You are here
While I am a little embarrassed to admit it, there are times when I feel some kinship with Mary Magdalene. As you will remember, Mary was the one who, in John’s Gospel went to the tomb early in the morning and upon seeing that the stone had been rolled back from the tomb, ran off to Simon Peter and John, and told them: “The Lord has been taken from the tomb! We don’t know where they put him.” (Jn20:2) Mary had gone to the tomb expecting to find the body of Jesus. And when she did not find Jesus where she expected to find him, she was distraught and fearful, and probably more than a little uncertain about what she should do.
Mary’s experiences of not finding Jesus in an expected place is one that is very familiar to me. Most often I expect to find/experience the presence of Jesus in my prayer. And, in fact, prayer is indeed the place where I regularly do find and experience Jesus’ presence. There are times, in my prayer, though, when this has not been the case. At these times it feels as though Jesus has been taken away, and I don’t know where he is.
I suspect the above is something that is true for all of us. There are places/activities/special moments in our lives where we have felt Jesus’ presence in the past, and as a result, we continue to expect that we will find/experience the presence of Jesus in those places/ activities/moments. When this turns out not to be the case, we wonder what happened, and we feel as though Jesus has been taken away and we do not know where he is to be found.
When the above happens, we need to remind ourselves that Jesus is still present, even though it is not in the place or in the way that had been the case in the past. Certainly, this is what happened with Mary Magdalene. When she went to the tomb, she did not find Jesus where she expected to find him. At that point it would have been easy for her to give in to discouragement and give up the search, but instead she sought help and went looking a second time, and it was then that she experienced the presence of Jesus in a new and glorious way.
This same thing can be true for us. If we don’t find/experience the presence of Jesus in the usual ways/places, if we can persevere in our search, if we can wait in hope, seek in love, and believe in Jesus’ resurrection and his promise to be with us always, even until the end of the world, we will discover anew Christ’s abiding presence with us in new and unexpected ways.
On this Feast of Easter, my prayer is that all of us will continue to look for and discover the presence of Jesus in our lives—in familiar as well as in new ways—and that the grace of Christ’s resurrection will sustain and support us in our search and ultimately reward our efforts.
This Lent, some parish members are sharing their Lenten practices and stories with us. For Julissa Medrano, a parishioner who currently lives in Texas, the livestreamed liturgies keep her nourished and connected to her spiritual home at The Basilica. She also shares how the livestreamed Holy Week and Easter liturgies were an important part of the sacred final days with her mother before her passing in April 2020.
All Mass recordings can be found at Mass Recordings
Holy Week and Easter April 14-17
Throughout history humans have pondered the meaning of life and tried to find answers for the many difficult problems we have faced. Today’s experience prompts many questions as we are confronted with the devastating effects of COVID-19; the destructive powers of the numerous wars around the world, most recently the invasion of Ukraine by Russia; the damaging breakdown of civil interaction between people; the distressing divide between rich and poor, white and BIPOC, conservative and liberal; to name but a few.
Christians have turned to the Bible in their quest for answers and meaning, especially when facing trials and tribulations. Such questions as “Where is God?” and “Why did God let this happen?” are frequently asked. And yet, as Metropolitan Kallistos Warre, Orthodox theologian and archbishop holds: “it is not the task of Christianity to provide easy answers to every question, but to make us progressively aware of a mystery. God is not as much the object of our knowledge, as the cause of our wonder.”
Archbishop Shelton Fabre of Louisville, KY challenged those attending his installation Mass not to let “what we are facing” distract us from “where we should be looking” or “for whom we should be looking:” Jesus Christ. In other words, we should not let ourselves be absorbed by all the things that are going wrong, rather we should look at Jesus and heed his voice no matter the gravity of the situation because Jesus, Immanuel, is God-with-us, always.
Admittedly, this is easier said than done but we are about to begin the greatest celebration and practice of our faith in this mystery. Today we commence the celebration of Holy Week, the most important week of the entire liturgical year. During this week we celebrate the mystery of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus; the mystery of Immanuel, God-is-with-us. It is during this week above all other weeks that we become “progressively aware” of the “cause of our wonder” and behold the one “we are looking for,” Jesus the Christ.
