Paula Kaempffer

Director of Learning
Learning

Paula joined The Basilica of Saint Mary staff in 2007 and has been involved in Catholic Church ministry for over 35 years. She has a B.S. in Elementary Education and an M.A. in Religious Education from St. Joseph’s Seminary in New York. As the Director of Learning, she works with the educational programming for adults of the parish and oversees The Basilica’s RCIA process and the Catholics Coming Home program, while overseeing the Learning Department which ministers to the children, youth and young adults in our parish and all those preparing for sacraments. 

Paula Kaempffer
(612) 317-3473

Recent Posts by Paula Kaempffer

Something that we, as Catholics, struggle with and find consistency in, is prayer. We come from a tradition that is known for its beautiful liturgy and rich, eloquent prayer that has been spoken and sung for centuries. The practice of praying on our own can be daunting to say the least. It is so tempting to compare our prayers to those found in our many worship experiences, but this is a comparison that does more harm than good. I believe that at the center of prayer is a most important relationship—us and God. In fact, prayer is the relationship.

The words that we articulate are only half the equation. Words are one of the ways we communicate with one another. When spoken in prayer to our God, they often fill what might seem to us to be empty space. There is definitely something more to the practice of prayer than the words. God doesn’t need our words. God already knows what is in the deepest corner of our hearts. The conversation and communion that takes place in prayer happens in the spaces between words. God more often speaks to us in the silence of our prayer. It is in the conversation and the communion that is created with God that is truly where we find God and, in turn, the peace we seek. There is beauty and clarity in this communion with God that allows us to see beyond this world and set our sights on a place of higher ground.

We are called to surrender ourselves to this relationship with God. All we have to do is show up, make time, and set aside 10 or 20 minutes to just “be” in God’s presence. We don’t have to say anything. We can just “be still” and know that God is God. God knows our heart; he knows our deepest desires. He hears our prayers for all of humanity. God always answers our prayers in light of what is the very best for us.

Prayer is a lot like riding a bike. It takes practice and it will not always be easy. It is a continuous process that needs to be addressed daily, just as you would work on your relationship with a family member or close friend. We can’t expect to pray once and have a relationship with God. It is a discipline that requires a lifetime of practice. If we put prayer time into each day, it will be like other relationships in our lives that grow and blossom. To continue with the analogy of learning to ride a bike, you may scrape your knee once or twice. But we need to get up on the bike again in order to learn how to ride it. So it is with our prayer life. We remember that we have a God that is all loving, full of great mercy, and is gentle with us. Jesus told us about God who finds joy in us. The reward at the end is great: a one-on-one relationship with our Creator. What peace and intimacy this relationship can bring to our lives.

 

As we enter into the week of remembrance of the passion and death of Jesus, we come to a crossroads. Jesus, at the end of his ministry, proceeds towards Jerusalem where he will be confronted by the systemic evil of the day—the Roman Empire’s cooperation with the religious authorities to oppress the people of Palestine. Jesus preached and taught the message of forgiveness, love, and tenderness, often in opposition to the Law. The Pharisees were indeed upset with him. After witnessing Jesus’ miracles, his preaching in the Temple, and his large following, the Pharisees and Romans became threatened by his presence, his actions, and his message. Despite the fact that they wanted to kill him, Jesus knowingly continued on his journey to Jerusalem. This sealed his fate. 

During this holy week we must decide to either go with him to Jerusalem or remain where we are in our comfort zones. The systemic evil of our day is prolific. On a global level, we don’t have to look very far to be aware of what is taking place in so many countries today. The towns and cities where the pointless slaughtering of men, women, children, and entire families has been carried out. It is beyond heartless and inhumane. In many cases we know that this has caused widespread famine and flight to other countries. It has left the most vulnerable, our children, without parents and families to care for them.  

Jesus confronted the lack of forgiveness and love, the injustice, the oppression of the most vulnerable, throughout his life, right up until his death on the cross. He spoke against it. He acted in such a way that those who needed his love and forgiveness, were counted among those who received his compassion. He taught us by example. He told us that we would be blessed if we but remember with love those who are most in need.

If we are to walk this holiest of weeks along with Jesus, that means we must always be Jerusalem bound, just as he was. Sometimes it is a very long walk and it takes us places we don’t want to go. Sometimes it leads us right into the midst of power, not to become powerful, but to stand tall and speak truth to power. We walk along with Jesus to Jerusalem, to confront the systemic evils around us: war, poverty, hunger, homelessness, inequality. 

