Fr. John Bauer

Rector and Pastor
Clergy

Serves on the Parish Council, Finance Committee, Stewardship Council and as a member of The Basilica Landmark Board.  Fr. Bauer led the successful merger of 3 parishes (St.Therese, St. Gregory, St. Leo) to become the new Lumen Christi in St. Paul, and completed their major building expansion.  Former Pastor of St. Therese, Deephaven and Associate at St. Patrick’s in Edina. 

(612) 317-3502

Recent Posts by Fr. John Bauer

A few weeks ago Johan van Parys, our Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts, wrote an excellent column for this space articulating why he is staying in the Catholic Church. His words prompted me to reflect on why I to stay in our Church, especially in light of the fact that many people have left or are at least taking a break from our church.

In most cases the reason people have left, or are taking a break from our Church, has to do with the handling of the clergy sexual abuse crisis by the leaders of our Church. Over the past many years, hundreds, if not thousands, of priests have engaged in the sexual abuse of children or vulnerable adults. Others have sexually exploited or harassed adults. Worse, many bishops and others in leadership positions covered up this behavior or turned a blind eye to it. Worse still, it has come to light that some bishops have also engaged in this kind of behavior. Worst of all, though, is that now that the actions of these bishops have come to light, the leadership of our Church still hasn’t developed a comprehensive plan to respond to the sexually inappropriate behavior of their fellow bishops. 

Until and unless the leaders of our Church acknowledge their failures, and put forth a concrete, specific plan for their future accountability, our Church will continue to be embroiled in the sexual abuse crisis, and people will continue to leave our Church in frustration and anger. People have been deeply wounded by individuals they have trusted. In many cases, those in positions of authority allowed this to happen. These same leaders must now commit themselves publicly to openness, transparency, and honesty. This is called accountability. People should not only expect it; they should demand it. 

Despite the failures of many in leadership positions in our Church, however, and despite the fact that many people have left our Church, I chose to remain. While the reasons I stay are many and varied, there are two primary reasons. 

I stay in the Church because I need the Eucharist. As Catholics we believe that in the Eucharist we celebrate and share, that Jesus Christ is really and truly present—not present just in memory, not present just symbolically, and not present just spiritually, but really and truly present. We offer no proof for this. There is no logical or rational explanation for it. The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is a matter of faith. And it is the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist that I hunger for and that sustains and nourishes me in my life. As I tell the children at First Eucharist every year: I know that I am not the best person in the world. I am a sinner. But I would be far worse without the Eucharist. The Eucharist makes me be a better person than I would otherwise be. I cannot do without it, and I cannot accept a substitute for it. 

The second reason I stay in the Church is that I need a community of faith that both supports and challenges me. I believe we do this especially well at The Basilica. Here at The Basilica we welcome all those who come through our doors. Not only do we strive to see the face of Christ in one another, but we also strive to be the face of Christ for each other. While some would seek to limit the embrace of our Church, I believe that the embrace of our Church can be nothing less than the embrace of God’s love. 

In his message at the beginning of Lent a few years ago Pope Francis wrote: “Dear brothers and sisters, how greatly I desire that all those places where the Church is present, especially our parishes and our communities may become islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference.” I believe these words describe well what the church, as a community of faith, is all about. These words are an important and necessary challenge to parishes everywhere. They remind us that parishes can never be self-referential or concerned only with their own self interest. The Church needs to be a community of faith that supports and challenges its members. The Church needs to be a community of faith where people are welcomed and accepted. The Catholic Church—and particularly The Basilica—does this better than any church I know. I need this in my life. 

And so because I need the Eucharist and because I need a community that supports and challenges me, I stay in the Catholic Church. 

In this space several months ago I quoted a line from the late comedian Phyllis Diller, who famously said: “Don’t go to bed angry…Stay up and fight.” I believe this is good advice for Catholics today. And so, on this Easter Sunday, I say to all those who may read this: Don’t leave our Church angry. Stay and fight for a Church that is open, honest, and transparent. Stay and fight for leadership that is accountable and responsible. Stay and fight so that you can be the Church that you want the Church to be. Stay—and celebrate the Eucharist and be a part of a community that supports and challenges all of us. 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/042119.cfm 

The readings listed above are those that will be used on Easter Sunday morning at the Basilica.  There are different readings for the Mass of the Easter Vigil on Saturday night, and a different Gospel for Easter Sunday afternoon.   

