Ben Caduff

Director of Learning
Learning

Ben Caduff joined The Basilica staff in 2014; prior to working at The Basilica, Ben worked in campus ministry and social justice ministry for eight years.  He has a bachelor’s degree in Theology from the University of St. Thomas and Masters of Divinity and Systematic Theology Degrees from St. John’s School of Theology/Seminary in Collegeville.  He is married with two children. 

Ben Caduff
(612) 317-3478

Recent Posts by Ben Caduff

This weekend we get a break from our normal Sunday lectionary readings and celebrate the Assumption of Mary. This holy day recalls our teaching that Mary, because she always lived in right relationship with God and was the first disciple of Jesus, immediately was assumed into heaven when her life ended. Did she die? The Church doesn’t say one way or another; that is a question for theologians to banter about. Not only that, this feast looks ahead to the “resurrection of all members of Christ’s body” (CCC 974). That’s us! Today we can enthusiastically pray that we “look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come” in our Creed. 

There isn’t much in the Catechism about this celebration; one might assume there isn’t much more to say about it. Do we really need this reminder every year on the Church calendar? I find this feast day particularly meaningful in light of the events of the past year. With all of the lives lost to this pandemic, the increase in violence in our community, the reckoning with race that we have had to face as a country, how else can we get through the day without an extra shot of hope? 

Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) wrote that “All the way to heaven is heaven, because Jesus said, ‘I am the way.’” Sometimes I need that simple reminder that whenever we live as faithful disciples of Jesus, as Mary did, we can experience a small glimpse of heaven. When we come together at Mass and/or join together in community in other ways to support and encourage each other, that is a glimpse of heaven. When we support those who are suffering in any way, that is a taste of eternal life, when there will be no more suffering. The Magnificat that Mary proclaims in today’s Gospel of Luke has inspired generations of people to work for justice and right relationship with each other and in society; this concern for the oppressed is a glimpse of the Kingdom in our midst. 

And Mary does not just reside in heaven (wherever that is), and support us from afar. Pope Benedict has written beautifully about the Assumption and how close both Mary and God are to us. “Mary…does not go to some unknown galaxy…Mary, united to God, is so close to us, to each one of us. Mary…has a heart as great as the heart of God. In God not only is there room for humankind; in humankind there is room for God. We see this in Mary, who bears the presence of God…this presence of God in us is so important for bringing light to the world with all its sadness, with all its problems…Mary is the consolation and hope of people still on the journey.” Especially from heaven, Mary prays with, and for us, and holds all of her children close, giving us an example and a challenge to emulate. 

 

Currently I am reading The Church and the Racial Divide: Reflections of an African American Catholic Bishop by Bishop Edward Braxton. He is a recently retired bishop who has served in Church leadership for many decades. Some of his own story as an African American leader in the Church and American society caused me to reflect on this celebration of our country’s independence. 

I have heard some people say that they won the birth lottery by being born in this country. I would say that I have always been grateful to have been born and lived in this country throughout my life. Bishop Braxton also expressed gratitude about the opportunities he has had in the Church and beyond, but he is also very honest about the challenges that he and his family have faced in their experience of being Black members in the Catholic community. 

For instance, he reflected on how many positive things the Knights of Columbus do in parishes and communities, and how they have been supportive of him in his ministry. He also noted when his father became a Catholic as an adult, he was told that he would not be welcome to join the Knights of Columbus because of his race; he ended up joining another Catholic men’s group but that rejection stayed with his father the rest of his life. 

Another example was from his childhood with his siblings. Their Baptist mother sent them to Catholic schools because of the excellent education and moral formation they were known for. When his brother brought a family copy of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as an example of music that was meaningful to them, he was told it was not music of “high quality.” Similarly, when they told their teacher their family enjoyed the music of Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong among others, they were told that these were not “great” artists. These and many other experiences have impacted Bishop Braxton, his family, and his ministry. 

His reflections have stuck with me as we celebrate this holiday weekend. I reflect on the gift of freedom and how that has given millions of people opportunities to flourish through our country’s history, and yet Bishop Braxton’s experience shows again that those opportunities have not always been afforded to all Americans. We have come far, and still have to continue on the journey to really being the “Land of the Free.” 

Catholic Social Teaching teaches the profound truth that all people have God-given dignity simply because they are a person created in God’s image, regardless of their age, race, economic status, and all the other artificial distinctions we place between each other. Let’s pray in thanksgiving for the God-given gifts we have in this country, for the times we have cooperated with God’s grace in loving all of our neighbors, and pray for the courage to recognize where we need to continue to cooperate with God’s grace in our nation and communities. 

 

Noon Mass Dome

Shining Like the Sun

Recently I was able to coordinate our annual young adult retreat. In more normal times, we typically go away for a weekend in the fall. In our present situation we made the retreat a day-long experience rather than a weekend. How different it was to be in a room together spread out and masked up! The ability to be together in person, reflect on our lives and enjoy some of the beautiful trails at the retreat center was a great blessing (and it was the weekend before snow started falling, so the right time!)

One of our materials on prayer featured the life of the Trappist monk Thomas Merton from the 1960s. It was enlightening to reflect on his life as a young adult, and spiritual experiences that led him to desire personal growth in faith and holiness. His experience ultimately led him to a religious community, but all of us could relate to reflecting on where we are in our lives with faith, jobs, relationships, and our present world still dealing with this pandemic and so much unrest. How has God called each of us with our own gifts and talents to help bring about God’s Kingdom? 

