Weekly Musings

Extraordinary Times call for Extraordinary Measures

Many years ago I attended a conference which gathered liturgists, architects, and artists from around the world to anticipate worship in a digital age. We talked about virtual churches, virtual art, and even virtual liturgies. Though intrigued, I must admit that I was shocked by the ease with which so many participants anticipated the time when we would all worship “together” from the comfort of our home thanks to the miracle of the internet. What would that be like, people marveled. When I half-jokingly asked if we would have to come up with a theology for “virtual” real presence during on-line adoration, people gave me a blank stare. My suggestion that “burning” a virtual candle was even worse than dropping a coin in an electric candle stand was equally ignored. I did not really care because I did not believe that we would ever get there. And yet, here we are!

A week ago we started limiting physical access to our liturgies while making them only accessible electronically. I was forced to overcome the instinctive dislike I had of virtual liturgy so many years ago when the digital age was still in its infancy. However, extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

Catholic liturgy is by its very definition never virtual and digital but always real and physical. It has to be engaged in with as many human senses as possible and cannot be limited to a visual and /or acoustical experience. Also, Catholic liturgy is not received passively but needs to be engaged in actively. And, we need to be able to receive not only the form or words used for the sacraments; we also need to be able to receive the matter of the sacraments such as the Body and Blood of Christ during the Eucharist. However, extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

Being asked to stay away from one another in a time of crisis is so counter-intuitive for us Catholics. We want to be together, join our voices in song, walk around in processions, hug, kiss, and above all receive Holy Communion. And though we so desperately long to be together in these uncertain times, we also know that being together could make us--and worse--could make others very sick. When we need one another the most, we are deprived of one another's presence. However, extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

This, of course is not the first time the Church has experienced times when the faithful were not able to gather. We have been deprived from communal worship during times of religious persecution, war, and previous pandemics. Unlike in earlier times, today we have an alternative way to be together as we join in virtual worship. 

As we gather virtually for liturgy let us remember three things: first, we are the Body of Christ, united in a much deeper and more profound way than one that requires physical closeness. When a priest celebrates the Mass with only one or a few of us physically present the entire Body of Christ still celebrates the liturgy. Though we are not with him and one another physically, we are still together, spiritually bound by the mystery of the cross. Therefore, we will continue to live-stream as many of our liturgies as we can and invite you to join us. Our goal is to continue to create spiritual communion as the Body of Christ. You can announce your presence in the comments so we have a better sense of community, beyond mere numbers. 
Second, though physical Communion is the absolute preference and necessary whenever possible, there are times when we need to resort to Spiritual Communion. This type of Communion is wholly dependent upon our true desire for physical Communion of which we are deprived.  The 18th century  Saint Alphonsus Liguori wrote this beautiful prayer:   

My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the most Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there, and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.

As we participate in a virtual celebration of the Eucharist, let’s pray this prayer of Spiritual Communion as we long for the day when we will again be able to receive Holy Communion.

Third, now is the time to go way back in our history and to rekindle the domestic church and to re-invigorate our own religious imagination. Since we can no longer simply rely on the church to fulfill our religious needs we can work on that ourselves. Find your Bible, your religious images and your candles, and create a small prayer space. Many of us have lost the custom and comfort of praying together. 

If there are several people in your household why not enjoy meals together during this home-stay and begin these meals with a simple prayer? Holy Week with its heightened religious sensitivities is also a good time to find ways in which to mark this most important week at home. We will send you some tips to help you bring the celebration of Holy Week into your homes.

When I attended above mentioned conference on virtual worship I truly never thought we would be doing this all over the world. Admittedly, it is not the preferred way; however, extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. And I hope that as soon as this is all behind us we will rush back to church with joyful anticipation of the celebration of the liturgy. There we will again dip our fingers in baptismal fonts, join our voices in song, walk around in processions, hug, kiss, and above all receive Holy Communion. 

Until then, let us pray with great fervor for an end to this pandemic; for the recovery of those who are ill with this corona virus; and for the eternal joy of those who have died.

Lenten banners hung above sanctuary

Noon Mass April 1

Pastor's Column April/May

[This column was written prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.]

 

For Fr. Bauer's most recent message visit: Stay Home. Stay Safe. Stay Connected.

 

With this column I would like to update you in regard to several areas of our parish’s life.

1. Connect Desk: In case you missed it, in addition to our Hospitality and Information Desk in the lower level, we now have a new “Connect Desk” near the Hennepin Avenue interior doors of The Basilica. The idea behind this desk is to make it as easy as possible for people to connect with The Basilica. Whether an individual wants to become a member, volunteer, or just wants some basic information, the person at the Connect Desk should be able to respond to any queries quickly, easily, and personally. It is our hope that the Connect Desk will help facilitate people’s “connecting” with The Basilica easily and simply. 

