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‘The Choices We Face’ Continues Inspiring Viewers

Ralph Martin and Dr. Tom Graves on “The Choice We Face.” You can view this episode here.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Greetings in Christ Jesus!

Our staff recently watched what will be the final episode for the 2018 The Choices We Face programs. I’m so glad we did! On the program, Ralph interviewed Dr. Tom Graves from St. Paul on the Lake Parish in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Dr. Tom spoke about his story of coming to meet Jesus and the difference it made in his marriage, family, and work.

Our whole staff was moved—I was moved to tears a couple of times—at the beautiful and amazing ways Jesus has worked through Tom, in the ordinary circumstances of life and work as a physician, to help people come to experience the transforming love of Jesus. Tom’s simple, humble, and honest way of speaking reminded us that Jesus wants all of His children to be His hands and feet, to be conduits of His mercy and power.

You can view the program by clicking the link here. I know it will be a blessing to you. You also can also watch it this week on EWTN or in the weeks ahead at (Click on “View show archives.”)

In two weeks, the 2019 episodes of The Choices We Face‘s will begin! We’re very happy and grateful to the Lord for what we believe is another power-packed season. You’ll hear from some of our favorite guests, including Patti Mansfield, Fr. John Riccardo, and Sr. Ann Shields, as well as Sr. Miriam James Heidland, Dr. Bob Schuchts, Fr. Burke Masters, and others.

Please pray that this new season of programs will reach those who most need to know the transforming love of Jesus.

In Christ Jesus,


Peter Herbeck

Vice President

Renewal Ministries


P.S. Please consider joining us for this year’s Renewal Ministries Gathering from April 5-7. You can find details by clicking here.

Introducing the St. Catherine of Siena Society

Image credit

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Last month, I gave an overview of all the amazing work the Lord has allowed us to accomplish over the past year and what we hope to continue to accomplish in the new year. This month, I want to announce a new initiative that could significantly contribute to our ability to continue being a clear voice for the Gospel for years to come.

We are launching the St. Catherine of Siena Legacy Society, which will enable our loyal supporters to continue their support after their deaths. Each year, a fair number of our supporters “move on” to the next stage of the mission, and when we are notified, we have a Mass said for each one of them. Periodically, we are notified also that a longtime supporter has remembered us in their will, and when that bequest arrives it always is experienced as an especially wonderful blessing. We want to extend this opportunity to everyone and so are establishing the St. Catherine of Siena Legacy Society for those who have decided to remember the mission of Renewal Ministries in their will or trust.

Why St. Catherine of Siena? She embodies our mission in many ways. She was deeply contemplative and deeply Charismatic. She communed continually with God in prayer and received amazing wisdom and insight from Him, and at the same time prophesied to the pope, cast out demons, healed the sick, and called many to repentance and a life of holiness.

She lived at a time of great crisis for the Church—with competing claimants to the papacy and the legitimate pope living in fear and subservient to the French political powers in Avignon, France. When she arrived in the papal court, she smelled the “stench of sin.” She even wrote passionately about the horror of homosexuality among the clergy and cowardly bishops who transferred offending clerics to other assignments without appropriate discipline. Her passion for the Lord and the renewal of the Church, combined with her deeply contemplative and Charismatic ministry, is inspiring to us. And so the name!

I would like to ask all of you, particularly those who are approaching—or in—retirement to consider naming Renewal Ministries in your final plans. You can leave a specific dollar amount, a percentage of your estate, or a percentage of what remains after your loved ones are taken care of. This can easily be arranged by adding a codicil to your will or an amendment to your trust. You may also wish to add Renewal Ministries as a charitable beneficiary when you update your will or trust, or by updating a beneficiary form for a life insurance policy, commercial annuity, retirement plan, etc. We have some good Catholic estate lawyers here in Ann Arbor who are friends of Renewal Ministries who can advise you how to do this if you need such help. All you need to do is include wording like this in your will:

If you live in the United States: I give and bequeath to Renewal Ministries Inc., 230 Collingwood, Suite 250, Ann Arbor, MI 48103, Tax ID 38-2385975, the sum of $__________  (or % of residual estate) for its general uses and purposes.

