Author: Renewal Ministries Staff

The Hope of the Narrow Way

Image Credit

Fr. Richard Vigoa, the pastor of St. Augustine Church in Coral Gables, Florida, shared the following homily with his parish in 2019 on the second Sunday of Lent. Fr. Vigoa is enrolled in the Licentiate of Sacred Theology (STL) Program at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan. 

By Fr. Richard Vigoa

From the writings of a well-known Saint:

“. . . I saw two roads. One was broad, covered with sand and flowers, full of joy, music and all sorts of pleasures. People walked along it, dancing and enjoying themselves. They reached the end without realizing it. And at the end of the road there was a horrible precipice; that is, the abyss of hell. The souls fell blindly into it. As they walked, so they fell.  And their number was so great that it was impossible to count them. And I saw the other road, or rather, a path, for it was narrow and strewn with thorns and rocks; and the people who walked along it had tears in their eyes, and all kinds of suffering befell them. Some fell down upon the rocks, but stood up immediately and went on. At the end of this path there was a magnificent garden filled with all sorts of happiness and all these souls entered there.  At the very first instant they forgot all their sufferings” (Diary 153).

These words are taken from the diary of St. Faustina, a Polish nun and a great mystic of the last century, who recorded her numerous encounters with the Lord, the Blessed Mother, and the angelic host in her diary. The account here, and on other occasions, of her description of Hell is chilling—it’s a wonder why we don’t pay more attention to it.

That vision describes well the wide road, filled with delights, that leads to Hell—the path of those who act as if God does not matter and are immersed in worldly pleasures.

I’m struck by the way she describes the condemned souls’ fall at the end: They fell blindly; they didn’t realize it was coming; perhaps they thought they had all the time in the world to dance along that road, but the abyss swallowed them suddenly and without warning. What a reminder, especially important during Lent, to stay off that road—that if we find ourselves on that road through mortal sin that we should get off immediately, and back on the other road.

As we heard, St. Faustina describes that other road as well, describing it as more of a path. In contrast to the wide and happy road, this path was rocky and strewn with thorns. The people upon it were crying because it was difficult, and they suffered much. She’s describing, of course, those who are faithful, who have to suffer for a time because of their faith and in order to remain faithful. What strikes me about this path is how sometimes people fell down, overcome by the difficulties, but they got right back up again.

But what really strikes me, just like the other road, is the end of the path. Whereas the other road dropped off into the abyss of Hell, this path ends in a beautiful garden, the heavenly kingdom, filled with all sorts of happiness. The instant that the blessed souls crossed into this garden, they immediately forgot all the suffering they endured to get there.

This is a fitting vision, given to us by St. Faustina, to consider on this second Sunday of Lent, when the Church always gives us the account of the Transfiguration of the Lord. The Apostles Peter, James, and John were given an extraordinary glimpse of the glory of the Lord. It is a glory, St. Paul reminds us today, that the faithful will share with the Lord, who will, “change our lowly bodies to conform with his glorified body.”

The Church teaches us that Jesus allowed the disciples a glimpse of the glory of the Lord, and the glory that awaits them, in order to give them hope in the time ahead.  As we well know, the disciples were to face many trying times in the years that followed, both while Jesus was among them, and after the Ascension when they brought the Good News into the world.

The path they were on was like the one in St. Faustina’s vision—difficult and painful—but in the end they would reach the Kingdom of Heaven.  They most certainly kept that memory of the transfigured Lord in their minds when the threats, the persecutions, the rejections, and their own martyrdom drew near.

The Transfiguration gives us the same hope. In this country, we do not face the same level of hardships—the threats, persecutions and rejections that the Disciples did, but we do face them. To be a modern-day disciple is difficult at times. There is much that we must accept, and much that we must reject in order to be faithful disciples.

Very often, we are like those on St. Faustina’s rocky and thorny path—in fact that is exactly what that vision showed . . . the hardships of the faithful.  It’s hard to be faithful, especially when we see all those around us on the other path, who suffer nothing. But we know where that path leads them.

