Author: Renewal Ministries Staff

Fatima Story Impacts Youth Today

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Ralph Martin recently spoke on the subject of Fatima to a group of junior high students at Spiritus Sanctus Academy (SSA) in Plymouth, MI. Anilu Seromik, a Renewal Ministries’ staff member and teacher at SSA, shares a glimpse of this talk and the unexpected response the students had to the message.

I had the most inspiring week when Ralph came to talk to my students recently. I have been teaching at a small, private Catholic school for many years and I love the junior high students. They are fun, engaging, not too sophisticated yet, and they make me smile and laugh often.

If you have ever seen a group of 71 kids between the ages of 11 and 14 right after lunch and recess, you know they can be quite a squirmy bunch. That afternoon, the students were mesmerized by Ralph’s talk. It was amazing. You could hear a pin drop!

Ralph started his talk by telling the kids that he had prayed the rosary for them that morning. He talked for about 30 to 40 minutes, asking the students along the way if they knew what this or that word meant and making sure they were understanding by asking them questions every so often. Some of us teachers were there and we were just as riveted by his sharing as the kids were.

When Ralph finished, we had time for questions and answers. The kids had some really good questions…

“Why do you think Mary appears to kids?”

“Could we offer a plenary indulgence for Maria, the girl that Mary said would stay in purgatory till the end of times?”

“Why couldn’t Francisco hear Our Lady speak?”

The students could have gone on longer with their questions, but we had to end.

Since it was the Feast of All Dominican Saints and our school is run by Dominican sisters, at the end of the day our principal went from classroom to classroom offering each student a couple of Oreo cookies to celebrate the feast day. One of the boys went to grab a cookie and then pulled his hand away. The principal asked,

“Is there something wrong? Don’t you like Oreos?” He hesitantly responded, “No, I do, I just want to do a little sacrifice in reparation for sins.”

The next day, one of the teachers told me that all of the boys had decided to give up water during basketball practice as a sacrifice, prompted by the same student who had given up his Oreos!

After the talk, I asked the students to write thank you notes to Ralph. The notes started piling up a couple of days later. Here is a sampling of those notes:

“I hope you can tell other kids about Fatima.”

“I realized that, even though I am young, I can start making sacrifices now.”

“I feel inspired to make sacrifices now and to pray more.”

“Your talk helped me realize that sins, even one, can lead into Purgatory or Hell. I will strive to be more like the children of Fatima.”

“Your talk encouraged me to look for ways I can offer up things for reparation of sins and your talk has led me to have a closer relationship with Jesus and the Virgin Mary.”

“I was really struck by the sacrifices the children made…It makes me want to do more sacrifices for the world.”

One of the boys said that the talk inspired him to “make right choices” when temptation comes to his mind and that he tries to think of the children of Fatima and remind himself to “make good choices.”

As Ralph was speaking to the students, he quoted the passage from Matthew 18:3: “Unless you become like little children…” I was struck by the fact that all along I kept thinking about how good this was for my students to hear, yet here God was speaking to me directly: He wants me to have the openness and simplicity of my students, to remain little!

One girl’s letter was particularly moving. She wrote, “When you said that Our Lady looked at Francisco with compassion and sadness and (you) said she might have been suffering, that made me realize that everyone, not just myself, has suffering in their lives and that we need to offer up our suffering to God and pray for others to be healed.”

Ralph’s talk had a profound effect on the kids, judging by their notes and their actions. They were moved immediately to respond to Our Lady’s message with love and generosity.

Ralph mentioned that we often try to shield kids by not telling them about Hell.  Nevertheless, here Our Blessed Mother showed these little children a vision of Hell which moved them to sacrifice, prayer and repentance. I am so excited that I got to see first-hand how this message was received by my students and it was no coincidence that I was there, Our Lady wanted me to hear it again and know that it is just as “new and urgent” today as it was a hundred years ago.

The Future of the Church

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The following was taken from the Magnificat meditation for November 9, 2017

“The future of the Church can and will issue from those whose roots are deep and who live from the pure fullness of their faith. It will not issue from those who accommodate themselves merely to the passing moment or from those who merely criticize others and assume that they themselves are infallible measuring rods; nor will it issue from those who take the easier road, who sidestep the passion of faith, declaring false and obsolete, tyrannous and legalistic, all that makes demands upon men, that hurts them and compels them to sacrifice themselves. To put this more positively:

“The future of the Church, once again as always, will be reshaped by the saints, by people, that is, whose minds probe deeper than the slogans of the day, who see more than others see, because their lives embrace a wider reality.”

