A picture of a solid stone cross in front of a clear blue sky.

Weekly Musings

Hennepin Connections

HENNEPIN CONNECTIONS
In his book, The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy, Peter Temin suggests, following decades of growing inequality, America essentially functions in a two-class system: “One small, predominantly white upper class that wields a disproportionate share of money, power, and political influence and a much larger, minority-heavy lower class that is all too frequently subject to the first group’s whims.”

Temin suggests a lot of factors contribute to American inequality. It is so deeply embedded it could take almost 20 years for one to escape poverty—with nearly nothing going wrong in one’s life. 
There is a lot of research about inequality and income disparity. While they all paint an alarming picture of our society, they also begin to draw a clear call to action for change. Research shows that two key components required to make the transformation out of poverty include education and a relationship.  

In 2013, The Basilica’s St. Vincent de Paul ministry leadership prayerfully embraced this research. We recognized, as a faith community, we can offer relationships. We looked across the street and saw the gift and needs of Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC). Ten percent of the students attending MCTC are homeless. Could we as a faith community, partner with MCTC to ensure two key components needed to make the transformation out of poverty—education and a relationship?

In 2014 we created a pilot program called Hennepin Connections: Basilica SVdP Mentoring Program with MCTC. In early May of this year, we completed our fourth year of this partnership—matching MCTC students and Basilica mentors, one-on-one. Each year we experienced profound and powerful results for both the students and the mentors.
The entire program is built on the opportunity to build relationships with students committed to their education. Relationships built through Hennepin Connections are not easy. They often bring people from vastly different cultures, experience, race and class together. This is, indeed the most challenging and most rewarding aspects of Hennepin Connections Mentoring Program.

To prepare for the mentoring partnerships, we offer resources and training for the mentors. We ground ourselves in Vincentian values and spirituality—recognizing we come to this work in humility and faith. Our mantra, as mentors, is “Accept them where they are.” We are called to listen and support, open our hearts and minds, and be willing to be changed by the experience. 
At the end of this year’s program, students and mentors shared the meaning of the experience. It was an awesome and humbling evening. Over and over we heard the importance, for the student, to have someone in their life who was not in crisis, who would listen as they vented and would offer a new network for them in their life.

In sharing his gratitude for this program, a student reflected—without this program, even if he and the mentor had been sitting next to one another at a basketball game, they never would have spoken to one another. Hennepin Connections brought two very different worlds together, and made a difference. He said, “Thanks for creating a space for healthy relationships to happen.”

One woman shared that the mentor was “the missing piece of the puzzle in my life.” Another shared that her mentor helped her find calmness when she felt frantic and overwhelmed. 
The mentors consistently shared the inspiration they received from walking with the students over the year. They felt they gained more than they gave.

The Basilica seeks to transform society through the Gospel of love—sometimes one life at a time. We can, and must, be proactive to build bridges and unite our community. If you are interested in being part of this important work, call the Christian Life office.

 

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).

We live in a world rife with uncertainty, fear and disorder. It seems that every day we wake up to another crisis—humanitarian, political, or environmental. How do we as Catholics live out our faith amidst this chaos?

Since the beginning of this Parish Council year, your parish leaders and representatives have been struggling with this very question. How will The Basilica of Saint Mary serve its parishioners and those in our community who are most vulnerable?

An issue that has been heavy on our hearts and minds is immigration. For more than a decade, the US immigration debate has been dominated by the legislative battle over comprehensive immigration reform. Recently, the debate has shifted to the scope of the President’s discretion on how to enforce the law, who to target, and mechanisms for remaining in this country. 

“According to the US Department of Homeland Security, from the start of January through the end of September, the number of immigrants seized in the interior of the country rather than at the border—many of them wrenched from their families and communities—increased by 42% compared to the same period in 2016. Immigration arrests of people with no criminal convictions nearly tripled compared to approximately the same time in 2016” (Human Rights Watch 12/5/17). Beyond the politics, our faith directs us to focus on the principles of the responsibilities and rights of people. 