The Gospel for Easter Sunday is John’s account of Mary of Magdala’s finding of the empty tomb.  We are told that she “came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.  So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved and told them, ‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him.”   Peter and John then both ran to the tomb.  John arrived first, but perhaps out of deference to Peter, did not go in.  He merely “bent down and saw the burial cloths there.”   When Peter arrived he went into the tomb and “saw the burial clothes there.” John also went in and we are told that “he saw and believed.”   We don’t know exactly John what believed because the last line of the Gospel is enigmatic: “For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”   It is easy for us from our vantage point 20 centuries later to wonder why Peter and (perhaps) John didn’t immediately understand the resurrection.  We need to remember, though, that Jesus’ resurrection was entirely new, clearly extraordinary, certainly beyond understanding, and something that has never occurred since.   

In our second reading today, St. Paul urges us to “Think of what is above, not of what is on the earth.”  

Our first reading today is taken from the Acts of the Apostles.  It is part of a speech by Peter to the Gentiles.  In a few brief words Peter summarizes Jesus’ ministry and then reminds people that “This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. What stands out for you from the various Services of Holy Week?
  2. Is there a sentence from the Easter Gospel that has special meaning for you? 
  3. Peter speaks of being a witness to the risen Lord.  How do you give witness to the risen Lord Jesus in your life?  

     
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
 
 
This weekend we celebrate Palm Sunday.  In addition to the usual three readings, we also have a Gospel reading that is used at the beginning of Mass.  This reading records Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem just prior to his passion.  This Gospel is read at the beginning of Mass and introduces the procession with palms. 
 
Each year on Palm Sunday we read one of the accounts of Jesus’ passion and death on the cross.  This year we read from the Gospel according to Luke.  While each of the four evangelists tells the story of the passion and death of Jesus, they each approach it from their own unique perspective.  In this regard, Luke is not as sparse in detail as Mark.  At the same time, in Luke’s account of the passion, Jesus is not as regal or as “in charge” as he is in John’s account.   From Luke’s perspective, Jesus willingly accepts his suffering and death as the fulfillment of God’s plan.   
 
While we are all familiar with the story of Jesus’ passion, reading (or hearing) it in its entirety can help us appreciate anew--and hopefully at a deeper level--the suffering Jesus’ endured for our sake.  
 
The first and second readings for Palm Sunday remain the same every year.   The first reading is taken from that part of Isaiah known as the “songs of the suffering servant.”   From the earliest days of the Church, Christians have seen these songs as referring to Christ, the suffering servant par excellence.  
 
The second reading for Palm Sunday is taken from Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  It is in the form of a hymn and it speaks of Jesus’ journey from heaven to earth and back to heaven.  Its simple eloquence reminds us that Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave” for us.   And because of this, “every knee shall bend in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord………..”  
 
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
  1. As you read the passion, what moment stands out for you?
  2. The “cross” has been a Christian symbol for centuries.  Yet, in recent years especially, it has become more decoration/ornamentation than a symbol of one’s faith.  Why do you think this is?
  3. In the second reading, Paul speaks of Jesus’ emptying himself for our sake.  Have you ever emptied yourself for another?    

     

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/040719-yearc.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the Fifth Sunday of the Season of Lent.   Our Gospel this weekend is taken from the Gospel of John and is the familiar story of the woman caught in adultery.   

There are several things that require comment in regard to this Gospel.   First, notice that the scene takes place early in the morning.  This suggests that someone didn’t just happen upon a late night rendezvous, but rather that a trap had been laid for the woman.  This is supported by the custom of the time which required the witness of two or more men to accuse someone of wrongdoing.  Obviously, catching the woman in adultery had been prearranged.  Second, the last I heard, adultery required two people.  Where is the woman’s companion?    Third, there has been much speculation about what Jesus wrote when he bent down and wrote on the ground.  The fact is, however, that we simply don’t know.   Fourth, notice that the crowd begins to disperse “beginning with the elders.”   This suggests that wisdom often --- but certainly not always --- comes with age.  Finally, notice that Jesus doesn’t excuse or minimize what the woman did.  Rather, he did not condemn her.  This is significant.  It reminds us that judgment belongs to God alone.  

The point of this Gospel is clear.  All of us are sinners.   All of us stand in need of God’s mercy.  No one of can stand in judgment of another.   Judgment is God’s business, and God doesn’t need our help.  

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.   It was a powerful reminder to the Israelites --- and us --- that God has not just been present and active in the past, but that this is still true today.  “see, I am doing something new!  Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”   

Our second this Sunday is taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians.  In it, Paul exults in the life in Christ that has been given him. “I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. The woman in this weekend’s Gospel experienced the grace filled mercy of God.  When have you experienced this in your life?
  2. When have you failed to show mercy to another and instead have stood in judgment of them?
  3. When and how have you found God doing “something new” in your life?  
     