If you live in Canada: I give and bequeath to Catholic Renewal Ministries Inc., 331 Evans Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M8Z 1K2, Registration No. 12374-0243-RR0001, the sum of $__________  (or % of residual estate) for its general uses and purposes.

When you name Renewal Ministries, you should include either our US or Canadian address, legal name, and Tax ID number (depending on where you live) so there won’t be confusion with other similar non-profit organizations.

When considering such donations, people sometimes ask me about Renewal Ministries’ longevity. Our goal isn’t to go on forever, but to go on as long as the Lord gives us strength, capable colleagues, and sufficient financial support. In that regard, things are looking very promising.

The Lord has provided us with a good range of ages in the leadership of Renewal Ministries, and even if one of us was no longer here, the remaining team and new people the Lord may add to it would be able to carry on quite effectively. My own father lived until he was ninety two—active and alert to the day he died—and I have no plans to retire, as I don’t consider this a job, but a mission, and I have as much energy and zeal for the Gospel as ever. Peter Herbeck is sixteen years younger than me, and Pete Burak is considerably younger than Peter—so succession is looking good as well.

Plus, we have two excellent boards, one for the US and one for Canada, with very capable people and truly excellent Episcopal advisors, Archbishop Robert Carlson, of St. Louis, and Cardinal Thomas Collins, of Toronto. In the extreme eventuality that Renewal Ministries didn’t have the leadership to continue, the board would transfer any assets to similar ministries that would clearly fulfill important aspects of Renewal Ministries’ mission.

If you have any questions about signing up for the St. Catherine of Siena Legacy Society, feel free to contact our Director of Mission Advancement John Recznik, at 734-662-1730 or You can also visit our website, at

Anyone who decides to remember us in their will or trust will receive a plaque of recognition and gratitude, as well as a picture of St. Catherine and a complimentary set of my CD album on St. Catherine’s life and teaching.

Thank you for considering this important new initiative as we enter 2019.

Your brother in Christ,



A Time of Decision: Ireland’s Vote and the Prophecies of Pope John Paul II

The Following article originally appeared in the Renewal Ministries’ August 2018 newsletter.

“If you would like to visit a place where the symptoms of the sickness of our time are found near their furthest limits, come to Ireland. Here you will see a civilization in freefall, seeking with every breath to deny the existence of a higher authority, a people that has now sentenced itself not to look upon the cross of Christ, lest it be haunted by his rage and sorrow.” 1

These words, from Irish commentator John Waters, are in response to the people of Ireland’s choice to deny the unborn the right to life. Ireland is the first nation in history to enshrine the law through a majority vote of its people; it wasn’t imposed upon them by cultural elites or the courts.

The vote, as Waters indicates, is a manifestation of a deeper reality. This is Ireland’s desire “to deny the existence of a higher authority.” It is the “sickness of our time.” In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “God is disappearing from the human horizon.”2

For now, Ireland has made its decision to say no to Christ. Like many, I was shocked and sickened as I watched the crowds dance with glee, asserting their new-found freedom. What they were celebrating, whether they grasped it fully or not, was the euphoria of fallen human nature and its constant desire to “suppress the truth” about God. St. Paul tells us that it is through the “ungodliness and wickedness of men” that human beings refuse to honor God as God and to give Him thanks (Rom 1:18, 20).

A friend recently reminded me of how, during St. John Paul II’s historic visit to Ireland in 1979, he framed in stark prophetic terms the spiritual battle that country was facing. St. John Paul II made it clear that Ireland was at a point of decision about whether or not to follow Christ. He knew he was sent by Christ to warn Ireland and to help them see and understand that they were facing a great temptation, and that, if they fell to this temptation, it would have grave consequences for the whole Church.