To be sure, it is impossible for us to fully comprehend the mystery of our faith, the cause of our wonder. That will only happen when we see God face-to-face at the end of time. For now, mere portals to this mystery are opened during the celebration of the liturgy when the veil of the mystery is lifted just enough so we can get a glimpse of this mystery. Yet even but a mere glimpse is enough to get us on our Christian way to face the realities of life, unpleasant as they might be, because we know that God is with us even in the darkest of times.
During the next eight days we will recall and honor the last days in the life of Jesus. We start on Palm Sunday with the remembrance of Jesus’ glorious entrance into Jerusalem. On Holy Thursday we remember how Jesus embodied Divine Mercy by washing the feet of his disciples and by instituting the Eucharist. On Good Friday we behold the unfathomable mystery of the passion and death of the Son of God. On Holy Saturday we observe a solemn silence as Jesus lies in the tomb and breaks down the gates of hell. And on Easter Sunday we celebrate his glorious resurrection.
The great liturgies of Holy Week invite us to engage in many symbolic acts that evoke the mystery of our faith as we engage in extended processions; we wash one another’s feet; we honor the Blessed Sacrament; we pass and venerate the cross; we baptize and confirm; and we share in the Paschal Eucharist. The physicality of these symbolic acts is unmistaken. The best way to experience these symbolic acts is by participating in them in person together with our Christian community.
We are so glad and blessed that many of you have returned to The Basilica for in-person celebration of the liturgy. It is so great to worship together. If you have not yet returned and are able to do so, please consider returning during Holy Week. Our community will be the richer for your presence. If you are not yet able to return to in-person worship, we will continue to livestream all our Holy Week liturgies so you can participate remotely.
We truly look forward to that day when all of us will be able to gather in The Basilica for the celebration of our liturgy where together we may behold the “cause of our wonder” and find the one “we are looking for” so we may be ready to face whatever comes our way during our earthly journey.
Blessed Holy Week!
As we look ahead to spring, we think about reemerging after winter. We look to connect with our neighbors and places that we may have been away from for many months. This spring feels especially significant, as we have lived through another COVID winter.
At The Basilica one of our key strategic directions is reaching out to other organization in our city. The goal is stated in the Our Parish Our Future plan as; Strengthen our Presence and Partnerships in the Twin Cities: Invite community-wide participation in our vision and mission.
Just a few of the many examples of these partnerships include:
The Minnesota Sinfonia is a professional, nonprofit, chamber orchestra offering free concerts and educational programs to people in the Twin Cities metro area. The Minnesota Sinfonia hold free, family friendly concerts at The Basilica regularly.
Prisoners or Patients? Task Force is a group of volunteers who come together to discuss issues around when the criminal justice and mental health systems connect. The group is made up of members of The Basilica’s Mental Health Ministry, its Voices of Justice Ministry, and the larger Twin Cities community. The committee has worked in partnership with NAMI-MN, Minnesota DHS, Hennepin County Corrections, Hennepin Healthcare, Minnesota State Legislators, Amicus, Minneapolis College, and other organizations.
The Basilica staff has worked with the Minnesota Alliance for Volunteer Advancement (MAVA) for volunteer training and strategic planning. MAVA works to develop leadership of volunteers and best practices in organizational volunteerism.
Looking ahead, mark your calendar for Seven Fates: Racial Healing Stations on May 22 at 1:00pm at The Basilica. The powerful program includes community partners in our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) work from the Penumbra Theatre. This evocative and devotional prayer service invites us to meditate on the inequities caused by racism through sacred art, music, lived experience and prayer.
The Basilica of Saint Mary is committed to the future growth of our parish and to truly live out our vision:
Seek the well-being of the city to which I have sent you. Pray for it to the Lord. For in seeking its well-being, you shall find your own. - Jeremiah 29:7
To review the full Our Parish Our Future strategic plan visit mary.org/ourfuture.
All Mass recordings can be found at Mass Recordings
1. Pastor Transition: Even though, I will continue as pastor of The Basilica through June, the transition process has begun. Fr. Dan Griffith has met with or will be meeting with the trustees, our parish staff and parish leadership. His intent in these meetings is to listen and learn, so he can hit the ground running July 1 and serve the parishioners of The Basilica of St. Mary.
