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Prayer: An Art We Need to Learn

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The following is an abridged version of the first of four talks on prayer Renewal Ministries’ Producer Jack Lynch recently gave for St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan. To access Jack’s talks, click here for Part 1, here for Part 2, here for Part 3, and here for Part 4.

Why should we pray? Why should we spend time in personal prayer?

Let’s first ask, “What is prayer?” The Catechism calls it “raising our minds and hearts to God.” A prominent spiritual writer said it’s more like “trying to raise our minds and hearts to God,” which is a helpful distinction.

Prayer is for sinners like me, and presumably, like you. Jesus said, “I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Lk 5:32).

I want to share three basic reasons for prayer:

1.      The salvation of our souls.

2.      God longs for us, and He is our deepest desire.

3.      As a way of loving others.

For the Salvation of Souls

St. John Vianney said, “We won’t find any sinner converted without turning to prayer. We won’t find any sinner persevering without depending on prayer, nor will we ever find a Christian who ends up damned whose downfall did not begin with a lack of prayer.”

C.S. Lewis noted, “Humanity is like a drunk on a horse. He falls off one side, gets back up and falls off the other side.” Historically, we fall into two opposite sins:

1.      Presumption or complacency: We think what we’ve done for God is enough; we can rest on our laurels and make it to heaven.

2.      Despair: We think we’ve sinned so terribly that we can’t get to heaven; God couldn’t really love us.

Today, we’ve fallen off the horse on the presumption side. People think that since God loves us, virtually everyone goes to heaven. Jesus doesn’t say that. He says the way to heaven is difficult and the way to hell is easy (Mt 7:13).

Jesus let Himself be crucified to help us make the right choice. He tells us to “strive”—to make an agonizing effort—to enter through the narrow gate (Lk 13:24). Hebrews 12:14 says to “strive” for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. John Paul II tells us, “Training in holiness calls for a Christian life distinguished above all in the art of prayer” (At the Beginning of the New Millennium, 32)—meaning, prayer is an art we need to learn.

Let’s begin by recovering an authentic fear of the Lord. Scripture exhorts us to fear the Lord: “Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears to Him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear” (Heb 5:7). Isn’t that stunning? Jesus was heard for his godly fear. There’s a holy, wholesome fear of the Lord that includes awesomeness and greatness, and which should help drive us to prayer, as it did Jesus in his humanity.

Sirach 1:11-13 describes fear of the Lord differently than how it’s typically viewed: “The fear of the Lord is glory and exaltation and gladness and a crown of rejoicing. Fear of the Lord delights the heart and gives gladness and joy and long life. With him who fears the Lord it will go well at the end. On the day of his death, he will be blessed.”

There’s gladness, rejoicing, goodness associated with fear of the Lord. Mary herself said, “His mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him” (Lk 1:50). Receiving God’s mercy and having a healthy, wholesome fear of Him go hand in hand. It’s reverence and awe, but also a fear of offending Him because of the consequences. Jesus says, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell to the unquenchable fire” (Mk 9:45).  He is saying we need to be ruthless with cutting sin out of our lives, starting with mortal sin.

St. Paul explains what serious sins are:

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor those committing homosexual acts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God and such were some of you. (1 Cor 6:8-11)

It’s encouraging that some Corinthians were like that, but they were getting back on track.

In St. Faustina’s Diary, Jesus says repeatedly, “The greatest sinner has the greatest claim on my mercy.” He is rich in mercy, which people choose by turning from sin. If they do not, He explains, “Souls perish in spite of my bitter passion. I’m giving them the last hope of salvation, that is, the feast of my mercy. If they will not adore my mercy, they will perish for all eternity. Tell souls about this great mercy of mine, because the awful day, the day of my justice, is near.”

A healthy, wholesome fear of the Lord should drive us to prayer. Together with the Mass and the Sacraments, prayer is where we find the grace, the strength, the help we need to stay faithful to the Lord amidst life’s trials and temptations. As St. Augustine says, “If you pray well, you will live well. If you live well, you will die well. If you die well, all will be well.”

It’s important to learn to pray well. Jesus tells the apostles, “You should be awake, praying not to be put to the test” (Mt 26:40-41). The Catechism says, “‘Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil’ . . . such a battle and such a victory become possible only through prayer. It is by his prayer that Jesus vanquishes the tempter both at the onset of his public mission and at the ultimate struggle of his agony” (2849). Even Jesus won the victory through his own prayer. The Catechism adds, “Prayer is a vital necessity. If we do not allow the Spirit to lead us, we fall back into the slavery of sin” (2744).

