This article originally appeared on the Archdiocese of Detroit’s website Unleash the Gospel.
From beginning to end, the Bible is one great love story. The very first human words in Scripture are Adam’s outburst of joy at seeing Eve, his bride, for the first time: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” (Gn 2:23). The last words quoted in Scripture express the church’s longing for the coming of Christ, her heavenly bridegroom: “The Spirit and the bride say, Come!” (Rv 22:17). In the middle of the Bible is the Song of Songs, a mystical poem about the romance between God and his people. From the Garden of Eden to the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb, the story of salvation is a story of spousal love.
It is no wonder God takes marriage very seriously. The book of Genesis reveals that God established marriage from the beginning as an essential part of his plan for human beings. On the day he created man and woman, God gave them the very first commandment: “Be fertile and multiply” (Gn 1:28); that is, come together in a physical union that reflects a personal union on every level of their being — a union so potent that it will be the way new human life is generated.
Genesis 2 teaches the same truth in a different way. God first creates the man, then remarks, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him.” This affirms what we already know instinctively: Human beings are made for relationship. We cannot flourish without love.
God then forms a woman from Adam’s rib and brings her to him like the father of the bride. When Adam sees Eve, it is a moment of self-discovery. He recognizes that she is his equal, a personlike himself, to whom he can give himself as a gift. Yet she is not a mere replica; she and he have physical differences that are evidently designed for union. Anatomically, hormonally, emotionally and psychologically, they are perfectly complementary. The woman, unlike the animals, can receive and freely reciprocate Adam’s gift of himself, and they can form a covenant of love that is faithful, fruitful and lifelong.
Their covenant of self-giving love is expressed and enacted in their sexual union, when the two become “one body” (Gn 2:24).
So why is Eve called Adam’s “helper” — because she is supposed to cook and clean for him? In fact, the Bible uses the word “helper” most often for God himself (see, for example, Psalms 54:6). The woman is the man’s helper because she helps him fulfill the deepest purpose of his life: to give himself in love. They both help each other realize that the very meaning of their existence is to be a gift.
I joined Dr. Mary Healy for the first half of a month-long “tour de France,” in which she spoke in seven different locations about the Holy Spirit, healing, deliverance, and the gifts of the Spirit in evangelization. Many hearts were encouraged, and the Lord showed His favor and love through signs and wonders.
The trip began with about a thousand people who were on a pilgrimage to Lourdes led by the Beatitudes Community, a Charismatic community that includes priests, consecrated men and women, and lay people. Mary spoke on healing, explaining that in Exodus 15, God revealed His name as “the Lord who heals you,” and that we cannot separate healings from who He is. During the healing service, Mary reminded everyone of the story of the woman with the hemorrhage, challenging the audience to ask themselves whether they simply “bump into” Jesus, or whether they truly “touch” Him. That evening, about twenty-five people came forward during the healing service to testify to healings.
In Paris, Mary gave two days of teaching to Anuncio, an amazing group of young adults who engage in street evangelization. She then led a healing service at Sacré Coeur in Montmartre. Raphael Cornu-Thenard, the leader and founder of Anuncio, was worried that there might be low attendance, since it was a holiday weekend and the same day that France was playing in the soccer World Cup Final. But the Lord did not disappoint! Every seat was filled, and tourists walking around the basilica stopped to listen as Mary spoke about the great love of Jesus and how healings are the visible proof of His good news. When the time came to invite people for healing prayer, two long lines immediately formed and had the team praying for nearly two hours, ending only because they had to close the basilica, and the World Cup was about to begin!
After prayer, several people came forward to testify, including one woman who had stomach cancer and experienced so much pain, she was unable to stand up straight. After she received prayer, her pain left, she was able to stand up straight, and she believed that she had been healed.
