Category: Featured Authors

A Prayer for Troubled Catholics

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The following prayer was shared with us after the release of Ralph Martin’s letter Dear Troubled Catholics

By Susan Domen

Heavenly Father, we praise you! You are goodness and love, you are holy and perfect!

We come to you, Father, with heavy hearts, looking to You in Your infinite mercy, to console us in our grief, send clarity where there is confusion, repentance where there is sin, obedience where there is obstinance, truth where there is silence, and love where there is indifference.

Help us to fast and pray in reparation for our sins and for those who have led astray and compromised the faith of so many. Have mercy on us, look upon us as harassed and lost, as like sheep without a shepherd.

Father, we beg You, send Your Holy Spirit to breathe upon us, to renew; to make holy, beautiful and most pure, the Church, the bride of your beloved Son, Jesus. Holy Spirit, fall upon the most hardened hearts, as well as those of the faithful and devout. Fill them with the fire of Your love. Grant them holy boldness to speak truth in the face of corruption and intimidation. Let them not be silent, let them stand together in unity, in confidence that truth and goodness will prevail and the gates of Hell will not stand against the pressing in of the Holy Ones, the body of the Church, Christ’s Bride, to be made pure, holy, and undefiled.

Father, we come to You in our littleness, looking for comfort, looking for justice, looking for answers. We know You are most merciful, thank You for hearing our prayer. You are able to bring goodness through even the darkest of days, all in accordance with your divine will. We pray this in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, one with You, through the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

Remembering Fr. Tom Forrest

Fr. Tom Forrest, Fr. Francis Martin, and Ralph Martin

Fr. Tom Forrest, a Redemptorist priest, a worldwide leader of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, a passionate proponent of the New Evangelization, and a beloved friend and brother of several of us here at Renewal Ministries, passed away on July 16, 2018, just two days before his ninety-first birthday. We will miss him dearly.

I first met Fr. Tom at one of the Notre Dame Charismatic conferences in the early 1970s. He brought a large group of Charismatics from Puerto Rico to the conference, and their enthusiasm and exuberance certainly made a memorable impression on the thousands of people who attended it!

Later, in January of 1975, when I was working with Ralph Martin in the International Communication Office for the Catholic CharismaticRenewal (ICO for short—the precursor of the present-day ICCRS office in Rome), I traveled to Fr. Tom’s parish in Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico, as the ICO representative to the Third ECCLA Meeting—a conference for several hundred leaders from the renewal throughout Latin America. Fr. Tom’s parish hosted the event, which was followed by a rally for several thousand Charismatics from the island.

But I really got to know Fr. Tom in 1978, when he joined us in Brussels, Belgium, where the ICO office had relocated in 1976 at the invitation of Cardinal Leo-Jozef Suenens. Ralph, who had guided the office from its inception in 1973, felt it was time to move on, and Fr. Tom had been elected to take over direction of the office.

(On a side note, after leaving his parish in Puerto Rico, Fr. Tom spent an extended period of time with The Word of God community in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which hosted a fairly sizable group of Latin Americans at that time. My wife, who had moved from Mexico to be part of the community and pursue her studies, served as his secretary during that time, thereby cementing our family relationship with Fr. Tom in the years to follow.)

During the transition period over the next year and a half, I continued to work at the office alongside Fr. Tom’s secretary from Aguas Buenas, Marta Vargas McGlade, and Carlos Calvente, an Argentinian from Spain. We moved the office from its original premises on Rue du Vallon in downtown Brussels, to a sizable but bare space that Cardinal Suenens had offered us in his Brussels residence on Boulevard Smet de Naeyer. I learned that Fr. Tom was truly a jack of all trades, as I joined him in carrying planks, beams, and drywall though the streets of Brussels, handing him hammer and nails, and holding up beams and drywall as he transformed the space into a pleasant and usable office space.