“Lay people today are called to a strong Christian commitment: to permeate society with the leaven of the Gospel, for Ireland is at a point of decision in her history . . . Ireland must choose. You the present generation of Irish people must decide; your choice must be clear and your decision firm. Let the voice of your forefathers, who suffered so much to maintain their faith in Christ and thus preserve Ireland’s soul, resound today in your ears through the voice of the pope when he repeats the words of Christ:

‘What will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his life?’ (Mt 16:26)

What would it profit Ireland to go the easy way of the world and suffer the loss of her own soul?

Your country seems in a sense to be living again the temptations of Christ: Ireland is being asked to prefer the ‘kingdoms of this world and their splendor’ to the Kingdom of God (Mt 4:8). Satan, the Tempter, the Adversary of Christ, will use all his might and all his deceptions to win Ireland for the way of the world. What a victory he would gain, what a blow he would inflict on the Body of Christ in the world, if he could seduce Irish men and women away from Christ. Now is the time of testing for Ireland. This generation is once more a generation of decision.
Dear sons and daughters of Ireland, pray, pray not to be led into temptation . . . pray that Ireland may not fail in the test. Pray as Jesus taught us to pray: ‘Lead us not into temptation’ . . . May Ireland never weaken in her witness, before Europe and before the whole world, to the dignity and sacredness of all human life, from conception until death.”3

Ireland has failed the test. We pray that she may repent and turn back, but for now she has fallen to the temptation of the Adversary of Christ. The majority have decided to turn a deaf ear to the warning Christ brought to them through the prophet St. John Paul II.

Of course, we know that Ireland is not alone in its acquiescence to the spirit of the age. The whole world is being drawn into this same temptation, to prefer the “kingdoms of this world and their splendor” to Christ.

The important thing for us in the Church is to heed the warnings of the prophets the Lord has sent to us. If we don’t, we too will join the throngs of the baptized who have been seduced into embracing a false freedom that calls darkness light.

What are we to do in the face of the unrelenting forces of evil that seem to have gained the upper hand in so many of the countries that once marched under the banner of Christ? Again, St. John Paul II:

“What is going to happen to the Church? . . . We must prepare ourselves to suffer great trials before long, such as will demand of us a disposition to give up even life, and a total dedication to Christ and for Christ . . . With your and my prayer it is possible to mitigate this tribulation, but it is no longer possible to avert it, because only thus can the Church be effectively renewed. How many times has the renewal of the Church sprung from blood! This time too, it will not be otherwise. We must be strong and prepared, and trust in Christ and His Mother, and be very, very assiduous in praying the Rosary.”4

There is much work for us to do, but first and foremost we must pray. What is unfolding in the world is above our paygrade. As St. John Paul II said on numerous occasions, this trial lies within the plans of divine providence. It is a profound spiritual battle. Our plans, strategies, and organizational techniques are necessary but insufficient. We don’t just need better organization, we need courage to “give up even life, and a total dedication to Christ and for Christ.”

Prayer is what will prepare us to face the trials that have already begun and that will not only continue but will intensify. Jesus will give us all we need to be faithful and fruitful in this time of trial. He will turn the devil’s strategies against us to our good and to His glory, if we stay united to Him.

While Ireland was casting its vote, my wife Debbie and I were in Krakow, Poland. We took a half a day to visit the St. John Paul II Center and the Divine Mercy Shrine. At one point during the tour, we came upon the white cassock that St. John Paul II wore the day he was shot in Vatican Square. The cassock, encased in glass, is stained in his blood. As I knelt down to pray, I was overwhelmed by the power of his life, his beautiful and profound witness to Christ. As I wept and prayed, my heart was filled with the words he spoke to all of us from the first day of his pontificate:

“Be not afraid!”

1 John Waters, “Ireland: An Obituary,” First Things, May 28, 201,

2 Benedict XVI, Letter of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the Bishops of the Catholic Church Concerning the Remissino of the Excommunication of the Four Bishops Consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre, encyclical letter, Vatican website, March 10, 2009,

3 Pope John Paul II, “Absolute Inviolability of Human Life”, homily, Vatican website, October 1, 1979,

4 Pope John Paul II, interview with Catholics at Fulda, Germany, in November 1980, published in the German Magazine Stimmes des Glaubens in October 1981, cited in The Pope and the President, by Paul Kengor (Willimgton, DE: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2017), 209.

