Category: Featured Authors

Peter Thompson: Answering the Call

Peter Thompson teaches at a church in Kenya.

Peter Thompson recently retired as Renewal Ministries’ country coordinator to Kenya, after more than twenty-one years of serving on Renewal Ministries’ mission trips and fifteen years as a country coordinator. Peter is retiring, because he will celebrate his eightieth birthday this year and believes it is time to pass on the reins. Bohumir (Bohus) Zivcak, from Slovakia, has replaced Peter as country coordinator for Kenya. We recently had the opportunity to speak with Peter about his years of service.

How did you come to work with Renewal Ministries?

Africa has been on my heart since I was a child, and I even tested a vocation as a mission priest with the Holy Ghost Fathers. However, I learned that ordained priesthood was not my calling, and I then went straight to compulsory military service. I was then married and had three children. We moved from England to Alberta, Canada, in 1967, when I joined the Hudson’s Bay Company as an assistant display director.

In 1974, I experienced a deep conversion through the Renewal. In fact, I first heard Ralph Martin speak in 1976 at the first major conference for the Renewal in western Canada.

After 1990, when Pope John Paul II called for a decade of evangelization in preparation for the Jubilee Year 200, I was inspired to live out my faith in an even deeper and more radical way. My wife and I returned to England to serve for two years with Sion Catholic Community for evangelization in parish missions with street ministry.

In 1996, I served on mission in the war-torn African country of Eritrea. Then, in 1997, I heard Ralph Martin and Peter Herbeck speak at a Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) conference. Peter spoke about missions, and we spoke afterward. In 1998, I went to Ghana on my first mission with Renewal Ministries. The next year, I went to Uganda, and in 2001, to Tanzania. In 2004, Renewal Ministries made me a country coordinator for Kenya.

I also served in the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (ICCRS) offices for eight years and traveled to different parts of the world, including the Vatican.

Throughout the years, I have supported my ministry through my work as an artist. You can view my work at www.peterthompsonart.ca.

Tell us about the specific work you did as a missionary.

I have gone on twenty-five missions to Africa and fifteen to Kenya as the country coordinator serving in multiple dioceses. I’ve also served in the Caribbean, South Korea, India, Asia, and done teaching and leadership formation in Rome.

I discovered how hungry people are for the Gospel. The word would get out that we were in an area, and people would travel for many miles. I did a lot of apologetics because of the influence of more fundamental Christianity that made inroads in Africa. They would teach people that Catholics worshipped bread and statues, and that Mary had other children. But people were hungry to know their faith and answer these challenging questions. A lot of what I was asked to do was equipping the people.

In one area, we asked a group of catechists how many of them had a catechism. Only three of them did—so we went to a basilica in Nairobi and bought every catechism they had. Everyone left with one.

Please share some of your mission experiences with us.

In 2004, I traveled to Kenya with the previous country coordinators, Lloyd and Nancy Greenhaw. There was a priest who described the areas we were going into as “Satan’s territory.” We traveled 7000 feet up, and on the first day or so, hardly anyone came. However, the word gradually got around, and by the end of our time there, we were ministering to thousands of people gathered on terraces going up the hillsides. There were amazing healings and deliverances that took place, by the grace of God.

Another time, we were in what a priest had described to us as a very pagan area. On the first day, only two or three people came. We thought, “If they won’t come to us, we will go to them.” So we took a loud speaker and rode in the back of a pickup truck. There were no doors to knock on—since the people literally had no doors—so we met people where they were.

And finally, in Lunga Lunga, in Kenya, once I was speaking on Genesis 3:15: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” At that point, a green mamba—a very dangerous, very venomous snake—began moving toward a group of children, and some men came forward and crushed the head of the serpent. The Gospel was brought alive right in front of us, and it was very powerful.

What have you learned from your years of mission work?

It’s a humbling experience, because I’ve gained so much from being able to travel and to experience the Universal Church in different regions of the world. It has impacted and deepened my love for the Church Christ founded. Few people have had that opportunity, and God’s given that opportunity to me. I have experienced the witness of people who live in extremely difficult situations, and I have seen their faith and courage. It has been a great gift. They have been such a witness to me over the years about what it means to be a follower of Christ.