Above all, I got to know Fr. Tom for the spiritual giant that he was. He was first and foremost a Redemptorist and took his call as a Redemptorist priest seriously, patterning his life after the order’s founder, St. Alphonsus Liguori. He often cited St. Alphonsus’ dedication to his “mission among the people,” preaching and conducting retreats amongst the ordinary folk in order to saturate them with a sense of God and a message of hope in Christ. Like St. Alphonsus, he saw himself as called to preach, and, like St. Alphonsus, he often worked himself to the point of exhaustion in doing so. I observed his energy first-hard when I accompanied him on a mission trip around Africa, during which he ministered to people from the early morning hours well into the night. Over the following years, Fr. Tom traveled to and preached in more than 120 countries. He felt a special call to minister to his fellow priests and organized two worldwide retreats for priests in Rome in 1984 and 1990, which more than 11,000 priests from around the world attended.

Shortly after Fr. Tom arrived in Brussels, he had to travel to Rome, following the election of Pope John Paul II in October of 1978. Upon his return, he shared with us his experience of meeting the pope. I do not recall the occasion, but the Holy Father had a public event in St. Peter’s Square in the early evening, and Fr. Tom went to it. He told us how the Holy Father, at the end of the event, joined the crowd in the square, shaking hands and imparting blessings. But he didn’t leave so quickly. He stayed and he stayed . . . and Fr. Tom stayed along with him. Over time, darkness set in, and Fr. Tom was there with the Holy Father and a small group of about fifty people, standing in the square and chatting. The few people walking in the square at that hour probably didn’t realize that the Holy Father was standing in the middle of that group, chatting away with those present!

Listening to his story, I could tell Fr. Tom was captivated by the personality and the stamina of the pope; he walked away from Rome with a renewed commitment to serve the Lord with an even greater zeal. Needless to say, when Pope John Paul II began to speak about the “New Evangelization,” Fr. Tom was already on board the bandwagon! In the years to follow, Fr. Tom met with Pope St. John Paul II thirty times and dined with him on eight occasions.

The third source of Fr. Tom’s inspiration was St. Theresa of Calcutta. He had a close friendship with Mother Theresa, a friendship that developed after I returned to the States and Fr. Tom moved on with International Communication Office to Rome in 1981. I can easily see why Mother Theresa was a source of inspiration to Fr. Tom. He himself lived poorly and simply. His taste for food was simple, and his meals were sparse. His only indulgence at the office was his mid-afternoon tea, which Marta faithfully prepared every afternoon. In terms of any other possessions, I’m pretty sure that he could fit everything he owned into one suitcase.

He definitely was into serving the Lord over the long haul. In reading his obituary, I was somewhat surprised—and delighted—to learn that he was serving at the time of his death on a committee in Rome planning for the second millennial of the Redemption in 2033!

St. Alphonsus Liguori’s feast day was Aug. 1. Reading his biography in my Magnificat, I couldn’t help but notice that St. Alphonsus, like Fr. Tom, died shortly before his ninety-first birthday!

Well done, good and faithful servant! We all will miss you.

A Time of Decision: Ireland’s Vote and the Prophecies of Pope John Paul II

The Following article originally appeared in the Renewal Ministries’ August 2018 newsletter.


“If you would like to visit a place where the symptoms of the sickness of our time are found near their furthest limits, come to Ireland. Here you will see a civilization in freefall, seeking with every breath to deny the existence of a higher authority, a people that has now sentenced itself not to look upon the cross of Christ, lest it be haunted by his rage and sorrow.” 1

These words, from Irish commentator John Waters, are in response to the people of Ireland’s choice to deny the unborn the right to life. Ireland is the first nation in history to enshrine the law through a majority vote of its people; it wasn’t imposed upon them by cultural elites or the courts.

