Tag: CCR

Reflections on Belgium’s Decline of Faith

belgium church empty
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Dear Friends,

Last month, I shared about the great inspiration of being at the fiftieth anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) in Rome, where Pope Francis again strongly encouraged us to keep sharing the gift that God is continuing to give us in this “current of grace” that is still flowing strongly. After our time in Rome, Anne and I went on to Belgium, where we had lived for four years and where two of our children were born (our little Brussels Sprouts we called them). We had been invited to give several talks to celebrate the Belgian celebration of the anniversary of the Renewal. We love Belgium. It is a neat and tidy little country with a noble history of faith and great missionary outflowing. Fr. Damian, who went to Hawaii to work with the lepers, is but one of the many Belgian missionaries and saints.

But how far this noble country has fallen! A great apostasy from the faith is shockingly apparent. As one priest said to us: “We have a beautiful seminary with only one problem, hardly any seminarians!” Church attendance is shockingly low, and hardly any young people are to be found at Mass. The country itself seems to delight in being on the cutting edge of abortion, euthanasia, and the explicit rejection of their Catholic heritage. Catholics are hardly having any children, and the flood of Moslem immigrants in some cities now comprise thirty-three percent of the population, and they are continuing to have many children. God bless the Moslems! God help the Catholics! May Our Lady of Fatima—the name of Mohammed’s beloved daughter—come to our assistance! May we pay attention to her continuing pleas to say the rosary and help her mission with our prayer and fasting!

Sadly, it seems that the Church leadership in Belgium has been intimidated by the aggressive secular culture and is almost accommodating itself to the situation, rather than challenging it with a vigorous proclamation of the Gospel. We went to the most dynamic parish in a large city where we were staying, and sure enough, it had an excellent choir that was in the center of the sanctuary, but the priest almost seemed to be a bit player in the performance. And it sure looked like a woman standing next to the priest on the altar was concelebrating. She said all the prayers with him, except for the exact words of the consecration, and she raised up the chalice as the deacon normally does at the appropriate time, etc. When our host remarked that this probably seemed a little unusual to us, he told us it was actually authorized by the bishop as a way to prepare the remaining Mass attendees for a church without priests! Oh, this is painful.

Lord have mercy on us. Truly.

In the meantime, we continue to preach the Gospel in season and out of season, when it’s convenient and when it’s not. I just returned from Fatima, where I was inspired as never before by the lives and examples of those three young children, and the sacrifices they were willing to make for souls after meeting our Blessed Mother. Perhaps in their example of loving souls and in their willingness to make sacrifices—and of “meeting” our Mother Mary and drawing close to her, and therefore, to our Lord—we can begin to help turn the tide that is overwhelming Belgium and so many other beautiful countries.

Alleluia! Jesus is Lord! And He’s coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead! May He find us busy with the Father’s work—according to each of our vocations.

Sincerely yours,

Ralph

‘Be Still and Know He is God’

Be still
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Ralph Martin gave the following prophetic reflection in Rome for the Golden Jubilee of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. His talk followed ones by Patti Mansfield and Dave Mangan.

Be still and know that He is God.

God is here. The God that Patti and Dave are speaking about is here, now.

He’s right next to you, right in you. It doesn’t matter where you are sitting. It doesn’t matter whether you’re thirsty. It doesn’t matter whether you’re hot and sweaty.

He is here.

God is here.

He wants to do in our souls, and He wants to do in our hearts, what He most loves to do.

He loves to invite us to repentance. He wants to give more of Himself to us. He is asking us to let go of things we may be holding on to that are blocking His love in our life.

We should be asking ourselves, “What should we do?” Because we’re not just celebrating something from the past. We are telling the story of One who is still present.

God is here now, wanting to do what He did in the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost and the Ark and the Dove (the retreat house in Pennsylvania where the Catholic Charismatic Renewal began). Ask the same question they asked of Peter on the day of Pentecost: “What shall we do?”

Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus.

We know from the Acts of the Apostles, the gift of the Holy Spirit isn’t just a one-time gift. When the apostles were facing persecution, they prayed for more of the Holy Spirit. We are facing difficulty and persecution all over the world. We need more of the Holy Spirit.

When Timothy got lukewarm in his ministry, Paul said, “Stir up the fire I gave you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Tm 1:6). That gift is meant to be stirred up. For some of us, maybe it’s gotten lukewarm. Some of us here maybe don’t even know why we’re here tonight. We heard of big things happening, and we’re curious.

What’s happening here tonight is the action of God being made visible in this most amazing gathering of people from 127 different countries, who have sacrificed to be here as witnesses, out of love for God.

Everybody here is a witness!

Everybody here is a witness to the action of God.

In a few minutes, we’re going to pray for more of the Holy Spirit. We need to prepare ourselves to do what Peter asked us to do on the day of Pentecost.

There’s lots of distraction. There’s lots of very wonderful excitement. There’s lots of wonderful celebration.

But God is here. The God that Patti and Dave were speaking about is here. Now.

He’s right next to you. He’s in you. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to convict us of ways in which we can have courage to be witnesses. It’s only because of the Holy Spirit that anybody can say that Jesus Christ is Lord. Every knee will bend and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

To anyone here who hasn’t surrendered their life to Jesus Christ, Jesus Himself is here, and He is speaking to you. He’s loving you, and He’s urging you, and He’s hungry for you to accept His love.

I’m going to close with something that Jesus said through the Holy Spirit to one of the first Christian communities: “I am the first and the last. I was dead, but now I’m alive. Behold, I am alive for ever and ever” (Rev 1: 17-18).

Jesus is alive forever and ever! He’s here tonight. He’s ready to heal. He’s ready to pour out the Holy Spirit. He’s ready to forgive sin. He’s ready to pour out His heart!

Let’s open our hearts to God!

‘The Renewal is Alive and Well in Brazil!’

 

Mary speaks before large crowd CROPPED
Ten thousand seats sold out for the CCR National Leaders’ Formation Conference in Brazil, at which Dr. Mary Healy spoke last weekend. She said, “There was a special grace on the conference.”

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.

Fr. Jonas Abib is the celebrant, in the middle, and next to him on the right is Fr. Ed Dougherty.
Fr. Jonas Abib, the celebrant, is pictured in the middle; next to him on the right is Fr. Ed Dougherty.

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.)

Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida.
We celebrated Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida.

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!