Fr. Bauer's Blog

Many years ago, Sister Peter, the nun who taught me in first grade at St. Stephen’s School in Anoka, MN, learned that I had been ordained a priest. For several years thereafter until her death, I would receive a Christmas card from her every year. Of course, she was a teacher until the end. I say this because each card contained a short story or a prayer with the important words underlined. The short story below was one of my favorites. It reminded me of how blessed I am and have been. I hope it does the same for you.  

 

Everything is Relative

They huddled inside the storm door—two children in old coats.

 

“Got any aluminum cans, Lady?” 

 

I was very busy. I wanted to say no, until I looked at their feet. Thin little shoes, sopped with sleet. “Come in and sit by the fire, and I’ll make you a cup of cocoa.” There was no conversation. Their soggy shoes left marks on the clean hearthstone. 

 

Cocoa and cake would fortify them against the chill outside. After serving them, I went back to the kitchen and started on my household budget, as they sat enjoying the warmth.

 

After a few minutes, the silence in the front room struck through to me. I looked in. The girl held her empty cup in her hands, looking at it. The boy asked in a flat voice: “Lady, are you rich?”

 

“Am I rich:  Mercy no.”  I looked at my shabby slipcovers.

 

The girl put her cup back in its saucer carefully. “Your cups match your saucers.”  Her voice was old with a hunger that was not of the stomach. 

 

They left then, holding their small sack of cans. They hadn’t said thank you. They didn’t have to. They had done more that that. Plain blue pottery cups and saucers—but they matched. I tested the potatoes and stirred the gravy. Potatoes and brown gravy, a roof over my head, my husband with a good steady job—these things matched too.

 

I moved the chairs back from the fire and tided the living room. The muddy prints of small shoes were still on the hearth. I let them be.

 

I want them there in case I forget how rich I am. 

 

 

At the end of the story Sister Peter had appended the following words: “Perhaps we are all a little better off than we think we are. It doesn’t hurt to want something more, but it is just as important to appreciate what we have and recognize how very rich and how very blessed we are.”

 

Thanks for being the Light of Christ and an occasion of God’s grace for me these past fifteen years. For this I have been blessed. Because of it, I am truly rich.      

 

Fr. John M. Bauer

 

I have never had much luck retrieving my luggage when I have to take two different flights to reach my destination. In fact for several years, it was pretty much inevitable that my luggage would not appear on the baggage carousel when I got to my final destination. Even now, when I approach baggage claim after landing, I can anticipate my luggage will be one of the last ones to come down the chute. I have learned to accept I am not one of those fortunate individuals who, when they get to baggage claim, within minutes can be walking out the door pulling their suitcase behind them. I have also learned that when I travel with people, I need to tell them not to get their hopes up for an early exit from the airport after the flight.

On a flight several months ago, after walking from one of the furthest possible terminals to baggage claim, I got my hopes up that because of the long walk, just maybe my baggage would be on the carrousel when I arrived. Unfortunately, this was not the case. In fact, the baggage carousel had not even started moving. I did notice, though, the carousel next to me was moving and on it were several forlorn pieces of luggage going round and round. It immediately occurred to me that they were probably left over from an earlier flight, and no one had yet arrived to claim them. Perhaps their owners had stopped to get a bite to eat or have drink before proceeding to baggage claim. Whatever the reason, they just kept going round and round on the baggage carousel. I had time to notice this because, while my luggage carrousel had finally begun to move and baggage began to emerge, my luggage was once again one of the last pieces to appear.    

This memory came back to me a few weeks ago when the responsory after the scripture reading for evening prayer was: “Claim me once more as your own Lord and have mercy on me.”  As I reflected on these words, it occurred to me that with God, we never have to worry about being “unclaimed” and ending up in the lost and found. God loves us, and even if we don’t acknowledge that love or turn away from it, God never stops loving us. God patiently waits for us to recognize and respond to God’s love. The thing is God never forces God’s love on us. Rather God waits for us to allow ourselves to be “claimed” by God.

On more than one occasion in my life I have felt like the unclaimed luggage on a baggage carousel—going round and round, but in reality, going nowhere. Fortunate indeed is the person who has not experienced those times in their life—times when they have felt lost and alone. At these times if we can come humbly to God in prayer, we will discover God has been there all along, just waiting to claim us once more as God’s own.  

 

 

 

 

Greetings once again from The Basilica of Saint Mary. I hope this message finds you and your family continuing to stay well during these challenging times.

Today, I would like to talk with you about three things. First, I wanted to mention once again that as we re-open and renew our various ministries, services, and programs here at the Basilica, we are in need of many volunteers to help us with this. 

In our weekly newsletter/worship aid we have created a space listing the various areas where we need volunteers. This list is also available on our parish website. If it has been a while since you have volunteered, or if you are looking for a way to get involved, please check out these various volunteer positions. Any time you give volunteer to help at the Basilica will be greatly appreciated. 

