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For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/042819.cfm

 

Today we celebrate the Second Sunday of Easter, which is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday.  Although our first and second readings for this Sunday follow our three year cycle of readings, the Gospel for this Sunday is always Jn. 20: 19-31.   It is the story of Thomas. 

 

I have always felt a great deal of sympathy for poor Thomas.   He didn’t believe the other disciples when they told him that Jesus had been raised from the dead and had appeared to them.  As a result, forever after he was known as “doubting Thomas.”   Now I don’t know that I can completely restore Thomas’ credibility, but I’d like to offer two thoughts in his defense.   First, it seems to me that the other disciples couldn’t have been very effective witnesses if they couldn’t convince Thomas that they had encountered the risen Lord.  Certainly the idea of someone rising from the dead was an unprecedented phenomenon, but the disciples couldn’t have been very persuasive if they couldn’t convince Thomas --- a man who had been in their company for three years --- that Jesus had been raised from the dead.   Second, I don’t know that doubt is such a bad thing.   Doubt and faith are two sides of the same coin.   You can’t have doubt if you don’t have (at least some) faith.   In fact, out of Thomas’ doubt came the first statement of Easter faith:  “My Lord and my God.” 

 

Our first reading today is taken from the Acts of the Apostles.  It recounts the beginnings of the apostles’ ministry, which was a continuation of Jesus’ mission and ministry.  In this reading we are told “Yet more than ever, believers in the Lord, great numbers of men and women were added to them.” 

 

Our second reading today is taken from the Book of Revelation.   We will be reading from this book for the next five weeks.  It is important to remember that the Book of Revelation is “apocalyptic” literature.  It is not meant to be taken literally.  Rather, apocalyptic literature is filled with vivid imagery and symbolic language.   It was written during a time of trial or distress and it was meant to encourage and offer hope in the face of trials and suffering.  It also reminded people to remain firm in their faith.  

 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

 

1.   Do you think doubt is a bad thing?

2.   Have you ever tried to convince someone of something only to have them doubt you?  Did they ever come to believe you? 

3.  If you encountered someone who read the Book of Revelation literally, what would you say to them?  

A few weeks ago Johan van Parys, our Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts, wrote an excellent column for this space articulating why he is staying in the Catholic Church. His words prompted me to reflect on why I to stay in our Church, especially in light of the fact that many people have left or are at least taking a break from our church.

In most cases the reason people have left, or are taking a break from our Church, has to do with the handling of the clergy sexual abuse crisis by the leaders of our Church. Over the past many years, hundreds, if not thousands, of priests have engaged in the sexual abuse of children or vulnerable adults. Others have sexually exploited or harassed adults. Worse, many bishops and others in leadership positions covered up this behavior or turned a blind eye to it. Worse still, it has come to light that some bishops have also engaged in this kind of behavior. Worst of all, though, is that now that the actions of these bishops have come to light, the leadership of our Church still hasn’t developed a comprehensive plan to respond to the sexually inappropriate behavior of their fellow bishops. 

Until and unless the leaders of our Church acknowledge their failures, and put forth a concrete, specific plan for their future accountability, our Church will continue to be embroiled in the sexual abuse crisis, and people will continue to leave our Church in frustration and anger. People have been deeply wounded by individuals they have trusted. In many cases, those in positions of authority allowed this to happen. These same leaders must now commit themselves publicly to openness, transparency, and honesty. This is called accountability. People should not only expect it; they should demand it. 

Despite the failures of many in leadership positions in our Church, however, and despite the fact that many people have left our Church, I chose to remain. While the reasons I stay are many and varied, there are two primary reasons. 

I stay in the Church because I need the Eucharist. As Catholics we believe that in the Eucharist we celebrate and share, that Jesus Christ is really and truly present—not present just in memory, not present just symbolically, and not present just spiritually, but really and truly present. We offer no proof for this. There is no logical or rational explanation for it. The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is a matter of faith. And it is the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist that I hunger for and that sustains and nourishes me in my life. As I tell the children at First Eucharist every year: I know that I am not the best person in the world. I am a sinner. But I would be far worse without the Eucharist. The Eucharist makes me be a better person than I would otherwise be. I cannot do without it, and I cannot accept a substitute for it. 

