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

Years ago, I was working in college campus ministry when the state of Minnesota had the proposed marriage amendment on the November ballot. This would have defined marriage as between one man and one woman in our state constitution. You may recall it was a particularly contentious time all over our state, and particularly in our college ministry that fall. I was asked to do a short talk about the amendment to our college students at a meal we were hosting, and when I told one student that I was going to do this, she mentioned she was going to bring tomatoes to throw at me! I laughed at first, as I thought she was joking, but she was definitely upset that I was going to speak on the topic. Now, I did not say anything about what I was actually presenting, just the fact that we were going to talk about this at all was problematic for her.

No doubt, in that room, I knew different students and parishioners had wildly different perspectives on the amendment and what the “right” outcome was supposed to be in November. I finished the talk (thankfully no projectiles where thrown at anyone), but an invitation to dialogue was largely ignored. One of my hopes was that there might be some room to have conversation about it, even among those who had strongly held convictions. As with many hot button issues today, dialogue with people of varying perspectives was minimal in our parish community, not to necessarily change minds, but to just listen deeply to each other.

I thought about this when I heard about the Supreme Court decision recently to overturn the constitutional right to abortion in the United States. Like many, I was somewhat glued to social media and reactions to the ruling across perspectives that whole weekend; one particular Twitter comment from a Catholic commentator has stuck with me.  He opened that while the day might be one of celebration for pro-life folks, it was even more a day to listen to those who were struggling with that decision. I know family members and friends who are all over the place with this decision; some are grateful, some are fearful. I know parishioners who are also experiencing many different emotions about it; we all know how difficult conversations around this issue can be. 

I don’t agree with all that I have heard from others around this decision and what it might mean, but I keep coming back to that Twitter comment and asking myself how I can best listen to others as they express the wide emotions that have come with this decision. As an adoptive father of two, I have a tiny bit of experience knowing how difficult a pregnancy can be when one is not planning or prepared. I will always be grateful to those birth moms for choosing life; I am also grateful to their families and friends who journeyed with them and supported them through their most difficult days. Now and always, as people of faith we are called to assist all those on the margins in our communities, in whatever ways we are able.  

Mary, Untier of Knots, pray for us!     

 

 

Sunday of Divine Mercy

A few years ago, I was coordinating the preparation of our Basilica children for their First Reconciliation; really I was hopefully helping their parents prepare them for this sacrament. I hoped that they would not just know what to do during the sacrament and what to say to the priest but be open to knowing God’s great mercy and love on that day and throughout their lives. 

One young boy came up me after the First Reconciliation service and was beaming; I asked him how it went and he said, “That was awesome! Can I go again?” I looked at his mom and smiled and told him to keep sinning and he can definitely go again! That’s not exactly the idea of the sacrament, but I’m very glad that he had a positive experience. When I was working in college campus ministry, I met a Lutheran student who shared that he was raised Catholic, but became Lutheran because of an experience in Reconciliation when the priest scolded him for his sins, rather than offering mercy and compassion. I offer these brief stories to illustrate the power this particular sacrament can have, both in positive and negative experiences.

Today is known as Divine Mercy Sunday, and has been since 2000, when Pope John Paul II declared this to be celebrated every year on the 2nd Sunday of Easter. You may recall the Year of Mercy that Pope Francis called for in the Church in 2015; mercy has been one of the hallmarks of his papacy, both experiencing the mercy of God in our own lives and then sharing works of mercy with others. 

Sr. Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun of early 1900s, had powerful mystical experiences in prayer that she wrote in her diaries about God’s mercy; these helped to begin this movement in the Church.  She shared a beautiful prayer for us; in this Easter season, may we know the mercy of the Risen Christ in many ways and never hesitate to share it with others. 

 

Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbor’s souls and come to their rescue.

Help me, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbors’ needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings.

Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.

Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors and take upon myself the more difficult and toilsome tasks.

Help me, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor overcoming my own fatigue and weariness. My true rest is in the service of my neighbor.

Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. I will refuse my heart to no one. May Your mercy, O Lord, rest upon me. Amen.

Continued Easter blessings to all!

 

This weekend 15 young adults are taking part in a retreat at St. John’s, which has become a bit of a tradition over the past few years for BYA. We typically go to St. John’s in the fall for a weekend to get away from our regular routine and enjoy some space for collective and individual prayer time, community and the beauty of the St. John’s campus. Last year we went to a local retreat center and did not have the entire weekend, so getting back for a safe weekend away has been a great blessing for us. 

We always have a speaker for part of the weekend, and this year Sr. Michelle Lallier from the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls returned and spoke on the topic of “Seeking Peace in an Age of Rupture: Wisdom from Saint Francis.” Our hope was to gather some insights for our young adult community in particular from the Franciscan Tradition in this tumultuous time in our country and world. 

As far as I can tell, these are some of the major questions surrounding young adults (and not just young adults) as we gather this weekend for retreat:

-  What do we make of the “Great Resignation,” those who are looking for new work, those who have lost jobs and are wondering what their next career path is, how much “going to work” has changed in the last year and a half, and where is God in all of this change? How is God calling each of us to use our God-given gifts and talents in this particular time of economic upheaval?

-  What would Francis and Clare say to the ongoing political divides in our families, communities and country? How are we called to live the “Prayer of St. Francis” in the midst of such discord, and how do we continue to work for the common good in what often looks like insurmountable gridlock, even sometimes in our daily conversations? Connected to this political division, what would they say to the ongoing social justice issues that we face around race and diversity, care for God’s creation, and the ongoing plight of immigrants and refugees? 


-  What would Francis and Clare say to the ongoing anxiety surrounding COVID-19 and the ups and downs associated with the Delta variant? How would they speak to the ongoing questions surrounding vaccines, booster shots, and now children’s vaccinations, along with the wealth of information (and disinformation) that surrounds all of these? 

Perhaps the best thing we can do this weekend is simply rest and let go of these concerns, if only for a short while. God is faithful and promised to be with us through all of this, especially in our anxieties, fears and suffering. Or maybe the best we can do is what we did this weekend “up north”: take time out for intentional daily prayer, enjoy God’s creation with each other and support each other in community. We can do that on retreat and we can do that daily as a Basilica faith community. 

 

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. 

 

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