Fr. Bauer's Blog

It has always been a mystery to me why some priests and bishops seem to find it necessary to make public statements or make public appearances that align themselves with—or worse—seem to endorse a particular political party or a specific candidate. As leaders in the church our role is to advocate for Catholic values and principles, not to endorse particular parties or candidates. Unfortunately, when you listen to some clerics, it almost seems as if the Catholic Church is a wholly owned subsidiary of one major political party or the other.   
 
As a church we articulate and teach moral rights and principles. We then apply these moral principles to specific issues and situations. It is not an exact science, but it does help people to discern, and inform their consciences as they decide which candidate(s) to support. Unfortunately, because we apply our moral teachings to a wide array of issues, Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. How do we make these difficult choices? 
 
In their 2007 statement: “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”, the bishops of the United States put it this way:  “A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism if the voters intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil.  At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.” (Faithful Citizenship #34)
 
In a later version of Faithful Citizenship, the bishops highlight eleven acts that they say are intrinsically immoral: (1) abortion, (2) euthanasia, (3) human cloning, (4) embryonic stem cell research, (5) genocide, (6) torture, (7) wartime targeting of non-combatants, (8) racism, (9) treating workers as mere ends (e,g. subjecting them to subhuman living conditions), (10) treating the poor as disposable, and (11) same-sex marriage. Numerous voters’ guides put out by various Catholic groups tend to emphasize certain priorities from this list. In point of fact, though, “All the life issues are connected, for erosion of respect for the life of any individual or group in society necessarily diminishes respect for all life. The moral imperative to respond to the needs of our neighbor – basic needs such as food, shelter, health care, education, and meaningful work – is universally binding on our consciences and may be legitimately fulfilled by a variety of means.” (Faithful Citizenship #25)
 
Clearly neither of the major political parties or candidates supports all the moral positions of the Catholic Church in regard to a consistent ethic of life. There is no “perfect fit” for Catholics in regard to a political party or candidate. “There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position, even on policies promoting an intrinsically evil act, may reasonably decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons.” (Faithful Citizenship #35) 
 
So where does this leave us? Well I would suggest four things.  
 
First, everyone, and perhaps most especially Catholics in leadership positions, needs to tone down their rhetoric and turn up their Christian charity. If we are to convince people of the rightness of our beliefs, increasing the volume and invective of our words is not the answer. If our words and actions don’t come from a place of love and respect, it will soon be obvious that treating people, particularly those with whom we disagree, with dignity, decency and respect is not an essential part of our Christian beliefs. I think Jesus would weep at this.  
 
Second, everyone, and perhaps most especially Catholics in leadership positions, need to stop judging others.  In this regard, in a recent homily Cardinal Blasé Cupich of Chicago said: “There should never be a time or a moment in which we judge others and their faith journey and say that a person is not Christian enough or Catholic enough.” Jesus was clear about not judging others. I think we need to take his words seriously.  
 
Third, Catholics need to form their consciences. In regard to conscience The Second Vatican Council was clear: “Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, tells him inwardly at the right moment: do this, shun that.  For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. His dignity lies in observing this law, and by it he will be judged.”  (Pastoral Constitution on The Church in the Modern World #16) 
 
Our conscience, however, is more than just what one thinks or feels at a particular moment.  Our conscience must be formed.  In 2017, Pope Francis speaking in a video message to a conference organized by Italian bishops on his 2016 document on family life, “Amoris Laetitia” said “The contemporary world risks confusing the primacy of conscience, which must always be respected, with the exclusive autonomy of an individual with respect to his or her relations,” Pope Francis also said, though: “priests must inform Catholic consciences but not replace them.” 
 
How does one form a conscience? We do it through prayerful discernment, dialogue with others, study of our church’s teachings, spending time in reflection, and by being open to God’s grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 
 
Fourth, and most importantly, everyone—and perhaps most especially Catholics in leadership positions—needs to pray—and pray long and hard.  I am fond of saying that in my own life I have found that prayer changes things, and the thing that it changes the most is me.  When we pray and are open to God’s grace, we can’t help but be kinder, more charitable, more accepting, more respectful, and especially more loving.  
 
When we inform our consciences, pray, and ask for the guidance of God’s Spirit—and if we are open to that Spirit—I believe we will make wise and good choices when we go to the polls. 
 