The second reason I stay in the Church is that I need a community of faith that both supports and challenges me. I believe we do this especially well at The Basilica. Here at The Basilica we welcome all those who come through our doors. Not only do we strive to see the face of Christ in one another, but we also strive to be the face of Christ for each other. While some would seek to limit the embrace of our Church, I believe that the embrace of our Church can be nothing less than the embrace of God’s love. 

In his message at the beginning of Lent a few years ago Pope Francis wrote: “Dear brothers and sisters, how greatly I desire that all those places where the Church is present, especially our parishes and our communities may become islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference.” I believe these words describe well what the church, as a community of faith, is all about. These words are an important and necessary challenge to parishes everywhere. They remind us that parishes can never be self-referential or concerned only with their own self interest. The Church needs to be a community of faith that supports and challenges its members. The Church needs to be a community of faith where people are welcomed and accepted. The Catholic Church—and particularly The Basilica—does this better than any church I know. I need this in my life. 

And so because I need the Eucharist and because I need a community that supports and challenges me, I stay in the Catholic Church. 

In this space several months ago I quoted a line from the late comedian Phyllis Diller, who famously said: “Don’t go to bed angry…Stay up and fight.” I believe this is good advice for Catholics today. And so, on this Easter Sunday, I say to all those who may read this: Don’t leave our Church angry. Stay and fight for a Church that is open, honest, and transparent. Stay and fight for leadership that is accountable and responsible. Stay and fight so that you can be the Church that you want the Church to be. Stay—and celebrate the Eucharist and be a part of a community that supports and challenges all of us. 

The Basilica of Saint Mary welcomes all to celebrate Holy Week and Easter, April 18 through April 21, 2019. The vibrant beauty and tradition at The Basilica will draw over 10,000 people for these sacred celebrations.

The most important days of Holy week, known as the Sacred Triduum, begin with Holy Thursday on April 18, and continue with Good Friday, April 19, Holy Saturday, April 20, and Easter Sunday, April 21.

“The Basilica is honored to welcome parishioners and visitors to celebrate the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ,” said Dr. Johan van Parys, director of liturgy and sacred arts at The Basilica.

 

Reveiw full schedule www.mary.org/holyweek

 

 

The Basilica of Saint Mary stands in prayer and support with the Notre Dame Cathedral community and the city of Paris. We pray for the safety of the first responders working to manage the fire.

During this Holy week, Catholics around the world are saddened by the destruction of the iconic cathedral. The loss of precious relics, irreplaceable art, striking architecture, rich history and culture, are simply devastating. 

We invite our community to join us in prayer and to share a message to the people of Paris. A book of messages will be placed on the Altar of the Sacred Heart in The Basilica. This book will be sent to the Archbishop of Paris.

Tuesday, April 16 - Noon Mass
Saint Joseph Chapel, Basilica Ground Level 
Mass followed by a rosary to Our Lady of Paris

 

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/042119.cfm 

The readings listed above are those that will be used on Easter Sunday morning at the Basilica.  There are different readings for the Mass of the Easter Vigil on Saturday night, and a different Gospel for Easter Sunday afternoon.   

The Gospel for Easter Sunday is John’s account of Mary of Magdala’s finding of the empty tomb.  We are told that she “came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.  So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved and told them, ‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him.”   Peter and John then both ran to the tomb.  John arrived first, but perhaps out of deference to Peter, did not go in.  He merely “bent down and saw the burial cloths there.”   When Peter arrived he went into the tomb and “saw the burial clothes there.” John also went in and we are told that “he saw and believed.”   We don’t know exactly John what believed because the last line of the Gospel is enigmatic: “For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”   It is easy for us from our vantage point 20 centuries later to wonder why Peter and (perhaps) John didn’t immediately understand the resurrection.  We need to remember, though, that Jesus’ resurrection was entirely new, clearly extraordinary, certainly beyond understanding, and something that has never occurred since.   

In our second reading today, St. Paul urges us to “Think of what is above, not of what is on the earth.”  

Our first reading today is taken from the Acts of the Apostles.  It is part of a speech by Peter to the Gentiles.  In a few brief words Peter summarizes Jesus’ ministry and then reminds people that “This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. What stands out for you from the various Services of Holy Week?
  2. Is there a sentence from the Easter Gospel that has special meaning for you? 
  3. Peter speaks of being a witness to the risen Lord.  How do you give witness to the risen Lord Jesus in your life?  