Let’s do two things, and Lent is the perfect time to make these pledges: First, let’s commit ourselves to the difficult path that leads to Heaven. Let’s have faith enough to remember what comes at the end, that all our hardships will be forgotten the instance we enter into the Kingdom. St. Paul reminds us: “eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has ready for those who love him.” So let’s commit to the path that leads to eternal life. If we fall, like those in the vision, let’s get back up again immediately and not leave the path even for a moment.

In committing to that path, it means we reject the wide road with its delights. We can’t be on both. And if we’re on the other road, we never know when that abyss will open and swallow us.

Second, let’s support each other on that path. To be a Christian is to be part of a community. We help each other on the path, we call people who have strayed back to the path, and we remind each other what awaits us if we stay faithful. We’re in this together as the People of God.

In his mercy, Jesus allowed the Apostles to see a glimpse of his divine glory as the Son of God, and he allowed St. Faustina to see a similar vision. As we struggle on earth to remain faithful—to keep off the road that leads to the abyss and on the path that leads to eternal life, we are strengthened, and we receive great hope by the thought of the eternal joy that awaits the faithful.

Hungarian Conference: ‘Jesus is Life!’

By Deacon Zoli Kunszabo

Jim Murphy speaks at the Hungarian Catholic Charismatic Conference.

Arrival

We were looking forward to this weekend with Jim Murphy, then-president of International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services, my fellow country coordinator from Renewal Ministries, and a dear friend, one of the most authentic Christians I have ever known.

After I picked Jim up at the airport, we had a late lunch together in my house and then left quickly for Miskolc, almost two-hundred miles northeast, where the National Conference was beginning the next day. My wife, Panni, escorted us and helped me in everything during the coming days. When we arrived at the General Arena, we joined the local organizers for a Holy Mass and prayer of preparation. After Mass, we went around the arena singing and praising, while a priest sanctified the place with holy water. Since some areas were filled with people not affiliated with our conference, we saw a lot of surprised faces. We simply smiled at them and prayed more!

National Conference

Jim’s first talk was a kerygmatic mission speech based on his own story of conversion, with the title Jesus is Life! With his characteristic sense of humour and pathos, Jim grabbed the hearts of the audience of approximately two-thousand people. After his speech, he asked everybody to dedicate their lives to Jesus. The sixty prayer pairs found their places around the floor in a big circle to welcome the newcomers. During the forty-five minutes allotted to this ministry time, they prayed with a few hundred men and women. After this very fruitful time, Jim continued with his second speech on the vision of spiritual growth in Christian life, Remain in Me! Jim continued his personal testimony, and he spoke more about a pilgrimage he made in which he crossed the entire United States on foot while carrying a big wooden cross.

He used this experience as a symbol of the Christian life. Most days, you don’t have strong experiences with God. You are on your road with the hard cross on your back, but God blesses your faithfulness! In that way, you will be purified and transformed. You should stay close to Jesus every day with the help of five tools: prayer, the Word of God, the sacraments, community, and a lifestyle of service. After this speech on such deep and real-life topics, we had a time of Adoration and prayer ministry.

After lunch, Jim gave a third talk, titled Bearing Remaining Fruits. He explained how it usually takes a long time to bear fruit that will remain and endure. The unfaithful and the unpatient will never see such fruit. Before the real fruits come forward, a time of purification is necessary. Without that, there is no place for God to put in his own works. The time of purification is very painful. God cuts out everything from us that is against His plans. Sometimes, He cuts off good things too (things we loved and honored as God’s works) to make room for new works He wants to accomplish in us. It is essential to trust in God during this period. If we draw back our permission from Him, He will step back, but our hearts will run wild, and we will miss the fruits. By remaining faithful during the wole process, we we will be steeped in the characteristics of the Holy Spirit! And then real fruit will be born in our character!

After this powerful message, Jim invited us to ask God about the things we should offer to Him to be pruned. What are these things? Will we really give Him permisson to do anything in us? We asked for the help of the Holy Spirit, and people once again went to the prayer pairs for help.

After the prayer time, Bishop László Varga, the honorary president of the Hungarian Catholic Charismatic Renewal, addressed a message to the whole Renewal to call for more and deeper unity. We are on the good path, but the Lord wants use to us like one non-divided body.

