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In our 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.
Recently we acquired a new painting, which is hanging from the pulpit in The Basilica. Its title is Sanctuary. It was painted by acclaimed artist Janet McKenzie. McKenzie says that, as a mother, she felt called to paint Sanctuary as she mourned with the many mothers of color who have lost a child. As she was working on this painting she kept coming back to Psalm 61: 4 -- "Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings.”
I was an acolyte/altar server at the 11:30am Mass for over 20 years before The Basilica paused that ministry (and many others) due to COVID-19. Returning to that in-person ministry for the first time since Spring 2020 a few weeks ago, I felt a bit nervous and arrived extra early to thoughtfully and calmly prepare for active ministry. Slowly and reverently I opened the alb closet, found an alb in my size, picked up a processional cross, and proceeded to the rear of the nave by the baptismal font.
My thoughts began to race as I waited for Mass to begin. I hadn’t been in the “second chair” for about 16 months! Would I forget to do something? And now the Mass is livestreamed—so be careful going up the steps!
As my anxiety grew, I found comfort in seeing the familiar faces of liturgical ministers, musicians, staff members, and the congregation, with many people in their preferred pew location. Then Father Gillespie, who has faithfully presided at Basilica Masses for many years, quietly said “It’s good to be back and serving with you.” Perhaps he could tell that I was a little nervous? The familiarity of serving at past 11:30am Masses flooded back; I immediately felt calmer and ready to engage in volunteer ministry again.
This week’s responsorial psalm reminds us, “The hand of the Lord feeds us; God answers all our needs.” What an important message as we emerge from the shadows of a global pandemic. While many of our worries remain—about resurgence, new variants, civil unrest, and how to re-engage with others in a post-COVID “new normal”—being back at The Basilica is a comforting and familiar reminder that God feeds us, comforts us, and responds to our needs every day. We should turn to God and to our parish community to guide us from darker times to our future full of hope.
The Basilica offers about 120 different volunteer ministries and opportunities in a wide variety of areas. Many of them have openings now with both in-person and virtual options. Even more opportunities will open as programs restart this Fall. Many of the current volunteer openings are listed in this printed newsletter or are listed on mary.org. I hope you will consider sharing your time and talent with The Basilica and I am happy to help you find a ministry suited to your interests, skills, and availability.
Like the five barley loaves and two fish from today’s Gospel, when we share faithfully with others, it miraculously and abundantly grows. What we have to share is more than enough.
Angels Unawares - Coffee and Conversation with Johan van Parys, Director of Liturgy and the Sacred Arts