Tag: Ralph Martin

Our Manifesto: A Look Forward

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This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ September 2019 newsletter.

In our July newsletter, we published Cardinal Mueller’s “Manifesto,” which so clearly reaffirmed important truths of our faith that have been surrounded with fog and confusion, even in Rome. As I meditated on his thoughts, I felt inspired to write a Manifesto for Renewal Ministries that clearly states where we stand in the ongoing spiritual battle, who we are, and what we are planning. I hope you find the below informative and inspiring. I do!

What are we facing?

We’re facing a very grave decline in the life of the Catholic Church. And if the body that is supposed to be salt and light to the world, loses its savor . . . the consequences for the Church and the world will not be good.

The statistics are not improving! Years ago, I used to make use of statistics to try to wake people up to the seriousness of our situation and to elicit a greater generosity and clarity of response to Jesus. But after a certain point, I stopped using statistics because almost everybody knew the situation was bad and didn’t need any more convincing. But because this is an attempt to lay out our vision for the future of Renewal Ministries, I want to review the current situation once more. The headline on the front page of our local Sunday newspaper recently read: “Catholics struggles as numbers fall.” Embarrassing, but true.

And what are the current numbers? Not pretty. These numbers are for the State of Michigan but would be very similar for most states, other than the Sunbelt states that benefit from migration from the north and immigration of Hispanics, who are traditionally Catholic.

A Remnant?

In the state of Michigan from 2000 to 2018, there was a forty-nine percent decline in infant baptisms; a fifty-four percent decline in Catholic marriages, a forty-six percent decline in First Communions, a forty-nine percent decline in enrollment in Catholic grades schools, and a forty-eight percent decline in K-12 religious education classes. During this time, the state’s population stayed relatively stable; in fact, it recently peaked at about ten million, which was similar to population numbers before the 2008 economic downturn.

While these statistics are bad in themselves, what they portend for the future is worse. Out of the approximately twenty-one percent of those nominally Catholic who still attend Mass somewhat regularly, the number of people who attend drops as the ages drop, with young people especially absent from many churches. Nationwide, for every person who enters the Catholic Church, six people leave.

Some Michigan Catholic dioceses are national leaders in the seriousness with which they’ve attempted to “change the culture of the Church” to one of evangelization. I’ve participated in these efforts myself as director of Graduate Theology Programs in the New Evangelization at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in the Archdiocese of Detroit, a very good seminary. But despite massive investments of time and money, the statistics are not yet improving. It is very likely that societal trends are so strong and years of negligence in teaching and preaching the truth in parishes and schools so great, that many Catholics who still attend Church have gone over to the “world” in terms of what they really believe, how they live, and how they are raising their children, guaranteeing that further erosion of attendance and numbers is extremely likely, no matter what efforts are currently being made. We will almost certainly be reduced to a remnant, perhaps a despised remnant, by those who form part of an apostate church and a society that is hostile to true faith and morality. So what shall we do? What is Renewal Ministries going to do in response to this?

We must consider: What are we called to do?

We firmly believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and that He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. We firmly believe that God has permitted all the negligence, cowardice, complicity in evil, and lack of a clear sound from the trumpet, for many years now, and that He has a plan to bring good out of this horrific evil. Negligence and infidelity are being exposed. Corruption and cowardice are being unveiled. Either we will turn to the Lord in humble repentance and ask Him to have mercy on us or the unraveling will continue. We  may indeed be reduced to a remnant. In any case, in God’s perfect time, the unrepentant wicked will be judged, and those suffering for righteousness’ sake will be vindicated.

But God has often allowed His people to be purified and pruned in this way, and He has begun again with a faithful remnant, out of which powerful renewal comes. Out of Noah, He gave a new beginning to the human race that had fallen into wickedness. Out of Gideon and his littleness, the Lord brought victory over His peoples’ enemies. And Jesus Himself started with a small number; out of their radical love, faith, and willingness to give their own lives even to the death, the Church grew. It can happen again. It is happening again where people give their lives to the Lord with generosity and bear the fruit that Jesus asked us all to bear. It may not show up in the statistics for a long time, but under the surface, the Lord is powerfully working, drawing people into deep relationship with Himself and one another.