The vote, as Waters indicates, is a manifestation of a deeper reality. This is Ireland’s desire “to deny the existence of a higher authority.” It is the “sickness of our time.” In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “God is disappearing from the human horizon.”2

For now, Ireland has made its decision to say no to Christ. Like many, I was shocked and sickened as I watched the crowds dance with glee, asserting their new-found freedom. What they were celebrating, whether they grasped it fully or not, was the euphoria of fallen human nature and its constant desire to “suppress the truth” about God. St. Paul tells us that it is through the “ungodliness and wickedness of men” that human beings refuse to honor God as God and to give Him thanks (Rom 1:18, 20).

A friend recently reminded me of how, during St. John Paul II’s historic visit to Ireland in 1979, he framed in stark prophetic terms the spiritual battle that country was facing. St. John Paul II made it clear that Ireland was at a point of decision about whether or not to follow Christ. He knew he was sent by Christ to warn Ireland and to help them see and understand that they were facing a great temptation, and that, if they fell to this temptation, it would have grave consequences for the whole Church.

“Lay people today are called to a strong Christian commitment: to permeate society with the leaven of the Gospel, for Ireland is at a point of decision in her history . . . Ireland must choose. You the present generation of Irish people must decide; your choice must be clear and your decision firm. Let the voice of your forefathers, who suffered so much to maintain their faith in Christ and thus preserve Ireland’s soul, resound today in your ears through the voice of the pope when he repeats the words of Christ:

‘What will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his life?’ (Mt 16:26)

What would it profit Ireland to go the easy way of the world and suffer the loss of her own soul?

Your country seems in a sense to be living again the temptations of Christ: Ireland is being asked to prefer the ‘kingdoms of this world and their splendor’ to the Kingdom of God (Mt 4:8). Satan, the Tempter, the Adversary of Christ, will use all his might and all his deceptions to win Ireland for the way of the world. What a victory he would gain, what a blow he would inflict on the Body of Christ in the world, if he could seduce Irish men and women away from Christ. Now is the time of testing for Ireland. This generation is once more a generation of decision.
Dear sons and daughters of Ireland, pray, pray not to be led into temptation . . . pray that Ireland may not fail in the test. Pray as Jesus taught us to pray: ‘Lead us not into temptation’ . . . May Ireland never weaken in her witness, before Europe and before the whole world, to the dignity and sacredness of all human life, from conception until death.”3

Ireland has failed the test. We pray that she may repent and turn back, but for now she has fallen to the temptation of the Adversary of Christ. The majority have decided to turn a deaf ear to the warning Christ brought to them through the prophet St. John Paul II.

Of course, we know that Ireland is not alone in its acquiescence to the spirit of the age. The whole world is being drawn into this same temptation, to prefer the “kingdoms of this world and their splendor” to Christ.

The important thing for us in the Church is to heed the warnings of the prophets the Lord has sent to us. If we don’t, we too will join the throngs of the baptized who have been seduced into embracing a false freedom that calls darkness light.

What are we to do in the face of the unrelenting forces of evil that seem to have gained the upper hand in so many of the countries that once marched under the banner of Christ? Again, St. John Paul II:

“What is going to happen to the Church? . . . We must prepare ourselves to suffer great trials before long, such as will demand of us a disposition to give up even life, and a total dedication to Christ and for Christ . . . With your and my prayer it is possible to mitigate this tribulation, but it is no longer possible to avert it, because only thus can the Church be effectively renewed. How many times has the renewal of the Church sprung from blood! This time too, it will not be otherwise. We must be strong and prepared, and trust in Christ and His Mother, and be very, very assiduous in praying the Rosary.”4

There is much work for us to do, but first and foremost we must pray. What is unfolding in the world is above our paygrade. As St. John Paul II said on numerous occasions, this trial lies within the plans of divine providence. It is a profound spiritual battle. Our plans, strategies, and organizational techniques are necessary but insufficient. We don’t just need better organization, we need courage to “give up even life, and a total dedication to Christ and for Christ.”

Prayer is what will prepare us to face the trials that have already begun and that will not only continue but will intensify. Jesus will give us all we need to be faithful and fruitful in this time of trial. He will turn the devil’s strategies against us to our good and to His glory, if we stay united to Him.