In the Old Testament, God tells us to have special care for outsiders: “You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for him as for yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt” (Lv. 19:33-34).
The New Testament tells Matthew’s story of Joseph and Mary’s escape to Egypt because King Herod wanted to kill their infant. Jesus himself lived as a refugee because his native land was not safe. 

Jesus reiterates the Old Testament command to love and care for the stranger: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25:35). 

At the end of World War II, Europe faced an unprecedented migration of millions of people seeking safety. In response, Pope Pius XII wrote Exsul Familia (The Emigre Family), placing the Church squarely on the side of those seeking a better life by fleeing their homes (USCCB).

The US Sanctuary movement began in the early 1980s to provide safety for Central American refugees fleeing civil conflict. Since then the movement has grown across the country and today over 30 congregations in the Twin Cities, suburbs, and greater Minnesota have committed to being either a Sanctuary or Sanctuary Supporting Congregation. Their commitment includes safety, advocacy, financial, physical, and spiritual support. 

For years, The Basilica has partnered with Ascension, our largely immigrant, sister-parish. We also provide aid and immigration counseling to anyone who comes to our doors. This fall, a group of Basilica parishioners (including myself) traveled to Tucson, AZ, where the Sanctuary movement began and to the US/Mexico Border to learn more about real people facing deportation. 

The Parish Council has had many conversations about formally joining the other downtown congregations as a Sanctuary Supporting Congregation. We plan to hold information sessions for parishioners to learn more about the Sanctuary Movement and to ask questions about how declaring ourselves a Sanctuary Supporting Congregation could impact The Basilica. I hope that you will join us for these important conversations. Please watch for announcements on dates and times. 

Feel free to reach out to me or any other Parish Council members with questions.  Visit mary.org/parishcouncil for a list of contacts.

 

Mary Gleich-Matthews
Parish Council Chair
The Basilica of Saint Mary

 

JANUARY 28, 2018

 

This summer and fall scaffolding will go up and tuck-pointing will begin on the brick surrounding The Basilica’s dome. Tuck-pointing, or repointing as the process is now better known, involves renewing the external part of masonry mortar joints. Over time, weather and decay cause voids in the joints between bricks, allowing the undesirable entrance of water. As we know all too well at The Basilica, water entering through these voids can cause significant damage. 

You might be thinking, “Didn’t we just repoint?” And the simple answer is yes, in 2016 we repointed the bell towers, and in 2017 work was done on the sides and front of the building. 

Others may be wondering, “how often are we going to need to repoint?” What we know now is that to keep the water out we must work on sections of the building every year as part of our ongoing maintenance. We have plans to repoint sections of the church from 2018-2022. And, like many historic buildings and churches in Europe have found, by the time all sections have been repointed it might be time to start back on one of the sections that was repointed earlier.

Repointing is not a glamourous project, but it is so very important to keep The Basilica free of water, which we know is essential for all current and future restoration projects. It is a project at the very heart of The Basilica Landmark’s mission, which is to preserve, restore, and advance the historic Basilica of Saint Mary for all generations. 

An ongoing project like this can seem daunting. But after more than a decade as a staff member, I have seen first hand this community’s passion and support to keep The Basilica of Saint Mary standing strong as a beautiful architectural landmark and as a building of hope for all those that walk through our doors.  

In 2009 we started what is now The Basilica Landmark Annual Fund. Our goal was to raise $30,000, which at the heart of the recession seemed like an impossible task. However, due to incredible community support, we raised more than $40,000 the very first year, and last year we raised nearly $300,000.

In the past decade, The Basilica Landmark has invested more than $11 million in our campus facilities. In 2018, with your help, we will ensure the stability, accessibility, and functionality of our beloved Basilica building by repointing the church dome, rebuilding the south Basilica school entrance, and upgrading our church sound system and lighting. 