How can the Holy Spirit be in our life if our heart is far from Him? The Catechism quotes St. Alphonsus: “Those who pray are certainly saved. Those who do not are certainly damned.” This reminds me of a quote from the great boxer Mohammad Ali. Someone once asked him how he won so often: “The victory is won far away from the lights and the crowd on the road—in the pain and solitude of preparation and discipline.”

 Indeed, Jesus’ victory is won far from the crowd, in the Garden of Gesthemene, with his apostles falling asleep. We also need to enter the discipline, some of the pain, getting up early to pray, or setting aside something we’d rather do. That’s where victory is won—far from what people see in our active service.

The Catechism says, “By prayer, we can discern what is the will of God and obtain the endurance to do it” (2026). It’s important to discern the will of God because of this wake-up call from Jesus: “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my father who is in heaven” (Mt 7:21).

We need to aim for fervor, for deeper conversion, for wholehearted discipleship, for Jesus tells us, “How I wish you were hot or cold! But since you are lukewarm, I will spew you from my mouth” (Rv 3:16). Aim for the bullseye of being fervent for the Lord, but this doesn’t mean we will always feel fervent. At times we won’t feel fervor or experience his presence, but we should still obey God, wholeheartedly follow our duties, and pray.

God Longs for Us. He is Our Deepest Desire.

Our deepest desire is to be in union with God. The Catechism says, “Jesus thirsts. His asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts, that we may thirst for Him” (2560). That thought draws me to prayer.

Also, Jesus loves us with such tenderness! When Jesus approaches Jerusalem before the Last Supper, He knows it will be destroyed by the Romans. He weeps, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I would have gathered you to myself like a mother hen her chicks, and yet you refuse me” (Mt 23:37).

Psalm 63:2 says, “O God, you are my God whom I seek. For you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless, without water.” Some saints call this longing for this kind of union with God transforming union or spiritual marriage. They’re confident that by God’s grace we all can reach this union, which in fact is the Lord’s intention for us while we’re on earth, and even the pearl of great price for which we should all be striving.

St. John of the Cross gets so excited at one point in his writing, he cries out, “Souls! Created for such glories—what are you doing with your time?”

There are many things we must do with our time, but one thing He’s talking about is spending time with the Lord and growing in union with Him. This union is the fruit of prayer and service, inspired by God’s grace, and we are invited into it because He thirsts and longs for us. It’s a long journey—but one worth taking.

Saints tell us when we reach this state of union, it’s an ongoing, almost continuous experience of God’s presence in us. When we’re in a state of grace, God is always present in us, but we don’t always experience it. In this transforming union, the saints say we do almost all the time. It yields a very deep and thorough transformation of our hearts and character; we’re entirely filled with love and substantially confirmed in every virtue.

This depth of union with God also results in great apostolic fruitfulness; in whatever service we’re doing, we see an explosion of fruitfulness. It produces a greater, richer, and purer delight in all created things, because we no longer cling to them. With detachment, we love them in a newer, deeper way.

An Essential Way of Loving Others

Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” How did Jesus love us?

One way He loved his disciples was through intercessory prayer. Just before his crucifixion, Jesus said to Peter, “Satan has asked to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you” (Lk 22:31-32). He didn’t say: “But I’ve trained you, I’ve taught you. I set a good example for you.” He did these things, but He said, “I prayed for you.” So to love like Jesus loves, as He commanded us, we must pray for one another. Jesus lives forever “to make intercession for us” (Heb 7:25).

The Catechism states, “Since Abraham, intercession, asking on behalf on another, has been characteristic of a heart attuned to God’s mercy. In intercession, he who prays looks ‘not only to his own interest, but also to the interests of others,’ even to the point of praying for those who do him harm” (2635).

Prayer transforms us, along with our service to the Lord. Transforming union produces in us a greater love and concern for others; our transformation in love, coming through prayer and service, helps us love others more.

When we’re trying to establish personal prayer, we should establish a beachhead—which is a place during war where they take a bit of territory to use to fan out into more conquests of greater territories. Make a rock-solid commitment to spend at least ten minutes in personal prayer daily. That should expand if we are growing in our love of God and in our union with Him, or if we are used to more, but it’s a good beginning.