As someone from Western society, who has experienced all the comforts of life, the experience of serving in missions has allowed me to be able to experience the privations of life, and it has taught me to surrender all of those comforts for the sake of the Gospel. Once in Uganda, I remember having torn mosquito netting, a pail full of hot water to wash—splash—yourself in, and a little hut full of mosquitoes. The toilet was a hole in the ground. We ate boiled bananas morning, noon, and night, by handfuls. I learned that what for me are privations are simply daily life for others. This helps us grow in holiness. We need to embrace that. The people there said, “You are one of the only ones to come and live with us.”

What are your hopes for retirement?

I don’t consider myself retired. I still have my health. I’m still continuing to teach wherever the Lord opens doors. I don’t see myself stopping. In fact, I have been added as a member of Renewal Ministries’ Speakers’ Bureau.

After your years of service, what aspects of Renewal Ministries do you appreciate most?

God called Renewal Ministries into a worldwide apostolate whereby the lay and ministerial priesthood can work together in the four corners of the world—it’s a profound grace God has given Renewal Ministries for our time. The vision of Renewal Ministries stirs the spirit to be a witness, to proclaim the Gospel, and to serve the Church universal.

Renewal Ministries really created a tremendous opportunity for lay people to experience missions in different parts of the world. I am grateful to have been, and to continue to be, a part of that.

‘Let Your Faith Rise Up’

By Al Mansfield

Just over a year ago, I was praying. I was very concerned about some things in the Church, in our country, and in the world. I admit that I was feeling somewhat discouraged and lacking in faith and hope. Then I was surprised to sense the Lord speaking a word to my heart. The following is what I heard:

“Am I not the Lord God of all flesh? Are not the times and seasons in My hands? Do not the skies and the waters and the earth obey my command? Is anything too difficult for Me, says the Lord.

“You mourn and weep over my Body, the Church, but do not mourn and weep as those who have no faith. You grieve over my Body, the Church, but do not grieve as those who have no hope.

“I say to you, look to who I am, says the Lord. Keep faith with Me and in Me. Let your faith rise when all else would pull you down. Let your faith neither falter nor fail. For your faith is in a living God. Your faith is in an all-knowing and all-wise God. Your faith is in an all-powerful God. Your faith is in an all-loving God. I am never shocked; I am never surprised; I am never caught off-guard; I am never unprepared, says the Lord.

“In Me are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Take hold of Me by faith. Let your faith rise. Let your faith rise. Let your faith rise. I am the victor, says the Lord. Keep faith with my victory, says the Lord. Rejoice in my victory, and your faith will be your victory as well.

“For my Holy Spirit is strong. My Holy Spirit is fierce. My Holy Spirit is tenacious. My Holy Spirit is zealous for my glory. My Holy Spirit is not mocked. Do not grieve my Holy Spirit. Do not grieve or anger the Lord God who gives you his Holy Spirit. Yield to my Holy Spirit, says the Lord, and let your faith rise up!”

In this word, I felt like the Lord was chiding me and challenging me to exercise greater faith. In fact, it seems that the Lord is rather consistently chiding and challenging me, and I believe all of us, to exercise greater faith.

To exercise faith in the midst of the kinds of issues we face in the Church and in the world doesn’t mean that we don’t face reality or remain in ignorance or denial. But it does mean that we “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7). It means letting God’s Word, rather than our own thoughts and feelings, rule our lives.

To exercise faith means actually living our lives day-by-day, based on the truths that we profess to believe: that God exists; that God is a loving Father; that Jesus came and shed his blood on the cross and rose again for our salvation; that God’s own love is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit; that God promises to make all things work together unto good for those who love Him; that we are destined to share in Christ’s ultimate victory over sin and death.

I wish I could tell you that all it took was receiving this word for me to never again yield to discouragement or negative thinking. Alas, that would not be quite accurate. In fact, it was embarrassing for me to listen to others quote this word back to me, saying how much it helped them, while I myself was still struggling. But I share it here now with the hope that it will challenge me anew, and perhaps benefit others as well.