Our century old building stands magnificently in the Minneapolis skyline, but requires constant care to endure for generations to come. Help preserve our shelter with a gift to The Basilica Landmark Annual Fund. Contact Stephanie Bielmas for more information.

Your donation ensures that the building of hope can continue to serve as a haven for all who come. 

BASILICA LANDMARK BALL: ILLUMINO 
SATURDAY, MAY 5, 5:00-11:30PM
SOLAR ARTS BUILDING
Join us for an evening celebrating the Building of Hope at the Solar Arts Building in NE Minneapolis with dinner, dancing, and fantastic giving opportunities benefitting The Basilica Landmark. To purchase tickets, visit thebasilicalandmark.org. For questions or sponsorship opportunities, contact Holly Dockendorf.

One of the values we strive to live every day at The Basilica is compassion. Our faith invites us to become aware of our brokenness—from this place of humility we share hospitality, love, acceptance, and care. Sometimes this is easy. Sometimes it is hard. We wrestle with the “right” thing to do, and often feel unprepared to address the complex issues of our day. 
 
One issue that can present complexity is immigration. Yet, Pope Francis calls us to simplicity—focusing on the people in front of us each day. He invites us to see the situation of immigrants and refugees in our midst as “undoubtedly a ‘sign of the times’ … Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age.”

What compassionate thing does our faith call us to do right now, with the people right here, today?

In response to this question, over the past eight months, Basilica leadership has prayerfully discussed becoming a Sanctuary Supporting Congregation. What does this mean for our community? 

A Sanctuary Supporting Congregation takes seriously the call to compassion. It declares that all people have dignity and deserve respect. It declares we will care for and offer God’s healing love to all people, regardless of who they are. It declares that The Basilica community welcomes all people who are in need of compassion—finding solidarity and unity rather than judgment or division.

In practice, this declaration articulates what we already seek to do every day as a parish community. Without regard to worthiness, The Basilica provides spiritual, emotional, and physical support to our community in need. We provide food, clothing, and housing assistance, as well as advocacy support and prayer for those who are the most vulnerable. As a community we give and we receive in gratitude for all God has given us. 

The Basilica community supports families who have arrived in Minnesota as refugees. We support families who have risked their lives to flee war and persecution as they seek asylum in Minnesota. So, too, we build relationships with and respond to the needs of those who have deep fear of deportation. Indeed, Pope Francis calls us to “defend the rights and dignity of migrants and refugees, independent of their legal status.”

In declaring The Basilica as a Sanctuary Supporting Congregation we are not taking a political stance. We are simply finding Christ in our brothers and sisters and responding with compassion.

In declaring The Basilica as a Sanctuary Supporting Congregation we are not pushing the limits and declaring the parish as a Sanctuary Congregation. A Sanctuary Congregation provides space to live for individuals and families in immediate danger of deportation. This role has challenges that go beyond what The Basilica can do. The Basilica is not moving toward becoming a Sanctuary Congregation. 

In declaring The Basilica as a Sanctuary Supporting Congregation The Basilica would continue doing what we already do for those coming to our doors for support. Yet, the declaration highlights our willingness to embrace the unconditional compassion of Christ and the depth of our solidarity with those in need. It connects us to the greater reconciling work of Christ in the community. 

The Basilica Parish Council invites you to a Listening Session on Sunday, April 15, to discuss what this could mean for us individually and as a parish community. Let us come together and prayerfully reflect on this call. For more information, call Janice at 612.317.3477. 

 

Janice Andersen
Director of Christian Life
The Basilica of Saint Mary

 


SANCTUARY SUPPORTING CONGREGATION: LISTENING SESSIONS
SUNDAY, APRIL 15, AFTER 7:30, 9:30, 11:30AM AND 4:30PM MASSES 
SAINTS AMBROSE/TERESA, GROUND LEVEL

The Cross adorned with Yellow Roses

Knowing and Believing

Several years ago I was part of a question and answer session with high school students concerning what we believe about the last things, e.g. heaven, hell, and purgatory. At one point one of the participants asked me how I knew that heaven and hell existed. Now, I’m not sure if they asked this question out of interest, or to see if they could trip me up. In either case, if their reaction was any barometer, I think they were genuinely surprised when I replied that I didn’t really know that heaven and hell existed; rather I believed they existed. 