While Ireland was casting its vote, my wife Debbie and I were in Krakow, Poland. We took a half a day to visit the St. John Paul II Center and the Divine Mercy Shrine. At one point during the tour, we came upon the white cassock that St. John Paul II wore the day he was shot in Vatican Square. The cassock, encased in glass, is stained in his blood. As I knelt down to pray, I was overwhelmed by the power of his life, his beautiful and profound witness to Christ. As I wept and prayed, my heart was filled with the words he spoke to all of us from the first day of his pontificate:

“Be not afraid!”


Notes:
1 John Waters, “Ireland: An Obituary,” First Things, May 28, 201, https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2018/05/ireland-an-obituary.

2 Benedict XVI, Letter of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the Bishops of the Catholic Church Concerning the Remissino of the Excommunication of the Four Bishops Consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre, encyclical letter, Vatican website, March 10, 2009, http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/letters/2009/documents/hf_ben-xvi_let_20090310_remissione-scomunica.html.

3 Pope John Paul II, “Absolute Inviolability of Human Life”, homily, Vatican website, October 1, 1979, https://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/homilies/1979/documents/hf_jp-ii_hom_19791001_irlanda-limerick.html.

4 Pope John Paul II, interview with Catholics at Fulda, Germany, in November 1980, published in the German Magazine Stimmes des Glaubens in October 1981, cited in The Pope and the President, by Paul Kengor (Willimgton, DE: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2017), 209.


How Does God Want Us to Pray?

The following article is from a talk Sr. Ann Shields gave at a Word of God Community prayer meeting. It can also be found in our Renewal Ministries’ September 2018 newsletter.


Our intercession is pivotal to the graces, power, and love that God wants to give His people. Intercession is not easy. Intercession takes a great commitment and perseverance.

As an example, English Protestant Pastor Andrew Murray once wrote about a grapevine that, during a time of war, starvation, and misery, when all the other vines had subsided, kept producing clusters of grapes. Shocked, they tapped the root system of that vine and discovered that the grapevine’s root system had traveled over a mile, into the Thames River. That vine had everything it needed! Andrew Murray used that grapevine to illustrate what needs to happen to us in prayer. We need to find the Source, who is God. Rather than just saying, “God, this is a catastrophe, a difficult situation, please do something,” we need to say, “Lord, how do You want me to pray?”

Perhaps it seems obvious how we should pray: a person is sick, and we want to pray for them to get better. That’s fine, but if we want to intercede for our own family, friends, and acquaintances—and if we want that intercession to really bear fruit—we should take the first few days to say,

“Lord, here’s the situation.
How do You want me to pray?”

He knows the details of the situation—the mind and the heart of the person or people we are praying for—in a way that we don’t. John 15 says, I am the true vine and my father is the vine grower. He removes every vine in me that bears no fruit.

He prunes, and sometimes that’s what happens to us. We pray, and sometimes it seems like things are getting worse. The temptation is to say, “I’m backing out of this. You need somebody who is a really good intercessor, and I’m not it.” But in reality, what ought to happen is that we say, “Lord, teach me. Is there a different way You want me to pray or approach this situation? Show me what it is.”

In my extended family, there was a sixteen-year-old boy who was out on the streets, struggling with drugs, alcohol, everything. No matter what the family tried to do, nothing bore fruit. They asked a group of us to pray, and someone said,

“How should we pray?”

Everyone replied,

“It’s obvious how we should pray.”

But the person said,

“No, it’s not obvious; God knows the heart and the soul of this young man. How does He want us to pray?”

We concluded that we should pray that the young man would give his life to the Lord and repent of his sin. We prayed that way for about a year, and nothing looked different. Then one night, I got a phone call: he had given his life to Jesus and repented of his sins. His life changed!