I’ll close with another quote from John Paul II’s At the Beginning the New Millennium:

“It would be wrong to think that ordinary Christians can be content with a shallow prayer that is unable to fill their whole life, especially in the face of many trials, to which today’s world subjects faith. They would be not only mediocre Christians, but Christians at risk” (34). So, let us pray.

Reflections on Ralph Martin’s 1975 Prophecy

Stay in touch with Renewal Ministries as we continue to journey together during this challenging time! Sign up for our free monthly newsletter and subscribe to our YouTube channel to receive notifications about our weekly short video messages.

Pictured above, Ralph Martin met with Pope Paul VI. The pope also was present at the closing Mass of the 1975 International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Conference, after which Ralph shared the prophecy that Peter Herbeck reflects on today.

The following text came from a talk I shared today on Renewal Ministries’ YouTube channel.

I hope you’re walking in the peace and comfort of the Lord Jesus in these days. These are trying and challenging times, but times that are not outside of God’s will. God has a great purpose for this hour for the Church and for the salvation of the world. I want to follow on the lead that my good friend Ralph Martin took last week when he reflected on a YouTube video on a prophetic word that Fr. Michael Scanlan gave in 1976—a prophecy that I had read a number of times over the years, and had prayed through, and which I really felt the Lord was speaking to us through.

We know St. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians, “Don’t quench the Spirit, don’t despair of prophecy either, but test everything, and cling to what is good.” It’s great to hear that word from Fr. Mike, to be able to chew on it and discern what the Lord is saying to us. I really do think it helps us understand this moment.

I’d like to reflect on a prophecy Ralph gave in 1975 at the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Conference at the Basilica at St. Peter’s in Rome. He gave it at the closing Mass, after Communion, after a time of worship and quiet:

“Because I love you, I want to show you what I am doing in the world today. I want to prepare you for what is to come. Days of darkness are coming on the world, days of tribulation. . . . Buildings that are now standing will not be standing. Supports that are there for my people now will not be there. I want you to be prepared, my people, to know only Me and to cleave to Me and to have Me in a way deeper than ever before. I will lead you into the desert. . . . I will strip you of everything that you are depending on now, so you depend just on Me. A time of darkness is coming on the world, but a time of glory is coming for my Church, a time of glory is coming for my people. I will pour out on you all the gifts of my Spirit. I will prepare you for spiritual combat; I will prepare you for a time of evangelism that the world has never seen. . . . And when you have nothing but Me, you will have everything: land, fields, homes, and brothers and sisters and love and joy and peace more than ever before. Be ready, my people, I want to prepare you.”

I wasn’t at this particular meeting, but over the years, I have spoken to a number of people who were there, and collectively, a lot of leaders from around the world really experienced the confirmation of the Holy Spirit in the moment.

I think it’s wonderful that it begins, “Because I love you.” The Old Testament describes that God reveals his secrets to the prophets. He lets key prophetic people who He wants to communicate through bring encouragement to his Church and help them see what the Lord is doing. As the Spirit is poured out on all flesh, the Spirit is meant to lead us. The Spirit wants to speak to us and speaks through different people at different times.

This was a very important moment, I think, in the history of the Church. It says, “Days of darkness are coming on the world, days of tribulation.” Unquestionably, there have been times in different parts of the world since 1975 that people have experienced this, but I think maybe we are living in one of the most unique periods in the history of the world and the Church. Just beginning in January and February with the Coronavirus, the whole world shut down because it was responding to this unseen enemy that was taking life, and it looked like lives were going to be taken in huge numbers all around the world. Humanity not only was stopped and brought off the treadmill of the world, but was forced to confront its own mortality. The strategy of the devil is always to enslave the human race through the fear of death. There was a moment when he wanted to enslave the world even more in the grip of fear. In that time, what happened? Our businesses were shut down, the quarantine happened, and our economy went from the strongest in the world to the point where it almost collapsed, and it’s still unclear where it’s going. There are signs, but clearly, that was shaken. Our confidence in our health, security, and the rest—that was shaken.

And just as we come out of quarantine, the experience of what happened with George Floyd, the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the nuclear bomb that went off, in terms of the response to it around the world, and the fact that it touched a deep, unhealed wound in the life of the United States, in the history of our life and culture. Some people responded appropriately to it, but there was also the spirit of anarchy, the spirit of revolution, disordered spirits, and there’s a whole lot of shaking there. There’s shaking in the security we have in the government, there’s shaking in the security we have in our finances, there’s shaking in our own health and what the future looks like, there’s shaking and lack of trust in politics and politicians, in the news organizations that used to be trusted many years ago, and people are on shaky ground.

