Author: Ralph Martin

Embracing the Three Disciplines of Lent

This post originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ February 2018 newsletter.

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Dear Faithful Friends,

Can you believe it?

Lent is here!

I must admit, for most of my life I’ve had mixed feelings about Lent—understanding it was “good for me,” but not really looking forward to the self-denial. This Lent is a little different, because the Lord has been helping me with self-denial.

It started a few years ago when I realized I wasn’t really responding to all of Mary’s requests at Medjugorje. We aren’t required to adhere to private revelation, but in this case, they really are only the requests of the Gospel and Church Tradition. I was good on prayer, the Eucharist, and daily Bible reading, and reasonable on Confession, but fasting was hard. I’m not a good “faster,” but several years ago, I realized there was no reason for me not to fast—apart from the weakness of my flesh—no medical reasons, health concerns, etc. So I started trying to fast two days a week. For me, fasting on bread and water was too distracting—I was eating way too much bread! And thinking of it too much! So, except for a morning cup of coffee, I only consumed water, from after dinner one day until dinner the next day. There have been some weeks in which I’ve only been able to fast one day a week because of travel circumstances, etc., but most weeks I have been able to fast two days a week. My spiritual director at the seminary, who is an expert on the early Church, told me that all the early Christians fasted two days a week, somewhat similarly to what I do. So what may seem special to us today was actually fairly standard for those in the early Church.

Another factor motivating me to take up fasting again—I had attempted it with varying degrees of success in the past—was my sense that some people I was praying for needed more than my prayer; they needed fasting as well. As Jesus said in Mark 9:29, some things that have a bad grip on people are only released by prayer and fasting. I must say, while I had been praying for some people for years, I saw very visible results after adding fasting to my prayers for them. I don’t know exactly what it is, maybe the Lord wants to see that we have “some skin in the game,” or are willing to pay a little price—virtually nothing compared to the price He was willing to pay—to join our fasting and self-denial to His for the salvation of souls. When I’m fasting, there seems to be a little more depth to my crying out to God for others. Consider giving this a try this Lent!

I know people with medical conditions or other needs may not be able to fast from food and drink, but everybody has something they can renounce to add some intensity to their prayer, whether it be entertainment, desert, some non-essential comfort, etc.

I must also say that my resolve to continue this pattern has been greatly strengthened by my recent “encounter” with the depth of the message of Our Lady of Fatima and the profound response of the three children. (See the November 2017 newsletter for more on this.) And I am not skipping the daily rosary as I once did; if I do miss a day, I make it up the next day by saying two. I want to do my part in responding to Mary’s call to pray the rosary daily for peace for the world, the conversion of sinners, and reparation for sin and offenses against the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The three traditional disciplines of Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I try to increase my prayer as much as I can during Lent by adding extra prayer times or visits to the Blessed Sacrament. We talk about prayer a lot at Renewal Ministries, and I know my book The Fulfillment of All Desire: A Guidebook for the Journey to God Based on the Wisdom of the Saints has helped many thousands to deepen their prayer life, as have many of Sr. Ann’s books and CDs.

Recently, though, I gained an insight into almsgiving that has been pretty inspiring. It began with encountering one of the Mass readings that mentions almsgiving.

“But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you” (Lk 11:41).

Jesus said this to the Pharisees. Sometimes it is translated somewhat differently, but our Renewal Ministries’ consultant, Dr. Mary Healy, a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and a colleague at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, says this about it:

“I think Jesus here is referring to literal almsgiving, not an analogy. In the context of the previous verses, the Lord seems to be saying that almsgiving has to come from a heart full of generosity and kindness (as opposed to the extortion and wickedness of the Pharisees).”

I feel that I’m getting a new insight into how these three “disciplines,” which the Church focuses on in a special way during Lent, but which are good practices as a regular part of our life, move us out of a tendency to organize our lives around comfort and convenience. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving require a regular pattern of self-denial, turning to the Lord, and trusting in Him that is really important for “keeping our edge” and remaining alert to the Lord and eager for His kingdom. These disciplines help us not settle down into a pattern of comfort and convenience that dulls our ability to hear His voice.

Anne and I are experiencing a new joy, a new eagerness, and a new freedom in almsgiving and are indeed finding “you can’t outdo God in generosity.”

So let’s continue, in the midst of the normal pain that self-denial brings, picking up our cross with joy this Lent in increased prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, so that sinners may be converted, mercy may be granted to the world, and reparation may be made for sin—both our sin and the sins of others who may not be aware of their need to do penance.

It’s good to be in this together.

Your companion on the journey,

 

Ralph

Affection for Sin Presents Serious Danger

The Flight of Lot and His Family from Sodom, by Jacob Jordaens. Image Credit.