After a short break, the closing Holy Mass started with the main celebrant Archbishop Csaba Ternyák, the local bishop. Everybody noticed how happy he was watching the praise of the two-thousand participants. He encourgaed us to fulfill our mission calling with the help of the Holy Spirit, who is the main actor of the mission throughout the history of the Church. A very lively worship time started after the Holy Mass! We were really thankful to the Lord for this day filled with his wisdom and power!

Leadership Training Day

On the next day, we taught and ministered to 120 leaders and ministers of the Renewal with a leadership training day. We started with a Holy Mass in the chapel of the Fráter György Catholic High School, in downtown Miskolc. After that, we started our session with Jim. We asked him to answer our questions about what kind of hardships and temptations we will face while dedicating our lives to ministry. Jim gave three talks, and we had a long question-and-answer session at the end of the day. Jim shared his experiences as someone who has worked full-time for the Lord for more than forty years. He spoke about his experiences in building community, and the ways we can handle conflicts between leaders. He spoke a lot on the theme of prayer and the spiritual life of the leader. He was more than sincere and open for us—without a mask—and it touched our hearts. He shared with us that he has faced a cancer diagnosis three times in his life, and about his struggle of faith until reaching recovery. We understood that being a Charismatic leader does not free us from the hardships of life, but that with the Lord, we can overcome everything. Also, his message reminded us that God turns every bad thing to be a benefit for us. Every leader was really thankful for this day together.

Deacon Zoli Kunszabo is Renewal Ministries’ country coordinator for Hungary, Serbia, and Croatia. He is the founder-leader of the New Jerusalem Catholic Community, a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Esztergom-Budapest, and the current president of the National Service Committee for Hungary’s Catholic Charismatic Renewal. He and his wife, Panni, live in Budapest, Hungary, and have five children and two grandchildren.

Setting Our Heart on Jesus

This post originally appeared on the blog for the Be Love Revolution.

By Emily Messiter

People bring prayer requests to our Blessed Mother at the Lift Jesus Higher Rally in Toronto, Ontario.

It happens every year around the second week of Advent: I find myself slightly overwhelmed by a list of pre-Christmas to-do’s, mixed with a constant buzz in my head of perfect gifts to buy and, oh yes!, final exams and papers and work obligations to complete. The stillness and prayerfulness that marked the beginning of this sacred season fade into a realization that time is flying and, Oh my, we’re near the end of the decade and What am I doing with my life?, But first thing’s first, I need to switch out the laundry! In the midst of this, we are gifted with two special feasts to honor a woman who very much understands: Mary, our Mother.

As I have settled into this time of Advent, in some ways I have been appalled at my own humanity. Call it the excitement of this time of year, or end of semester adrenaline, or December rain, but my normally steady interior state has been anything but. One day I am responding to the invitation to choose joy and encounter Christ in the stillness of my heart; the next I am spinning in a bout of melancholy, running through the laundry list of things I am confused or anxious or stressed about. I want trust in Jesus to make me steady and even-keeled and not so prone to emotional highs and lows, but I am humbly admitting that some days I definitely look more like a ship being tossed about on the waves.

This week in particular, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe are reminding me of the sweet gift it is to have Mary as a Mother, a woman who walked this same earth, who felt feelings, who experienced the greatest joys and the greatest sorrows while entrusting herself totally to the Providence of God. This Advent, and especially this week as we celebrate her feasts, our Mother is inviting us to do the same: amidst everything—both on the days that we are proud of our prayer time or heart of service and on the days when we feel just like a big mess of emotions—to set our hearts on her Son.

Continue reading here.

Tanzania Outreach Bears Much Fruit

A member of our mission team ministers to people during a time of prayer.

By Tom Edwards, Renewal Ministries’ Country Coordinator

Renewal Ministries has made twenty mission forays in seventeen dioceses into the vast country of Tanzania. We have introduced renewal events with several days of outdoor Catholic rallies every time. We also have visited some of the dioceses multiple times.

Bishop Beatus Christian Urassa invited us to serve in Sumbawanga, a town (and diocese) in the far-western reaches of Tanzania. Our team included brothers and sisters from across the US and the world, including Nairobi, Slovakia, Kenya, and Tanzania.