One of the things the prophecy reveals is that He’s shaking the nations because many are clinging to things that are contingent—they are shakable, and we’re putting ultimate attention and value on them, treating them as ultimate in some kind of way, and they’re not. The only thing that’s unshakeable, as Hebrews 12 tells us, is God. The Lord is allowing these trials to come, first, to get our attention. Many good teachers on YouTube and other places are saying that they sense the Lord drawing his people near and drawing his Church close to Him, and the prophecy talks about it in those very terms:

“Days of darkness are coming on the world, days of tribulation. . . . Buildings that are now standing will not be standing. Supports that are there for my people now will not be there. I want you to be prepared, my people, to know only Me and to cleave to Me and to have Me in a way deeper than ever before.”

Why these trials? Because the Lord doesn’t have the attention of his people and the attention of a world that’s building a whole worldview and way of life that acts as if God doesn’t even exist, with very little real serious reference to God—when the reality is we’re made by God; we’re made for God; this is his creation. The only place we can come to safety, where we can overcome the enemies in our world, is in the Lord, in Christ, in God Himself. He’s offered his life to us, his salvation, in his Son—and in more and more ways, people are ignoring Him, and falling away from the Church, partly because the Lord has permitted the sins of the compromise of the Church be exposed over the past decade. The Lord wants his body to be clinging to Him and not other kinds of security, other kinds of distraction, other kinds of comfort.

To be His; to belong to Him; to be living in the First Commandment; to belong to God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, as Jesus said in the Last Supper discourse—this is what He called us to when He said, “You’re my friends, and I’m drawing near to you. I’m going to give you my Spirit.” If you pay attention, He’s going to be living in you like living water. He’s going to live in you and refresh you. He’s going to speak to you, and He’s going to lead you to all truth, and so follow.

He says, “I want you to be prepared, my people, to know only Me and to cleave to Me and to have Me in a way deeper than ever before. I will lead you into the desert.” That’s where we’ve been for the last number of months, and we may, in one way or another, be staying there. The key thing is, even though things are unfolding, and we’re trying to get the economy going again, there’s a lot of responsibility more and more people are carrying. So whatever burden you might be in, and whatever challenge is there, remember as we go forward that the Lord has called us to draw near. No matter how busy, how challenged things are, stay in conversation with the Lord. Pay attention to Him—because what matters most is the word that He has for us. The Church needs to understand that the Church itself is going to stay under the discipline of the Lord, the redemptive discipline of a loving God who’s seeking to purify his Church and draw it near.

Hebrews 12 says, “The Lord’s discipline is on those He loves.” Why? He wants to produce peaceful fruit of righteousness in us. He wants to bring us back to right relationship with Him. He wants to expose our hearts so that we can humbly bow down before Him and pay attention, even if we only do it a few minutes a day, a little bit of time every day. Don’t let the responsibilities and the pressure push the Lord to the margins. The key—for us individually, for our families, for the whole Church, for the salvation of the world—is to pay attention now, to become radically His, to belong to Him.

This is exactly what He was saying: “cleave to Me.” We’re not to cleave to these other things. The Lord is exposing their emptiness and how quickly they can be gone. But He’s there forever. He’s the rock upon which we stand—the only unshakable reality in all of existence—and He’s come for us. He wants us to live from a place of security, leaning on Him, and knowing ourselves where He is going, so we can read the signs of the times and respond to what the Spirit is saying to the Church.

“I will strip you of everything that you are depending on now, so you depend just on me.” This is a word for each of us, not just a few people, but the entire Church. The Lord is leading us into this because of what’s coming. “A time of darkness is coming on the world, but a time of glory is coming for my Church.”  Both things are happening. Both will continue to escalate—the escalation of the challenge and the darkness. There’s a way in which the world will never be the same. We’ll never go back, exactly, to what we had. I think the intensity of the spiritual battle will increase. But as the grace of God increases in us and the glory of the Lord is revealed more and more in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, we can see the majesty, and we can have the wisdom and insight into the Lord, and we ourselves will be strengthened. We’re going to experience more of Him, and that’s what He wants us to know—that we don’t have to be afraid. No matter how much shaking goes on, no matter how much the devil tries to have happen, the Lord’s got this end game in mind, and He’s right there with us, and all He needs is for us to walk with Him and to surrender and to give Him everything in our lives—to put Him at the center of it all.