 
Sacred Heart of Jesus stained glass window

Our Sins Have Been Forgiven

“It shouldn't be that easy.”  Those are the very words an individual spoke several years just after I prayed the words of absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. “It shouldn't be that easy.”

On the one hand this person was right, of course. From our human perspective, the forgiveness of our sins shouldn't be that easy. We are used to working hard, paying our way, earning our keep. Given this, it only makes sense that we should “do” something to merit the forgiveness of our sins. As humans, we take it for granted that you don't get something for nothing. And isn’t this as it should be? After all, wasn't it St. Paul who said that “those who don't work shouldn't eat?” (2 Thessalonians chapter 3:10)  Shouldn't we have to do something in order for God to forgive our sins?

The answer, of course, is yes. But in order to understand what we have to do, we need to look at things from God's perspective, not from our human perspective. From God's perspective, the forgiveness of our sins is dependent on nothing more—but also nothing less—than our sorrow for our sins. If we are truly sorry for our sins, if it is our will and desire that we try to sin no more, then that is all God asks of us. In return, God offers us forgiveness and the grace we need to rise from our sins to try again to live as God's sons and daughters.

Does this mean that once our sins have been forgiven God expects us never to sin again. Of course it doesn’t.  God made us and God knows us—personally and intimately. As a result, God also knows that despite our best efforts we will continue to sin and fail. But—and this is the important part—there is no sin too great as to be beyond the power of God's grace. In fact the only barrier to the forgiveness of our sins is the hardness of our hearts, and/or our inability to accept the forgiveness that is offered to us.   

When we come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and openly, honestly, and  trustingly confess our sins, our sins are really and truly forgiven. It shouldn't be that easy—but because of Jesus Christ, it is.  

 

Pastoring during a pandemic is a unique, one of kind, never to be forgotten experience. I’m sure that all of us could substitute our own word for “pastoring” and this statement would ring true for all of us. We are in uncharted waters and trying to find our way through them without GPS or even a compass to guide us. Certainly there was nothing in my seminary experience or in my years of ministry that I can look to or lean on for guidance. And yet, somehow we are finding our way through it—often in fits and starts—occasionally stumbling—but, at least in my case, always with a clear sense that I am not alone. I feel the support of family, friends, colleagues, and parishioners. Also, and as importantly, I also have a clear sense that God is with me—that God is with all of us—during this time. 

Now, I would like to tell you that the sense that God is with us during this time is always evident and enduring. Truth be told, however, there are times when I struggle to find and/or recognize God’s presence. Usually these times don’t last long, but they are real. Perhaps it is just me, but it is hard to look at the face of pain and suffering and death, and not wonder if and where God is in the midst of it. When I take these times with me to prayer, though, most often I find and feel God’s peaceful presence. And I realize anew that God is with us and for us, and has not and will not leave us alone. 

Certainly there are people who would argue that the current pandemic is proof positive that God either can’t or won’t do something to “fix” it and make it better. I suspect there is little that I can say to these people that would change their mind. For myself, though, there are many things that are signs of God’s presence and grace, and I can’t ignore them. An ongoing challenge, though, is that I need to look through the “eyes of faith” in order to recognize these signs. 

Now there is a need for clarity here. Seeing things through the eyes of faith does not mean wearing rose colored glasses and approaching things with a certain naiveté. Rather faith is the lens that helps all of us to see God’s hand at work in our lives and in our world, perhaps especially when that presence is not immediately obvious. As we read in Hebrews 11:1 “Faith is confident assurance of what we hope for; conviction about things we do not see.” Seeing with the eyes of faith, then, is nothing more, but certainly nothing less than believing that the God who loved us and our world into existence, will always hold us in love, and ultimately will bring us home to live with God forever. 

Faith isn’t always an easy proposition, but I have never found anything to take its place. From my perspective it’s the thing that helps me to make sense of this life and to believe that there is something more and better that awaits us. 

 

Peace sign web banner

A Powerful Reflection

A few weeks ago Fr. Tim Backous, OSB, who helped out on weekends at The Basilica several years ago, sent me a copy of a talk on racism that Abbot John Klassen gave at a conference of the monks of St. John’s Abby. I have been trying to write something on this topic for a while now with little success. I was so impressed with Abbot John’s talk, though, that I asked his permission to share a portion of it via this newsletter. He willingly gave permission, but with the caveat that I be clear that one of the sources for his talk was Fr. Bryan Massingale. I told him I would be pleased to do that. Below then is a portion of the talk Abbot John gave to the monks of St. John’s Abby on July 7, 2020. While this talk was given specifically to the monks, I believe it has meaning for all of us. 