Isn’t this unraveling what Pope Benedict XVI foresaw many years ago?

“From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge—a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so will she lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, she will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision. . . .

“But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world. In faith and prayer she will again recognize her true center and experience the sacraments again as the worship of God and not as a subject for liturgical scholarship.

“The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right. It will be hard going for the Church, for the process of crystalization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek.

“The process will be all the more arduous, for sectarian narrow-mindedness as well as pompous self-will will have to be shed. One may predict that all of this will take time. The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism of the eve of the French Revolution—when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain—to the renewal of the nineteenth century.

“But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church.

“Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.

“And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already . . . but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.” (Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. Faith and the Future. E-book. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010. 116-118.)

A New Springtime Arises

It is out of decisions like this, of renewed loyalty to Jesus Christ and His Church, to His whole teaching, that the “new springtime” prophesied by St. John Paul II will arise. As some have pointed out, the “first springtime” of the Church came through hostility, persecution, and martyrdom, and so may also the “new springtime.”

It is with joy and confidence that I write these difficult words. Jesus indeed is the Lord, and always will be. He has a plan. That plan includes all of us! Let’s all continue to give ourselves to the Lord in all the everyday ways that present themselves, and persevere to the end! He is with us, and He will give us everything we need. He who did not spare His own Son—will He not also give us all that we need (Rom 8:32)?

I also write this with a sense of great gratitude. Those of us associated with Renewal Ministries have been given the great privilege of being used by the Lord to help many, many people come to the Lord and continue to follow Him. He has “appointed us to bear fruit” (Jn 15:16), and by His great grace and mercy, we are!

Thanks for all you do to further the kingdom in your daily lives and in your support of Renewal Ministries.

What will Renewal Ministries Do?

We will continue as best we can to obey Paul’s advice to Timothy:

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2Tm 4:1-5)

  • We are interested not in promoting a particular movement or experience, but in promoting the integral Catholic faith as it comes to us through the apostles and as it is articulated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In particular, we are interested in including in our teaching and preaching those aspects of the Gospel that are often being ignored or denied today, such as the reality of heaven and hell; the eternal consequences of refusing to believe and repent; and the full truth about God’s mercy, that it must be responded to in faith and repentance in order to be effectively applied.
  • We want to be clear on the truly good news that God’s plan for human sexuality involves marriage between one man and one woman, and that sexual activity outside of godly marriage will exclude us from the kingdom of God unless we repent.
  • We want to draw from the depth of the Catholic Tradition the profound truths about growing in holiness, how we are all called to holiness, and that holiness is possible—and necessary!
  • We want to embody in our ministry, teaching, and preaching the truth of the powerful work of the Holy Spirit, and how He gives gifts to all the faithful that we must use for the building up of the Church and the extension of the kingdom.
  • We affirm with St. John Paul II that the charismatic dimension of the Church, along with its institutional dimension, are both “co-essential” for its very constitution.
  • We want to not just preach and teach but pray with people for them to encounter the Lord in a deeper way. We want to live and communicate the truth of the Lord’s body and blood given to us in the Eucharist, and we want to honor Mary and benefit from her prophetic and evangelistic missions that continue today.
  • We want to continue to be inspired by the witness of Sts. Jacinta and Francisco and “become like children” in our whole-hearted response to Mary’s request to pray and sacrifice for the salvation of souls and reparation for sin.
  • We want to continue to do what God has asked us to do; we want to fulfill the ministry He has given us.
  • We want to continue—through television, radio, social media, books, booklets, CDs, DVDs, YouTube and Vimeo channels, and more—to speak the word of truth and love, and of salvation, in season and out of season.

Commitment to Missions

We want to continue to help strengthen the Church by our various missions to more than forty countries. Once we get involved in a country, we stay with them as long as we can help. For some countries, like Lithuania, we have been helping for almost thirty years. We want to continue to work with dedicated brothers and sisters throughout the world, our country coordinators, and others, who so generously give of their time in working side-by-side with us in our international missions.