I am enormously grateful and extremely excited that Fr. Griffith will be the next pastor of The Basilica. He will bring an abundance of gifts, as well as great experience and expertise to his role as pastor of The Basilica. As we continue to move forward, I ask you to please keep both of us in your prayers.
2. Our Parish Finances: First and foremost, I want to thank all those who continue to support to our parish community financially during the pandemic. Please know your commitment of financial support to our parish community is greatly appreciated. Your contribution - no matter the size - is important and makes a difference. It allows us to continue to offer the many programs, ministries and services that are the hallmark of our Basilica community.
Your ongoing generosity is very important to the financial health of our parish. Please know of my great gratitude for your ongoing financial support.
3. Lent: As you read this, we are well into the season of Lent. As a child I never really appreciated Lent. As I’ve grown older, though, I’ve come to realize how important and how good the season of Lent is for me and for all of us. With the pace of our world and its multiple distractions, it’s so easy for us to miss the fundamental mystery of our faith: Jesus Christ, died and rose again to offer us the promise and gift of eternal life.
Through its various penances and ascetical practices, Lent helps us choose the way of the Lord Jesus once again. It brings us to a full stop, calls us to prayer and to attend to the poor, and summons us to other practices, so the value of our lives and the purpose of our discipleship can be rediscovered.
During this special season, I invite and encourage you to look at your calendar and to plan on participating virtually or in-person in the services and activities that will be offered at The Basilica during Lent. Visit our web site at mary.org for a list of our Lenten activities and services.
4. Catholic Services Appeal: We began the 2022 Catholic Services Appeal (CSA) the weekend of February 12th and 13th. This yearly appeal helps support the many ministries, services and programs within our Archdiocese. Now obviously, many people are concerned that contributions to the Archdiocese will be used for purposes they didn’t intend. In this regard, it is important to note that The Catholic Services Appeal is an independent 501(c)3 non-profit organization. This was done to ensure all the money that is collected through the Appeal would go directly and solely to the ministries, services and programs supported by the CSA. No CSA funds go to the Archdiocese.
By pooling the financial resources from generous donors throughout our diocese, much important and necessary work is funded by the Catholic Services Appeal (CSA). As your pastor, I wholeheartedly endorse the work of the Appeal. I support it financially and I encourage you to make a gift to support these important ministries, services and programs. Please look for the Catholic Services Appeal information in pews or learn more at csafspm.org.
5. Parish Life During the Pandemic: At the present time, many of our parish activities, services, and ministries are back in person; some are being conducted virtually; and some can be done hybrid. We continue to ask the question of when, how and where we can resume all of these activities on campus. At this point, and for the foreseeable future, we are making all decisions on a case-by-case basis. We also continue to look for new opportunities to celebrate the life of our parish community.
Clearly, we all miss the opportunities to gather and celebrate our faith as we used to. We miss gathering with others, and worshipping and praying together. We also miss the opportunities to give witness to our faith through our community activities. When we gather again as we used to—and I believe we will—it is my hope and sincere prayer that church will have a renewed meaning for all of us.
6. Covid and Me: As I write this column, (2/23) I have tested positive for Covid and am quarantining at home. The worst of the symptoms have passed, and I am waiting for a negative test so I can return to work at The Basilica. Fortunately, I have been vaccinated and boosted, so my symptoms were just fatigue, congestion and body aches.
Since I was being very careful, catching Covid turned out to be much easier than I would have thought. I was scheduled to have dinner with some friends, (who were also vaccinated and boosted) and when we got to the restaurant, we had to wait in the bar for a few minutes for the restaurant to get our table ready. Of course, the bar was packed, and that’s all it took.
I am grateful that I was vaccinated and boosted, and even more grateful that my symptoms were fairly mild. I am most grateful, though, for Frs. Berger, Tasto and Gillespie, who filled in during my absence. They were/are a great grace for me and for our parish.