Father Bryan Massingale, a distinguished black faculty member at Fordham University, has written a powerful reflection on the challenge that faces the white community at this time. He makes some concrete suggestions for moving forward which serves as a template for the following reflections. 

First, we need to understand the difference between being uncomfortable and being threatened. There is no way to tell the truth about race in this country without white people becoming uncomfortable. Because the plain truth is that if it were up to people of color, racism would have been resolved, over and done, a long time ago. The only reason for racism's persistence is that white people continue to benefit from it, and we benefit from it, whether we know it or not. This truth makes my head and heart hurt. 

What to do next? At first, nothing. Sit in the discomfort this hard truth brings. It needs to be agonizing. Let it move me to tears, to anger, to guilt, to frustration, to embarrassment. For what? For my ignorance. For my lack of understanding of the underlying issues that black and Latino people face every day. On any given day, at any given hour, their right to be on this good earth can be challenged. Because only when a critical mass of white people are outraged, grieved and pained over the status quo — only when white people become upset enough to declare, "This cannot and will not be!" — only then will real change begin to become a possibility. 

Second, we need to admit our ignorance and do something about it. We need to understand that there is a lot about our history and about life that we're going to have to unlearn. And learn over. We have all been taught an incomplete version of America that masks our terrible racial history. As white Americans we do not have an accurate sense of the long tail of damage that slavery did to our nation. The impact of the Jim Crow laws that neutralized black efforts to become active citizens in our democracy. We probably know very little of the terror of lynching. For a 30-year period from 1885-1915, on average every third day a black person was brutally and savagely and publicly murdered by white mobs. At present, black and brown people experience law enforcement as the latest version of this reign of terror. 

Third, are there creative things we can do as a community that allow for learning on a deep existential level? Are there ways to invite our whole campus into this powerful moment and see it as a graced time for conversion toward Gospel justice and the inclusiveness of the reign of God? As a community we are profoundly related to alums and friends, so many of whom have been deeply moved by the events of the past five weeks. They look to us not so much for answers as for moral leadership, for the affirmation that our country needs to deliver on its promise of freedom to all of its citizens and to those who come to our doors. 

Fourth, we need to be aware of the expression of racist attitudes in members of our community. When we encounter these expressions, we may not be silent. If there was ever a time and a place for fraternal correction, this is surely it. Sometimes we may be too patient, too tolerant and dismiss a comment as insensitive or ignorant when in fact, it is just racist, and is extremely harmful in a community where we are working every day to be inclusive. 

Finally, we need to pray the psalms in fresh and imaginative way. The psalms are filled with lament, with the voices of men and women who are being crushed every day, people who have nowhere to turn. True, racism is a political issue and a social divide. But at its deepest level, racism is a sickness of the soul. It is a profound warping of the human spirit that enables human beings to create communities of callous indifference toward their darker sisters and brothers. As historian Paul Wachtel succinctly declares in his book Race in the Mind of America, The real meaning of race comes down largely to this: Is this someone I should care about?" Our Catholic and Benedictine monastic tradition have powerful responses to these questions and strong spiritual resources to support reflection and action. They also have the ethical foundation on which to stand. Let there be no question: this is an urgent time, a decisive moment, and we may not let it slip away.” 

 

With the Coronavirus wreaking havoc in our lives and our world, and causing untold pain and suffering, I was reminded of an essay a friend of mine sent me a few months ago entitled: “The Purpose of Suffering.” Now since I find “suffering” to be among the great mysteries of faith, I was interested in what the author had to say. Frankly and bluntly, I found most of what the author wrote to be pious pablum, but I was stunned when I came upon the sentence: “You can rest assured that God has some greater purpose in mind for you, and that His plan can only be accomplished in the school of affliction and suffering.” This is simply and patently absurd. 

