who will mold you in prayer to be more like God.
6. What do you take away from this experience.  What might you do differently in your life, inspired by the Passion of Christ?
• An example of a semi-guided Visio Divina on the Passion of Christ may be found on the University of Portland website: https://www.up.edu/garaventa/archives/visio-divina/crucifixion.html
 
Charity
• As you fast from putting yourself first we invite you to engage in small acts of kindness, thus putting others before you. St. Thérèse de Lisieux noted that not all of us are called to live heroic Christian lives. Most of us are called to engage in many small acts of kindness done with great love. 
• Simply select a few smalls acts of kindness you will commit yourself to in the next week and beyond. This may be opening a door for someone; allowing someone to go first in line; checking in on an elderly neighbor; providing food for someone in need; offering support to someone who is struggling with loss; shoveling snow should we still get some; etc.
• There are many, many small acts of kindness we can engage in on a daily basis. As we do that we will train ourselves in the very ways of thinking and acting God asks of us as followers of Jesus Christ.
 
And as I mentioned the last two weeks, please remember to be patient with yourself and others.  Lent is neither an endurance test nor a time to prove our Christian heroism. Rather, Lent is a time to slow down and ponder what is essential to our faith and thus to our life as Christians. So please pace yourselves. Give yourself and others the necessary space. And above all be patient with yourself and others.
 
 

Art That Surrounds Us

 
 

 

 
 
 

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. As he contiunues our Lenten series on our collection of Stations of the Cross, Johan discusses the concepts of figurative and representational art in the context of sacred art.

Please join us on the Fridays of Lent for the celebration of the Stations of the Cross at 5:30pm (central time), either join us in person or via livestream. This year we will be praying a different version of the Stations each Friday and will meditate on different art.

 

 

 

Lenten banners hung above sanctuary

Lenten Journey: Week 2

As we embark on the Second Week of Lent we invite you to consider the following suggestions for the three Lenten disciplines of fasting, prayer and charity. These can either be in addition to last week’s suggestions or you can start anew. 
 
I recently came across a wonderful article by Fr. Jerry Kurian, a Syriac Orthodox priest. In it he proposes that our Lenten fasting and abstinence are fir naught if these do not change our hearts. Lent he says is a time to learn anew how to bend our knees, mend our hearts, and lend our hands. This is truly a beautiful description of what we are called to do during Lent and in fact, throughout our entire Christian Journey.
 

Mending our Hearts: Fasting from Gossip

  • On a number of occasions, Pope Francis has declared gossip to be rotten and poisonous. At first, he suggests that it seems to be something enjoyable and fun, like a piece of candy. But at the end, “it fills the heart with bitterness and also poisons us.” 
  • Gossip not only hurts other people and brings them down it is also contrary to our Christian way of life. As Pope Francis notes: “a loving community, a caring community, a Christian community is a community that is free from gossip.”
  • Fasting from gossip requires great attention to our feelings about others. It also requires a careful and disciplined use of language. Lent is the perfect time to “soften our hardened hearts and to silence our sharpened tongues.” 
 
Bending our Knees: Praying the Station of the Cross
  • Praying the Stations of the Cross is an ancient Christian devotion which invites us to meditate on the mystery of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. A history of this devotion is offered in this week’s Art that Surrounds Us: https://www.mary.org/blog/202102/art-surrounds-us-stations-cross#.YDU4dNhKiJA .
  • On Fridays of Lent we pray the Stations of the Cross at 5:30pm. You can join us in person or via livestream. Each Friday we will pray a different version of the Stations of the Cross both in terms of the text and the images that are used. If you join us in person a QR code will allow you to see the images. For those at home you will see the image on your screen. 
  • If you would like to pray the Stations of the Cross at home you can use the weekly recorded livestream or you can find a narrated slideshow of our Scriptural Stations at https://vimeo.com/403088034. These stations were commissioned by The Basilica of Saint Mary from local artist Lucinda Naylor and master printer Steven Anderson to mark the second millennium of Christianity. The art was inspired by Scripture while the meditations by Johan van Parys were inspired by the art.  
 
Lending our Hands: Charitable Giving of Blood
  • During the Season of Lent we give thanks for Jesus’ willingness to die for us on the cross. This act has deep sacrificial meaning and great theological implications for all of us.  
  • May Jesus’ willingness to give his blood so that we might live inspire us to donate our blood to save the lives of others. This is particularly important during this pandemic, especially for those who have developed antibodies to the virus.
  • All blood banks are in need, now more than ever.  To donate blood you can contact the Red Cross at www.redcrossblood.org/give or the Memorial Blood Center at www.mbcherohub.club
 
 
And please remember to be patient with yourself and others.  Lent is neither an endurance test nor a time to prove our Christian stamina. Rather, Lent is a time to slow down and ponder what is essential to our faith and thus to our life as Christians. So please pace yourselves. Give yourself and others the necessary space. And above all be patient with yourself and others.
 
 

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, Johan discusses the Biblical and historic roots of Stations of the Cross, and their connection to the salvific Passion of Jesus.

We are very blessed to have several sets of Stations of the Cross at The Basilica: the original stations that were carved in Italy and installed in 1926, Scriptural stations by Lucinda Naylor and Steven Anderson, which were commissioned by The Basilica of Saint Mary to mark the second Millennium of Christianity in the year 2000, and a set of traditional stations by Leo Winstead in our Saint Joseph Chapel.