“A time of darkness is coming on the world, but a time of glory is coming for my Church, a time of glory is coming for my people. I will pour out on you all the gifts of my Spirit. I will prepare you for spiritual combat; I will prepare you for a time of evangelism that the world has never seen.”

I believe that. I believe that for all who surrender and walk in Him now and come under his loving order and discipline and purification of his Church, He’s pouring into us and leading us to align our lives in the right way as the saints talk about—to love the first thing first, to love God first in our hearts—because God wants to fulfill with great glory and splendor in each of our lives the purpose for which we’re made. He’s saying to us, “You don’t trust me yet. Come, let me expose the fear that’s in you, the insecurity, the attachment to idols. Let me take it away from you to free your heart, so you can hear my voice and you can have the strength of the Spirit at work in you and bear my fruits, because the days are coming when the grace for a profound global evangelism is coming on the earth.”

I really believe it. In 1990, Ralph Martin, a team of people, and I were praying in a planning meeting, and someone shared a prophetic word. When they did, the Holy Spirit came down in tremendous power in the room, and there was lots of worship, and I personally experienced what was one of the most significant experiences of my life. I experienced God, and I felt the Holy Spirit, and I was just shaking. I had a vision, and in the vision what I saw was a glimpse of the Lord on his throne, and He stood up, and He said, “I’ve risen from my throne to proceed my coming. There will be a revelation of the Son of Man in your lifetime.” Then He took a step forward, and I just experienced the holy, pure fear of God. I was shouting, “Oh, my God! He’s so awesome! He’s so glorious! He’s so amazing!” I think it’s one of the guiding things I’ve believed deeply in my bones since that day.

You know how in each of our lives there are a few moments where God really broke in? That was one of those moments, and I think this prophecy from 1975 also confirms it. “Evangelism that the world has never seen.” That’s what this is all about. The key is for us to be surrendered and attentive to the Lord, because it’s all about Him. In his time, and in his way, as He leads us through purification, He’s going to increase his light, his glory, his presence, and his power. He’s going to reveal Himself.

The answer for the Church and the world isn’t more strategy or higher IQs. It isn’t going to the right college, it isn’t our tech power, it’s not our bank account. All these things, they exist and they’re powerful, but they’re totally secondary. God made the world through his Son. He’s enthroned Him and set Him at his right hand. All authority, power, and the destiny of human life are in the hands of the King. As the apostles said themselves, “Judgment has been given over to the Son” (Jn 5:22)—final judgment, but also judgment at this time, when He comes with tough love and the right kind of love we need, so that, as a friend of mine said, whatever it takes to get rid of whatever hinders God’s love—He’ll do it.

What stands in the way of our receiving and walking in his love and commandments? This is an exciting time. It’s a time of purification. It’s a time for us to face our fears. It’s time for us to face our compromises. It’s time for us to bow low in humility and say, “Lord, Father, send the Son. Come, Holy Spirit, send the Lord Jesus. Reveal his glory and majesty. Lord, reveal your glory in the Church and in the world.”

This, I think, is the heart of what God and the Holy Spirit are doing. The Lord wants each and every one of us to be a part of it. There’s no one too small. This is not about the elites and the experts going out. This is the children of God beginning to cry out to God. When his glory is revealed, part of what happens is the fear of the Lord, which is a beautiful thing—not a slavish fear, but a cleansing, purifying, amazing fear that orders us—and we see God in his greatness, and people in the world begin converting, and the Church begins getting purified. The Church has tried in so many ways to make it all happen, and the Lord is leading us to experience our powerlessness. So many of our efforts fall flat: many people leaving the Church, fewer people giving money to dioceses and parishes in financial crisis, etc. Its happening in many places all around the world. But the Lord is allowing it to happen—until we come to a place where we say, like this prophecy, “draw near,” and we see Him, and we say, “We’ve got everything we need. I don’t know what I was thinking, why I was relying on so many other things. Lord, I give You my life. I’m all in. Let’s go.”

I think that’s a big part of what the Lord wants to produce in us. Every one of us is called to be a part of it. Let’s just say “yes” to Him. Let’s bow down and say, “Lord, re-order my loves. Let me love the right thing. Let me love first things first. Let me love You at the center of my life. Lord, I give You everything: my time, talent, and treasure. Lord, change my heart. Change my mind. Let me live in the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit.”