One of Merton’s most famous quotes came from a mystical experience he had on a fairly random day in Louisville, Kentucky. I was reminded of it at the retreat and it has stayed with me since then. Merton wrote: “In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world. . . There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.” 

Merton connects this experience in part to the Incarnation of Jesus. One of the most precious realities of God’s becoming a human being is that we are called to relationship with God and each other in a new way. Wherever we are and whoever we are with, “they are mine and I theirs,” as he put it. 

We are just coming off one of the most divisive presidential elections in our country’s history; we may still not know who won the election. No matter the result, a significant part of the country will be unhappy with the result. One almost constant temptation will be to demonize those with whom do not agree. While we will not all have the same experience of Thomas Merton on that street corner, what if we could “wake from a dream of separateness” and try to see those around us “shining like the sun”? In what ways are we being called to bring about more civility, peace and connection in a world that remains so broken and fragmented? Perhaps our prayer this week can be to ask God for that wisdom to be aware of those opportunities, and the courage to act with grace and mercy. 

Ben Caduff
Coordinator of Young Adult, Young Family, and Marriage Ministry
The Basilica of Saint Mary

 

We’re about six weeks in now, to our new home routine.  We have our daily schedule for getting our work done for the Basilica, school work done with our kindergartener, getting outside, nap times (for our two year old, not us!), meals, the daily activities of family life.  We have had a daily schedule posted like so many families, which most days is more of an indictment of our parenting and homeschooling skills rather than an organized plan for the day. I’ve found, like many, that most of our days really come down to about an hour at a time at most.  

One hour I’m beginning the day thinking of those I know who are ill, or are not working, or just struggling with all that’s going on. 

A bit later I’m wondering if a kindergartener could actually fail at distance learning? 

Another hour I’m on my third scheduled Zoom meeting of the day.

Then I realize I missed the second scheduled Zoom meeting of the day (sorry Learning team). 
  
One hour I’m explaining that we only have so many pairs of pink toddler pants to wear, and that black is the new spring color for two year olds.  

Another hour I am so impressed by the way young adults support each other as they navigate this unprecedented time in different ways. 

Then I’m saddened by another engaged couple emailing about the need to reschedule their upcoming wedding, having to completely re-think their special day. 

Then I find myself reaching simultaneously with my wife for the iPad, to sign in  to one more  meeting, each of us assuming that the other one was going to watch the children for a bit.  Communication is indeed a life long practice in marriage! 

Finally I wonder if I’ve done enough to support my family, church and those in need that day.  Most days end wondering when we can get back to normal, and asking where God is in all of this. Of course, I know that God promised to be with us, most especially with those who are hurting, but many days I can’t make much sense of this.  And I take solace that in the very first “Easter season,” most of the disciples did not really understand what was happening either.  What would their future be like? What were they to make of all that had occurred? What would happen to them, to those they loved?  And in the midst of all that, Jesus came and offered his wisdom, peace and very self in breaking open the scriptures and sharing  the bread.  May we continue to share this goodness with each other in this season of resurrection, even as we struggle through this most difficult time. 

 

 

Working previously in college campus ministry, and now with young adults, I have to be engaged with social media, at least to some degree. Usually, it’s a helpful way to invite others into The Basilica, and Basilica Young Adult (BYA) community, but I have to admit it has been a while since I have been on Catholic Twitter. Not Twitter as a whole, just Catholic Twitter. I used to follow a variety of Catholics on Twitter, to keep up on what was happening in the Church and get various perspectives on different issues. After several weeks of seeing the vitriol, name calling, and almost complete lack of charity for one another, it was time to stop following those accounts. (The rest of Twitter isn’t much better, but Christians are called to love their neighbor, so it is especially troubling to see this behavior from people of faith). 

This weekend, we are grateful to have Dr. William Doherty from the University of Minnesota here to present on how we can have difficult political conversations with those who disagree with us. This presentation will lead into a series of workshops in March where we can learn more practical skills in how we engage others. We also are encouraging all interested to take the Civilize It pledge from our  United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to engage others with civility, clarity, and compassion during this 2020 election year—visit mary.org/civilizeit for more information and the link to the pledge form at Civilizeit.org. There is a similar ecumenical effort shared by a number of Christian denominations called Golden Rule 2020, inviting all Christians to engage each other with love.

It strikes me as a little sad that we have to take a pledge to be civil to each other; if we really believe in one God who created all of us out of love, we would treat each other with some level of respect. However, until the Kingdom of God is fully realized, I suppose we will need occasional reminders, myself included. I read an article recently by a priest who shared the saying, “You will know they are Christians by their love, and you will know they are Catholics by their fights.” This priest intimated that this was well known; I was startled by it. I had never heard that before, and if that is how people engage the Catholic community in their daily encounters, it is no wonder people are tempted to disengage from the Church. 

One of the places where I find hope in this community is in the various events I attend with young adults. The young adults I have encountered here, and throughout the Archdiocese, come with diverse ideas involving political issues, and how they engage with, and live out their faith. Certainly I have seen disagreements, but more often than not, everyone is respectful, and comes away with greater understanding, if not agreement. Hopefully we can be an example of a faith community that always practices civility, clarity, and compassion with each other and beyond. 

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