While the main focus of our mission is evangelization, we also help with people’s physical needs whenever possible. We do so regularly in our four annual mission trips to Mexico, in which we focus on meeting peoples’ needs for food and medicine, clothing, and shoes. In other countries, particularly in Africa, we also are often able to assist people who attend our events with meals, toiletries, transportation, and lodging. One of the members of our Tanzania mission teams has even played a significant role in bringing much-needed wells and clean drinking water to the country!

We also, through the gifted people the Lord has joined to us, are able to do really important and ground-breaking “pro-life” education in many African countries that are being bullied by Western secular government to introduce abortion into their cultures.

Salvation of Souls

We want to continue to do all we can to strengthen seminarians, deacons, priests, and bishops by responding to requests to do clergy study days and convocations, deacon retreats, and Life in the Spirit Seminars for seminarians. We have conducted these sessions in more than thirty dioceses in the US and Canada, and in many overseas dioceses as well. As I write this, I’ve just received a report on the recent retreat for seminarians that we made possible in Uganda; eighty-nine seminarians from across the country attended and experienced a real deepening in their spiritual lives, as well as the Holy Spirit and the urgency of evangelization.

We want to continue to write and publish books, booklets, and scholarly and popular articles that advance the cause of the Gospel. A number of our books are being used in universities, colleges, seminaries, high schools, and study groups, and by hundreds of thousands of individuals. We are concerned with the salvation of souls, and all we do has that as its main focus.

Cross-Generational Ministries

We want to be a truly cross-generational ministry involving fellow disciples from each of the generations—from the Greatest Generation, to Baby Boomers, to Generation X, to Millennials, to Generation Z, and to whatever else they name the next group of young people. We want to work side-by-side with old and young, to witness to and extend the love of the body of Christ in our relationships and in our ministry.

We are significantly investing in reaching younger generations through i.d.9:16, which now has eighteen chapters in the US and Canada. We want to be a voice for truly solid young adult ministry, and we are given many opportunities to do this through invitations to conferences, diocesan and parish training retreats, Bishops’ Advisory Councils, and even an international consultation on young adult ministry in Rome.

As the world targets younger and younger children, we are grateful that our ministry has extended to younger groupings of middle-school and high-school-aged boys and girls, and young men and women, through the boys and girls camps that Pete Burak and Debbie Herbeck have led for many years—which bring hundreds of young people to an encounter with Christ—that we have supported and been actively involved with for about three decades now! In fact, this outreach has been actively growing through the Be Love Revolution ministry for girls and a similar group, called Zion, that we are beginning for boys. These ministries currently are mainly incubating here in Ann Arbor, but this is often the seedbed out of which things develop that we can share with wider groups, as was the case with i.d.9:16. In fact, new Be Love Revolution chapters have already begun in Maryland and Lansing, Michigan. One of the reasons we have been able to expand our work with young people so rapidly is that many of those on staff with us now have been able to raise a good part of their salaries from friends, relatives, and fellow parishioners, which we are able to supplement with health insurance coverage.

We are seeing in all this the outlines of the Lord’s “succession plan” for Renewal Ministries. I continue to be in good health and have seen no diminishment of energy, and I feel very confident if anything happened to me, Peter Herbeck would be able to step into overall leadership—which he already shares with me—without missing a beat. And as you know, we have other promising young people, like Pete Burak, coming up behind Peter, as well as an excellent board that will continue to care for the ministry during whatever may come.

Healing Wounds

We are acutely aware that so many of our fellow Catholics, our fellow human beings, are suffering from wounds of the past, abuse, rejection, isolation, sins they have committed and sins committed against them, trauma, disappointment, and evils beyond mentioning. We have been grateful for some time now for the simple method of biblically based prayer that the “Unbound” ministry has developed. We have recommended this simple method to those working with us and are happy recently to have received as part of the Renewal Ministries’ family the Live Free Unbound Ministry, which has helped thousands of people throughout the state of Michigan and elsewhere at home and abroad. Inspired by the work of our good friend Neal Lozano and his international ministry, “Heart of the Father,” John and Michelle Kazanjian have conducted conferences and trained many teams who are able to pray responsibly with people to help them get free from the various bondages that sometimes beset us all. A number of us have gone through their training program and benefitted from it quite a bit.