The name of the town “Sumbawanga” literally translates as “throw away your witchcraft.” This originated with local spiritual healers who wanted to keep away intruding witch doctors. Superstition and the practice of the “dark arts” are still prevalent in the area. The town is famous for the practice of witchcraft; to be a witchdoctor from Sumbawanga is a claim to fame, a boast that appears in Internet ads.

Our schedule included ten days of intense ministry in outdoor Catholic preaching rallies, and daily workshops on Catholic faith, youth, and young adult ministry. Our family life workshop was of special interest to Bishop Beatus and the vicar general. It featured intense teaching on the evils of abortion, the consequences of contraceptives, Natural Family Planning, and the basic principles of Theology of the Body.

When we arrived, we learned that the retreats we had planned for religious sisters and priests had been cancelled due to opposition. There are two large orders of sisters in the diocese who had been told by their superiors that any sister attending our events would immediately “lose their veil.”

Although disappointed, we immediately put the matter to prayer and the Lord’s providence. Our team moved into “Plan B” mode. The Lord did not disappoint. The people of Sumbawanga and far-reaching areas were like dry sponges thirsting for God. People from surrounding towns came with their families and slept on the grounds of the two local parishes, caring for their children and cooking on open fires. The response to all of our events was beyond anything we had imagined for a first-time effort like this.

I want to share with you our team members’ responses regarding this mission:

“God´s presence was overwhelming. People were touched by Jesus in a powerful way. About 2000 people were present on Sunday. Every day, more and more people listened to God´s Word. On Wednesday, there were about 4000 people; on Friday, many more; and on Saturday, more than 5000 people attended, hungry for the living God. Every day, people gave testimonies of physical healing. They spoke of being filled with God’s presence and love. Many were delivered from evil spirits as God poured out grace like waves into their dry hearts. How hungry they were! His Word was like an oasis in the desert. You could see smiles and joy on their faces. Many sat in the dust, some under trees, and some up in trees. I met young people hungry for God´s love. They had so many questions about forgiveness. God touched their hearts incredibly and led them to forgive.” —Bohdan Novak

“One thing that moved me was the openness of school children we visited. They discovered they could love because God had loved them first. We prayed for them, asking God to fill their hearts with His love. They came to hear God’s message with joy. They responded well when prayed with for inner healing. They prepared their hearts by surrendering all to Jesus, and then they invited the Holy Spirit into their hearts. God started a great work in them, and I am sure He will continue it.” —Sr. Damiana

“At the afternoon rally, I was touched by the faith, joy, and gratitude of a man whose liver was completely healed. For a while, he was dancing and praising God. His whole liver was infected and swollen. He spent most of his income for treatment with different doctors without success, because the infection kept coming back. The Lord healed him completely. His doctor testified this as well when he went for another checkup.” —Sr. Mary Justin

“This marked my seventeenth journey to Africa in twenty years. What impressed me the most were the similarities of the people today with those living in New Testament times. I reflect on journeys of the Holy Family to Jerusalem, the birth of Jesus, the presentation in the temple, and the finding of the lost child in the temple. We witnessed hundreds of people who traveled great distances by foot and other difficult means to arrive at the church grounds to set up camp for two weeks. They built fires, prepared and ate meals, washed clothes, and slept on the ground and floor so they could attend the daily workshops and rallies. Truly, a faith-filled people!” —John Mathe

Family Life Ministry

Never before in Tanzania have we seen so many babies and children! Hundreds of babies were in attendance at every event, and the cathedral was constantly overflowing. In Sumbawanga, one of the poorest areas economically in Tanzania, life is precious. Young women consider childbirth a sign of maturity and prestige. Most all women have ten to twelve children.

Jean Marie Edwards shared the following reflections:

“I think it will take me many months to fully comprehend the depths of God’s love and works amongst His people in Sumbawanga. The hunger for Him was so powerful. Surely, the Lord satisfied that hunger with abundance.

“In every workshop, every rally, every divine appointment, God was powerfully present and dwelt in each and every soul. Their eyes, faces, and entire beings showed their grateful hearts to their God for what they were learning and experiencing. His presence was so real and so beautiful.

“The prayers were raw and honest, and the youth prayed them with all their hearts while tears streamed down their faces. They prayed not only for themselves but for the others. They opened their minds and hearts deeply to their God and in turn were touched by the very heart of God. Such love!