“Unselfishness, which makes men free, is attained only through the patience of small daily acts of self-denial. By this daily passion, which alone reveals to a man in how many ways he is enslaved by his own ego, by this daily passion and by it alone, a man’s eyes are slowly opened. He sees only to the extent that he has lived and suffered….”

“Let us go a step farther. From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge — a Church that has lost much. It will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. It will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices it built in its palmy days. As the number of its adherents diminishes, so will it lose many of its social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, it will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision. As a small society, it will make much bigger demands on the initiative of its individual members. Undoubtedly it will discover new forms of ministry, and will ordain to the priesthood approved Christians who pursue some profession. In many smaller congregations or in self-contained social groups, pastoral care will normally be provided in this fashion. Along-side this, the full-time ministry of the priesthood will be indispensable as formerly.”

“But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find its essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at its 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 it will again recognize its true center, and experience the sacraments again as the worship of God and not as a subject for liturgical scholarship.”

» Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)

When Compromise is Not the Loving Choice

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This article originally appeared in the Archdiocese of Washington blog Community in Mission.

By Msgr. Charles Pope

St. Paul writes this in today’s reading from the Letter to the Romans:

I am not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16).

“Gospel” here refers to the whole of the New Testament rather than merely the four Gospels. The gospel is the apostolic exhortation, the proclamation of the apostles of what Jesus taught and said and did for our salvation. This proclamation was recorded and collected in the letters of the apostles Paul, Peter, James, John, and Jude, and in what later came to be called the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The gospel is the transformative word of the Lord proclaimed by the apostles in obedience to the command of the Lord,

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matt 28:19-20).

Of these apostles (“sent ones”) Jesus says this:

Very truly I tell you, whoever receives the one I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me (Jn 13:20).

So the gospel is the authoritative and transformative proclamation of the Lord’s word through the apostles in totality. Of this full and received message St. Paul says he is not ashamed, though he has suffered for preaching it; others have suffered and even been killed for it!

Can we say the same? Are we unashamed of the gospel? Sadly, too many people are to some extent ashamed of the gospel. Even among practicing Catholics and clergy, there are too many who promote a compromised, watered-down message rather than boldly, joyfully, and confidently proclaiming the full gospel. Read More…

Parish Evangelization Efforts Bear Fruit

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This article originally appeared in The B.C. Catholic. Msgr. Greg Smith is a member of Renewal Ministries’ Canadian Board of Directors.

By AGNIESZKA KRAWCZYNSKI

One hundred people turned up for a weekly faith study at Christ the Redeemer Parish, a sign pastor Msgr. Gregory Smith believes shows local evangelization efforts are working.

“We have, for a long time, made the Alpha course a very important priority at our parish and we’ve had a number of successful Alphas every year: some bigger, some smaller,” Msgr. Smith told The B.C. Catholic.

“This year, we decided to go big or go home.” The parish sent invitations to every family in the parish boundaries, Catholic or not, to Mass on Christmas Day. At that Mass, and on several following occasions, the pastor talked about Alpha during his homily.

“As a result, we had the largest Alpha we ever had.” An estimated 160 people joined Alpha at the start, and after the first few weeks, three-quarters of them were coming back regularly.

“We’ve never had such a response,” said Msgr. Smith.

He decided to harness that energy. Once the weekly Alpha program had run its course, the parish offered Discovery, a six-week faith formation program by Catholic Christian Outreach. About 75 Alpha alumni signed up.

Continue reading here.

Spreading the Gospel in Vietnam

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Country Coordinator Don Turbitt in Vietnam with Archbishop Joseph Linh and Don’s “adopted granddaughters,” who were making their final vows.

This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ October 2017 newsletter. You can learn about our missions outreach here.

By Don Turbitt, Renewal Ministries’ Country Coordinator to Vietnam

Due to government restrictions in the past, there has been a shortage of priests in Vietnam, but they now have so many seminarians, I believe that problem will soon disappear. However, it does take thirteen years of study to become a priest in Vietnam.