Now certainly good can come out of suffering. To suggest, however, that God causes suffering to create some good is simply wrong. We don’t know why suffering exists. It is a mystery of faith why some good and holy people experience pain and suffering in their lives. We can’t explain why innocent people sometimes suffer, or why people who do bad things sometimes don’t experience the consequences of their actions and at times even seem to live lives of ease and comfort. Given this, we need to be honest and admit that we just don’t know the reason suffering exists. 

What we do know, though, is important. In the midst of pain and suffering we know and believe that God is with us and that God is offering us God’s good grace. Grace is who God is, and grace can be found, perhaps most especially, in the depths of pain and suffering. If we pray and are open to God, we can discover grace arising from the worst kind of pain, and from the great depths of terrible suffering. God doesn't cause suffering and pain, but God is there with us in the midst of suffering and pain. 

In his book, Night, Eli Weisel told the story of witnessing the hanging of a young Dutch boy for collaborating with the Nazis. For more than an hour the child in the noose stayed there struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony. Weisel said; “And we had to look him full in the face. He was still alive when I passed in front of him. His tongue was red, his eyes not yet glazed. Behind me I heard a man asking ‘Where is God now?’ And I heard a voice within me answer him: ‘Where is He? Here He is—He is hanging here on this gallows….”

I think Weisel’s insight is important. While God does not cause and does not prevent our suffering, God is with us and for us in all of our pain and suffering. We need to remember this—most especially at this time—on this Easter day. Jesus’ resurrection reminds us that pain, suffering, trials, and even death, will not have the final word, God will. And God’s word is life—life in abundance. God abides with us always, wanting to share God’s life with us. And in our prayer—if we are open to it—we will find God gently enfolding us in God’s love and strengthening us with God’s grace. 

Certainly suffering can reveal to us a greater purpose or provide a deeper insight. To suggest, though, that God causes suffering so that an individual can come to understand some greater purpose demeans God and suggests that God is capricious, and at times down right mean. I can’t believe in this kind of God. If people want to continue to suggest that God causes suffering for some noble purpose, I’d suggest that God sue for defamation of character. 

 

Basilica Community,

 

 

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.

We miss you at The Basilica. However, we do livestream our daily Mass at Noon and Sundays at 9:30am. We invite you to join us. These and other services are also recorded and they are available on our website

I would like to share three updates with you today:

1. We are putting together a summer “Church at Home” activities kit that we hope to email to all parishioners in May. Many people let us know they appreciated the “Holy Week at Home” kit that we sent out a few weeks ago. Our new kit will be similar and offer ideas for “doing” Church at home.

2. I also wanted to let you know that we are beginning to work on plans for a gradual re-opening of The Basilica. We will follow all State health and safety regulations, as well as directives from our Archdiocese. I wanted to mention it  to let you know we are beginning to think about it. No doubt, Church will be very different when we are able to gather again, but we need to begin to think now, about how we can “do” Church in the coming months in ways that will keep people safe and secure.

3. Wednesday we had our second Zoom Coffee and Conversation gathering. Wendy Caduff, our Director of Caring Ministries, and I talked about how we can care for each other and ourselves virtually. Please join us at 9:00am next Wednesday for our next Coffee and Conversation with The Basilica musicians. A link to the conversation can be found on our website.

Finally, thank you for your on-going financial support of The Basilica. Your support enables us to continue our many ministries, programs, and services.

However, if you find yourself needing financial support, we invite you to connect with our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry

 


O Mother of Divine Love and Mercy, 

you shine continuously on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope. 

In the certain hope that you will intercede, 

so that, as you did at Cana of Galilee,

joy and feasting might return after these moments of trial.

We seek refuge under your protection, 

O glorious and blessed Virgin. 

Do not despise our pleas, but deliver us from every danger.

And help us, O Mother of God 

to conform ourselves to the will of God

and to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, for he is the way,

the truth, and the life, in his name we pray.
Amen.

With the Coronavirus wreaking havoc in our lives and our world, and causing untold pain and suffering, I was reminded of an essay a friend of mine sent me a few months ago entitled: “The Purpose of Suffering.” Now since I find “suffering” to be among the great mysteries of faith, I was interested in what the author had to say. Frankly and bluntly, I found most of what the author wrote to be pious pablum, but I was stunned when I came upon the sentence: “You can rest assured that God has some greater purpose in mind for you, and that His plan can only be accomplished in the school of affliction and suffering.” This is simply and patently absurd. 