. . . .

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Fr. Michael Scanlan’s Amazing Prophecy: An Urgent Message for Today

Stay in touch with Renewal Ministries as we continue to journey together during this challenging time! Sign up for our free monthly newsletter and subscribe to our YouTube channel to receive notifications about our weekly short video messages.

Fr. Michael Scanlan shared a prophecy in 1976 that Ralph Martin finds particularly significant in today’s world. Image Credit.

The following text came from a talk I shared today on Renewal Ministries’ YouTube channel. We at Renewal Ministries are using all available means to share this word, due to its importance and relevance, as well as the need for all of us to ponder how God wants us to live out this message in our own lives.

Ralph’s message is also available in multiple languages:

» Spanish: Asombrosa profecía del Padre Michael Scanlan: Un mensaje urgente para hoy

» French: L’incroyable prophétie du Père Michael Scanlan: Un message urgent pour aujourd’hui

» German: Ein prophetisches Wort der Warnung und Hoffnung für Gottes Volk heute

» Italian: La straordinaria profezia di P. Michael Scanlan: un messaggio urgente per oggi

» Japanese: マイケル・スキャンラン神父の驚くべき預言−今日への緊急メッセージ

» Portuguese: Profecia estarrecedora do Frei Michael Sancal: Uma mensagem urgente para hoje

» Arabic (Prophecy Only): Click Here for Arabic Translation

» Slovak (Prophecy Only): Click Here for Slovak Translation


The first big international Catholic Charismatic conference took place in Rome in 1975, and when ten-thousand people gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica for the closing Mass, several very strong prophecies were given that spoke of a time coming when the structures that are there wouldn’t be there anymore, and that the Lord was going to use this time to draw us into a deeper union with Himself.

One year later, Fr. Michael Scanlan gave another prophecy, which you can read in full at the end of this post. I recently discovered Fr. Scanlan’s 1976 prophecy while doing research for a new book, and when I read it, I was almost breathless! It is significant and amazingly resonant with what we have been experiencing with the whole lockdown, not being able to go to churches, economic difficulties, and social unrest. There are things happening today that weren’t happening forty-four years ago that are a partial fulfillment, at least, of it. Some of this could be a little scary, but don’t get scared. It’s going to lead to tremendous love and tremendous hope.

There’s wisdom here for us. There’s instruction here for us that’s very relevant. Below, I am going to go through each section of the prophecy and examine its significance in light of events happening today. The bolded text comes from the prophecy itself.

“Son of man, do you see that city going bankrupt? Are you willing to see all your cities going bankrupt? Are you willing to see the bankruptcy of the whole economic system you rely on now so that all money is worthless and cannot support you?”

When the coronavirus really first hit, and the stock market fell, and tens of millions of people in the US and all over the world lost their job, had their salary reduced, or got laid off, it was really a gut-check time. What are we relying on? Where is our trust?

I did some videos on our YouTube channel talking about the anxiety we have about our economic well-being (here and here), the anxiety and fear we also have about our health (here and here), and trying to re-center us on the promises of the Lord. Jesus says, “Where your treasure lies, there your heart will be” (Mt 6:21), and I gave some practical wisdom from St. Francis de Sales about how to see where our hearts are, and how to handle our anxiety and fear concerning money, and the tremendous, wonderful promises of Jesus to provide for us if we seek first his kingdom.

“Son of man, do you see the crime and lawlessness in your city streets, and towns, and institutions?”

Just last night on the news, I was watching riots in a particular town in our country. Here is the key: The world’s going to be shaken. The Church is going to be shaken. Whatever can be shaken will be shaken, says the Book of Hebrews. But the prophecy continues,

“Are you willing to see no law, no order, no protection for you except that which I myself will give you?”

The Lord wants us to come to Him with complete confidence, with complete trust that if we seek first the kingdom of God and his holiness, all these other things will be provided as well. Not only the food, drink, shelter, and clothing we need to preserve life in this world, but the protection we need in the midst of chaos and the breakdown of law and order.

“Son of man, do you see the country which you love and which you are now celebrating—a country’s history that you look back on with nostalgia?”

This was the bicentennial of the US, the two-hundredth anniversary of the founding of our country, when he was giving this prophecy.

“Are you willing to see no country—no country to call your own except those I give you as my body?”