     

As we celebrate the entry of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, we are given an incredible opportunity over the next seven days, the holiest week of our liturgical year—an opportunity to live our faith through Jesus and to reflect on what Jesus’ journey means to us. 

We immerse ourselves into the Passion of our Lord. Hearing the Passion each year on Palm Sunday reminds us of Jesus’ tremendous love for us. We wave palms on this day in remembrance of Jesus riding into Jerusalem to embrace whatever was to come. We leave today’s Mass with these palms that we will keep with us in our homes over the next year as a reminder of this sacred celebration and what it means to us as Catholics.

As we journey through Holy Week, we begin the Triduum on Holy Thursday. On this night we celebrate the Lord’s Supper and are invited to wash one another’s feet. The act of washing one another’s feet is a reminder that to follow in Christ’s footsteps means to serve one another. It is in serving one another that we further immerse ourselves into the Paschal Mystery of our faith.

On Good Friday, we are invited to commemorate the suffering of Jesus, followed by his crucifixion. The Basilica celebrates three services on Good Friday—Stations of the Cross at noon, a Communion Service and celebration of the Lord’s Passion in the afternoon, followed by the Tenebrae service in the evening. These services are filled with many multi-sensory symbols that bring the story of Jesus’s passion and death to the forefront in the history of our faith.

Holy Saturday marks the Easter Vigil which is the greatest feast in our Church. We celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection. This Mass begins with the Easter fire outside the church, around which all are invited to gather and celebrate the new Easter Light. As the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) Elect and Candidates receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist as a part of the Easter Vigil, we remember our own beginnings in the faith and celebrate that new life has come again into our community.

On Easter Sunday, we celebrate! We celebrate that Jesus has risen from the dead. We celebrate our salvation, our joy and our faith. We celebrate with friends and family. We celebrate all that is good in our world. We celebrate the joy in our own lives. And our celebrations last during the entire Easter season.

This Holy Week, may you participate fully and experience all that is Holy Week in our Catholic faith. May our faith deepen and may we be filled with joy as we celebrate together our risen Christ this Easter. 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
 
 
This weekend we celebrate Palm Sunday.  In addition to the usual three readings, we also have a Gospel reading that is used at the beginning of Mass.  This reading records Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem just prior to his passion.  This Gospel is read at the beginning of Mass and introduces the procession with palms. 
 
Each year on Palm Sunday we read one of the accounts of Jesus’ passion and death on the cross.  This year we read from the Gospel according to Luke.  While each of the four evangelists tells the story of the passion and death of Jesus, they each approach it from their own unique perspective.  In this regard, Luke is not as sparse in detail as Mark.  At the same time, in Luke’s account of the passion, Jesus is not as regal or as “in charge” as he is in John’s account.   From Luke’s perspective, Jesus willingly accepts his suffering and death as the fulfillment of God’s plan.   
 
While we are all familiar with the story of Jesus’ passion, reading (or hearing) it in its entirety can help us appreciate anew--and hopefully at a deeper level--the suffering Jesus’ endured for our sake.  
 
The first and second readings for Palm Sunday remain the same every year.   The first reading is taken from that part of Isaiah known as the “songs of the suffering servant.”   From the earliest days of the Church, Christians have seen these songs as referring to Christ, the suffering servant par excellence.  
 
The second reading for Palm Sunday is taken from Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  It is in the form of a hymn and it speaks of Jesus’ journey from heaven to earth and back to heaven.  Its simple eloquence reminds us that Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave” for us.   And because of this, “every knee shall bend in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord………..”  
 
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
  1. As you read the passion, what moment stands out for you?
  2. The “cross” has been a Christian symbol for centuries.  Yet, in recent years especially, it has become more decoration/ornamentation than a symbol of one’s faith.  Why do you think this is?
  3. In the second reading, Paul speaks of Jesus’ emptying himself for our sake.  Have you ever emptied yourself for another?    

     

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/040719-yearc.cfm 

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:

  1. The woman in this weekend’s Gospel experienced the grace filled mercy of God.  When have you experienced this in your life?
  2. When have you failed to show mercy to another and instead have stood in judgment of them?
  3. When and how have you found God doing “something new” in your life?  
     

Bulletin April/May 2019

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

 

Download full bulletin

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.

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