We then took a train to a retreat center at Notre Dame du Laus in the Alps, near Italy, a site of eighteenth-century apparitions of the Virgin Mary. There was a conference of the Pentecost Fraternity, a network of Charismatic prayer group leaders from all over the country. Mary encouraged the members of Pentecost Fraternity to walk in the Lord’s power as they seek to evangelize the nation. She explained that the need for deliverance is great, because we are living in a culture of hedonism and paganism, in which the absence of God has led to all kinds of spiritual bondage. We need the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit as part of evangelization, so that the Gospel will be both seen and heard. Mary described two key prophetic moments in the Charismatic Renewal: the Duquesne weekend in 1967, when the Lord poured out “living water” on the students gathered in retreat, and the international leaders’ meeting in Bethlehem in 2013, when there was a power outage that became a prophetic sign of the divine power that the Renewal needs to seek from on high. On our last evening, the Lord gave His own confirming signs—as the meeting began, under a huge tent, there was a powerful thunderstorm with heavy rain and bolts of lightning.
During this “tour de France,” it became apparent that the Lord is bringing about a great renewal in France today, reclaiming this Catholic land for Himself. Through France’s renewal, there is hope for the revitalization of the faith in Europe. “France is in My heart, and My heart resides in France,” said the Lord to one missionary.
By Dr. Mary Healy
For the next part of the mission, I went to Les Dombes, a former Trappist monastery that is now run by Chemin Neuf, a Charismatic community that is similar to Beatitudes but is ecumenical. Chemin Neuf is responsible for twenty-five parishes in several countries, and they were holding a week-long training conference for hundreds of priests and lay ecclesial ministers from those parishes. I gave my testimony and a teaching on how to keep alive the flame of the Holy Spirit. Many of these people were new to the Charismatic dimension, and it was beautiful to see how the community members gently led them into an experience of the Holy Spirit and His gifts.
I joined Beatitudes again at Lisieux, where they were holding a retreat for about a thousand people, which included teachings and a healing service. One woman came who had great difficulty walking with two canes, because of multiple fractures in her legs from an accident. She had prayed a novena to St. Thérèse for her healing, and that night her prayer was answered! She held up her canes and showed everyone that she could now walk without any difficulty.
In Montpellier, on the Mediterranean coast, I joined Anuncio again, for their annual festival, in which they train and send out young adults to evangelize in the streets and on the beach. During the evening session on the second day, many of these young people gave their lives to the Lord for the first time. On the third day, the bishop celebrated Mass for them in a tent set up on the beach, and called each of them by name to send them out to evangelize in the name of the Church. Only at the end of Mass did they each find out what team they would be with and what city they were being sent to. It was very inspiring to see the courage of these young people and the depth of their desire to lead others to Christ.
Finally, at Hautecombe, a magnificent abbey on Lake Bourget, Chemin Neuf was holding its annual festival, “Welcome to Paradise,” during which more than a thousand young adults gather from many countries for spiritual formation (with talks translated into a dozen languages). I gave a workshop on signs and wonders as part of evangelization.
Everywhere I went, despite the steep decline of Christian faith in France, there were unmistakable signs of a new springtime. It was very moving to see how many people were willing to brave uncomfortable living conditions, often staying in tents, with no air conditioning and temperatures up to 100 degrees, in order to grow in their faith and learn to share it with others. It was also inspiring to see the generosity of the community members, who spend many long hours in prayer, preparation, and service to offer these life-changing events to others. Truly the Lord is rekindling the fire of His love in France, a land that has given the Church so many saints.
The following post originally appeared as the Friday, January 12, 2018 Magnificat mediatation. You can learn more about the Magnificat here.
If you are praying for someone and sense that guilt or sin is an obstacle, a good approach is to ask very discreetly and gently, “I sense that there may be something weighing on your conscience that is an obstacle to healing. Do you think that might be the case?” Allow the person complete freedom to decide whether and how much he wants to disclose. Never coerce or pry for information. If the person says no, then simply continue to pray for healing, and trust the Lord to do whatever interior work he needs to do in his timing. If the person says yes, then invite him to say a simple prayer of repentance (either out loud or silently, as appropriate) and to leave that sin at the foot of the cross. Encourage him to avail himself of the grace and power of the Sacrament of Reconcilation as soon as possible. Then pray for the physical healing. . . .