 

Al Mansfield has served the Catholic Church for fifty years in teaching, pastoral ministry, and administration. He holds an undergraduate degree in history and a Master’s degree in theology from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was pursuing a doctorate in religion when the Lord called him into full-time ministry in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.
Al has been a pioneer in the Renewal in the South since 1970, serving as director of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal of New Orleans Office. Since 1972, Al has had the chief responsibility for organizing and managing conferences and other events in New Orleans that have attracted thousands of people from around the country. He is a past member of the National Advisory Committee and he served the National Service Committee as a “Traveling Timothy.” Al is a recognized teacher with a deep love for the Word of God and has spoken at conferences and retreats around the country. Al is married to Patti Mansfield and they have four children and eleven grandchildren. In 1995, Archbishop Francis B. Schulte appointed Al and Patti to be his
liaisons to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. In 2000, they were awarded the Papal Medal, Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (For the Church and the Pope), by Saint John Paul II.

Does Today’s Church Lack Genuine Mercy?

This article originally appeared on CatholicCulture.org. You can view it here.

Image Credit

By Dr. Jeff Mirus

Writing about the minor prophets on Tuesday, I mentioned this famous passage from Hosea: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings” (Hos 6:6). Now I am wondering why mercy is so conspicuously absent in the Church today.

This may astound my readers. But I am not referring to talk about mercy. That surrounds us almost constantly as Catholics today. But is mercy not most often advocated in a way that dulls our awareness of the gravity of offending God? Again and again, Catholic leaders and preachers who are far too influenced by the attitudes of our contemporary secular culture insist—or at least imply—that mercy is always about forgiveness and never about conversion, always about affirmation and never about instruction.

But this is not mercy. This is just a way to make our lives easier.

The Good News of Jesus Christ is not only that Christ has died for us so that our sins can be forgiven but also that we can be freed from sin and drawn into union with God by repenting and believing the Gospel (Mk 1:15). This is actually how the evangelist Mark summarizes Christ’s message. To understand what this means, we must ask ourselves about the context in which God is working. Put as simply as possible, this context is explained by St. Paul: “God our Savior…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:3-4).

Yet for all the talk about mercy today, was there ever an age in the Church’s history when both her leaders and her rank and file were so reluctant to speak God’s truth so that those who are far from Him can “repent and believe the Gospel”? Was there ever an age in which bishops, priests and religious were so prone to assume that every person is doing as well as he can, to argue that it is wrong to judge anyone’s behavior, to assert the value of all belief systems, and to insist that our sole task is to emphasize the isolated fact of God’s mercy—as if the fruits of that mercy may be reaped without belief in God, without trust in God, without learning God’s will, and without repentance and amendment of life?

Borrowing from another of the minor prophets, it was Micah who said that God requires each of us “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic 6:8). But, returning to Hosea, have we not instead plowed iniquity, reaped injustice and eaten the fruit of lies (Hos 10:12-13)?

Continue reading here.

‘Dear Troubled Catholics’ Continued: Persevere in Prayer

The following article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ March 2019 newsletter, which you can view here.

Image Credit

Very Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As the spiritual battle increases in intensity both in the Church and in the world, those who are diligently persevering in trying to follow Jesus and to be faithful to Him become ever the dearer to one another. To have companions on the journey (and there are so many of us who are making the journey together as friends of Renewal Ministries and of each other) is a great blessing.

People continue to ask me what my current thinking is, particularly on the crisis that continues to unfold in the Church. I think what I said in my letter Dear Troubled Catholics that we published in the September 2018 issue, which is available on our website (www.RenewalMinistries.net ) continues to represent how I see the situation and what my advice would continue to be. Unfortunately, in the months since we published the letter, there have been near-constant continuing revelations of abuse, cover up, and outright lying among some of the Church’s worldwide leadership. And some of the people who continue to hold high positions in Rome, including some recently appointed, are deeply troubling, particularly as it pertains to homosexuality and the cover up of immorality among the clergy.

I would also say that the first instinct of many in leadership continues to be to try to protect the reputation of the institution, often at the expense of telling the real truth, in order to placate the world and its values.