Secondly, I wanted to say just a few words about the transition process and change of pastors. While change can be difficult, Fr. Griffith and I have tried to be very intentional in this transition process. Both of us have had the opportunity to meet with the leadership and staff of our new parishes. And these meetings have gone very well. 

I think I can speak for Fr. Griffith in saying that while we both will be very sad to leave our current parish, we are both very excited about our new assignments. As we continue to transition to a new pastor, I want you to know of my ongoing prayers for our community. The Basilica is indeed a very special place—made so by our parishioners and staff. As we move forward, I ask you to please remember to keep Fr. Griffith and me in your prayers. 

Finally, I want to thank you once again for your ongoing financial support of our Basilica community. Your financial support of our community makes it possible for us to continue to offer the many ministries, services, and programs that are at the heart of our Basilica community. Please know your ongoing financial support is both needed and greatly appreciated. 


As always, I would like to close today with a prayer. 

God of Love,
You are with us in every transition and change.
As we enter into this new era with excitement and even some anxiety,
we recall your deep compassion, presence, and abounding love.
We thank you for the gifts, talents and skills with which you have blessed us.
We thank you for the experiences that have brought us to this moment.
We thank you for the work of others that gives breadth and depth to our own work.
Be with us as we move forward, rejoicing with you and supporting one another.
We ask this in your Holy Name

 

At the end of February, I wrote a column for this newsletter, lamenting the fact that so many people have difficulty saying they were sorry. My comments were triggered by Pope Emeritus Benedict’s failure to acknowledge any personal wrongdoing regarding four specific cases of clergy sexual abuse that occurred while he was Archbishop of Munich. I suspect that his advisors told him that for legal reasons, or more likely because he was the retired pope, he should not acknowledge any wrongdoing and ask for forgiveness. I lamented his failure to apologize because I thought an apology would have sent a powerful message to Catholics, and to people everywhere, that sin and failure are a part of each of our lives, and that we all need to seek forgiveness and healing when we have hurt others by our words and actions (or inactions.)

Given the above, you can imagine my surprise when a couple of weeks ago Pope Francis issued a historic apology. Speaking to a delegation of Indigenous people from Canada, he said he was asking for God's forgiveness for the Catholic Church's role in running a system of Canadian boarding schools where Native children were, in many cases, taken from their homes and abused. Specifically, the Pope said: “All these things are contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” For the deplorable conduct of these members of the Catholic Church, I ask for God’s forgiveness, and I want to say to you with all my heart: I am very sorry. And I join my brothers, the Canadian bishops, in asking your pardon.” WOW!!! For a Pope to issue such an apology is nothing short of stunning. More importantly, going forward it hopefully will serve as a model for all the priests and bishops of our Church.

Far too often when the leaders of our church have responded to the issue of abuse they have done so with denials, reluctance, half-heartedly, or with qualifying statements of regret or sadness. Seldom, though, have there by clear cut, unqualified apologies. The sad fact is that until Pope Francis I cannot remember anyone in leadership in our church uttering the simple words. I am sorry. I ask pardon.

In issuing an apology Pope Francis has clearly indicated that the Church and its leaders can no longer pretend that they didn’t/do not make mistakes, and that there is never a need for them to apologize. The fact is, we all make mistakes; the leaders of our church are no exception to this. And because we all make mistakes, we all need to learn to say and mean the words: I am sorry. I ask pardon.

I am very mindful that Jesus, who was like us, in all things but sin, has modeled for us that reconciliation and peace are to be the hallmarks of our lives as Christians. In order to be reconciled and at peace with others, however, we sometimes (and even often) need to say I am sorry; I was wrong. These words might not spring immediately from our lips; and we may not say them well or often, but that does not change the fact that seeking and offering forgiveness are part and parcel of our lives as followers of Jesus. Inspired by the recent example of Pope Francis, and empowered by God’s grace, may we never tire of or be afraid to say: I am sorry. I was wrong.

 

 

Jesus is Present

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.

 

 

 

Greetings once again from The Basilica of Saint Mary. I hope this message finds you and your family continuing to stay well during these challenging times.

Today, I would like to talk with you about three things. First, I want to invite you to join us for our liturgies during the Triduum and Easter. The schedule of liturgies for these days is available on our website.

The celebrations of Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter help us to remember anew that Jesus Christ suffered and died for us and rose, that we might have life eternal. This is the essence of our faith, and the cause for our hope. I hope you will be able to join us for these celebrations. 

As always, though, if you are not able, or don’t feel comfortable joining us in-person for any of our liturgies, we invite you join them via live-stream. A schedule of our livestreamed liturgies is available on our website. Joining us at Easter is a wonderful way for us as a people of faith to celebrate and thank God for the many ways God has blessed us in our lives. 