The bottom line is that we are not the ones to judge whether a physical ailment is related to personal sin. God alone is the judge. Even the afflicted person should not assune to judge himself (cf. 1 Cor 4:4). And whether the ailment is related to sin or not, God’s mercy abounds for both forgiveness and healing. God does not heal because we deserve it but simply because he loves us.
I was in Brazil last weekend for the national leaders’ formation conference of the Charismatic Renewal. The Renewal is alive and well in Brazil! Although this gathering was only for leaders, the 10,000 seats were already sold out last October. There was a special grace on the conference this year, as we were celebrating the Golden Jubilee of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.
The conference was held in Aparecida, the spiritual heart of the country. There stands the second-largest church in the world: the Basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida, named for a small statue that was found by three fishermen in a river in 1717. The convention center was right next to the basilica, and we were able to celebrate Mass there on Friday.
The Charismatic Renewal in Brazil is the most organized, intentional, and forward-looking that I have seen anywhere in the world. There were fifteen series of workshops, which people attend based on the ministry they are involved in (for instance, intercession, healing and deliverance, preaching, youth ministry, priests, political involvement, renewal of universities, etc.). At the workshops, they receive really solid formation and practical instruction. They all know the story of the Duquesne Weekend in 1967, which launched the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and the earlier story of Blessed Elena Guerra and Pope Leo XIII, which is linked to the origins of the Pentecostal revival in the early twentieth century.
Archbishop Alberto Taveira, the episcopal advisor for the Renewal, celebrated Mass and was present for most of the conference. About 130 priests participated, including two who are nationally known and loved, Fr. Jonas Abib and Fr. Ed Dougherty, both of whom have founded Charismatic TV networks that reach tens of millions of viewers. Fr. Jonas told the story of how Fr. Ed, as a young American Jesuit missionary, was prayed over for baptism in the Spirit and brought the Renewal to Brazil in 1969. Another American priest, Fr. Bob Di Grandis, played a key role in teaching the Brazilians how to exercise the charisms.
Beautiful talks were also given by Katia Zavaris, the leader of the Renewal in Brazil, and by Cyril John, a dear brother from the Charismatic Renewal in India, who has a gift for teaching about Spirit-led intercessory prayer.
I led two main sessions and four workshops. Being in Brazil, and anywhere in Latin America, means learning to “go with the flow.” There were lots of jokes about “Brazil time.” You might be told you have an hour for your talk, but then as you are about to begin, they say, “You have an hour and a half, then time for questions.” Or as you walk onstage, “Right after your talk, you’re going to lead the time of adoration with the priest.”
In many ways, I experienced the Lord making much of my little. During the time of Adoration, I led people in renouncing various obstacles to the Holy Spirit’s work in us, including unbelief, fear, and a sense of unworthiness. Although I usually spend the most time on unforgiveness, somehow I forgot to cover it, except for the briefest mention. Later that day, a young man came up to me and said, “Thank you! What you said about forgiveness changed my life. I was so angry at my father, because for most of my life he was absent and lived far away. But through you, God told me I had to forgive him, and it has opened me in a new way to the Holy Spirit.” Amazing!
During my talk for the healing and deliverance workshop, I used as an example from my book on healing: “What would you think of a doctor who, upon diagnosing a patient with cancer, says to him, ‘Sorry, I’m not going to treat you because it’s better that you simply accept this cross in your life. Offer it up.’ Of course, such a doctor would be fired on the spot.” This time, for some reason, instead of “cancer” I said “lung cancer.” Afterward, a woman in the front row told me, with tears in her eyes, that she had lung cancer, and right before the talk had asked others to pray over her for both physical and spiritual healing. During the talk, she felt a burning sensation in the area where the tumor was, and she felt that she had been healed. (She is now awaiting confirmation of that from a doctor.)