Now certainly good can come out of suffering. To suggest, however, that God causes suffering to create some good is simply wrong. We don’t know why suffering exists. It is a mystery of faith why some good and holy people experience pain and suffering in their lives. We can’t explain why innocent people sometimes suffer, or why people who do bad things sometimes don’t experience the consequences of their actions and at times even seem to live lives of ease and comfort. Given this, we need to be honest and admit that we just don’t know the reason suffering exists. 

What we do know, though, is important. In the midst of pain and suffering we know and believe that God is with us and that God is offering us God’s good grace. Grace is who God is, and grace can be found, perhaps most especially, in the depths of pain and suffering. If we pray and are open to God, we can discover grace arising from the worst kind of pain, and from the great depths of terrible suffering. God doesn't cause suffering and pain, but God is there with us in the midst of suffering and pain. 

In his book, Night, Eli Weisel told the story of witnessing the hanging of a young Dutch boy for collaborating with the Nazis. For more than an hour the child in the noose stayed there struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony. Weisel said; “And we had to look him full in the face. He was still alive when I passed in front of him. His tongue was red, his eyes not yet glazed. Behind me I heard a man asking ‘Where is God now?’ And I heard a voice within me answer him: ‘Where is He? Here He is—He is hanging here on this gallows….”

I think Weisel’s insight is important. While God does not cause and does not prevent our suffering, God is with us and for us in all of our pain and suffering. We need to remember this—most especially at this time—on this Easter day. Jesus’ resurrection reminds us that pain, suffering, trials, and even death, will not have the final word, God will. And God’s word is life—life in abundance. God abides with us always, wanting to share God’s life with us. And in our prayer—if we are open to it—we will find God gently enfolding us in God’s love and strengthening us with God’s grace. 

Certainly suffering can reveal to us a greater purpose or provide a deeper insight. To suggest, though, that God causes suffering so that an individual can come to understand some greater purpose demeans God and suggests that God is capricious, and at times down right mean. I can’t believe in this kind of God. If people want to continue to suggest that God causes suffering for some noble purpose, I’d suggest that God sue for defamation of character. 

 

 

Light of Faith

 

Basilica Community,

I hope this message finds you and your family staying well during this challenging time. As you know, we have suspended all public Masses and gatherings; however we are still connecting via conference call, Facebook, and Zoom. 

We are live streaming our daily Masses at facebook.com/BasilicaMpls. The videos are available at here after each Mass.

We will be live streaming our Holy Week services beginning with 9:30am Mass on Palm Sunday. Easter Mass with Archbishop Hebda at 9:30am will also be broadcast on 830 WCCO Radio.

We will be sending an email to all of our parishioners with ideas about ways to celebrate Holy Week at home. 
 
We would like to hear from you, please let us know if you have questions, concerns, or suggestions to better serve you. We may not be able to implement all your suggestions, or respond to all your questions and concerns, but we will do our very best.

We know this is a challenging time financially for everyone. If you are able to continue to support The Basilica financially, we thank you. You may make a gift online at mary.org/donate.

If you find yourself needing financial support, we invite you to connect with our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry
________________________________________

In 2013 Pope Francis issued his first encyclical: “Lumen Fidei: Light of Faith.” In that encyclical Pope Francis said: 

“Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but rather a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey. To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, and a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light.”

May the light of faith guide and comfort us at this time.  And may we pray for and with each other, that together, we might find our way though these challenging times.

Pastor's Column April/May

[This column was written prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.]

 

For Fr. Bauer's most recent message visit: Stay Home. Stay Safe. Stay Connected.

 

With this column I would like to update you in regard to several areas of our parish’s life.

1. Connect Desk: In case you missed it, in addition to our Hospitality and Information Desk in the lower level, we now have a new “Connect Desk” near the Hennepin Avenue interior doors of The Basilica. The idea behind this desk is to make it as easy as possible for people to connect with The Basilica. Whether an individual wants to become a member, volunteer, or just wants some basic information, the person at the Connect Desk should be able to respond to any queries quickly, easily, and personally. It is our hope that the Connect Desk will help facilitate people’s “connecting” with The Basilica easily and simply. 