Hope for the Future: Holding Clerics to a Higher Standard

We want to share with you the following reflections from a recent bulletin article by Fr. Steve Mattson, from Church of the Resurrection in Lansing, Michigan.

Reflections on the Ordination of a Bishop

Later today (Wednesday), a good priest friend of mine, Monsignor Jerry Vincke, will be ordained the 12th Bishop of Salina, Kansas. I am privileged to be here to celebrate with and to pray for him and his new diocese. Last evening, we celebrated Solemn Vespers in Sacred Heart Cathedral. It was beautiful and poignant, especially in light of the current crisis. The cathedral was filled with priests from Salina, from Lansing, and other priest friends near and far. There were bishops too, of course, from Kansas, Michigan, and other places around the country whom Bishop-elect Vincke has come to know during his years of priestly ministry. His family and some friends also made the journey and were with us last night.

Mixed Emotions

Largely because of the horrors of the past few weeks, at a dinner in Bishop-elect Vincke’s honor, I experienced a range of emotions. Sobered and angered by the actions and inactions of bishops near and far, I couldn’t help but wonder about each and every bishop whom I saw last night: what has he done or not done to protect children from priests and or other bishops? Has he been faithful as a shepherd of Christ’s flock? The same question could and should be asked of every priest, myself included. The recent weeks have caused me to be suspicious about everyone. This, despite the fact that I continue to trust the Lord for the good of His Church. Such is the state of the current crisis in the Church, when all priests and bishops are suspect. We have been here before, in terms of poor reputation, and the answer today, as always, is sanctity. Of course, the evil one loves this scandal. But God, I’m sure, is at work. I am prayerful and hopeful that the news, as devastating as it has been, will finally lead the bishops (or the Pope, if they will not act) to excise the duplicitous clerics from their ranks. We all need to be who we say we are, priests in the High Priest, committed always to doing only the Father’s Will, and leading lives guided by the Holy Spirit. Come, Holy Spirit!


In his recent letter to the Catholic faithful, the Holy Father pointed his finger at clericalism as one of the roots, if not the root, of the current ongoing sex-abuse crisis. There are obviously other roots, including the all-too-common “gay subcultures” in seminaries and in dioceses, but I think there is no doubt that clericalism is at the root of the crisis. Last evening, as I watched priests interacting with the bishops who were at the dinner, I couldn’t help recalling the ways seminarians would rub shoulders with bishops at seminary events, longing to impress, to be noticed. I wonder how many of the priests who are here have hopes of one day joining the rank of bishop. This seems to be a particular temptation of those men who study in Rome. I never studied in Rome, but it seems many who do so half-expect that they are “bishop material” by that very fact. It makes sense. They get to meet those who make such decisions. Those of us who never study in Rome and especially those who are in small dioceses know, whatever others might tell us, that we never will become a bishop. It’s a relief, actually, because we never feel the itch to impress or to be noticed.

Clericalism II

The other manifest way that clericalism is evident is that priests are often treated differently from the way lay men and women are treated. Priests’ (and bishops’) pastoral failures, human weaknesses, manifest sins, even their crimes(!), have been tolerated and/or covered over. They have been judged with greater leniency rather than, as scripture says, with greater strictness (James 3:1). I suspect it’s been in the name of avoiding scandal, but “prudential” decisions of this sort have made the crisis worse.  Whether a priest’s misuse of office is marked by failure to teach the truths of the Church (which is bad enough), or (much worse) the psychological or sexual abuse of staff or parishioners, or some other scandalous behavior, too many priests have been given countless “second chances.” Why? The answer is bound up with clericalism, which screams loudly that “we’re different.” Though priests and bishops are set apart, we are not above reproach, nor ought our sins be tolerated or ignored. (This is not to say that all sinners should be eliminated from the priesthood, just those who have abused their office in any way. We are, in fact, all sinners. But not sinners with the same sins. It won’t do, of course, to dismiss this call for a higher standard by saying “we’re all sinners, who am I to judge?” Bishops must judge, for the Lord will one day judge them for how they tended the flock entrusted to their care.)