Pressed to clarify the difference between knowledge and belief, I explained that knowledge is based on personal experience, while belief is based on the witness or testimony of others. For example, I know that New York City exists because I have been there. I believe that Miami exists, not because I have been there, but because of the testimony of others who have been there. 

Now in making the above distinction, I don’t mean to suggest that those things which we are cognizant of because of our belief are any less real than those things we know because we have experienced them personally. Belief and knowledge are often twin sources of inspiration, motivation, guidance, and hope for our lives. Belief is not a poor substitute for knowledge. It has its own unique place in our lives. It has importance and value for our lives, and because of this it cannot be ignored or denied. 

Particularly with regard to matters of faith, I think belief is as important as knowledge. In fact, our beliefs can be as challenging and reassuring as the knowledge which comes from our experience. For example, my belief in heaven is a source of real assurance for me as I live my life, just as my belief in hell is likewise a real source of motivation for me as I live my life. 

In terms of God, I know that God exists because I have experienced God’s presence and grace in my life. My knowledge of God is based on personal experience. I say this because in my life I have experienced God as loving Father, redeeming Son, and inspiring Spirit. In regard to heaven and hell, however, since, I have not yet died and experienced either of them, my belief in them is based on the testimony of others—very specifically, the testimony of Jesus Christ.

For it was Jesus who told us: “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me, even if they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will have eternal life.” 

As we celebrate the great Feast of Easter today, my prayer for all of us is that we might come to experience and know the presence of the risen Lord Jesus in our lives, so that our belief in Jesus’ promise of eternal life might give us courage and hope for our lives. 

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to celebrate Palm Sunday of Our Lord’s Passion in one of the most iconic cathedrals in our country. This had been on my liturgical bucket list for a long time. I was not disappointed. It was an experience Egeria—a 4th century French nun who glowingly wrote about liturgical celebrations in Jerusalem—would have written about had she lived in our times.

As prescribed we gathered in “another place” for the first part of the liturgy. Then, we processed to the cathedral commemorating Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. On our way we walked by several large cardboard boxes. Blinded by the beauty of the day, I had not noticed these until I nearly tripped over a man who crawled out of one of them. Apparently, the procession drew his attention, maybe even woke him up. He looked me square in the face and I shuddered under his intense gaze. Pushed forward by those behind me, we made a quick circle around him and continued on our splendid liturgical way.

When we entered the cathedral, the true quality of the liturgy was revealed. The Cardinal Archbishop himself was presiding flanked by auxiliary bishops and a throng of priests. The service was marked by exquisite music, beautiful vestments, countless candles, billowing incense… in sum, a liturgist’s delight. And yet, it was the man crawling out of the box who stuck with me. 

His gaze haunted me throughout Holy Week. It was he I saw as I washed the feet of an elderly man and offered Holy Communion to a young woman on Holy Thursday. It was he I saw in the child who knelt down to kiss the wood of the cross on Good Friday. And it was he I saw in the many people who were baptized and confirmed on Holy Saturday. In all of these faces gathered for worship I saw one face, the face of the man living on the street. Then I realized his gaze forced the question: “Who do you say that I am?” And I wondered who it was I really saw?

During Holy Week, I customarily visualize the last days in the life of Jesus. I imagine Jesus walking down the streets of Jerusalem to the Hosanna’s on Palm Sunday and to the yelling of “crucify him” on Good Friday. I imagine him washing feet and sharing bread. I imagine him dying on the cross and rising from the dead. This truly helps me with my meditation on the mystery of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. 