The second thing I wanted to mention is that as we re-open and renew our various ministries, services and programs here at The Basilica, we are in need of volunteers to help us with this. In our weekly newsletter/worship aid we have created a space listing the various areas where we need volunteers. This list is also available on our parish website.

If it has been a while since you have volunteered, or if you are looking for a way to get involved, please check out these various volunteer positions. 

Third, I want to thank those of you who continue to support The Basilica financially. Please know your financial support is greatly appreciated. Parishes rely on their collections at Christmas and Easter to help them balance their budget. The Basilica is no exception to this. Given this, I would ask you to be generous to The Basilica at Easter. Please know your generosity is greatly appreciated. 

Your financial support makes it possible for to continue to offer the many ministries, services and programs that are at the heart of our Basilica community. 

In closing, as we continue to transition to a new pastor, I want to let you know of my ongoing prayers for our community. The Basilica is indeed a very special place—made so by our parishioners and staff. 

 

As always, I would like to close today with a prayer. 

God of Love and Compassion, You are always with us. 
As we enter into this time of transition and change we do so with excitement and perhaps some anxiety.

Help us to know of your presence and be open to your grace in this time.

Help us to recall your deep compassion, your presence, and your abiding love.

We thank you for the gifts, talents and skills with which you have blessed us.

We thank you for the experiences that have brought us to this moment.

We thank you for the work of others that gives breadth and depth to our own work.

Be with us as we move forward, rejoicing with you and supporting one another.

We ask this in your Holy Name.
Amen. 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Join us this Lenten season 

A message from Fr. John Bauer, Pastor

 

Greetings once again from The Basilica of Saint Mary. I hope this message finds you and your family continuing to stay well during these challenging times. 

As I have mentioned previously, I will be retiring from The Basilica at the end of June, and on July 1 will become pastor of the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes. While I will be very sad to leave The Basilica, I am very excited and very grateful that Fr. Dan Griffith will be following me as Pastor. Dan is a good person, a good priest, and a good pastor. 

He has already met with some of the staff as well as our parish trustees and will continue to meet with staff and attend meetings as he is able in the weeks ahead. The Basilica is blessed that Fr. Griffith will be the next pastor. 

Today I would also like to invite you to join us in person or via livestream for Mass, Stations of the Cross, and Vespers during this season of Lent. Our schedule of services is available on our website. We also invite you to participate in a small faith sharing or bible study group during the season of Lent. You can learn more about these groups on our parish website. 

As I have mentioned before, we have taken several steps to promote the safety and wellbeing of those who will be attending any services or activities at The Basilica. While the city of Minneapolis has discontinued its facemask requirement, we still encourage those who will be coming to The Basilica to wear a face mask. We will do this until the CDC changes its guidelines. Wearing a mask is a concrete way to show your care and concern for your fellow Christians. 

Today I also want to thank those of you who continue to support The Basilica financially. Please know your financial support is greatly appreciated. Your financial support makes it possible for to continue to offer the many ministries, services and programs that are at the heart of our Basilica community. Certainly, the last couple of years have been very difficult for all of us. Yet, despite the difficulties and the stress, there have also been moments of great grace, as God’s love has broken through and blessed us. 

Joining us during the season of Lent and Easter is a wonderful way for us to gather as a people of faith to celebrate and thank God for the many ways God has blessed us in our lives. And, as always, if you are not able, or don’t feel comfortable joining us in-person for any of our liturgies, we invite you join them via livestream. A schedule of our livestreamed liturgies is available on our website.

Finally, I want to let you know of my ongoing prayers for our community. The Basilica is indeed a very special place—made so by our parishioners and staff. 

As always, I would like to close today with a prayer. 

 

Dear God – 
You have made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: 
Look with compassion on the whole human family; 
take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; 
break down the walls that separate us; 
unite us in bonds of love; 
and work through our struggles and confusion to accomplish your purposes; 
so that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; 
we ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
Amen.

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Please Forgive Me

I am sorry. I was wrong. I made a mistake. Please accept my apology. Please forgive me.

I don’t know why it is so hard for so many of us to say these words. Perhaps it is our pride, or perhaps we worry that we will look weak, or will be perceived as being vulnerable. Whatever the reason, I’ve noticed that lots of us have trouble saying: I’m sorry. I was wrong. I made a mistake. Please accept my apology. Please forgive me.