2. An Update on Current Parish Initiatives: A little over 10 years ago I co-chaired a Task Force on planning for our Archdiocese. One of the things that became clear to me when I co-chaired this Task Force was that as pastor, I needed to keep an eye on the future, and not focus exclusively on the present. Fortunately, I also realized that looking to the future was a task that would need the keen eyes of many people in addition to myself. Given this, I am pleased to report that in the last several months, due to the hard work of many of our parishioners, we have developed a new five year Strategic Plan (Our Parish, Our Future). Further, for the past few months we have been working with a Change Management Consultant to help us identify those ministries, services and programs, etc. that are important and necessary for our parish community and need to continue, as well as those that need to change or end.

Additionally, in consultation with our Parish Council, The Basilica Landmark Board established a Master Planning Committee to work with HGA Architects and their team to develop a Master Plan for The Basilica and its campus. The Plan is very comprehensive and includes recommendations to support a broad vision for the campus, as well as solutions to identify needs to better perform our day-to-day ministries and works. The Plan did not filter against a budget or a financial target to ensure we addressed all opportunities. The Master Plan included 15 “groupings” of work and expense to reflect potential projects or campaigns for The Basilica to consider. These likely project groupings and the included detail will allow The Basilica flexibility in defining the scope of each project we pursue in the coming years. 

The detail in the Master Plan will be used as a starting point and will help guide us as we begin the work to determine the appropriate scope and phases of implementing the Master Plan. These project priority decisions will be reflective of the needs of our Parish community as well as the interests, budget and giving capacity of our Parishioners and donors.

In conjunction with the Master Plan, The Basilica Landmark Board also approved funding to hire the firm of Bentz, Whaley, Flessner to conduct a Feasibility Study to help determine the fundraising capacity of any potential Capital Campaign that would be needed to implement elements of the newly developed Master Plan. 

As the work of the Campus Space Planning, Master Plan Development, Feasibility Study and potential Capital Campaign have broad implications for our Parish, we have been actively engaged with The Basilica Landmark Board, Parish Council, and Finance Committee to ensure our leaders are informed and appropriately involved in providing guidance and approval. 

3. Easter Giving and Our Parish Finances: At the present time, we are holding our own financially, but the extra income we receive at Easter is a great help to our budget. For this reason, I invite you to be generous to The Basilica at Easter. Also, a big THANK YOU to all those who so generously support our Basilica parish. Your financial support makes it possible for us to continue to offer the programs, ministries, and services that are the hallmark of our parish. 

4. Archdiocesan Synod: On the weekend of January 18 and 19 members of our Parish Synod Committee spoke at all the Masses on the upcoming Archdiocesan Synod. As I have mentioned previously, a synod is a formal representative assembly designed to help a bishop in shepherding of the local Church. It is Archbishop Hebda’s hope that over the next two years, the synod process will involve every parish and draw on the gifts that have been bestowed in such abundance on the people of this archdiocese to discern and establish clear pastoral priorities in a way that will both promote greater unity in our Archdiocese and lead us to a more vigorous proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ. In doing so, it will help Archbishop Hebda discern, through a consultative process, the pastoral priorities of our local Church today—and into the near future.

The synod process began this past fall and continues during the winter and spring with prayer and listening events. After these events, in the summer of 2020, Archbishop Hebda will announce the topics that will shape the synod. In autumn of 2020 and winter of 2021 there will be a parish and deanery consultation process. On Pentecost weekend May 21-22, 2021 there will be a synod assembly. Delegates to this assembly will be invited from across the archdiocese and will meet to discern Synod topics and vote on recommendations for the Archbishop. The Feast of Christ the King (November 21, 2021) is the anticipated publication of pastoral letter from Archbishop Hebda addressing the synod’s topics with a pastoral plan to shape the following 5-10 years.

I believe the synod process brings with it much promise for the future of our Archdiocese. It will only be successful, though, if people pray, participate, and honestly share their concerns, questions, and hopes for our Archdiocese. To this end—since I first informed you of the synod—we have established a parish synod ambassador team who will work to solicit feedback from our parishioners and keep everyone informed as the synod process moves forward. There is a link to this group as well as information on the listening session on our website mary.org/synod. You can anticipate hearing more about the synod in the weeks and months ahead. 

5. The 2020 Catholic Services Appeal: This yearly appeal helps support many of the ministries, services, and programs within our Archdiocese. I am fully aware that many people are concerned that contributions to the Catholic Services Appeal (CSA), will be used for purposes they didn’t intend. In this regard, it is important to note that The Catholic Services Appeal is an independent 501(c) 3 non-profit organization. This was done, to insure that all the money that is collected through the appeal would go directly and solely to the ministries, services and programs supported by the CSA. No CSA funds go to the Archdiocese. 