At the same time, many mature Catholic laypeople are respectfully but forcefully confronting some of this lack of courage and truthfulness, and they often are finding receptivity among the leadership they address. Bishops can’t outsource their primary roles as preachers of the Gospel to their communication and public relation departments, whose understandable tendency is to “put out the fires” and “make the Church look good” even in moments when the corrupt culture of the world needs to be directly confronted rather than placated. Remember what Cardinal DiNardo said when he announced the serious reform steps the bishops were planning to take: “Hold us to this.” Unfortunately, the bishops were later forbidden by Rome to take those steps toward reform. Let’s hope that they will soon be able to do so. Let’s continue to respectfully hold the bishops to the honesty and sincere reform that is absolutely essential for a healthy Church.

While the abuse of minors issue certainly is of great importance, it appears that significant leadership in Rome and other places would like to keep our focus exclusively there and not allow attention to also be directed to sexual immorality, not only with “vulnerable adults,” but with anyone, consensual or not. Serious violations of chastity corrupt the clerical perpetrators and also those who are sinned with. I think the advice I gave in my September letter still stands. Let me repeat it, with a few additions, for your consideration.

“And so, what can we do as we continue to pray for the pope and our leaders that God may give them the wisdom and courage to deal with the root of the rot and bring about a real renewal of holiness and evangelization in the Church?

“We need to go about our daily lives, trying to live each day in a way pleasing to God, loving Him and loving our neighbor, including the neighbor in our own families. We need to look to ourselves, lest we fall.

“We need to remember that even though we have this treasure in earthen vessels (or as some translations put it, “cracked pots”), the treasure is no less the treasure. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater! Baby Jesus is the treasure, and He is still as present as ever and still as ready to receive all who come to Him. And the Mass! Every day, He is willing to come to us in such a special way. Let’s attend daily Mass even more frequently, to offer the sacrifice of Jesus’ death and resurrection to God the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit, for the salvation of souls and the purification of the Church. Where would we be without Him? We simply wouldn’t be at all!

“We need to remember that the Catholic Church is indeed founded by Christ and, despite all problems, has within it the fullness of the means of salvation. Where else can we go? Nowhere; this is indeed our Mother and Home, and she needs our love, our prayers, and our persevering in the way of holiness more than ever.

“We need to remember that there are many truly holy and dedicated bishops and priests, and we must pray for them and support them. They need and deserve our support.

“We need to remember that this isn’t the first time such grave problems have beset the Church. In the fourteenth century, St. Catherine of Siena bemoaned the “stench of sin” coming from the papal court and prophesied that even the demons were disgusted by the homosexual activity he had tempted priests into and the cover up by their superiors! (See chapters 124-125 of Catherine of Siena’s The Dialogue.)

“That isn’t to say that we don’t need to take seriously and do all we can in response to the grave scandal we are facing in our time. We need not to be silent when the truth is not preached in our parish churches. We need to encourage those who preach it when it is preached. We need not to be silent or passive when we see shady things happening. We should not hesitate to ask for an appointment with our bishop or to write to him and respectfully yet directly, share with him our concerns.

“And yet we need to remember that all this is happening under the providence of God, and He has a plan to bring good out of it. It was even prophesied strongly in Mary’s apparitions in Akita, Japan. Jesus is still Lord and will use the current grave problems to bring about good.

“And finally, I’m beginning to see why the Lord has impressed on me so strongly in the past year the urgent need to heed the appeals of Our Lady of Fatima. Indeed, as Mary said,

“Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell, because there are none to sacrifice themselves and to pray for them.”

Let’s continue to pray and offer sacrifices for the conversion of sinners and as reparation for sin, and let’s pray the rosary daily as Mary requested, for peace in the world and true renewal in the Church. And let’s continue to be encouraged and inspired by all the wonderful things that we see the Lord doing all throughout the world!

Your brother in Christ,

Ralph

 

Abide with the Lord

Lent begins this month, which makes it a perfect time to share the following reflections by Ralph Martin, on resting—abiding—with the Lord. The following article is compiled from a talk that Ralph originally shared at a recent Renewal Ministries’ staff retreat.

Why do we have this time on earth? We are here to get ready to be with Jesus. To prepare to be with our Lord, we must strive “for the holiness without which nobody will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14).

Sometimes we miss how clear and absolute what Jesus says is. An essential aspect of striving for holiness is “abiding in the Lord”—simply being present with Jesus.