Every year, I leaf through my art books to be inspired by a different image of Jesus. That particular year, I was inspired not by art but by the dirty, bearded, and unkempt face of the man who crawled out of the box to visualize Jesus. And I realized that it is in the face of others that we recognize the true face of the one who is the Wholly Other. 

As we prepare to celebrate the holiest of weeks, let us remember to recognize Christ in one another, most especially in those we unexpectedly encounter as we almost trip over them. 

Blessed Holy Week!

Photo Interior People Basilica Ushers

A Call to Service

The Catholic Church is a centuries old, hierarchical organization that can sometimes feel very exclusive. As “regular” parishioners we see Priests, Nuns, Bishops, and Cardinals as the leaders and decision makers in our church.

While those ministries hold special auspices as a result of graces given at ordination, we as lay (non-ordained) members also have a distinct and very real role in the spreading of the Gospel as a result of our Baptism. The Church teaches that laypeople are absolutely equal to those in ordained and religious life. The laity is how the world encounters Christ and the Church encounters the world.

We all have increasingly busy lives; careers, school, dating, children, aging parents, and the regular burdens of everyday life. We take one hour out of our week on Saturday or Sunday for God, and then go about our business. 
If you are like me, sometimes my mind wanders during mass (Sorry, Fr. Bauer) to things like:

  • “Gosh, the plaster is looking really bad up on the arches”
  •  “I wonder how the archdiocesan bankruptcy is going” 
  • “They’re taking up another collection for the heating? Don’t they have a budget?”
  • “I feel like I don’t have any way of making any real change within our Church”

In moments like this, I think of a quote from former President Barak Obama: 

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” 

Back in the spring of 2013 I was finishing graduate school when I heard about upcoming Parish council elections. I had been involved in The Basilica Voices for Justice but as I thought about it, I decided that I wanted to take on something more, to have a larger platform to represent the young adults of our Parish. I decided to run as a representative for Liturgy. 

Parish Council members serve as an advisory group to the Pastor and assist with planning, communication, policies and procedures, and education of parishioners. We are sensitive to the needs, ambitions and desires of The Basilica community to fulfill its mission—we are your representatives, your voice.

This year, the Parish Council is embarking on the creation of a 5-year strategic plan as well as engaging a Liturgical Design Consultant for a whole-campus evaluation. This is a very exciting time as we work to propel our parish into success in the future.

Our Parish Council is composed of:

  • 6 elected members including 2 representatives for Learning, Christian Life, and Liturgy
  • 3 appointed "at large" members,
  • Appointed representatives from the Finance and Development Committees,
  • 4 ex-officio members 

The deadline for Parish Council nominations is April 6. There is an online application here. You may nominate yourself or someone you think would thrive in one of the positions. 

Parish Council is not the only way to get involved at The Basilica. There are hundreds of volunteer opportunities—one-time events, and long-term engagements. This thriving, robust parish is not solely run by Father Bauer—he needs teams of people to make our mission happen.

In the words of the Catechism (CCC 899): “Lay believers are in the front line of Church life. Therefore, they in particular ought to have an ever-clearer consciousness not only of belonging to the Church, but of being the Church.”

YOU ARE THE CHURCH.  

Racism is not merely one sin among many; it is a radical evil that divides the human family and denies the new creation of a redeemed world. To struggle against it demands an equally radical transformation, in our own minds and hearts as well as in the structure of our society.” Brothers and Sisters To Us, USCCB, 1979

During the summer of 2016, the Twin Cities experienced a wave of protests and unrest after the shooting of Philando Castile by a police officer in St. Anthony, MN. The upheaval throughout the Twin Cities was in direct response to the deep and longstanding effects of racism in our state. Uncovered and exposed were the inequalities and injustices behind virtually every statistic of Minnesota’s quality of life: including our state’s education gap, income disparity, homeownership, and violent crime. 