A lot of us are really concerned with what’s happening in our country. I’m talking about the US, but also Canada and many other countries around the world, including Western Europe. There’s an aggressive secularism that wants to stamp out Judeo-Christian values, that’s hostile to Christ and the Church, that wants to punish us, that wants to arrest us, that wants to remove us from social media if we say things that are displeasing to the social elite, that wants to impose a control on the world and a censorship where they don’t want the Word of God to be spoken anymore, but we need to speak it whether it’s convenient or inconvenient. We need the courage of the Lord. We need the fortitude of the Lord. We need the Holy Spirit to give us that courage and fortitude, and we need to be in that right relationship with Him right now.

All of this is in the Bible! Jesus says we have no dwelling place here below; we have no lasting city here below. The apostles say it. Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world” (Jn 18:36). Our city is the New Jerusalem that already is being formed in the body of Christ, that’s going to come down on the last day. We need to know that our primary loyalty, our primary family is our brothers in Christ. This is really important.

“Will you let me bring you life in my body and only there?”

We need to be looking to the body of Christ in the Eucharist, but we also need to be looking to the body of Christ in one another and ourselves. While we were doing online Masses, my pastor at Christ the King in Ann Arbor explained many times that Vatican II talks about four ways in which Christ is present to his people:

  1. In a very special way in the Eucharist.
  2. In the person of the priest.
  3. In the Word of God.
  4. In our bodies—which are the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 6 says we are one body, one spirit with Jesus. We’re members of one another. When Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, the voice that spoke to him from heaven said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul was persecuting Christians. Saul was persecuting the body of Christ. Jesus identifies Himself with us and the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit dwelling in us. We need to treasure that and value that, and if some time we’re cut off from the Eucharist again, and if we’re cut off from the churches again—the physical churches—we need to remember that He’s with us, and He’s with us in a very strong way in his Word, in one another, and in the indwelling Trinity in our souls.

“Son of man, do you see those churches which you can go to so easily now? Are you ready to see them with bars across their doors, with doors nailed shut? Are you ready to base your life only on me and not on any particular structure?”

We love our churches. We love the buildings. Some of us for many generations have had family members go to particular churches. But all across the developed countries, churches are closing. Thank God for the churches and for the schools that are still open, but many people now can’t afford to go to Catholic schools. We need to be prepared for a time when we don’t have as many schools as we have now, and we have far fewer than we used to have. And we need to be prepared for a time when we don’t have as many church buildings as we have, and we have far fewer than we used to have. We need to be ready for that time, which is coming. Whether it comes through disaster or not, it’s just coming by what’s happening in the world and what’s happening in the Church. It’s coming. We need to re-center our lives on the Lord Himself, who is with us every day, and not be so dependent on a building. Be so grateful when the buildings are still there. Be so grateful when we can still go to the Eucharist, which is very special. But we need to not forget that the body of Christ is not limited to the Sacrament. The body of Christ is also our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

“Are you ready to depend only on me and not on all the institutions of schools and parishes that you are working so hard to foster? Son of man, I call you to be ready for that.”

We’re being given an opportunity to get ready for that. Maybe we’ve been given a little warning here in the recent closing of the churches and the economic turndown even for a short time—a little warning shot across our bow, so to speak. The structures of the world aren’t stable.

“That is what I am telling you about. The structures are falling and changing—it is not for you to know the details now—but do not rely on them as you have been. I want you to make a deeper commitment to one another.”

We need to meet our fellow Christians in our neighborhoods. We need to meet our fellow Christians in our work environments. We need to start relating together as brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to have little house churches like the Catholic Church had in the beginning. All the Catholic Church had for the first three-hundred years were those churches—brothers and sisters gathering in small groups in homes, that’s what the Church was until the persecution was lifted. We have to start to build those house churches again. We have to start building those neighborhood relationships. We have to start knowing who our brothers and sisters in Jesus are, to get ready for a time when we can’t gather in any other way.

“I want you to trust one another, to build an interdependence that is based on my Spirit. It is an interdependence that is no luxury. It is an absolute necessity for those who will base their lives on me and not the structures from a pagan world.”

This is not an option if we’re going to survive the coming onslaught of secularization that’s trying to shut down Christ in our culture, that’s coming against the Church, that’s coming against Christians, that’s coming against the Word of God. This is not a luxury, to be in relationship with brothers and sisters in Christ. As Jesus says here, it’s a necessity.