We were going to pray for good doctors, for good counselors, for all of the different experiments on dealing with drugs. But God took care of it. Sometimes it doesn’t come out that simple, but in this case it did. I think God, in His mercy, wanted to show us that if we take on His priorities, His will, and His way, it can bear tremendous fruit.

How much confidence do we really have in God and His will? When push comes to shove, we tend to say, “Oh God, oh God, please!” What a difference it makes to instead say, “Oh God, I put all my trust in You. I wait upon Your Word. I wait upon Your will.” His will is the most loving thing that could ever happen. Do we know that in our own lives?

Sometimes we want God’s will, but it nevertheless makes us shudder a bit. We think it is going to cost so much, and sometimes it does. However, the fruit of it is the peace, wisdom, joy, and confidence that only God can give. Let me encourage you: Trust Him more. There is a deeper trust that God wants for our own roots to get into the River of Life—for our own roots to drink more deeply of His Spirit. Rather than saying, “Oh God, please don’t let this happen”—which I pray sometimes too—we can say, “Lord, Your will. Your will is love.” That’s who God is—God is love. We should be praying:

“Lord, let Your will flourish in my life.
Let Your will flourish in the life of my family.”

I think God would be so delighted to hear a group of people praying that way. I think He would be very generous with them.

John 15 says, “I am the true vine and my father is the vine grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit.” Keep that in mind when something seems suddenly eliminated from your life. Or something is asked of you, such as: Would you let go of that to do this? It may be the Lord speaking.

The body of Christ needs genuine intercession—people flat on their faces saying, “Show us the way; teach us to pray.” Everything out there is getting darker. And where is the light going to shine, if not in the followers of Christ? God wants His light to shine through us—through kindness, a helping hand, shared wisdom, and the like. The more I decrease and He increases, the more I see His will over my will. Instead of presenting our plans to God, we need to yield and to say, “Lord, I’m your child, teach me how to pray, even when—especially when—I think I know what to pray for.” It’s amazing what God can do when we ask Him what He thinks we need, and when we listen. We need warriors of prayer, and that means giving up our own will and praying as He wants us to.

In fact, the most important thing is our own submission to the will of God. Otherwise, we start planning how we are going to accomplish things. I’m not saying plans don’t have a place. But don’t go there first. Simply say, “Lord, here I am. Send me. Use me today.”

A few years ago, Pope Francis declared a Year of Mercy. Because I travel a lot, I said to the Lord, “I’ll give up reading and sleeping on the plane. I’ll put aside anything You want if You want me to speak to anybody. If You want people to know the Father’s mercy, I’ll do it.” That was a sacrifice! I love being on a plane when I can just read or pray. But I felt prompted to say that to the Lord. And during that Year of Mercy, not once did I have a moment to read or pray, and not once did I initiate the conversation. They came right up to me: “Pardon me, are you a sister? Can we talk to you?” They’d bring the whole family. I’d never had that happen—never.

My reason for using that example is the mercy of God is right here. God wants to pour out mercy on His people. And He wants to use us, so if we as intercessors are in a position of wanting God’s will and wanting to be channels of His mercy, God will use us. This city cries out for help. Nobody hears it, because the facade is all there. We look like we’re prosperous (to some degree), we look like we’re successful, we look like all kinds of things. But under the surface—look at the situations in people’s lives—who’s going to pray? You.

We need an army of intercessors, not just for our families, but for all of the people we encounter. It’s a tremendous work, the work of intercession, and we can do it no matter what our circumstances are. If you are suffering, you can offer your suffering. Wherever we are, we can make our lives bear fruit, for ourselves and those around us.

If my experience on the plane is any indicator, people need help, and they don’t know where to go. If God would use me, why wouldn’t He use you? If we are Christians with open hearts, God will send people to us. Say to the Lord every day,

“Use me. However you want, use me.”

Pray for anyone you may encounter each day. Ask the Lord to give you what you need. And He will.