Bulletin April/May 2019

From the Pastor

It’s not over yet …

As I write this column, it was recently announced that former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been removed from ministry. I suspect that several bishops, along with many members of the Vatican Curia are wiping their brows and muttering: “Whew! Thank God, that’s over.” And yet, the reality is that it isn’t over—not by a long shot. There are things that yet need to be done to bring closure to this very sad and very painful chapter in the history of the Catholic Church in America. Specifically, I think there are four things that need to be done in response to the news about former Cardinal McCarrick. 

1. We need to make public all the files that relate to former Cardinal McCarrick. I say this not because I want to encourage voyeurism or to publicly humiliate former Cardinal McCarrick. Rather, until everything is out in the open, I suspect there will always be the suspicion in the public’s mind that the Church is holding something back. At this point in time, however, our Church cannot appear to be anything less than open, honest and transparent. Even the hint that something is being withheld or being covered up is simply unacceptable. We need to publicly share the various files on former Cardinal McCarrick, so that there can be no doubt that our Church leaders understand and are truly committed to a new era of openness, transparency, and honesty. This is called accountability. People should not only expect it, they should demand it.

Related to the above, as I’ve stated in the past, and for the same reasons as above, I think our Archdiocese needs to release the investigations into the conduct of former Archbishop John Nienstedt. Certainly there are ways of protecting the anonymity of those who, when interviewed, were promised anonymity. The faithful of our Archdiocese need and deserve the truth, so that we can move forward into a future with confidence that our Archdiocese is indeed being open, honest, and transparent. 

2. Those Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, and priests who knew of former Cardinal McCarrick’s behavior and didn’t say or do anything about it, need to resign. Since the news about former Cardinal McCarrick first became public, the lingering question has been how he was able to remain at the pinnacle of power in the Catholic Church for more than twenty years despite persistent rumors that something was amiss. People need to know who knew what, when did they know it, and why they failed to act. On October 6, the Vatican issued a statement indicating that Pope Francis had ordered a “thorough review” of Vatican files relating to McCarrick. In part the statement read: “Both abuse and its cover-up can no longer be tolerated and a different treatment for Bishops who have committed or covered up abuse, in fact represents a form of clericalism that is no longer acceptable.” While the Vatican indicated that the results of the review would be communicated “in due course,” so far there has been no update. Until that revelation comes, it is doubtful that anyone will consider the McCarrick story closed.

3. Just as dioceses in the United States have policies and procedures for dealing with priests who have been accused of sexual abuse or other sexually inappropriate behaviors, so now Bishops need to be covered by these same policies and procedures. Furthermore, these policies and procedures need to be world-wide. As I write this column the meeting of the heads of the world’s Bishops’ Conferences in Rome has just ended. Perhaps it will produce such a result. If that doesn’t occur, however, the Bishops of the United States need to put into place the same policies and procedures that are in place for priests, for bishops who have been accused of sexual abuse or other sexually inappropriate behavior, or who covered up this behavior. There is no reason why this can’t be done, and no excuse for not doing it. We need this kind of accountability if our Church and its leaders will ever again be seen as creditable. 

4. In regard to the issue of clergy sexual abuse we must continue to offer our apologies, and look for ways to reach out to those who are victims/survivors of sexual abuse. However, as I mentioned in an earlier column on this issue, we must also acknowledge and admit with sadness and great sorrow that we can never think that our previous and ongoing apologies are enough, or that we can ever make amends. Yes, we need to continue to offer our ongoing profound and deepest apologies. But this is only the beginning. People have been deeply wounded by individuals they trusted. In most cases, those in positions of authority allowed this to happen. We must seek new and ongoing ways to respond to the hurt and pain that happened to people in our church. I don't know what this will look like, but I do know we need to talk about this in a public forum, so victims/survivors can tell us what they need from us. Apologies—even ongoing apologies—are not enough.

Until and unless the leaders of our Church exercise leadership in regard to the issue of sexual abuse, our church will continue to be embroiled in the sexual abuse crisis. Worse, until and unless the leaders of our Church exercise leadership in regard to the issue of sexual abuse, people will continue to leave our Church in frustration and anger. As we struggle to deal with this crisis and move forward, I believe prayer will be an essential weapon in our arsenal. We need to pray for and with each other and most particularly for those who have brought this stain upon our Church. Certainly prayer cannot change what has happened, but it can have a salving effect on wounded souls and eventually it can bring about healing and peace.

 

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

 

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