This post originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ December 2016 newsletter.
It’s been another blessed and amazing year. One of the things I’ve been most grateful for throughout the past several years is all of the opportunities we’ve been given to help strengthen the leadership of the Church. This year has been no different. I’ve already reported on the blessings of being able to serve priests in Spain and the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, in earlier newsletters. Recently, I had another opportunity of that sort.
This is the first time that I’ve been asked to do back-to-back events for all the deacons and priests of a diocese. This happened in the Diocese of Calgary, in Alberta, Canada. I gave seven talks to all the deacons and their wives and then a similar seven talks to all the priests. The study days for the Deacons and their wives took place in a downtown Calgary retreat center so they could return to their homes each evening, while the priests’ study days took place in a motel in the famous Canadian National Park in Banff, in the Canadian Rockies. There was great receptivity, and I think the Lord did some very good things for those present. The priests decided to order 14,800 copies of my most recent booklet, Forever Grateful for Mercy, as a way of extending to many of their people some of the insights they gained during the study days. This has been our biggest single order!
Bishop Fred Henry, of Calgary, has been a strong defender of the truths of the faith, despite being targeted for legal harassment in the Human Rights Tribunals of Canada for being so clear in his teaching. And recently, the bishops of the Province of Alberta and the Northwest Territories have issued some statements very clearly reaffirming the truths of the faith in the face of strong cultural and political pressure to the contrary. Thanks be to God for their clarity and courage!
Another very encouraging event that I participated in recently was the annual conference of the Catholic Medical Association, held in Washington, DC. Six-hundred-and-fifty health care professionals attended, and I was delightfully surprised to discover that there was such a strong and clear affirmation of the faith and of the spiritual life among the participants. The clear leadership of past episcopal advisor Bishop Robert Vasa, of Santa Rosa, California, and present episcopal advisor Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, has borne much fruit.
I was asked to give the keynote address on the New Evangelization, and it went very well. Many of the doctors and nurses are witnessing to their faith in very inspiring ways, and they all treasured the chance to be together and encourage each other. The pressure to remain silent and even to act against one’s conscience is growing in the medical professions, but these doctors and nurses are determined to be faithful witnesses to Christ come what may. Let’s thank God for them and also pray for them!
Closer to home, the Archdiocese of Detroit has been preparing for an archdiocesan synod that will refocus the archdiocese’s efforts for the New Evangelization. In preparation for the synod, the archbishop and the auxiliary bishops led a Solemn Mass of Pardon in a packed cathedral, where a very honest confession of sins was made to prepare the way for an influx of grace. Repentance proceeds renewal, and the archbishop was keenly aware of this as he solemnly repented. He repented for sins committed within the archdiocese over many decades: for the cover up of the abuse of children, for financial malfeasance, for racism in regards to African Americans, for not teaching the Gospel and the truths of the faith vigorously enough, for hiding behind policies and procedures, for cowardice in confronting the culture of death, and many other very real sins as well, not just of the leaders but of the people. At one point, the bishops prostrated themselves before God in repentance on our behalf—an action that was both powerful and moving.
There continues to be a lot of “prophetic chatter” that some chastisement is coming soon, but as we know, “soon” is a mysterious word. Nevertheless, we all should be living every day as if it is our last; staying very close to our Lord; and very eagerly praying for, fasting for, and speaking a word for the salvation of others.
About this coming year: Doors continue to open. I will be leaving for one Asian country in January with a small team, and I just recently received an invitation to do retreats for all the priests, nuns, and lay leaders in a diocese in another Asian country next year. And these are just a few of the many opportunities that we have as a ministry!
My prayers are with all of our friends and supporters as we enter Christmas and the new year.
Your brother in Christ,