7. EDI: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: As I have mentioned previously, for the past few years The Basilica has recognized a need to address and respond to the issue of racism in our lives, our parish, and our community. After meetings with Sarah Bellamy, an equity consultant, in the spring of 2019, and with the establishment of an EDI Leadership Team, a Position Statement was created to guide our efforts as we seek to respond to the sin of racism. We were challenged to do this particularly by the words of Pope Francis in reflecting on the death of George Floyd: “We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of human life.”
Responding to racism is a process not an event. It is a process in which we all must be involved. Our EDI Team continues to invite people to engage with the EDI Position Statement and by laying out the goals we have identified to work on as a parish community. In April and May our EDI team will be hosting some anti-bias training sessions for interested parishioners. To find out more about the important work of EDI, visit mary.org/edi.
8. The Archdiocesan Synod: Despite the pandemic, the work of preparing for the Synod continues. As I write this column, our parish Synod group is preparing to meet on a Saturday morning for 5.5 hours to discuss three specific topics in regard to future of the Church in our Archdiocese: 1.Sharing the Gospel in word and deed; 2.The universal call to holiness; 3.Young adult ministry. The outcome of these discussions will form the basis of our parish’s representatives’ input at the Archdiocesan Synod Assembly on June 3-5. I invite you to continue to pray for the success of the Synod process, and for the future of our parish and local Church.
Rev. John M. Bauer
Pastor, The Basilica of Saint Mary
At their annual meeting this past November, the Bishops of the United States approved a document on the Eucharist entitled: “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church.” As part of their follow-up efforts, it was reported that the bishops have begun planning for a Eucharistic Congress in 2024. The goal of this effort is to rekindle an understanding of and devotion to the Eucharist. The bishops plan to set up a nonprofit organization to handle logistics and raise $28 million over the next two years to cover the costs of the event and all the work leading up to it.
Part of me is very excited about this idea. The Eucharist is at the heart of my faith. As Catholics, we believe that Jesus Christ is really and truly present in the Eucharist. Not present just in memory, not present just symbolically, and not present just spiritually, but really and truly present. How this can be we don’t know. That it can be is our abiding belief. It is an act of faith. And faith, as we read in the Letter to the Hebrews, is “Confident assurance of what we hope for; conviction about things we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) In the Eucharist we receive the body of Christ so we might be and bring the Body of Christ to the world.
Unfortunately, a recent poll by the Pew Research Center found most self-described Catholics don’t believe this core teaching on the Eucharist. In fact, just one-third of U.S. Catholics (31%) say they believe that “during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus.” This is very concerning. At a minimum it suggests we have our work cut out for us if we are to help people understand the beauty, the wonder, and the miracle of the Eucharist.
Now I have to admit candidly that a part of me questions whether one of the reasons for the lack of belief in our teaching in regard to the Eucharist is a lack of trust in those who proclaim and teach about the Eucharist. While I don’t think that a straight line can be drawn from the lack of belief in the Eucharist to a mistrust of priests and Bishops, I do think it is harder to believe the message, if you don’t trust the messenger.
Especially since the sexual abuse crisis, I think people have found it difficult to trust priests and Bishops in our church. Sexually abusive priests were routinely transferred from parish to parish at least until the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People which was initiated in 2002. Since then, while this practice has stopped, and while there has been a general acknowledgement of a failure on the part of church leadership, this came slowly and grudgingly. Also, and more importantly, personal apologies on the part of priests and Bishops have been nonexistent for the most part. I think this has led to a lack of trust in priests and Bishops, and in many instances a lack of trust in what they teach and proclaim. I don’t think this credibility problem is going away on its own.
Given the above, while I think we have much good and important work to do in helping people understand our teaching and belief in regard to the Eucharist, I believe that rather than a Eucharistic Congress, a better starting point might be an “apology” tour. By this I mean that dioceses across the United States should shut down their usual activities for 6 to 12 months, and priests and Bishops should visit every church, chapel and mission in their diocese and listen to people’s pain and sadness in regard to the way our church has handled the sexual abuse crisis. We should listen until we weep and our hearts break. Then we should apologize over and over again until people are ready to believe and accept our apologies. Perhaps if and when people start to trust us again and they see the love of Jesus in our words and actions, they might more readily believe that Jesus is really and truly present in the Eucharist.
All Mass recordings can be found at Mass Recordings