Johan van Parys

Director of Liturgy & Sacred Arts
Liturgy

Johan van Parys, a native of Belgium, has been The Basilica’s Director of Liturgy and the Sacred Arts since 1995. He holds graduate degrees in art history and comparative religious studies from the Catholic University in Louvain, Belgium, and a Ph.D. in theology from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. 

Johan enjoys writing for Basilica publications as well as for other outlets. Since 1997 he has been the managing editor for Basilica, the award winning Basilica Magazine. His book Symbols That Surround Us was published in 2012. Johan teaches in the School of Theology at St. John’s University. He is the current chair and founding member of the MN chapter of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums and is a member of the North American Academy of Liturgists and Societas Liturgica.

(612) 317-3434

Recent Posts by Johan van Parys

Art That Surrounds Us: Johan van Parys, Ph.D., our Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts, shares information about a piece from The Basilica of Saint Mary's art collection. This week's installment features our icon of Saint Dymphna, commissioned by our Mental Health Ministry and made by Stillwater iconographer Deb Korluka.

 

 

Saint Dymphna Icon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Johan van Parys, Ph.D., Director of Liturgy and the Sacred Arts, introduces the newest Basilica icon, Saint Josephine Bakhita.

 

 

Saint Josephine Bakhita Icon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For two months now, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives greatly. As a result many of us have experienced some level of fear, stress, anxiety and grief. Given the uncertainty of every day, week and beyond this is to be expected.

As a church community we are called to support one another in times such as these. And though we may not be able to console and support one another in person, we know that we are not alone because we are all part of the one Body of Christ. We are in this together, for when one part of the Body suffers, the entire Body suffers in solidarity. So we help where and when we can and we are committed to fervent prayer.

Starting on the first Sunday in June and every first Sunday thereafter we will livestream Evening Prayer from The Basilica as long as the Pandemic lasts. This Evening Prayer for Solace and Peace will be offered for all those who are affected in any way by COVID-19. You may have lost your job. You may have been diagnosed with the virus. You may be at greater risk because you are a first responder or healthcare worker , or you work in the cleaning service, as a postal worker or a bank clerk. Maybe you are alone and unable to receive loved ones. There are so many known and unknown ways we are affected by this pandemic. So it is good for us to pause and pray.

At the end of our Evening Prayer for Solace and Peace we will light candles in one of our Marian shrines. We invite you to send your intentions at mary.org/candles. We will offer those to our loving God while lighting the candles.

We especially invite those who have experienced the loss of a family member or a friend during this pandemic to join us. Grief over the death of a loved one is always profound, but this has been compounded during the pandemic. You may not have been able to be with your loved one while they passed away. You may have had to limit attendance at the funeral to a small group of people. Or you may have postponed the service to a future date. All of this is very difficult.

Please submit the names of family and friends who have died during this pandemic to mary.org/prayerrequests. As part of the service, their names will be spoken during the litany of All Saints and All Souls. We hope this service will offer some support to all those who are grieving. And it will offer all of us the opportunity to support our grieving sisters and brothers.

May we all know the healing and consolation of the resurrected Christ.

 

Rediscovering Church

Did you attend church? How was church today? Can you believe how long church lasted? These are questions you have undoubtedly heard many times before. You probably have asked them yourself. They are all valid questions, except maybe for the last one about the length of Mass.

The current pandemic may have occasioned some new questions. Aren’t you sad we are unable to have church? Don’t you love livestreamed church? Won’t it be fantastic when we can have church again? 

What all these questions have in common is that church is equated with a church service in a church building. And though church services and church buildings are a very important part of our church life, there is so much more to being church than that. The current pandemic offers us the unsolicited but hopefully renewing opportunity to think more deeply about what it means to be church.

For now, the active participation in the liturgy that is so important to all of us has been largely taken away from us. This inability to worship in our churches is compelling us to actively participate in the church beyond the liturgy and outside our church buildings. We are (re)-discovering that church is not just a building we go to and a liturgy we participate in but rather church is a way of interacting with one another and our world. In a profound sense we are no longer consumers of church rather we are (re)-discovering what it means to be creators of church.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church posits that the Church is the People of God, the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. All three understandings of Church root us in our relationship with our Triune God who is our creator, our savior and who inspires us. Though of course we are initiated into the church during worship and worship nourishes and heals us during our earthly journey, this three-fold understanding of church is very much outward oriented. We, as the church are meant to “seek the well-being of the City to which we have been sent, for in its well-being we will find our own.” (Our Vision Statement after the Prophet Jeremiah)

Gaudium et Spes, the 1965 Constitution on the Church in the Modern World makes it abundantly clear that the church exists in and for the world. It states that “it is the duty of the whole People of God, following the word and example of the bishops, to alleviate as far as they are able the sufferings of the modern age.” This mission has a great urgency today. Though we may not be able to gather in church for church, our calling to be church is more important than ever.

Today, on the Solemnity of Pentecost we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of our church. Let’s implore the Holy Spirit to inspire us to find ever new ways to realize our mission of creation, salvation and inspiration in this ever changing and ever more complex world. 

Come Holy Spirit!

 

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

Today, we receive these comforting words from John’s Gospel in the serene setting of the liturgy. And we mostly overlook the fact that they were first spoken in the highly emotional context of the Last Supper.

Jesus gathered with his followers to celebrate a Passover meal as would have been the custom of all Jews. Things took a surprising turn when Jesus began to wash his followers’ feet.  This was most unusual as the washing of feet was commonly done by servants. It was so puzzling to his disciples that Peter at first refused to have his feet washed by Jesus, though in the end he submitted. By washing his followers’ feet Jesus demonstrated how radical and world altering his teaching was and continues to be. He also commanded his disciples to do as he had done: to wash one another’s feet and love one another.

Then Jesus revealed that Judas would betray him and that Peter would deny him. In addition, Jesus disclosed that his time with them was coming to and end. All of this must have been extremely unsettling for the disciples who anticipated a conventional Passover meal but rather experienced the Last Supper with all its human and divine drama in anticipation of Jesus’ passion and death.

At the height of this drama Jesus says: “do not let your hearts be troubled.” I can only speculate at how the disciples received this statement.

Since that night, we the followers of Jesus have found ourselves in troubling times marked by plagues, wars, revolutions, persecutions, etc. And like Jesus told his followers 2000 years ago he has told his followers through the ages even until today: “do not let your hearts be troubled.”

In addition to speaking these comforting words Jesus also reveals in today’s Gospel how we are to act so our hearts will not be troubled even in these most troubling of times by offering himself as “the truth, the way and the life.” Following in the way of Jesus by living and preaching his truth is what will give us life. This fundamental truth and the true way of Jesus is love and service which he demonstrated during the Last Supper by washing feet and commanding us to do the same.

Our times are very troublesome and uncertain. So many people have been affected by COVID 19 in so many different ways. We have no idea when this pandemic will end or what the ultimate impact will be on our society and our personal lives. Like the disciples during the Last Supper we are confused and don’t quite know what to think or how to feel.

As he told his disciples some 2000 year ago, today Jesus tells us not to let our heart be troubled because he is “the truth, the way and the life.” While comforting us he invites us to live and act as he did by loving one another as he has loved us. 

 

 

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