2. An Update on Current Parish Initiatives: A little over 10 years ago I co-chaired a Task Force on planning for our Archdiocese. One of the things that became clear to me when I co-chaired this Task Force was that as pastor, I needed to keep an eye on the future, and not focus exclusively on the present. Fortunately, I also realized that looking to the future was a task that would need the keen eyes of many people in addition to myself. Given this, I am pleased to report that in the last several months, due to the hard work of many of our parishioners, we have developed a new five year Strategic Plan (Our Parish, Our Future). Further, for the past few months we have been working with a Change Management Consultant to help us identify those ministries, services and programs, etc. that are important and necessary for our parish community and need to continue, as well as those that need to change or end.

Additionally, in consultation with our Parish Council, The Basilica Landmark Board established a Master Planning Committee to work with HGA Architects and their team to develop a Master Plan for The Basilica and its campus. The Plan is very comprehensive and includes recommendations to support a broad vision for the campus, as well as solutions to identify needs to better perform our day-to-day ministries and works. The Plan did not filter against a budget or a financial target to ensure we addressed all opportunities. The Master Plan included 15 “groupings” of work and expense to reflect potential projects or campaigns for The Basilica to consider. These likely project groupings and the included detail will allow The Basilica flexibility in defining the scope of each project we pursue in the coming years. 

The detail in the Master Plan will be used as a starting point and will help guide us as we begin the work to determine the appropriate scope and phases of implementing the Master Plan. These project priority decisions will be reflective of the needs of our Parish community as well as the interests, budget and giving capacity of our Parishioners and donors.

In conjunction with the Master Plan, The Basilica Landmark Board also approved funding to hire the firm of Bentz, Whaley, Flessner to conduct a Feasibility Study to help determine the fundraising capacity of any potential Capital Campaign that would be needed to implement elements of the newly developed Master Plan. 

As the work of the Campus Space Planning, Master Plan Development, Feasibility Study and potential Capital Campaign have broad implications for our Parish, we have been actively engaged with The Basilica Landmark Board, Parish Council, and Finance Committee to ensure our leaders are informed and appropriately involved in providing guidance and approval. 

3. Easter Giving and Our Parish Finances: At the present time, we are holding our own financially, but the extra income we receive at Easter is a great help to our budget. For this reason, I invite you to be generous to The Basilica at Easter. Also, a big THANK YOU to all those who so generously support our Basilica parish. Your financial support makes it possible for us to continue to offer the programs, ministries, and services that are the hallmark of our parish. 

4. Archdiocesan Synod: On the weekend of January 18 and 19 members of our Parish Synod Committee spoke at all the Masses on the upcoming Archdiocesan Synod. As I have mentioned previously, a synod is a formal representative assembly designed to help a bishop in shepherding of the local Church. It is Archbishop Hebda’s hope that over the next two years, the synod process will involve every parish and draw on the gifts that have been bestowed in such abundance on the people of this archdiocese to discern and establish clear pastoral priorities in a way that will both promote greater unity in our Archdiocese and lead us to a more vigorous proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ. In doing so, it will help Archbishop Hebda discern, through a consultative process, the pastoral priorities of our local Church today—and into the near future.

The synod process began this past fall and continues during the winter and spring with prayer and listening events. After these events, in the summer of 2020, Archbishop Hebda will announce the topics that will shape the synod. In autumn of 2020 and winter of 2021 there will be a parish and deanery consultation process. On Pentecost weekend May 21-22, 2021 there will be a synod assembly. Delegates to this assembly will be invited from across the archdiocese and will meet to discern Synod topics and vote on recommendations for the Archbishop. The Feast of Christ the King (November 21, 2021) is the anticipated publication of pastoral letter from Archbishop Hebda addressing the synod’s topics with a pastoral plan to shape the following 5-10 years.

I believe the synod process brings with it much promise for the future of our Archdiocese. It will only be successful, though, if people pray, participate, and honestly share their concerns, questions, and hopes for our Archdiocese. To this end—since I first informed you of the synod—we have established a parish synod ambassador team who will work to solicit feedback from our parishioners and keep everyone informed as the synod process moves forward. There is a link to this group as well as information on the listening session on our website mary.org/synod. You can anticipate hearing more about the synod in the weeks and months ahead. 