By pooling the financial resources from generous donors throughout our diocese, much important and necessary work is funded by the Catholic Services Appeal. As your pastor, I wholeheartedly endorse the work of the Appeal; I encourage you to make a gift to support these important ministries, services and programs. Please look for the Catholic Services Appeal information in pews, or learn more at csafspm.org.
6. Civilize It: Dignity Beyond the Debate: The Bishops of the United States have launched a year-long initiative that invites Catholics to model civility, love for neighbor, and respectful dialogue. Civilize It: Dignity Beyond the Debate will ask Catholics to pledge civility, clarity, and compassion in their families, communities, and parishes, and call on others to do the same. 

The initiative is built on the recognition that every person—even, and perhaps especially, those with whom we disagree—
is a beloved child of God who possesses inherent dignity. Civilize It is an invitation to imitate the example of Jesus in our daily lives in our encounters with one another through civil dialogue. 

In talking about this initiative, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, of Venice, and chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development emphasized the importance of Civilize It in the context of the current divisive climate: “Conversation in the public square is all too often filled with personal attacks and words that assume the worst about those with whom we disagree. We are in need of healing in our families, communities, and country. Civilize It: Dignity Beyond the Debate is a call for Catholics to honor the human dignity of each person they encounter, whether it is online, at the dinner table, or in the pews next to them. I invite all Catholics to participate in Civilize It. In doing so, they can bear witness to a better way, approach conversations with civility, clarity, and compassion, and invite others to do the same.” You can find out more about Civilize It at CivilizeIt.org. 

I also invite people to take the Civilize It pledge of: 
1. Civility
2. Clarity and 
3. Compassion
and to pray for civility in our conversations. Let our Basilica community know you are taking the Civilize It pledge at mary.org/civilizeit.

7. Second Collections: While no one likes special collections, it is heartening to report that the people of The Basilica have been very generous to the last special collections here:

  • On the weekend of November 30 and December 1, $9,525 was collected for our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry. 
  • On the weekend of January 11 and 12, $9,768 was collected for our visiting Missionary from the Franciscan Mission Service. 

On the weekend of January 25 and 26, $7,528 was collected to help defer the cost of heating The Basilica during the cold winter months.
The contributions to these collections testify to the generosity of the people of The Basilica. Please know of my gratitude and prayer for your generous and caring response.

 

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

Noon Mass March 31

Interior Cross Image

Noon Mass March 30

This weekend, The Basilica was planning to hold our annual St. Vincent de Paul pledge drive. Once a year, The Basilica invites our community to learn about, pledge financial support, and become part of the important work of our St. Vincent de Paul ministry. We had brochures created, letters written, stories gathered, speakers identified, volunteers signed up. We were ready!

Yet, today we are being challenged to reconsider what it means to “be ready.” A new reality asks; how are we identifying, preparing, and responding to the unique needs of this day? 

As we learn how to live with COVID-19, and as we seek to make decisions respecting and upholding the common good, new questions arise—new paradigms are developed—new fears are unmasked—new hopes are uncovered—and new responses are called for.

The core of our Basilica St. Vincent de Paul Ministry are relationships. Its mission is “To develop community by providing services to our guests and by working to help all fulfill their potential.” In practice, we know all benefit and experience transformation through these relationships: staff, volunteers, and those we serve. All are touched and changed in our work.

I see and hear the harsh realities of life under COVID-19 through my work at The Basilica. People are suffering. Those who were most vulnerable are more isolated and in greater need than before. Programs that serve have been suspended. People who felt secure are now insecure. The health risks are real, especially for the most vulnerable. The economics of the pandemic are unfathomable—and hitting many people hard today.

As we walk through Lent 2020, the experience of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane on Good Friday has become my guiding prayer. Jesus went with some of his disciples to pray. He was distressed and troubled. In his sorrow, he separated himself and fell to the ground. Three times he prayed that his burden would be removed. Yet, he yielded to the will of his Father. He grieved and struggled, and ultimately accepted what he had to do. We know how this story ends—with resurrection and the promise of new life. Yet it was a hard and painful journey. 

To get ready, Jesus went away to pray. He brought along companions. He was honest about his fears and courageous in his actions. Ultimately, he stood up and modeled a commitment to forgiveness, love, self-sacrifice and justice. 

As we live into the unimaginable reality of live-streamed Masses and closed-down cities, we are invited to reflect deeply on how we get ready. We are challenged to let go of preconceived needs and expectations, and surrender parts of our life that sustained us in the past. 

This Lent, as we walk through this pandemic together, we are challenged to find new ways to nurture and build relationships. We are inspired by the courage of first responders, the selflessness of grocery store workers, and the goodness of people who reach out “virtually” to check in and support another. Let us not forget those suffering around us. Though often invisible, we need one another.

Find Volunteer Opportunities related to the COVID-19 pandemic mary.org/volunteer.

 

 

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