Put it in Practice…

Peter Williamson, who teaches at Sacred Heart Major Seminary with Ralph and Dr. Mary Healy, wrote the following prayer in response to Sr. Ann’s talk on intercession. We hope it is a blessing to you!

Lord, help us to sink our roots deep into you. Help us to pray at all times in the Holy Spirit. Help us to slow down and listen to you. And help us to pray with great faith, according to your will and purpose.

In particular, Lord, we pray for miracles. We pray that you reveal your power to the sick among us, to those among our family and friends who have wandered from you and need conversion. Do whatever it takes to turn them back to you and the path of life!

Reveal yourself also to our neighbors and co-workers and those in the city and country where we live, and for the whole world. Your love extends to all; save those most in need of your mercy! Let us Christians be radiant with your light and love. Work signs and wonders that will show those around us who you really are!

Thank you, Lord, for hearing our prayer!


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A Time of Judgment and Purification

Fr. Michael Scanlan at a FIRE Rally.

The following prophecy, given by Fr. Michael Scanlan, was shared in a New Covenant magazine article by Kevin and Dorothy Ranaghan in May of 1980. Its words continue to ring true today. One member of our staff responded to the prophecy with these words: “This is very sobering. It is amazing how easily we get mired in the weeds and forget or fail to see where the real battle is or who the real enemy is.” As the original New Covenant article stated, “It demands serious attention, prayerful reflection, and true repentance. It is a word that should touch and change each of our lives.”

By Fr. Michael Scanlan

The Lord God says, “Hear My Word: The time that has been marked by My blessings and gifts is being replaced now by the period to be marked by my judgment and purification. What I have not accomplished by blessings and gifts, I will accomplish by judgment and purification.

My people, My Church is desperately in need of this judgment. They have continued in an adulterous relationship with the spirit of the world. They are not only infected with sin, but they teach sin, embrace sin, dismiss sin. Their leadership has been unable to handle this. There is fragmentation, confusion, throughout the ranks. Satan goes where he will and infects whom he will. He has free access throughout my people—and I will not stand for this.

My people specially blessed in this renewal are more under the spirit of the world than they are under the Spirit of My baptism. They are more determined by fear of what others will think of them—fears of failure and rejection in the world, loss of respect of neighbors and superiors and those around them—than they are determined by fear of me and fear of infidelity to my word.

Therefore, your situation is very, very weak. Your power is so limited. You cannot be considered at this point in the center of the battle and the conflict that is going on.

So this time is now come upon all of you: a time of judgment and of purification. Sin will be called sin. Satan will be unmasked. Fidelity will be held up for what it is and should be. My faithful servants will be seen and will come together. They will not be many in number. It will be a difficult and a necessary time. There will be collapse, difficulties throughout the world.

But more to the issue, there will be purification and persecution among my people. You will have to stand for what you believe. You will have to choose between the world and me. You will have to choose what word you will follow and whom you will respect.

And in that choice, what has not been accomplished by the time of blessing and gifts will be accomplished. What has not been accomplished in the baptism and the flooding of gifts of my Spirit will be accomplished in a baptism of fire. The fire will move among you and it will burn out what is chaff. The fire will move among you individually, corporately, in groups, and around the world.

I will not tolerate the situation that is going on. I will not tolerate the mixture and the adulterous treating of gifts and graces and blessings with infidelity, sin, and prostitution. My time is now among you.

What you need to do is to come before Me in total submission to My Word, in total submission to My plan, in the total submission in this new hour. What you need to do is to drop the things that are your own, those things of the past. What you need to do is to see yourselves and those whom you have responsibility for in light of this hour of judgment and purification. You need to see them in that way and do for them what will best help them to stand strong and be among My faithful servants.

For there will be casualties. It will not be easy, but it is necessary. It is necessary that My people be, in fact, my people; that My Church be, in fact, My Church; and that My Spirit, in fact, bring forth the purity of life, the purity and fidelity to the Gospel.