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 www.RenewalMinistries.net/tcwf. (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,
P.S. Please consider joining us for this year’s Renewal Ministries Gathering from April 5-7. You can find details by clicking here.
The following article is the third in a series called “Casting Nets” that will run over the coming weeks. They are written by “John,” a student in one of Ralph Martin’s New Evangelization classes, and document several evangelization opportunities he has performed in his various ministries. He writes, “Each ministry is unique with various situations, circumstances, and needs; but the one constant is broken and injured people. It is my experience that there is no greater potential for miracles to occur than when desperate people meet Jesus. I have been blessed to have seen many people come to Jesus—often in surprising or unexpected ways—and quite often, it is I who is the most surprised.”
I love RCIA, because evangelization is expected. I had two topics that I wanted to get across on this particular night. First, prayer is the most important thing that we need to learn to do, and second, that prayer can seem simple, but it is hard to do it well. I began by challenging the RCIA class that “if prayer didn’t work and if, in fact, we were just speaking words to the sky and God never answered us—then why even bother? Why are we are wasting our time?” It was blunt, but honest.
I then I gave two personal examples of answered prayers in my own life, and a couple of the candidates also shared their stories. I then began to teach about how to pray. I spoke about rote prayer, spontaneous prayer, contemplative prayer, healing prayer, intercessory prayer, meditative prayer, etc.
Then I announced that we needed a prayer practicum. I told them about my ministry (healing and deliverance) and told them about some of the things I’d witnessed. Using Mark 16:17-18 as a spring board, I said that I would teach them what I knew about healing prayer and how to pray with others. I then asked if there was anyone present with any injuries, aches, pains, etc. The first person to step forward was an ex-Detroit police officer. She said she had bad knees and that they hurt mostly after sitting. We gathered around her, and I told her and the others what I was about to do, explaining it slowly and carefully. I told her to relax and just let me know if she felt anything. We prayed. She began to sweat and was feeling heat all throughout her body. I asked her to try her knees out. She walked around and said that they were “a little better.” We prayed again, and on the second try, she said that they were “definitely better.” Praise God!
The five candidates were now paying closer attention, but I detected some skepticism, because this was not something visible. Plausible, perhaps; visible, no.
I asked if anyone else had any aches or pains. A woman who was studying to be a nurse reported hip problems and sciatica. Again, I explained the process, but before we even started praying for healing, she said she was feeling tingling. I pointed out how our good and gracious God was already at work—even before we had asked Him. I pointed out that this was not atypical when the Spirit is stirred up, and we prayed into the feeling. After a minute or so, I had her test her back, and she said she felt about the same, but was “sweating like crazy.” I offered to pray more for her. It was then she said something I’d always wanted to hear someone say. She said, “You can pray if you want, but the reason my back hurts is because I have one leg that is shorter than the other.”
Yes! Thank you, Lord! I had always wanted to see this malady healed and had been praying for the opportunity for some months.
I had her sit and put her feet on my knees, and sure enough, the right leg was about three-quarters of an inch shorter than the left. I lined up her boots so that everyone present could see the difference. I simply prayed “In the name of Jesus Christ, right leg, grow.” She said she felt something tingling in her knee, and after about five seconds, we all watched as the leg began to stretch, and we saw the two heels come together perfectly. Total time—about twenty seconds. I asked the candidates “do you see this?” Needless to say, they were all wildly excited. In fact, they wanted to pray over each other. We spent the rest of the class talking about God’s abundant mercy and love—and yes, all joined the Church the following Easter.
Note: I challenged the class to go and do the same (evangelize and heal), stressing that Mark 16: 17-18 applied to all of us—not just to me. Two weeks later, one of the young ladies in the class told me how she prayed for healing for a college classmate who was a “professed Baptist who hated Catholics.” He received healing for his back and is now reevaluating his view of Catholics.