5. The 2020 Catholic Services Appeal: This yearly appeal helps support many of the ministries, services, and programs within our Archdiocese. I am fully aware that many people are concerned that contributions to the Catholic Services Appeal (CSA), 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 insure that 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. As your pastor, I wholeheartedly endorse the work of the Appeal; 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.
6. Civilize It: Dignity Beyond the Debate: The Bishops of the United States have launched a year-long initiative that invites Catholics to model civility, love for neighbor, and respectful dialogue. Civilize It: Dignity Beyond the Debate will ask Catholics to pledge civility, clarity, and compassion in their families, communities, and parishes, and call on others to do the same. 

The initiative is built on the recognition that every person—even, and perhaps especially, those with whom we disagree—
is a beloved child of God who possesses inherent dignity. Civilize It is an invitation to imitate the example of Jesus in our daily lives in our encounters with one another through civil dialogue. 

In talking about this initiative, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, of Venice, and chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development emphasized the importance of Civilize It in the context of the current divisive climate: “Conversation in the public square is all too often filled with personal attacks and words that assume the worst about those with whom we disagree. We are in need of healing in our families, communities, and country. Civilize It: Dignity Beyond the Debate is a call for Catholics to honor the human dignity of each person they encounter, whether it is online, at the dinner table, or in the pews next to them. I invite all Catholics to participate in Civilize It. In doing so, they can bear witness to a better way, approach conversations with civility, clarity, and compassion, and invite others to do the same.” You can find out more about Civilize It at CivilizeIt.org. 

I also invite people to take the Civilize It pledge of: 
1. Civility
2. Clarity and 
3. Compassion
and to pray for civility in our conversations. Let our Basilica community know you are taking the Civilize It pledge at mary.org/civilizeit.

7. Second Collections: While no one likes special collections, it is heartening to report that the people of The Basilica have been very generous to the last special collections here:

  • On the weekend of November 30 and December 1, $9,525 was collected for our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry. 
  • On the weekend of January 11 and 12, $9,768 was collected for our visiting Missionary from the Franciscan Mission Service. 

On the weekend of January 25 and 26, $7,528 was collected to help defer the cost of heating The Basilica during the cold winter months.
The contributions to these collections testify to the generosity of the people of The Basilica. Please know of my gratitude and prayer for your generous and caring response.

 

Rev. John M. Bauer
Pastor, The Basilica of Saint Mary

For this Sunday’s readings Click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/040520.cfm  

Each year on Palm Sunday we read one of the accounts of the Passion of Jesus Christ.  This year we read Matthew’s account.   While the accounts of Jesus’ passion share much in common, each one has some unique elements.   In this regard, Matthew’s Gospel contains a more detailed account of the betrayal of Judas and his tragic end.  Another element unique to Matthew is the request of the Chief priests and Pharisees that Pilot help them make sure Jesus’ disciples do not steal Jesus’ body and then later claim that he had been raised from the dead.   Also, since Matthew wrote for a primarily Jewish audience, he was writing to convince them that Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophets’ promise of a Messiah. 

Perhaps the most important element that is unique to Matthew, though, occurs when Pilot asked the crowd about the fate of Jesus.  Specifically Matthew adds the verse that Jesus’ blood “should be upon us and on our children” (Mt. 27.25).   Unfortunately through the centuries this verse (and others) have been used to suggest that the Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus.   This idea was definitively rejected by the Second Vatican Council in its document: “Nostra Aetate,” and more recently by Pope Benedict XVI in his book:  “Jesus of Nazareth – Part II.”

For Matthew, Jesus’ death is the result of living a life of forgiving love, and teaching others to follow his way of forgiveness.  The question for us is whether we, like Peter, will be able to accept the forgiveness, that Jesus offers, or whether we will be like Judas and not be able to accept that forgiveness.   

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from that section of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah known as the “Suffering Servant Songs.”  We see these words as prefiguring the suffering and death of Christ. 

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians.  It is a hymn to Christ’s divinity.   In it he holds up Jesus as one who “became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  And “because of this God greatly exalted him……….” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  Believe it or not, I once had someone complain about reading the passion on Palm Sunday.  They didn’t like it because it was such a “downer.”   Why is it important to read the passion on this day? 
2.  Why is it so hard for us to believe that because of Jesus Christ our sins are forgiven?  Or perhaps the question really is: why is it so hard for us to accept this forgiveness?  
3.  What part of the passion narrative strikes you most deeply?  

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