If we call ourselves Christian, then we must walk with Jesus wherever that takes us. We need to have our eyes and hearts open wide to hear the call of being this kind of a disciple. We need not be fearful or bewildered. We will be part of the Body of Christ to which we belong. We will never be alone. We will walk side by side with each other following in the footsteps of the One who promised to be with us to give us strength and hope. We will get to announce the Kingdom of God along with Jesus and a new world without unrest, control, war, oppression, violence and hatred. For this is what we all seek as children of God and heirs to heaven.

Lenten banners hung above sanctuary

Lent: A Season for Change

“Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ’s victory over death. This season urgently calls us to conversion. Christians are asked to return to God “with all their hearts” (Joel 2:12), to refuse to settle for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord. Jesus is the faithful friend who never abandons us.” - Pope Francis

Recently, I read that the Bishop of Swaziland, Ellinah Wamukoya, is inviting people to take part in a "carbon fast" during Lent—to examine their daily actions and reflect on how they impact the environment: "We are of the earth, we are dust, if the earth birthed us so let us look after her, and reduce our carbon foot print to ensure continued life" he said. Another parish encouraged its parishioners to give up salt for Lent, except when it is necessary in a recipe. “We are the salt of the earth…” We reflect on our need for salt today and how we are salt for the earth. Other parishes suggest giving up social media for Lent. Refrain from using social media in order to fill our time with prayer and action for the sake of all those who are suffering in our world. Still others encourage giving up chocolate or a favorite food or dessert. All of these things that we choose to give up during Lent, if not accompanied by prayer, compassion for our brothers and sisters, and action on behalf of them, are meaningless.

Maybe you are a person that doesn’t give any time to prayer or maybe you spend much time praying. Whatever your particular situation, prayer during Lent draws us closer to the Lord. You might pray especially for the grace to live out your baptismal promises more fully, since Lent in the early church was a preparation time for baptism. Praying for our leaders and for peace in our world is a needed practice, especially during Lent. You might also pray for those in our community who are preparing for baptism, confirmation and Eucharist at Easter. Be sure to take a card or two from the baskets at the doors of the church and pray for those individuals and write them a card offering encouragement and prayer. Prayer places all of this before the God of mercy and justice who makes it bear fruit. The Gospel readings used during Lent make clear that this discipline is to be authentic, the product of broken hearts and not external display.

Fasting is one of the most ancient practices linked to Lent. In fact, the paschal fast predates Lent as we know it. Fasting is more than a means of developing self control. It is often an aid to prayer, as the pangs of hunger remind us of our hunger for God. Fasting should be linked to our concern for those who are forced to fast by their poverty, those who suffer from the injustices of our economic and political structures, those who are in need for any reason. Thus fasting, too, is linked to living out our baptismal promises. By our Baptism, we are charged with the responsibility of showing Christ's love to the world, especially to those in need. Fasting can help us realize the suffering that so many people in our world experience every day, and it should lead us to greater efforts to alleviate that suffering. Fasting puts us in touch with our hunger for God and in justice frees resources to share with others. This sharing shows to the world the same charity and justice God has first shown us.

It should be obvious at this point that almsgiving is linked to our baptismal commitment in the same way. It is a sign of our care for those in need and an expression of our gratitude for all that God has given to us. Works of charity and the promotion of justice are essential elements of our way of life we began when we were baptized.

As our Pope Francis says to beautifully, “Lent is the favorable season for renewing our encounter with Christ, living in his word, in the sacraments and in our neighbor. The Lord, who overcame the deceptions of the Tempter during the forty days in the desert, shows us the path we must take. May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word, be purified of the sin that blinds us, and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need.”

During this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has spent one Friday a month praying for those who are suffering throughout the world. Today, I watched a video clip of Pope Francis embracing 20 former prostitutes that had been forced into sex trafficking, had escaped, and were now residing in a Catholic Charities Center in Rome. This was part of his “Mercy Fridays.” You could see the tenderness he had for these women, kind of like I imagine that Jesus had for the prostitutes of his time. The Pope embraced them and told them they were loved. He apologized for not praying enough for them and he promised he would pray more for them. He listened to their stories and again told them how much God loves each of them. Then he blessed them and left. It was so touching to see him extend the mercy and love of God to them. I do not know about you, but this Pope constantly amazes me with his compassion and love for our world. I pray for all of us that we could be more like him and more like Jesus to those around us who are truly suffering.