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 article is the first in a series called “Casting Nets” that will run over the coming weeks. They are written by “John,” a student in one of Ralph Martin’s New Evangelization classes, and document several evangelization opportunities he has performed in his various ministries. He writes, “Each ministry is unique with various situations, circumstances, and needs; but the one constant is broken and injured people. It is my experience that there is no greater potential for miracles to occur than when desperate people meet Jesus. I have been blessed to have seen many people come to Jesus—often in surprising or unexpected ways—and quite often, it is I who is the most surprised.”
The names of the individuals involved have been changed to protect privacy, and the author has been kept anonymous because he would like Jesus to have the credit for this work.
I was looking for a new idea for a presentation at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center I volunteer for ministry. I decided to do a talk on self-esteem because if there is anything these people need more of, it is self-esteem. Society has labeled these people as losers, deadbeats, scum, useless (or worse) and they need to know that it is what God thinks about them that matters, not what society thinks. I had recently watched a video from Fr. Dave Pivonka and in the video, he compared pennies to souls. I decided to integrate the teaching into my talk.
The talk involved giving out a “lucky penny” to all attendees as they entered the place where I gave the talk. (After all, who doesn’t want a lucky penny?) I began with how God’s love is universal and available for all. I then talked about the parable of the lost sheep (Mt 18:12–14) and drew a comparison between their scatted lives and disordered priorities to lost sheep. Next, I broke open the parable of the lost coin (Lk 15:8-10). I compared the woman in the parable to the Lord, who will not leave a corner unswept or a room unchecked in order to find every lost soul. Finally, I asked them to take out their pennies. I pointed out how different they were, yet all were of the same essence. I pointed out that some are old and worn while other are bright and shiny—just like each of us. I then reflected on the fact that some are scraped, nicked, or even bent, indicating a hard life (just like us). Some are foreign (because many of the residents are not from the immediate area), and some are not, but the most important thing is that all have worth. Just as the US Mint purposefully makes every single penny and then sends them out to every corner of the world, so too God with our souls. Just as no penny is unplanned or worthless and all are accounted for—so too are we. Finally, after circulating all around the world, and their job is done, the mint collects every single penny and takes them back in (no matter what shape or condition they are they are in), and just as when they were made, every penny is again accounted for. Most importantly, none are worthless—there is no such thing as a worthless penny. I then related this to our souls and how, upon our death, God carefully gathers every soul back and accounts for it. The talk lasted for forty-five minutes and (I thought) went well. Afterwards, I asked if anyone wanted prayer. A tall, thin, man with an addiction problem approached. He asked if he could tell me a story before I prayed over him. I said “absolutely.”
His said, “I’ve never been religious and haven’t been to church in a long time. I didn’t think that God even knew who I was, but your talk really spoke to me today.” I said, “That’s great! I’m glad to hear it.”
He then looked downcast and began tearing up. He said, “I’m so tired of the drugs. They have ruined my life and every relationship I’ve ever had. I’ve lost cars, money, friends, and family. All I have left in the world is my two boys.” He continued, “My wife called me earlier today and we argued. She said that she wanted to leave and take the kids. I can’t really blame her, but they are all I have left to live for.”
He continued, “After we talked for an hour, she said that for some reason, she wouldn’t leave me just now and was going to give me one more chance. I thanked her for that and promised that it would be different. I know now for sure that it will be different, because God gave me a sign during your talk.”
I said, “That is awesome brother!” I encouraged him and added, “Now remember, you need to hold God to His promise. Just tell Him, ‘Lord, I can’t do this without You, and You gave me a sign—whatever that sign was—so I’m counting on You to help me pull through this.” I then reminded him that the best place to do this was in church.
He said, “Yeah, I’m going to do that. Thanks.” Then he looked at me and asked, “Do you know what my wife’s name is?” Well, I’d never met this man before, so quizzically, I said, “No, I have no idea.”
“Penny,” he replied.
NOTE: As a follow-up, my wife and I met Penny by chance eight months later. She was in rehab herself and said that her husband had been clean and sober since I had last seen him, and that he still carried the penny in his wallet. Praise God!
The following is an excerpt from Game Changer by Pete Burak, director of i.d.9:16, Renewal Ministries’ young adult outreach.