Sometimes people offer a pseudo apology, for example, by saying “I’m sorry that happened.” or “If I offended you, I’m sorry.” In reality, though, these are just pretend apologies. They lack sincerity and have no real meaning. A real and genuine apology comes with no strings attached. It is an admission that we have done something wrong or something that hurt someone, and we ask for their forgiveness.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been reflecting on our seeming inability to apologize. My reflections started when retired Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI issued a statement on February 8 after a report, requested by the Munich Archdiocese, concluded that during his tenure as Archbishop of Munich there were four specific cases in regard to clergy abusers that he could be accused of mishandling. In his statement, while retired Pope Benedict acknowledged past failings of the Catholic Church in confronting clergy sexual abuse under his watch, he stopped short of a direct, personal apology. He did ask for forgiveness for any "grievous faults" in the Church’s handling of clergy sex abuse cases. And he did express his feelings of great shame and sorrow for the abuse of minors and requested forgiveness from all victims of sexual abuse, BUT he did not acknowledge any personal or specific wrongdoing. In other words, he did not say: I am sorry. I was wrong. I made a mistake. Please accept my apology. Please forgive me.

Now, I suspect that his advisors told him that for legal reasons, or more likely because he was the retired Pope, he should not acknowledge any wrongdoing and ask for forgiveness. And yet, at the same time, I think that it would have sent a powerful message to Catholics and to people everywhere, if he had simply said: I am sorry. I was wrong. I made a mistake. Please accept my apology. Please forgive me. These simple words would have sent a clear and unmistakable message that sin and failure are a part of each of our lives, and that we all need to seek forgiveness and healing when we have hurt others by our words and actions (or inactions).

Words are necessary and important, but they are heard best when they are accompanied by the witness of lives. May God grant to all of us—and especially the leaders of our Church—the ability to say more often and more sincerely: I am sorry. I was wrong. I made a mistake. Please accept my apology. Please forgive me.

 

 

January 22nd marked the 49th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade. Legalized as a private act, abortion remains a very public and divisive issue. I understand that as a celibate male, my concerns and questions in regard to abortion can be easily dismissed by those who advocate abortion. I hope, though, that those who espouse a pro-abortion position would be open to dialoguing about some of the issues surrounding abortion. Below are five for your consideration.  

1. In 1973 the Supreme Court ruled a woman’s choice to have an abortion outweighed the states concern for prenatal life-up until the point of viability, which in 1973 was deemed 28 weeks. Since that time, however, there have been significant advances in medical science.  Children have been born as young as 21 weeks of pregnancy. I believe we can’t ignore this fact. Why are we using outdated medical information regarding viability? This doesn’t make sense to me, and we need to talk about it. 

2. We need to continue to look for ways we can support women and men who are experiencing a problematic pregnancy and/or who are concerned about having the necessary resources to raise a child. As people who are pro-life, it is not enough for us simply to be opposed to abortion. We also need to be concerned about the issues of health care and nutrition for infants. We need to be concerned about paid parental leave, childhood education and food security. And we need to be concerned about safe housing for children and families. We need to talk with those who support the choice of abortion about how we, as individuals and as a society, can protect and enhance life not just in the womb, but after birth as well. 

3.  Many times when people who are pro-abortion talk about this issue, they use words like “safe” “legal” and “rare.” The use of the word “rare” has always concerned me. It suggests one of two things. Either people are using that word as a cynical concession to those who are opposed to abortion, or deep down they recognize that there is something improper and/or wrong about the procedure. In the case of the former, people who are pro-abortion need to fess up and acknowledge that they use the word “rare” as a verbal contrivance and not in any meaningful way. In the latter case, when they use the word “rare” they must realize that at root there is something wrong with the practice of abortion. In either case, we need to talk about it. 

4.  Likewise, polls continually indicate that people believe too many abortions are occurring. We need to talk with each other about how we can reduce the number of abortions. A woman should never feel that she must choose between her well-being and her unborn child’s life. We need to provide concrete, specific and practical services and programs to help women and men in problematic pregnancies. While our Church, and particularly our Archdiocese, have done much in this area, imagine how much more could be done if we worked with those who advocate a pro-abortion position. Let’s talk about this.

5.  We need to tone down the rhetoric and eliminate the inflammatory language that increasingly has been part of the discussion of the issue of abortion. I think those of us in the pro-life camp need to take the lead in doing this. It is too easy for people to dismiss our position on the basis of our often volatile language. We need to invite people into dialogue, to make our case and demonstrate the moral rightness of our position. In this regard, I believe we are far more apt to convince people than we are to coerce them. Using language that is simple, direct, non-inflammatory, and open to dialogue is a step in this direction.

The above are my suggestions as to how, on the 49th anniversary of Roe v Wade, we might proceed. I believe that if we are ever to come to a resolution in regard to the issue of abortion, this can only occur when we change the way, the manner, and the form in which we talk about this issue and seek new ways and means to engage each other in dialogue. As people committed to life, I think we need to be in the forefront of this activity. I believe that ultimately it is only in this way that we can help others come to understand the value, dignity and worth of every human life.

 

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