  • On April 29, 2016, the Pioneer Press reported “Minnesota has some of the worst racial disparities in the nation—gaps that have widened over the past five decades and that soon may create a statewide economic crisis. U.S. Census data show most Minnesota families of color now have median incomes about half those of their white neighbors.”
  • On August 18, 2017, the Pioneer Press reported “Minnesota schools have grown more segregated and the state’s nation-leading academic achievement gap refuses to close. 
    • Black Students: Reading proficiency, 33% and Math proficiency, 28%
    • White Students: Reading proficiency, 69% and Math proficiency, 68%
  • Headline in the Star Tribune on August 17, 2017 read, “Already-low homeownership rates of Twin Cities minorities fall further,” with 75% whites and only 23% blacks owning homes. 
  • A report in August 2017 from the Minneapolis Police Department that covers the period 2009 to 2014 states, while blacks made up 18.6% of the population in Minneapolis, 79% of victims of homicide are black. 

During the summer and fall of 2016, The Basilica leadership intentionally engaged in reflection and self-examination: How was The Basilica living faithfully by actively confronting issues of racism and being a force of racial reconciliation in the community? Strikingly, we discovered that, while The Basilica is engaged in the community in many ways, we are not living up to our mission in this area.

In the fall of 2016, The Basilica Parish Council unanimously voted to support a parish-wide, sustained effort to address the issue of racism. In February 2017, a Basilica team met for the first time—a team to help shape a parish wide initiative for racial reconciliation. 

The team began slowly, prayerfully discerning direction, sharing stories, and developing trust. This Lent, The Basilica officially launched Imago Dei: The Basilica Initiative for Racial Reconciliation. Imago Dei—the Image of God. Rooted in the absolute belief that all humans beings are created in the image of God, The Basilica will devote itself to this effort by praying for empowerment to overcome this radical evil in our lives and communities, by learning about institutionalized racism and its insidious presence in our Church and society, by engaging across lines of difference, and by advocating for social change.

The Basilica of Saint Mary is dedicated to the eradication of racism, and seeks to become a community of racial reconciliation. Look for ways to engage in this important work. This is the work of our time. For more information, contact Janice.


IMAGO DEI: INITIATIVE FOR RACIAL RECONCILIATION PRACTICING RECONCILIATION
SUNDAY, MARCH 18, 11:00AM-12:30PM
SAINTS AMBROSE/TERESA, GROUND LEVEL
Please join us for the last session in this series and hear first hand from Oshea Israel and Mary Johnson about the power of forgiveness. 

The Basilica Landmark’s mission is to preserve, restore, and advance the historic Basilica of Saint Mary for all generations. This mission is lived out in various ways every year on projects both big and small. Some are highly visible like the recent restoration of the St. Anthony Chapel or tuckpointing of the church exterior.  
 
On the other hand, some projects go unnoticed. These do not have the glitz of a restored chapel or the visibility of tuckpointing. However, after several years of significant renovations and capital investments made possible by The Basilica Landmark, I am proud to report the City of Minneapolis awarded The Basilica of Saint Mary a 2017 Building Energy Performance Award for outstanding energy reduction. By working with the Facilities Assessment and Ecological volunteer committees, we have identified slightly less visible, but extremely impactful energy savings solutions that meet our ecological goals.
 
Over the past three years with the help of our generous donors we have:
  •  Replaced three original 1913 boilers with new more efficient equipment.
  •  Renovated the Rectory and School buildings with central air conditioning, replacing 35 window units.
  •  Updated to LED lighting in the campus interior and exterior including the bell towers, church sanctuary, and lower level.
These improvements resulted in a 21% energy use reduction, lowering our energy costs and increasing our energy efficiency. With your help, we can continue to improve our energy reductions.
 
The Basilica Landmark Board has determined the “Fund-a-Need” program at this year’s Basilica Landmark Ball will support converting interior dome lighting to responsible LED lighting. Existing power loads at full intensity utilize 29,000 watts. During one hour of Mass, they cost $2.90. With the same light output, the new LED power load will use approximately 5,220 watts and cost $0.52. Not only will this project reduce our energy use by 82%, it will also provide significant cost savings that can be reinvested in programs and ministries.
 