Ignoring or minimizing the Holy Spirit’s role in the New Evangelization is like setting out to make fresh bread by gathering all the ingredients and preheating the oven—but ignoring the yeast and wondering why the bread won’t rise. Or like planning a trip by packing the trunk, putting the keys in the ignition, and buckling up—but deciding gas is optional and being surprised when the car won’t start. In Evangelii Nuntiandi, Blessed Pope Paul VI bluntly states the role of the Holy Spirit in the work of mission. He writes,
“Evangelization will never be possible without the action of the Holy Spirit.”3
Talk about a provocative and challenging statement from the vicar of Christ! Blessed Paul VI clearly insists that the faithful rely on the action of the Holy Spirit because evangelization is pointless and fruitless without the Spirit. Pentecost launched the first evangelization, and Pentecost must continue to fuel our efforts.
The vital role of the Spirit can be difficult to believe, since most of His work happens in disguise. The power of the Holy Spirit, while certainly containing the power to affect outward appearance (like the tongues of fire), primarily transforms the hidden recesses of our hearts. The external preaching, teaching, loving, sharing, and caring that we see in successful evangelizers all come from an unseen but indispensible working of the Holy Spirit.
When we see other people evangelizing and doing great things, we often say to ourselves, “I could never do that,” and we’re right! We can’t do these extraordinary external works without first internally accepting and growing in the power of the Holy Spirit.
What we don’t always realize is that every time we witness someone successfully evangelizing, the Holy Spirit is guiding them. Many evangelization programs, trainings, and books remind us of our duty to evangelize and the incredible need of our personal witness to the Gospel. They share best practices and tips for knowing what to say and how and when to say it. However, none of this ultimately matters if we don’t open ourselves up to the grace and power of the Holy Spirit and allow Him to guide and empower our evangelization efforts.
With the divine Game Changer in mind, it’s worth taking another look at Evangelii Nuntiandi:
“It is the Holy Spirit who, today as at the beginning of the Church acts in every evangelizer who allows himself to be possessed and led by Him.”4
Blessed Paul VI uses the word “possessed,” and that can create confusion or apprehension. Most of us see possession as something out of The Exorcist, yet completely giving of ourselves to Christ, and allowing the Spirit to consume us, are marks of true Christian discipleship. Unlike demonic possession, in which you lose control of your faculties, being owned by the Spirit enhances our nature and allows us true freedom.
And one more quote from Evangelii Nuntiandi:
“The Holy Spirit places on [the evangelizer’s] lips, the words which he could not find by himself, and at the same time the Holy Spirit predisposes the soul of the hearer to be open and receptive to the Good News and to the kingdom being proclaimed.”5
In other words, the Holy Spirit stacks the deck. The Holy Spirit gifts followers of Christ with the supernatural wisdom, power, and grace they need to communicate the Good News. Additionally, the listener receives supernatural power to understand and accept what is being presented. Obviously, either party can resist or flat-out deny this grace, but the Spirit is still there, gently inviting both people to go deeper.
Let’s look again at the scenario we imagined at the beginning of the booklet, regarding a discussion of sensitive topics during Thanksgiving dinner. In moments such as these, our first action should always be to ask the Holy Spirit for insight, wisdom, and the power to respond to His prompting. This humbles us so that we can hear what the Lord wants us to do. Then, no matter what happens, we can peacefully know we tried to be faithful to God’s will.
He may prompt us to speak out boldly; He may whisper to us to wait, perhaps until after dinner; or He may prompt us to invite our relative out for that coffee so that we can speak with them individually and better understand their opinion. We can’t do it on our own, so we might as well give all of these options to Him and then submit to His authority.
This reality should fill us with relief. While catechesis, apologetics, and evangelization training are important, when faced with the weighty task of representing Christ and the Church, we primarily need to rely on the Spirit. The Holy Spirit often is described as the Spirit of Truth, and in those moments, the truth, spoken in love, is precisely what is needed, even if it is eventually rejected.