How Does This Happen?

You might ask, why would any bishop tolerate this sort of behavior, even though it often demoralizes the lay faithful and other priests? I offer a few possibilities. Some bishops seem to desire to be known as “priests’ bishops.” They want to be seen as their priests’ defenders, which leads them to tolerate too much. And, in fact, bishops are canonically required to care for their priests. (It should go without saying that caring for priests cannot trump caring for the “sheep” those priests are called to feed and protect!) Others may make decisions primarily to protect the reputation of the Church, to keep the dirty secrets from getting out. It is fear-based, and clearly a failing project. Other bishops may not discipline a priest out of fear of conflict with the priest and/or with the priest’s fans. (All priests have fans.) Many others, I suspect, are just trying to keep things “running.” They have to deal with a very real shortage of priests. If they discipline a priest, the priest might leave, and others might protest his being disciplined and they might threaten to leave as well. Then what would happen? It’s, of course, a very good question, and from where I sit, it is a question that I hope we will have to answer. That’s because I am convinced that the faithful in this moment of crisis are fed up. They are coming to the point where they are demanding (again!) fidelity. It need not be said that Christ has always demanded fidelity, but the prospect of the final judgment does not seem to have elicited sufficient Fear of the Lord among some bishops and priests nor the consequent “beginning of wisdom” scripture promises will follow. As your pastor, I am convinced that the only way out of this crisis is for bishops to demand of themselves and their priests absolute fidelity to Christ, and to countenance no duplicity in their ranks. Clerics must be held to a higher, not a lower, standard. Please hold me to this standard. And pray for me.

Hope for the Future

I think if a bishop commits to fidelity and demands it of his priests, young men will respond to the call to help fill the holes in the priesthood in that diocese. The families and those men will know that the battle must be joined, and that those relatively few who remain are worth fighting alongside, because they are faithful and serve the cause of Christ and the salvation of souls. May all bishops embrace, for themselves and their priests, fidelity to Christ as the litmus test for ministry. This is a moment of grace, a “severe mercy.” May the bishops pursue God’s path forward, whatever the consequences, entrusting their flock to the Good Shepherd. Come, Holy Spirit! I am grateful to say that I am utterly confident that Bishop Vincke will be that sort of bishop. Please keep him and the Diocese of Salina in your prayers.

With prayers and fasting for the purification of the Church,

Fr. Steve Mattson

Sanctification in the Golden Years

The following is an abridged version of an article written by Anne Valentyne that originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ March and April 2006 newsletter. Its message is of such great value, we believe it is important to share it again now. It can also be found in our Renewal Ministries’ July, 2018 newsletter.

I once read a meditation that said,

Everything about life has been carefully attended to so you could fulfill your destiny, and God is always with you to help you. None of us is just a random occurrence. We have not been left here to evolve alone. Every one of our lives fits into a master plan, something we can learn about and embrace as we spend time in prayer and Scripture. Parts of this plan are common to all of us. For example, we know that God wants us to be holy and full of love and praise for Him (Eph 14:16). But each of us is designed to fulfill these callings in our own unique way. (The Word Among Us, Advent 2004)

The Lord is with us from birth to death, and this includes our senior years.

Our years after age seventy are frequently referred to as “The Golden Years.” Yet the ills of aging often don’t appear golden. Can they be? Yes! They are golden for those who have given their lives to Jesus. Regardless of our income, we are rich in the things of God and His Church! These years are a part of God’s will and plan. “Here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Heb 13:14). We are in the final years of our pilgrimage to that city of eternal bliss, of total union with the Trinity.

These years afford us our last opportunity to be purified and ready to see God. Suffering is not good in itself, but God brings good out of it. Our aging, sufferings, and death can become what Fr. Gabriel of St. Magdalene, OCD, terms a “mystical purgatory,” through which we expiate our sins, intercede for others, and at the same time grow in our love for God.