Please join us on the Fridays of Lent for the celebration of the Stations of the Cross at 5:30pm (central time), either join us in person or via livestream. This year we will be praying a different version of the Stations each Friday and will meditate on different art.

 

 

 

Lent banners

Preparing for Lent

The Season of Lent

Prepare for a fruitful celebration of the Season of Lent.

 

Prayer

Lent Schedule: Join us online or in-person during the Season of Lent.

Pray the Stations of the Cross: these stations were commissioned by The Basilica from local artist Lucinda Naylor to mark the second millennium of Christianity. The Meditations were inspired by the art.

Lectio Divina: Lectio Divina invites us into scripture, meditation, prayer, contemplation and action.

Pray the Rosary together either in person or virtually: we have made a virtual Rosary available on our website. 

 

Art

Visit the online Lent and Easter Art Collection

 

40 Days of Lent

Week 1

Lent is an Invitation by Johan van Parys, Ph.D.

 

In our weekly art video series Johan van Parys, Ph.D., our Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts, veers off a bit to discuss a symbol rather than a work of art and shares an edition of "Symbols that Surround Us."
 
On Wednesday we begin our forty day long Lenten journey in preparation of the celebration of the Paschal Mystery: the mystery of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In this episode, Johan discusses the Biblical and liturgical roots in the custom of imposing ashes on Ash Wednesday.
 
 
 
 
Lenten banners hung above sanctuary

Lent is an Invitation

This coming week, on Wednesday February 17, we mark Ash Wednesday and thus begins our annual Lenten journey. The symbolic act commonly associated with Ash Wednesday is the Imposition of Ashes. And although Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation, many people flock to our churches to receive ashes.

The custom of imposing ashes on Ash Wednesday has Biblical roots. Job, for instance used ashes as a sign of repentance: “Therefore I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). The Gospels of Matthew and Luke, too, describe the use of ashes as a sign of repentance. In the description of the sending of the 72, Jesus instructs them to kick the sand of their sandals if they are not welcomed in a given city, and to warn them the Kingdom is at hand. Then Jesus compares the fate of these cities with that of the sinful cities of Tyre and Sidon saying that “if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes” (Matthew 11:21).

The liturgical custom of sprinkling ashes which is also penitential in nature originates in the Order of Penitents established during the fourth c. This Order or group of people consisted of those Christians who had committed grave sins and had been admitted into the order by the bishop. The Order of Penitents predates the Sacrament of Reconciliation and was the only recourse Christians had to salvation after they broke their baptismal promises. The rite of admission to the Order of Penitents which happened at the beginning of Lent involved the imposition of ashes by the bishop. When this order was superseded by the Sacrament of Reconciliation the imposition of ashes was retained and expanded. Recognizing that all are sinners in need of repentance all Christians started to present themselves for the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday.

The earliest mention of the existence of Ash Wednesday, known as Dies Cinerum or the Day of Ashes dates back to the 10th century. It is believed that the custom itself was observed as early as the eight century. 

The imposition of ashes still has a penitential character, even today. With this public act, we indicate that we are in need of forgiveness and that we are committing ourselves to 40 days of fasting, prayer, and charity in preparation of the celebration of the Sacred Triduum.

The ashes used on Ash Wednesday come from the palms used during the previous year’s celebration of Palm Sunday of Our Lord’s Passion. In the Middle Ages these palms were burned during elaborate ceremonies. Today, this is done in a more simple manner.

In the United States, ashes are usually placed on the forehead in the shape of the cross. In other countries such as Italy they are sprinkled on the crown of a penitent’s head. This is actually the proper way of doing this as the ritual for the Imposition if Ashes calls for the minister to “place ashes on the head” of the people. During the Pandemic, which prevents us from signing the forehead with ashes, we will sprinkle ashes on the crown of people’s head, though not as generously as in Europe. We will just use a pinch.

While imposing the ashes, the minister can use one of two formulas. The second option, which is the more ancient of the two, is inspired by the words God spoke when expelling Adam and Eve from Paradise thus subjecting them to death: "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19). This option simply reminds us of our sinful nature yet does not invite us to do anything about it.

The first and more recent option is taken from the first chapter of Mark: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”  After the death of John, Jesus began his public ministry announcing the Kingdom of God inviting people to “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” These words spoken by Jesus and repeated by the minister are a clear invitation to action. Knowing that we are sinners, we are called to repent and to live according to the Gospel. Or in the words of the Prophet Joel in the First Reading on Ash Wednesday, Lent is an invitation to “return to God with all your heart.” 

May this Lenten Season and the entire Paschal Cycle be a blessing for all of us.

 

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, Johan discusses our new icon of Saint Josephine Bakhita, by local iconographer Deb Korluka.
 
"If we had no hope in the Lord, what would we do in this world?"
 
- Saint Josephine Bakhita
 
 
 
 
 

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, Johan discusses our stained glass windows and specifically highlights the window depicting the Presentation of the Lord.

Forty days after Christmas, on February 2, we celebrate the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple and the Purification of Mary. Both commemorate events in the life of Jesus and Mary related to the observance of Jewish Law as narrated in the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke. The day is also known as Candlemas because on that day, the mid-point of winter, candles are blessed for use in church as well as in our homes.

 

 

 

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