For the past several weeks I have been meeting with folks who are interested in learning more about Catholicism. These people will make the journey through RCIA this year. Some will choose to become Catholic, while others will choose to move on. It is beautiful to hear their stories of their faith journeys thus far and what has brought them to this point in their lives. One thing I am sure of is that their faith is important to them. And they truly care about being the best people they can in this world no matter what path they take. I ask for your prayers this coming year as they prayerfully discern God’s call in their lives.  I do hope you get to meet them during the year. 

Many of us in my generation and the one after are attending Church regularly and have been for awhile. But many of us have not had any faith formation since the last time we attended CCD classes or religious education when we were in eighth grade, maybe twelfth grade. We tend to just go through the motions of our worship each Sunday without thinking about what we are doing and what the rituals throughout the Mass really mean. That is why we are beginning a new series this fall called, “Seeing with New Eyes: Rediscovering My Faith.” This program is for those who would like to revisit the basics of their faith in a six-week series. Some of the topics we will consider are: our image of God, our image of Church, what Vatican Council II has done for our church, scripture, and the sacraments. You might just discover some of the more beautiful truths of our faith. Postcards are in the pews during the next couple of weeks. Please take one and register for this series. If you would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact me at the parish office. 

We are all gearing up for a full fall lineup of events and programs that we hope will be fulfilling and nourishing to your spirit. A reminder to all: we are still moving through the Year of Mercy so some of our programming will reflect that intention. We ask that you prayerfully continue to live out God’s mercy to all whom you meet. We all need God’s mercy. Let us be generous to a fault with it in the coming days. 

Several difficult days have turned into months. Many of us are confused and discouraged with the recent tragic events that have taken so many lives. It has frightened and divided our society. How does anyone react to fear? None of us does very well. I have noticed that when I am fearful, I react strongly to my environment simply because I am afraid of the unknown and of the future. Maybe some of us have the same common reaction. That is what I see happening in our world today. 

The divisions seem most evident on social media. There is a wide range of opinions. In the beginning, I read viewpoints on different sides and all I came away with was more confusion, so I stopped. I have settled with the thought that with any situation there are true and false statements on every side.

As Christians we have to ask ourselves, have I treated each person I meet with love and care as God’s creation? Have I been able to search for Christ’s face in each one? I know that for me this has not always been the case. There are many excuses that get in the way. I am sure everyone has made excuses for how you have treated others at some point. You see, the excuses do not matter. What matters most is the compassion and love we extend to others. 

In the gospel, Jesus loved to challenge those who were self-righteous, those who felt that they were right and everyone else was wrong. Why did he do that? I think it was because those who are self-righteous are the most difficult to reach and at times, that is you and me. When we get stuck on our side and we become close-minded and think that everyone else is wrong, we become self-righteous. Jesus is asking us to be open-minded and open-hearted and open to thoughts that differ from our own. Jesus is asking us to stay in the conversation and listen deeply to one another and put ourselves in each other’s shoes. Jesus is asking the most difficult of us to reach out in love to everyone around us and embrace each other in love, care, and dignity.

There is a beautiful quote by Glennon Doyle Melton about Mother Teresa, And when she wanted to see the face of God, she didn’t look up or away; she looked into the eyes of the person sitting next to her. Which is harder, and better. What the gospel proclaims is hard, but better. I never thought that it was easy to be a Christian. I have always struggled with being a good one. But if I am to take seriously my vow to live the gospel SEEING THE FACE OF GOD everyday, then I must do this. I must succeed in seeing the face of God in the person next to me.

I end with this quote from N. Wright from Following Jesus, We don’t need Christians who project their own insecurities out on to the world and call it preaching the gospel. We need Christians who will do for the world what Jesus was doing. The Church must be prepared to stand between the warring factions, and, like a boxing referee, risk being knocked out by both simultaneously. The Church must be prepared to act symbolically, like Jesus, to show that there is a different way of living. The Church must be prepared to be the agent of healing.Taking up the cross is not a merely passive operation. It comes about as the Church attempts, in the power of the Spirit, to be for the world what Jesus was for the world announcing the kingdom, healing the wounds of the world.

During these difficult times in our world today, let us bring before God every face, every person we encounter, here and across the globe, every day. Ask God to show His face to us in and through these special gifts in our lives. Let us pray for each other and our world as we go forward.

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