We have known John and Michelle for years, and they have served with us in many ways. John is one of our country coordinators, and both of them have helped train people who work with us in missions. Their ministry has reached a point where they can benefit from the administrative and legal structure that Renewal Ministries can provide, as well as the closer spiritual fellowship and discernment that is available to those serving with us. They maintain a cooperative relationship with the Lozanos and Heart of the Father as they move forward into a more intentionally Catholic mission, situated within the context of the New Evangelization. We look forward to the new opportunities that will open up as a result of us serving together more closely in the broader work of Renewal Ministries, now very much enriched by adding John and Michelle and the many they have trained to our team.

Co-Workers for the Harvest

We also want to acknowledge our fellow ministries, which inspire and teach us, and with which we are blessed to be engaged in the same battle for holiness and evangelization. I am thinking of ministries like ChristLife, led for many years by our good friend Dave Nodar; and Divine Renovation, led by our friend and Canadian Board Member Fr. James Mallon; the Companions of the Cross and their bishop “graduates,” such as Bishop Scott McCaig, who is one of our Canadian Board members and a frequent mission team member; Neal Lozano and the truly amazing national and international “Heart of the Father” Unbound ministry that is helping so many get free of various bondages; and the great work of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, where a number of us continue to participate in many conferences, and which is now led by their new president, Fr. Dave Pivonka, one of our American board members. I also am thinking of the great Bible studies that are emerging everywhere and helping so many people know the Word of God, including those developed by our American Board Members Lori Manhardt (Come and See Catholic Bible Study) and Sharon Doran (Seeking Truth Catholic Bible Study) and our mission teacher Lavinia Spirito (Catholic Way Bible Study). I think also of the great work being done by Scott Hahn and the St. Paul Center for Biblical Studies, Curtis Martin and the great work being done by FOCUS, the Summers family and the great work being done by Family Mission Company, and so many more—including our longstanding relationship with the amazing work of EWTN, and locally, with Al Kresta and Ave Maria Radio. There’s a lot happening, and there are many signs of hope.

Gratitude and Prayer

Your support makes the work of Renewal Ministries possible, and we thank you for it. In a time of confusion and discouragement, we want to continue to be a voice of truth and a reason for hope, a light in the darkness. You have made it possible. We commit ourselves as we approach our fortieth anniversary to continue the mission, even more so, as the Lord adds to our numbers and continues to open doors.

Let’s pray that all of us in the Church today are able to make the courageous decisions needed in the face of great pressure to the contrary to remain faithful to Jesus Christ and not deny him before men! How prescient the words of the great Dominican moral theologian Servais Pinckaers, who died a few years ago, were in pinpointing the important decisions now facing the Church—and every Christian!

“The Church in its turn must pass through the testing of faith, must stand alone before God far from the world, in order to be rooted in Christ, in God. These are the questions asked: will the Church dare to believe in the Word of God, even when it seems to be a folly, a scandal, the stupidity of a prescientific age in the eyes of the world’s learned ones? Will it have the courage to hope in God when human hope is gone, and renounce human support if need be? Can it love God more than the world and all it offers, more than itself . . . The crucial point in the encounter between Christianity and the modern world is found in the affirmation and audacious preaching of the supernatural, other-worldly character of faith in Jesus Christ. . . . In the measure in which it avoids detachment and the transcendence of human values in order to remain bonded to the world . . . Whatever upheaval illusions, books it may produce, it is self-condemned to spiritual sterility. It recoils before the cross of Christ.” (Servais Pinckaers, OP, The Sources of Christian Ethics, [Washington DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1995], 313-315)

‘Dear Troubled Catholics’ Continued: Persevere in Prayer

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

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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.

Lithuanian Renewal Continues Bearing Fruit

This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ February 2019 newsletter.

