A House Founded on the Cross Cannot Fall

Heartfelt thanks are due to the countless individuals, families and groups who made SeptemberFest 2018 such a grand occasion of community-building and joyous fellowship. There are too many to mention here, but they know who they are. To our sponsors and donors, all who served in countless roles of hospitality and those who simply came to enjoy, thank you! Once again it was a sort of ‘miracle of teamwork’ – a true accomplishment for our parish. The Lord sent us splendid weather. Predictably, I ended the weekend exhausted, without much of a voice, but very much encouraged and inspired by what I observed and by visiting with countless parishioners, friends and neighbors. Hopefully you won’t mind me saying so, but I think we all had so much fun we should do it all over again next year!

It is true that no structure is any stronger than its foundation. A house or a church has strength to stand because of what it rests upon. Fr. Jean Baptiste Marie Vianney, the saintly pastor of the village of Ars famously observed in a homily: “A house founded upon the Cross cannot fall”.  These words were engraved on a plaque near the front doors of the college seminary at the University of St. Thomas where I studied in preparation for priesthood. As seminarians we often prayed an evening walking rosary around the college campus and always returned to the massive crucifix mounted near the front doors of St. John Vianney Seminary for the concluding ‘Hail, Holy Queen’. I often pondered what those words of our patron meant. I still wonder and pray that my heart, my life as a priest, our life together as a parish is founded solidly on the Cross of Christ, the true cornerstone of the Church. Unless our strength is Christ’s victory which we celebrate in this weekend’s Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, we have no real strength at all. What a gift that the titular feast for our parish reminds us that we are called to stand firm not only united in hope beneath the Cross of Christ but also established firmly upon the Cross as the basis of our strength.

Anyone who has explored the famous tunnels under Holy Cross church might have realized that the church is built on a type of sedimentary shale stone. I find this a beautiful symbol and reminder. With this weekend’s anniversary and feast day, we give thanks for the fact that for ninety years the sacred edifice on the corner of University Avenue and 17th Avenue NE has stood not only on shale but on the strong and saving reality of the Cross. One of the nonagenarians that I spoke to at the festival this past weekend grew up across the street from Holy Cross and remembered as a curious five-year-old watching the building of the ‘new’ church, now 90 years old. From the cornerstone which was set in place in 1927 to the putting of the finishing touches on the church for its dedication by Archbishop Austin Dowling on September 16, 1928, no doubt there was a great deal of work that went into every detail. The most important detail, though, was the fact that this parish, church and all of Roman Catholicism had been founded upon the Cross.

I am grateful to Fr. Stan who organized an initiative with the Polish community to commission a simple granite grave marker for Victor Cordella, the architect of Holy Cross church and many other Minneapolis churches, as well as churches throughout Minnesota. Although Cordella had been buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery in South Minneapolis upon his death in 1937, his original gravestone had apparently broken down in the elements. A number of parishioners contributed to the effort to place a new grave stone to mark the resting place of this Krakow-born church architect. A group of parishioners gathered on Sunday, September 2 to bless the new headstone and pray a couple of decades of the Rosary for his eternal repose. Cordella’s vision of the beauty and solidity of Catholicism is on vivid display in our beloved Holy Cross church. For generations, may it continue to stand in witness to the Glory of God.


We are very pleased to welcome Bishop Andrew Cozzens to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of the dedication of the current Holy Cross church at the 9:30 am Mass this Sunday. His presence and preaching is a great blessing. It also serves as an opportunity for us to welcome the new residents to the historic Holy Cross Convent, affectionately known now as the Bethany House. Six young women have recently taken up residence there and will spend the coming year listening to the Lord in a structured life of prayer and community as they simultaneously carry out the duties of their individual jobs. We welcome them to our parish!

I am excited to share the news that Alex, one of the young women who lived in the Bethany House last year, recently wrote to me from the Handmaids of the Heart of Jesus in New Ulm, MN where she entered as a postulant in late August. She invited me to share her words with all of you: “I’ve been loving life here so far. These next couple years will involve a lot of spiritual and personal formation as I continue to discern my vocation. God-willing, I’ll make my first temporary vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in 3 years. There are currently 21 sisters in the community in various stages of formation (17 serving the Diocese of New Ulm and 4 in the Duluth Diocese). If they’d like to learn more about the Handmaids they can go to www.handmaidsoftheheartofjesus.com. Thank them for their support during my discernment in Bethany House and for their continued prayers! And know of my prayers for you, the parish, and Bethany House”. These are heartening words of encouragement that remind us to pray constantly for vocations and to do all we can as a parish to promote a culture of vocational discernment.

We also welcome a group of male residents to the new property on 4th Street NE. A locally-based apostolate called Teach for Christ (www.teachforchrist.org) has established a house of young educators who are living in community and serving in local urban Catholic schools, including our own St. John Paul II. We are grateful for their partnership, their presence around the parish and energetic commitment to Catholic education. We look forward to getting to know them in the coming months.

Of course our church is about much more than mere bricks and mortar; it is the living stones of human lives lived in parish communities through so many decades that provide such a rich history and legacy upon which we are called to continue building. But in order to keep building, we must identify a lasting foundation. As we come to Mass this weekend in whatever church building we find ourselves, let us pose the question of what our lives are founded upon. Would that we would heed the invitation of St. John Vianney to found our lives upon the Cross of Christ!


Firmly united with Our Lady of Sorrows at the Cross,

Fr. Howe