This article originally appeared on the St. Paul Center Blog.

I loved studying the teachings of the greatest Doctors of the Church in the area of spirituality. It took me a long time from starting with John of the Cross and working through all six of the Doctors I present in The Fulfillment of All Desire but I can’t tell you how helpful their wisdom has been for my own life and what a valuable resource this book has been for tens of thousands of its readers (and listeners!). I think God gave me the grace to be able to present their teachings in a clear, understandable, orderly way, providing an amazing road map for all of us as we continue on the spiritual journey. Let me, in this short blog, share just one of the many amazing and helpful insights that have meant a lot to many people, including myself. Francis de Sales provides important insight into something he calls “affection for sin.”                     

One of Francis’ most helpful insights is his teaching on the affection for sin. He points out that oftentimes we might turn away from serious sins in our life and try hard not to commit them, but still nurture affection for such sin, which greatly slows down our spiritual progress and disposes us to future falls.

He points out that although the Israelites left Egypt in effect, many did not leave it in affection. They complained to Moses that that greatly missed the leeks, garlic, and melons they had back in Egypt. They had physically left Egypt but the affection for Egypt was still in their hearts and slowed them down greatly on their journey to the Promised Land. The same can be true for many of us. We leave sin in effect, but reluctantly, and look back at it fondly, as did Lot’s wife when she looked back on the doomed city of Sodom.

Continue reading here.

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)

Remain Faithful in Small Things

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This article originally appeared in the July 2019 Renewal Ministries’ newsletter, which you can access here.

Dear Fellow Sons and Daughter of GOD!

Isn’t it amazing? We are  truly sons and daughters of God!

With all the “big stuff” going on in the world and in the Church, it sometimes is easy to forget that our mission is to get up every day and faithfully carry out the responsibilities of our state of life with love and sacrifice. And I must admit, I’m pretty excited to have discovered how each of us can do some small but significant things every day that actually can have eternal consequences. You may be getting tired of hearing me speak or write about those amazing words of Mary at Fatima: “Pray, pray very much and make sacrifices for sinners. For many souls go to hell because there is no one to sacrifice and pray for them.”

But this is not getting old for me at all! And I hope it’s the same for you. How meaningful it is to be able to pray and offer small (or big) sacrifices and know that they can make a difference in saving souls from hell! It’s pretty amazing.

At our recent Gathering, I shared how my wife, Anne, when she wakes up at night, prays a chaplet of Divine Mercy for those who are dying. I started doing it myself, adding the intentions of the souls in purgatory, those tempted to suicide or unchastity, and those suffering from depression. I added these intentions because I’ve recently become aware of some people who are dealing with these strong temptations and afflictions. You can add your own intentions or simply pray for the dying, as my wife does.

This idea was encouraging for those who were at the Gathering and for those who heard the talk online who tell me that they’re beginning to do the same thing when they wake up at night! (You can access my talks and other Gathering talks on Renewal Ministries’ free app, or by ordering a Gathering DVD at our online store.

Here are some of the responses we have received:

“Your talk was great. Thanks again for making it available to us who weren’t able to be there.”

“Your dedication to the message of Fatima is important.  Here is how Dostoevsky saw it in Brothers Karamazov through the character of Fr Zossima: ‘Every hour and every moment thousands of men leave life on this earth, and their souls appear before God. And how many of them depart in solitude, unknown, sad, dejected that no one mourns for them or even knows whether they have lived or not. And behold, from the other end of the earth perhaps, your prayer for their rest will rise up to God though you knew them not nor they you.’”

“Your response and Anne’s to use times of restlessness to pray for those dying is a habit I hope to adopt.”

“I listened to your talk given at the Gathering—your mention of Anne reciting the Chaplet when she wakes during the night has encouraged me to start doing the same. Thanks, Anne!”

I’m willing to keep traveling to the far corners of the world to help inspire more people to start doing things like this that can contribute to the salvation of souls!

If you don’t know what the Chaplet of Mercy is or how to say it, see the link here. Incidentally it only take about five minutes or so, and it actually can help you fall back to sleep, although that is not the primary motivation for saying it!

So, in the midst of the “big things,” let’s keep doing the “small things” that can actually contribute to the salvation of souls!

And speaking of “big things,” I recommend reading a remarkable “Manifesto” from Cardinal Gerhard Muller, the former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. As confusion has grown about how to interpret things that are happening in Rome and elsewhere, Cardinal Muller has been a voice of great clarity and truth, a voice that needs to be heard more widely. You will be encouraged and strengthened as you read it.  Pass it on!

Your brother in Christ,

Ralph

‘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