Picture an image of the beloved disciple John resting his head on Jesus. What amazing confidence in His trustworthiness, fidelity, loyalty, and love! Only the love of God is perfectly reliable—something we can rest the whole weight of our lives on. God wants us to live in surrender, confidence, and trust. In order to do this, we must take the time to be attentive to the Lord, to be in His presence.

Christ loved the Church by sacrificing Himself for us so He could present Himself wholly and without blemish—and He asks us to love in this same way. To live in this way, we must tap into the supernatural. He says, “apart from me, you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). Thankfully, He also says, “for God all things are possible” (Mt 19:26).

However, while we must offer the Lord all of our loaves and fishes (Mt 14:17-18), we also must then dispose ourselves to God’s action; we can’t try to force God’s action. We must be open to receive from the Lord, instead of taking, even the good things that we think may be His will for us. This is why it is important to work from our rest, from our abiding with Jesus. We need to act in a way that allows God’s power to come into our actions. Abiding has value.

The Lord wants to be close to us. He had us in mind before He created the universe. He really chooses us. “He destined us in love to be His sons” (Eph 1:5). He created us to be holy and to love. Ultimately, there is no other vocation than holiness and love.

In order to live this way, we must get clear in our thinking. We must be sober. As 1 Peter 1:13 says, “Therefore gird up your minds, be sober, set your hope fully upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Christian hope, hope in Jesus, consists of sins forgiven, death overcome, eternal life, and union with God. The gift that’s coming to us is the gift for which we were created—perfect love and community.

Consider the simplicity of it all: Fatima, Guadalupe, and Lourdes—the mysterious action of God. At Lourdes, our Blessed Mother appeared to a fourteen-year-old girl, Bernadette, in a difficult family situation, in dire poverty, living in an old jail cell that was not fit for prisoners. She appeared to Bernadette eighteen times and eventually described herself as the “Immaculate Conception,” which indicates our Blessed Mother’s conception without sin, a title that the Church had given her only four years before the appearances at Lourdes. Bernadatte was uneducated and could not read or write; as her local priest later wrote, “She could never have invented this.”

After one of the apparitions, in which our Blessed Mother asked Bernadette to dig in the ground for a spring and to wash her face, Bernadette both humiliated herself by covering her face with mud as she drank and uncovered a spring that had not been known to previously exist. People continue to flock to Lourdes today, and many healings have been attributed to their prayers at the waters there.

After each of her visits with the “Beautiful Lady”—which is how Bernadette originally described our Blessed Mother—Bernadette’s own face was transformed and radiant with joy. Lourdes is not heavy on messages—it’s heavy on the reality and beauty of heaven and the supernatural. Bernadette would bow down to the ground and show profound reverence for the holiness of heaven revealing itself. She also made the Sign of the Cross with such reverence that it showed the holiness of the Trinity.

After the last apparition, Bernadette stayed in Lourdes another eight years and became illuminated every time she told the story of Mary’s appearances. She eventually joined a convent and lived a quiet life of prayer and suffering. Bernadette experienced ill health throughout the rest of her life and died at age thirty-five. In fact, our Blessed Mother had told Bernadette that she did “not promise to make (her) happy in this life, but in the next.” Now, almost 140 years later, Bernadette’s body remains incorrupt.

Much of Mary’s message at Lourdes was personal to Bernadette, about Bernadette joining her suffering to the suffering of Christ for the salvation of souls. However, Mary also called all of us to penance, penance, penance—prayer and sacrifice, just like in Fatima.

The last time Bernadette saw Mary was from across a river, because she couldn’t go to the grotto. For fifteen minutes, Bernadette said “all Mary did was look at me with love, and I’ve never seen her so beautiful.”

How often do we take time to abide with the Lord and ask Him to show us His love for us—to look at us with love? That is the only way we can go forward in His will, better loving Him and others.

Bernadette’s simplicity should reinforce our understanding of the fact that, unless you become like a little child, you will not enter the kingdom of God. Being like a little child affects our ability to receive the word He speaks to us. Let’s keep pressing on while resting in the heart of Jesus, allowing Him to little by little transform us into His likeness.

Rest in Him. Abide in Him. Be a child.