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

“Realities are more important than ideas.” I have been confronted with this line from Pope Francis a few times lately. The first time I encountered it was several years ago when I read the Pope’s letter The Joy of the Gospel with the parish staff I was with at the time. I recall that many of us struggled initially with exactly what Pope Francis was talking about.

More recently, it popped up in one of the writings our Basilica small faith community is using on Tuesday evenings, Fr. Daniel mentioned it in a staff meeting, and I mentioned it again at the Basilica Young Adult fall retreat a few weeks ago.  Most recently, I had just finished a wedding rehearsal and was starting to prepare for another one when a gentleman came in and started looking around.  Eventually, he came to me and started asking questions about our beautiful Basilica. His first question was about our Baptism font, and early in our conversation he mentioned he had no faith background at all but was drawn in by the beauty of the space, as many are. We ended up walking around for a while and I tried to point out some of the many highlights around the church, trying to explain who Jesus was, who Mary was, why Jesus died on a cross, who the apostles are around our sanctuary, etc. It’s never easy trying to crystalize the great Mysteries of our faith in just a few sentences!

Eventually, he had to go check out another local landmark, the Mall of America. I invited him to join us for Mass that weekend before he had to travel back home to California, but he would not be able to come back. In reflecting on this time spent with him, I realized a few things. First, my admiration for our staff and volunteer docents who know so much about our lovely space was reaffirmed; I know just enough to usually refer people to our wonderful self-guided tour booklets. Second was a growth in my understanding about what Pope Francis meant in saying that realities are more important than ideas.  I was able to point out some facts to him about our Basilica and the many ways it teaches us our Catholic faith, and for where he is at in his spiritual journey, it may have been helpful. However, if those ideas never become realities for him, if he only knows about Jesus Christ but never recognizes the experience of having an encounter with Jesus, he will always at best be stuck with an idea.  Now, it’s a pretty great idea, but it’s nothing like the reality of knowing Jesus Christ.

This encounter led me to have a powerful examination of my own conscience. How much do I really seek the kind of experiential encounter that Pope Francis is referencing? Am I more comfortable with the idea of God, rather than seeking an actual encounter with God through prayer, participation in our sacraments, and/or encounters of service that lead me to those who are on the margins of our society? The Saints we honor in our icons throughout our sanctuary this month lived out the truth that realities are more important than ideas; perhaps we can all learn from them and follow their example. 

 

This past year our son celebrated his First Communion. His initial reaction was that it tasted pretty good! He does have a discerning palate, so we are fortunate that he liked the taste of the blessed host. I hope it tastes good to him every time he goes to Mass, but more than that I hope he begins to reflect that in receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, he is called to BE Jesus to others, probably beginning with his little sister.

I took the lead in his sacramental preparation and noticed that there was heavy emphasis on the doctrinal and devotional formation, and virtually nothing on the implications that receiving the Eucharist has in loving our neighbor. Do I want our children to understand the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist? Of course, and I hope he can grow in his devotion to this particular Sacrament over the course of his life; this is truly a life-long endeavor for all of us. However, if this formation comes at the expense of his learning what receiving the Eucharist demands of us, something fundamental is lacking in that formation.

You may have heard that this June the United States Bishop’s began a three year long Eucharistic Revival. What exactly is a Eucharistic Revival? I like this line for the website: “The Revival is a grassroots movement of Catholics, each responding to the gift of the Eucharist in their own way.” I appreciate this definition because it seems to be an invitation to each of us to reflect and respond, and gives space for people to respond in a variety of ways. I think it is also a particularly poignant time to reflect on this, as we have come out of a pandemic time when we were not able to celebrate the Mass and come together as the Body of Christ in this most important way.

What might the reflection look like? Perhaps some of us may review and reflect on the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist, or perhaps how we might grow in our own devotion to the Eucharist. I know for myself sometimes the sacraments can grow a bit stale, especially if I have received them many times. Perhaps we might go beyond reflection and “into the concrete practice of love” that Pope Benedict called us to in one of his early writings as Pope.  

I remember years ago in an RCIA presentation here (folks discerning if they want to join our Catholic Community), that in an older Rite the Mass was to begin “when the priest was ready.” In our newer Rite we begin “when the people have gathered.” I want our priests to be ready when we begin Mass, but what a beautiful reminder to all of us that the celebration of the Eucharist cannot even begin without us gathered as community!

We are in the midst of another busy fall here at the Basilica, and there is much that you can enter into.  Faith formation classes have begun, RCIA continues to meet, small groups are gathering, and we have a great lineup of speakers coming over the next few months. All of these offerings are great, but our gatherings make most sense when they flow into and out of our Eucharistic celebration. Hopefully we can take advantage of this time and grow in our understanding and love of the Eucharist as individuals and as a community. 

 

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. 

 

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