“I want to thank you again for all you do, especially in making sure we always have the (fetal models frequently used on our missions to help participants gain a more clear understanding of the various stages of life within the womb) to take and leave with the people. Words can’t do justice to the power they have. The Lord pours Himself out through them. I am in awe every single time we show them. Being able to leave them is huge. It is another way Renewal Ministries deeply, deeply touches the hearts of God’s people everywhere. It is going to be so awesome in heaven to see face-to-face all the babies and their families that were given life because of how the Lord uses these little models.”

Staying Catholic Made it Possible

Ann and Bill Cassano

The following interview took place between Renewal Ministries’ Administrative Assistant Therese Jones and supporter Ann Cassano. We share it here as an encouragement and reminder of the difference made by persevering in faith. This interview originally appeared in the October 2019 Renewal Ministries’ newsletter.

By Therese Jones, in conversation with Ann Cassano

Q: How would you describe your relationship with Renewal Ministries? I know you went on pilgrimage with us in 1996.

A: I’ve been following Ralph Martin since the 1970s. He gave a talk at one time called A Crisis of Truth, which my husband and I heard. We were so impressed with it that we got a copy and invited a houseful of people to come see it. This opened our eyes to what was really happening in the Church, and it helped a lot of people. We continued to do this type of thing all through the years. We lived in many places.

Q: So you would take Ralph’s teachings and distribute them to others, no matter where you were?

A: Yes. In the 1980s, I worked as a DRE for about ten years. I watched EWTN and all of Ralph’s programs, and I learned so much. He took us along, taught, and formed us. That was helpful back then, when the Church was worse off than it is now.

Q: Why do you say it was worse then?

A: No one knew what was really going on. It was a confusing time.

Q: So it was worse because there was no clear voice?

A: Exactly. EWTN, Ralph Martin, and things coming out of Steubenville seemed to be the only voices that were sounding a clear message and were saying the same things. That really helped me stay Catholic!

Q: Going back to how you promote the message, you said you purchase materials from Renewal Ministries and share them with others wherever you live?

A: Yes, I do. The people in our last parish were very open to learning more about the faith. For about twelve years, we met together, first in a Catholic book club, and then working together in faith formation programs, many of which were aired on The Choices We Face, or through DVDs we purchased from Renewal Ministries of conferences, rallies, etc. Because of the other participants’ openness and thankfulness for all they were learning, they grew and continue to grow in the Spirit. I am so grateful for Renewal Ministries’ DVD As By a New Pentecost, which makes it so easy to present the Holy Spirit to everyone. Shortly before I moved, we formed a prayer group that still meets weekly to praise the Lord and grow in the faith. I hope to bring this kind of growth and understanding of our faith to the retirement community I now live in

Q: Thank you so much for sharing, Ann. You are such an inspiration!

A: You know, my husband passed away recently, and he had had a really rough year. But for eighteen months, Bill offered his suffering from lung cancer for the salvation of souls. And then, he died a beautiful death. I’m so grateful for Renewal Ministries’ witness to the Catholic faith; because of Renewal Ministries, I knew how to pray, I knew how to sing praise, and when Bill died in my arms, it was a really blessed time. Let me tell you a story:

Right after my husband died, I could see him running through the clouds, happy, free, and without pain. I was filled with joy! Our deacon (who is ninety-two years old but still serving) had come to see Bill regularly, and had left shortly before Bill died. As I was holding Bill, seeing this vision, the doorbell rang. It was the deacon again! With tears in his eyes, he embraced me and comforted me. I asked him how he knew that Bill was gone, and he said the Holy Spirit had told him! I have so much joy! I thought this would be the hardest time of my life—sixty-one years of marriage and knowing him five years before that—but it has instead been filled with grace and joy. I think because I know where he is. I have hope that he is happy—running and pain free. That is my faith. The faith that was developed in large part by Ralph and his teachings, but EWTN and Steubenville as well. This faith has carried me through.

Q:  Ann, you inspire me. I want to help others to live out the truth too. Thank you!

A: I even trained as a spiritual director, and Ralph’s sister Therese taught part of the program. This all has happened—was made possible—because I stayed Catholic, which was largely because of Ralph. He needs to know this. We need to tell him. It makes a difference!