It is humbling to not be able to walk without assistance, but out of love for God, I can accept this suffering as expiation for my sins of pride. When it takes longer to dress myself because of arthritis in my hands, or I need to wait for somebody to pick me up, because I can no longer drive, I can say, “Jesus, I’ll be patient in this difficulty. I want to lovingly accept this purification of my sins of impatience.”

Sometimes, we may need to give up very spiritual things, like driving or walking to Mass every day, or our activity in our local church. There are so many things we can’t do any more, and it seems like such a loss. As we suffer these voids in our life, we can trust that God is using them to open up in us a greater capacity to receive His love and to love Him in return. Jesus took upon Himself the full weight of human suffering, so to transform it into a means of salvation and endless happiness in that blessed place where there will be no more pain. In anticipation of that blessedness, Jesus brings a deep and real joy to all suffering and tribulations.

These years also afford us opportunities to suffer in a paschal manner. When Sr. Lucia of Fatima was dying, Pope John Paul II sent her a letter that reminded her to accept her final suffering and death as “paschal suffering.” Suffering in a paschal way means uniting our sufferings with Jesus’ in His bitter passion and death—and in the victory of His resurrection. As we let the thread of His resurrection permeate our sufferings, we can experience the triumph, joy, and peace of Jesus’ resurrection, trusting that we will have an eternity of total union with the Blessed Trinity.

Shortly after writing to Sr. Lucia, John Paul II entered into his own final weeks of suffering and personally witnessed to what paschal suffering means. At the end of his life, and during the many struggles that preceded it, he lived the words of St. Paul:

We have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Cor 4:7-11)

Pope John Paul II made his sufferings an altar on which he offered himself to God.

Knowing that my senior years are an important part of my sanctification—that I can still work for the Kingdom—has helped me very much. I need to set aside time for prayer and Scripture reading every day. Days become busy, even in retirement, and time for prayer can be crowded out. When I am faithful to prayer, God continually draws me more into loving Him and letting Him love me.

Prayer allows what I endure to be redemptive. My sufferings can have eternal value for me, for the Church, and for the world. I am partnering with Jesus in His redemptive work for the Church—establishing His Kingdom here on earth!

I recently read a meditation on Luke 5:11:

We may not see 3,000 people come to Christ in one day. Still, Jesus did call us the light of the world. Let’s not hide that light under a basket! Our words and actions do matter. We really bring Christ with us into every situation we enter. Our prayers of intercession really can transform others’ circumstances and change their hearts. We really can ‘catch people’ for God’s kingdom! (The Word Among Us, September 2005)

Jesus gave us the great commandment to love Him with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind (Mt 22:38). He added, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” As we age, we may no longer get out to actively serve, but we can love all we relate to. We can exude the love of Jesus, because we have made our afflictions an altar on which we offer ourselves to God, and Jesus is on that altar with us. St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta encouraged people to give Jesus to others by example—by being in love with Jesus, radiating His holiness, and spreading His fragrance of love everywhere.

Although I may not be able to be physically active, I am still a child of the Church through baptism, and I share in its rich life. I can do this in many ways: meditating on daily Mass readings; expressing my deep desire to receive Jesus spiritually, when I can’t receive Him in Holy Communion; and reciting the Communion prayers and the prayers after Communion to help enkindle my desire to receive Him.

I also remain interested in what is going on in the universal Church and my parish: Someone brings me the weekly bulletin, so I can pray for parish activities. I make financial contributions. And someone from the parish brings me Holy Communion.

Our senior years can be as golden as we make them. Thank You, Jesus, for the abundance of grace that You give as we draw near the end of our journey. You designed these years so they can give us the inner strength and understanding that our earthly losses require. You give us unlimited trust as we suffer voids and detachments. What seems like diminishment serves to enlarge us, to give us more wisdom. Help me believe You are hollowing out in my soul greater capacities to receive You. Help me look at each trial as a proof of Your love and desire to unite me more to Yourself. Fill the voids with Your love.

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