After the talk, the leader asked me to lead healing prayer. We only had fifteen minutes, so I led the quickest time of healing prayer I’ve ever done. But a long line of people came up to testify to healing. One woman said she had been hearing impaired for thirty years, so she generally could hear only fifty percent of the talks, but she was so longing to go home and share what she heard with her prayer group that she was begging, “Lord, please do something about this.” Now her hearing was completely clear! A young man said he’d had severe back pain for years, which was now completely gone. He bent down to show everyone how he could now touch his toes, pain free. Two women who had been unable to kneel knelt down in front of everyone, praising God.
For my second main session, “Return to the Upper Room,” instead of giving a talk, I led everyone in a time of repentance and in prayer for a new release of the Holy Spirit and his gifts. We then had a time of actual practice in using the gifts, including tongues and interpretation, prophecy, words of knowledge, and healing. It was wonderful to see many people who had never used these gifts, and who in some cases were nervous, coming up on stage to speak powerfully anointed words. There were some very specific words of knowledge about healing, and afterward hundreds of people waved their hands to testify to being healed.
At the end God gave me a prophetic word for the Renewal in Brazil, that He is calling them to transform the nation—not by their power, but by His. Then as I was rushing out to head to the airport, a young man stopped me to say he had seen fire over the whole crowd as I was speaking. Glory to God for all He is doing in Brazil!
Dr. Mary Healy, a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and a special advisor to Renewal Ministries, recently traveled to Brisbane, Australia, to speak at a conference for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. We hope her reflections on some of her experiences there and in other countries encourage you and fill you with hope, knowing that the power of the Lord is at work around the world.
The conference this weekend was a beautiful experience of Christian unity and of the presence of the Holy Spirit. The speakers were myself and Mark Nimo, with one talk given by a Protestant, Katherine Ruonala, founder and pastor of a charismatic church in Brisbane. She moves in signs and wonders to an amazing degree. We led a healing service together on Saturday night and there were many healings, including of deafness, fibromyalgia, arthritis, Parkinson’s, psoriasis, dizziness, pain from neck and back injuries, and many inner healings.
As an example of what’s going on in her church, one young man evangelized three young guys he saw playing basketball near his house. They spoke only broken English, but he invited them to his house for a barbeque. They were Moslem refugees who had recently come from Iran. One of them had severe vision problems and said he had lost his glasses coming over on the boat. So the Christian prayed over him, and he was totally healed. As a result all three came to faith in Christ and were baptized. This was the only exposure they’d had to Christianity, so they thought miracles were normal. They began to pray over other Moslems and see healings, and were even doing fire tunnels at the place where immigrants line up to receive their government subsidies. As a result, over a period of three months sixty Moslem men came to faith in Christ.
Although the Catholic Renewal is relatively small in Australia, there is a very impressive evangelistic zeal and readiness. The people were not there just to have a good time, but truly to be equipped to go out with the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. Many are already involved in evangelistic outreaches on the “peripheries.
Two women told me that after reading my book Healing: Bringing the Gift of God’s Mercy to the World their prayer groups have been evangelizing on the street and seeing miracles. Another woman said that during a conference at which I spoke last year in Melbourne, she was healed from deep vein thrombosis.
After being in Quebec City, Ireland, and Australia three weekends in a row, I see an amazing convergence in what the Lord is doing throughout the world. Everywhere people are receiving a deeper revelation of the Father’s love and of the authority we have in Christ as sons and daughters of God. There is an awakening to the supernatural as the normal Christian life and our inheritance as baptized believers. There is a deeper zeal to go out and bring home the lost, and a recognition that unity in the body of Christ is not optional but is of the highest priority to the Lord.