“I have spoken and it will take place. My word will go forth to my people. They may hear and they may not—and I will respond accordingly—but this is my word.”

This is what Jesus says in Scripture, “heaven and earth will pass away, but my Word will not pass away until every bit of it be fulfilled” (Mt 5:18).

“Look about you, son of man. When you see it all shut down, when you see everything removed which has been taken for granted, and when you are prepared to live without these things, then you will know what I am making ready.”

We’ve just seen it all shut down. It’s almost like the Lord was saying, “You’re going to be given a sign.” That sign didn’t happen for forty-four years, but it’s just happened.

When you have gotten ready, when you have responded to the warning by putting Jesus first in your life and seeking out your brothers and sisters in Christ and starting to get real in relationships with each other, it says, “then you will know what I am making ready.”

Everything that’s spoken about here is because of God’s love. What is it going to take to wake up souls? What is it going to take to shake us out of our complacency, our lukewarmness, our indifference to the things of God, and our worldliness, and to re-center our lives on Jesus? What is it going to take to get us into relationship with one another and to make us willing to be his witnesses in a hostile environment? What is it going to take?

The Lord’s going to do what He needs to do to wake up as many of us as possible. Some will pay attention, some will listen, some will awaken, some will get ready—and some won’t. There will be very different outcomes, depending on how we respond to God’s word or not. Not just in this prophecy, but in Scripture. This prophecy is bringing to the present a warning that is right there in the Scripture all the time. Jesus says, when the Master comes, don’t be asleep (Mk 13:35-36). Not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” is going to get into the kingdom of God. It’s going to be only those who do the will of God (Mt 7:21).

The door is going to shut at a certain time. The door of grace and mercy is going to shut when the Lord returns, and those who have responded to grace and mercy are going to be welcomed into the Father’s kingdom. Those who have not paid attention to prophetic warnings, not paid attention to prophetic signs, are going to be left outside, where there’s going to be mourning, weeping, and gnashing of teeth. The door is going to close. Get ready.

I believe the Lord is showing mercy to us in this prophecy from Fr. Michael Scanlan. I think it’s a prophecy that’s starting to be fulfilled in our time. We need to take it seriously. We need to not live in fear, not live in anxiety, but live in the glorious freedom of the sons and daughters of God, who know that the Father loves them and who know that the Father has providential care for them and will never let anything happen to us that He doesn’t have a way to bring good out of and that He doesn’t protect us in the middle of.

So, brothers and sisters, I’m excited by this word. I think it’s a word for today, a word for us now. It’s nothing different than what Jesus and the apostles have been saying for two-thousand years. It’s time to wake up. It’s time to get with each other. It’s time to not depend on external things, but to depend on the Lord Himself.

Lord, thank You that the gift of prophecy is alive and working in the Church today. Thank You for Fr. Michael Scanlan. Thank You for allowing us to talk about these things together and to encourage and build one another up.

. . .

Fr. Michael Scanlan’s 1976 Prophecy

Son of man, do you see that city going bankrupt? Are you willing to see all your cities going bankrupt? Are you willing to see the bankruptcy of the whole economic system you rely on now so that all money is worthless and cannot support you?

Son of man, do you see the crime and lawlessness in your city streets, and towns, and institutions? Are you willing to see no law, no order, no protection for you except that which I myself will give you?

Son of man, do you see the country which you love and which you are now celebrating—a country’s history that you look back on with nostalgia? Are you willing to see no country—no country to call your own except those I give you as my body? Will you let me bring you life in my body and only there?

Son of man, do you see those churches which you can go to so easily now? Are you ready to see them with bars across their doors, with doors nailed shut? Are you ready to base your life only on me and not on any particular structure? Are you ready to depend only on me and not on all the institutions of schools and parishes that you are working so hard to foster?

Son of man, I call you to be ready for that. That is what I am telling you about. The structures are falling and changing—it is not for you to know the details now—but do not rely on them as you have been. I want you to make a deeper commitment to one another. I want you to trust one another, to build an interdependence that is based on my Spirit. It is an interdependence that is no luxury. It is an absolute necessity for those who will base their lives on me and not the structures from a pagan world. I have spoken and it will take place. My word will go forth to my people. They may hear and they may not—and I will respond accordingly—but this is my word.

Look about you, son of man. When you see it all shut down, when you see everything removed which has been taken for granted, and when you are prepared to live without these things, then you will know what I am making ready.

. . .

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The Hope of the Narrow Way

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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.

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