Fr. Hoan, the brother of a seminarian I know from my home in Providence, Rhode Island, was very hospitable and gracious to Deacon Chau and me. We spent four days in his parish and ate wonderful meals in the homes of his parishioners and his rectory. My experience with the Vietnamese people has been one of great blessings. They are such honorable people and, like Italian Americans, you can’t come into a house without them graciously offering food to you.

Deacon Chau gave the homily at Mass each day. He also gave a teaching each day to a group of singles on marriage. I gave one talk to the parish and one talk to the singles. We also prayed over the people after my talk. People lined up for healing prayer every time they saw us, both before and after Mass. At a meal after Mass, one man said his sinuses were healed when I prayed with him.

When we were eating in the Vietnamese homes, the men sat at one table, and the women and children sat at another table, separate from one another. Even at Mass, the men sit on the right, and women and children sit on the left. We Americans may not think that’s a good idea, but the divorce rate in Vietnam is eight percent, and for Catholics it’s five percent, while in the United States, we are over fifty percent.

On Sunday, we drove to the diocese of Thanh Hoa, to meet with Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Linh. Bishop Linh recently was promoted to archbishop and now presides over two dioceses, Thanh Hoa and Hue. The government will take some time to approve a new bishop for Thanh Hoa. Along with his new responsibilities, Archbishop Linh is also the head of the Bishops’ Committee for Vietnam.

Archbishop Joseph Linh is not a tall man, but he is a giant of a man in the Church. The people love him, and I deeply admire him. He had to wait three years after graduating from the seminary before the government would allow him to be ordained. After that, he was imprisoned four times, once for nine months, once for four months, once for three months, and once for nine days. What a privilege it was to spend time with him!

We also took time to visit my sixteen “adopted granddaughters.” Five years ago, I attended the first vows of these sixteen religious sisters, and it all happened on my birthday. I was sitting with Archbishop Linh when he announced my birthday, and he also said I should adopt these sisters as my “granddaughters.” So, for the last five years, we have been building a very warm and happy relationship as “grandfather” and “granddaughters.” They have been praying for me and my family, as I also pray for them.

My “granddaughters” are very mature, hard-working young women, but around me, they act like little girls, laughing and playing around their “grandfather.” I have been blessed by this relationship. After they took their final vows at Mass, we all went together with their families to the convent hall for dinner. I had the opportunity to sit with Archbishop Linh and the three heads of the order for a wonderful feast. At the end of the day, I spent some private time with the sisters, prayed with each of them, and said my farewell to all of them.

The following day, I was given an opportunity to speak to 550 catechists receiving their yearly instruction in the Thanh Hoa Diocese. Eight percent of the population in Vietnam is Catholic, which equals six million people, and ninety percent of the Catholics attend Sunday Mass. I was told by one pastor that sixty percent of his parishioners attended daily Mass. The first Mass is at 4:45 a.m. Since Renewal Ministries has come to the diocese of Thanh Hoa, the number of Catholics has increased from 120,000 to 150,000. I believe Archbishop Joseph Linh is the main reason for such a dramatic increase.

The next day, we went with Archbishop Linh to visit three parishes. The first parish had hundreds of people standing on both sides of the driveway to receive the archbishop. A drum and bugle corps was part of the reception, and there was an overflow crowd in the church. The next parish had a one-hundred motorbike escort, with the archbishop’s flags on each bike, which led us from the highway to the church. There was another overflow crowd in the church and a huge meal for everyone after Mass. The third parish was way out in the bush. They had completed a summer camp to learn English and were happily celebrating the end of camp.

The next day, we flew to Hue (pronounced “Way”), which is the new diocese under Archbishop Joseph Linh. We spent our time in Hue meeting the leading priests of the diocese and planning next year’s mission. One priest we met was Fr. Anthony Ha, who told us he spent twenty-one years in the seminary, because there was a twenty-year period in which the government would not allow any priests to be ordained.

We returned to the Phat Diem diocese by overnight train, a twelve-hour ride. The following day, we spent time with Bishop Joseph Nguyen Nang, who celebrated Mass for youth.

We continued to pray for the sick each day, before and after Mass. The people have great faith and are a blessing to be with. The temperatures were always in the high nineties and slightly over one-hundred degrees each day, but the joy of the work made all things pleasurable. The people in Vietnam are a delight to be with, and my heart swells with joy when I am in Vietnam.