Ralph spoke at a Day of Renewal event in Kaunas, Lithuania, attended by more than one thousand people.

Dear Fellow Disciples,

Events in the Church and the world continue to unfold, but our job is to “press on,” sharing the message of salvation with all that will hear and strengthening those who are laboring in the vineyard of the Lord.

I’d like to share with you about one of our most special missions, that which we do in Lithuania. Why is it special? Because it is the first place we went as the Lord began a new phase of our work in Renewal Ministries. We had been doing individual mission trips for many years, but this was the first time that we began to develop teams to multiply what we were able to do individually.

My dates may be a little off, but I think this is how it all unfolded. In 1992, three young Lithuanian students arrived in the US and had one dollar among them. They used it to call a Lithuanian American priest in Connecticut, who told them not to proceed to the Protestant conference they were invited for, but to stay in the airport until he could pick them up. He then drove them to the Franciscan University of Steubenville (FUS), so they could see authentic Catholic renewal. When they returned to Lithuania, they shared their experiences with their archbishop, Sigitas Tamkevicius, who had recently been released from Siberian labor camps as the hold of the Soviet Union was broken. He then traveled to FUS and met with Fr. Michael Scanlan, who in turn contacted me about going with him to Lithuania to help strengthen the Lithuanian church that was newly emerging from long oppression and persecution. We traveled there in 1992 and did some initial conferences. The next year, we returned with the FIRE team and did some big FIRE rallies that were pivotal in giving birth and strengthening significant renewal communities and ministries that we have been supporting with periodic visits and financial aid ever since.

At that time, Peter Herbeck, Sr. Ann Shields, and I had begun regularly praying together to seek God’s direction for us, and one day Sr. Ann got a word from the Lord that we would be going to Lithuania. She said she didn’t even know where that was. Shortly after, that the events described in the above paragraph unfolded!

I was back in Lithuania in 1998, but other team members then took over the support of our work there, including Dr. Peter Williamson, who served in this way for many years, and now, Bohus Zivak, from Slovakia, who currently does significant work there on behalf of Renewal Ministries.

So it was a real joy to return to Lithuania last fall for a full week, at the invitation of Archbishop Gintaras Grusas. I first met the archbishop when he was a deacon preparing for St. John Paul II’s visit to Lithuania in 1993; interestingly, only a month before my most recent arrival, he had just finished organizing Pope Francis’ visit. His main concern for my time in Lithuania was that his priests and seminarians, and as many priests and seminarians from other dioceses as possible, heard my teachings on holiness, evangelization, the new Pentecost, etc.

Over three days, I gave eleven talks to the priests and seminarians at the major seminary in Vilnius, the capital. Some of the talks were transmitted live to the next two biggest dioceses in Lithuania, Kaunas and Telsiai, where priests were gathered for their monthly study days. A total of about 220 priests and seminarians heard all or some of the teachings. This was about a third of the 700 or so priests in the entire country! The archbishop and his auxiliary bishop of Vilnius—along with myself and the only other layman there, the one doing the videoing—each prayed over a line of seminarians and priests who wanted more of the Holy Spirit active in their lives.

While there, the archbishop also scheduled me to do major media interviews to publicize the publication of the Lithuanian translation of The Fulfillment of All Desire.

On my last weekend in Lithuania, I did an all-day rally at the cathedral in Vilnius, which was full, and then drove to Kaunas for an all-day rally there as well, in the largest conference hall of the university. They were wonderful days full of blessings and the presence of God.

At the end of the last rally, I spent time with the Living Stones Community, which we have been supporting through your generosity all these years and which continues to do effective evangelization throughout the country. They gathered together the 1000 people who overflowed the university conference hall. I also had contact with other groups we are helping in university evangelization, apologetics, and other evangelization efforts.

We work in more than forty different countries now, but we will always have a “soft spot” in our hearts for where these missions all began and continue to this day.

Thank you for your role in making this and so many other things possible to strengthen God’s people and draw as many as possible to Himself.

Your brother in Christ,

Ralph

‘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 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,

 

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.