We hope you will consider supporting the “Fund-a-Need” program by joining us for an evening of illuminating power at The Basilica Landmark Ball on May 5, 2018, at the Solar Arts Building. It promises to be a wonderful evening of dinner, dancing, and amusements for a wonderful cause. 
 
If you would like to support the “Fund-a-Need” project for this year’s event but are unable to attend, you can do so online or contact Monica Stewart. Your gift will ensure a future of sustaining power for the people and the purpose we serve.
 
SATURDAY, MAY 5
SOLAR ARTS BUILDING
 
Help us illuminate the mission of The Basilica Landmark as we transform our interior dome lighting to LEDs—offering our historic space a life-sustaining future for the people and purpose we serve. To purchase tickets, visit thebasilicalandmark.org
Just after Christmas, I spent three days retreating and resting at the Guesthouse at Saint John’s Abbey. Staying at the Guesthouse is a wonderful experience. It is quiet and private. The rooms are simple, but very comfortable. The food, like the rooms, is simple but very tasty, and there are always options to choose from. Perhaps the aspect I like most about staying at the Guesthouse, though, is being able to take a short walk over to the Abbey Church to join the monks for prayer. Their usual schedule is: morning prayer at 7:00am, mid-day prayer at noon, Mass at 5:00pm, and evening prayer at 7:00pm. Now, with all the activities going on in a parish, it would be difficult to keep this rhythm in a parish setting. (I often find myself using my phone to pray evening prayer before a meeting.) This structure of prayer works well at the Abbey, though, and for retreatants especially it makes it easy to schedule other times for reading, private prayer, walks, and reflection. 
 
Now as much as I enjoy joining the monks for prayer, there is one drawback. As a diocesan priest we use a four volume Liturgy of the Hours. Two of the volumes are for Ordinary Time, and the other two are for the Advent/Christmas season and the Lent/Easter season. And the best part is that you only use one volume at a time. As importantly, it is very user friendly and easy to follow. 
 
On the other hand, the monks at Saint John’s have six books of psalms and scripture canticles, and three hymn books. And at any given prayer time you could be using four out of nine of those books for prayer. Fortunately, the monks always seem to be able to spot an inexperienced person shuffling though the various books trying to find the ones s/he will need for prayer. In these cases, one of the monks will come over and in a very kind and an uncondescending manner ask if they can help. Now just so you know, usually by day three I have learned to decipher the notations on the hymn board, and have gotten to know the various books well enough that I don’t look like such a rookie. It is great to know, though, that I only need to paste a confused look on my face and one of the monks will come and help me. 
 
There are times when we all could use some assistance. It could be with something relatively simple (like finding the right prayer book) or it could be with something more serious or important. As Christians, when we see someone in need our response is clear. 
 
Jesus has told us that we are to help those in need, simply because they are in need. The scene of the Last Judgment in Matthew’s Gospel reminds us of this. In that parable, Jesus has told us: “Whatsoever you did for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
 
Not only are we called to provide help and assistance to those in need, but this help is not contingent on whether we know and/or like the person, or think they are deserving of our assistance. Similarly, it is irrelevant whether they are close to us or at some distance. We are called to help people whenever we become aware that they are in need. As importantly, the assistance we provide needs to be concrete, specific, and practical, and not just good thoughts and kind words. 
 
Do we always do the above well? To be honest, I know I don’t. There are times when I put my own needs and wants ahead of those who need assistance. And there have been a few times when I turn a blind eye to those in need. There are other times, though, when I get it right. There are times when I respond to my neighbor in need spontaneously, generously and without reservation. I wish this were always the case, but my selfishness and sinfulness often get in the way of living as Christ has called me to live.  I am challenged though, by the example others set for me. And as importantly, I take comfort in the belief that God never calls us to do something God doesn’t give us the grace to do.  

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