Ralph Martin was recently interviewed by Edward Pentin from the National Catholic Register about Vatican II’s teachings on salvation that are often misunderstood.We want to help our readers access this from our blog to make sure they don’t miss it! You can read the introduction below; you can read the article in its entirety here.
In this email interview, Martin explains how some documents of the Second Vatican Council had a destabilizing effect on the Church, exacerbated by a failure to read them carefully, combined with various concepts of universalism put forward by theologians such as Karl Rahner and Hans Urs von Balthasar.
Martin, who also serves as president of the evangelization organization Renewal Ministries, says he believes these theologians and other factors have “contributed to a weakening of zeal for holiness and for evangelization.”
Friendship is a universal desire and one of God’s great gifts to humanity. Preaching the Gospel and making disciples can seem intimidating, only for the very wise and holy, or even outdated for the modern world. However, friendship or “accompaniment,” a term made popular by numerous documents and statements from Pope Francis, seems doable, attainable, and just radical enough.
The Cursillo movement simplifies this high call by promoting a simple yet sticky catchphrase: “Make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Christ.” While overly simplistic, there’s something to boiling down evangelization to authentic friendship. While the Holy Spirit can convict hearts at any time or place, most people come to faith through the personal interaction with Christian believers who sacrifice time, talent, and treasure to help them come to know Christ.
Pope Francis’ latest apostolic exhortation, Christus Vivit, with its 299 sections and roughly 35,000 words, represents a massive, both in its length and room for interpretation, contribution to the Church’s exciting focus on young people. In an effort to respond to the younger generations’ crisis of faith and the epidemic of non-belief, and the perceived reasons for this decline, leaders are rightfully attempting to adjust the Church’s pastoral approach. I would describe this as a shift to an emphasis on listening, dialogue, and accompaniment, with a delayed proclamation of some of the more difficult teachings found in Sacred Scripture and the Catechism.
Most would agree that friendship, mutual understanding, and journeying with people are essential elements for evangelization, or the making of disciples, through faith and conversion. Christus Vivit 292 rightfully promotes these actions and elaborates on the power of the individual disciple who knows how to and values listening and walking with non-believers. However, I have noticed a growing trend for leaders to allow a nebulous definition of accompaniment that permits the celebration of the process without requiring the needed conversion.
The words listening, dialogue, and accompaniment all have real value, but their strength is neutered when we expand their definitions to include all of the Church’s missionary activity and strategy. Since Christus Vivit presents a vast range of examples and angles of ministry to the next generation, readers can gravitate toward a curated understanding of mission, evangelization, and accompaniment. Too often these personal definitions downplay or de-emphasize the stirring, unchanging, Jesus-given mission of the Church: to seek and save the lost by preaching a message of love, mercy, joy, and peace but also repentance, forgiveness, and a new way of living.
Accompaniment is evangelization, but evangelization is not complete or encompassed by accompaniment. Accompaniment or loving friendship is an aspect of evangelization—that being the necessary time and relationship-building that should and can lead to a clear proclamation of the Gospel and an invitation to respond. A holistic and Jesus-centered evangelization emphasizes accompaniment, but in my experience, it is easy to promote accompaniment alone to avoid the difficult, awkward, and potentially relationship-altering moments of genuine conversion.
An unbalanced emphasis on accompaniment will not produce what we all hope for: a radical increase in genuine conversions described by St. John Paul II as “expressed in a faith that is total and radical.” Additionally, watering down our message, or completely avoiding the hard topics of sin, salvation, hell, and judgment, does not enhance someone’s strategy of accompaniment but rather postpones or eliminates its ultimate end, namely more people believing the full truth of the Gospel. While a gentle approach, which intentionally delays some of the more difficult teachings of Christ, may be what the Spirit intends for a particular season of someone’s journey toward faith, too often we use friendship and the fear of losing a friend as an excuse for never calling our friends to fully commit their lives to Jesus, with all the ramifications of that decision.
The differentiating nature of the Church exists not in her symbiosis to broader society but her unique assessment of life, death, and salvation. Being in the world but not of it, accepting and even desiring suffering, loving and caring for the margins, eagerly anticipating heaven though it means physical death, and loving your enemies are all examples of a radical divergence from aspects of the modern secular mindset. Ironically, these beliefs are also the most attractive for those who have ears to hear and for people who have successfully been accompanied. The Church will not and should not be the cool kid on the block, the fun dad, or the center of all that is hip and novel, and that is OK because our mission is not simply walking with people no matter where they decide to roam but rather entering into genuine loving relationships while remaining the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
Our staff recently watched what will be the final episode for the 2018 The Choices We Face programs. I’m so glad we did! On the program, Ralph interviewed Dr. Tom Graves from St. Paul on the Lake Parish in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Dr. Tom spoke about his story of coming to meet Jesus and the difference it made in his marriage, family, and work.
Our whole staff was moved—I was moved to tears a couple of times—at the beautiful and amazing ways Jesus has worked through Tom, in the ordinary circumstances of life and work as a physician, to help people come to experience the transforming love of Jesus. Tom’s simple, humble, and honest way of speaking reminded us that Jesus wants all of His children to be His hands and feet, to be conduits of His mercy and power.
You can view the program by clicking the link here. I know it will be a blessing to you. You also can also watch it this week on EWTN or in the weeks ahead at www.RenewalMinistries.net/tcwf. (Click on “View show archives.”)
In two weeks, the 2019 episodes of The Choices We Face‘s will begin! We’re very happy and grateful to the Lord for what we believe is another power-packed season. You’ll hear from some of our favorite guests, including Patti Mansfield, Fr. John Riccardo, and Sr. Ann Shields, as well as Sr. Miriam James Heidland, Dr. Bob Schuchts, Fr. Burke Masters, and others.
Please pray that this new season of programs will reach those who most need to know the transforming love of Jesus.
In Christ Jesus,
P.S. Please consider joining us for this year’s Renewal Ministries Gathering from April 5-7. You can find details by clicking here.
The following article is the third in a series called “Casting Nets” that will run over the coming weeks. They are written by “John,” a student in one of Ralph Martin’s New Evangelization classes, and document several evangelization opportunities he has performed in his various ministries. He writes, “Each ministry is unique with various situations, circumstances, and needs; but the one constant is broken and injured people. It is my experience that there is no greater potential for miracles to occur than when desperate people meet Jesus. I have been blessed to have seen many people come to Jesus—often in surprising or unexpected ways—and quite often, it is I who is the most surprised.”
I love RCIA, because evangelization is expected. I had two topics that I wanted to get across on this particular night. First, prayer is the most important thing that we need to learn to do, and second, that prayer can seem simple, but it is hard to do it well. I began by challenging the RCIA class that “if prayer didn’t work and if, in fact, we were just speaking words to the sky and God never answered us—then why even bother? Why are we are wasting our time?” It was blunt, but honest.
I then I gave two personal examples of answered prayers in my own life, and a couple of the candidates also shared their stories. I then began to teach about how to pray. I spoke about rote prayer, spontaneous prayer, contemplative prayer, healing prayer, intercessory prayer, meditative prayer, etc.
Then I announced that we needed a prayer practicum. I told them about my ministry (healing and deliverance) and told them about some of the things I’d witnessed. Using Mark 16:17-18 as a spring board, I said that I would teach them what I knew about healing prayer and how to pray with others. I then asked if there was anyone present with any injuries, aches, pains, etc. The first person to step forward was an ex-Detroit police officer. She said she had bad knees and that they hurt mostly after sitting. We gathered around her, and I told her and the others what I was about to do, explaining it slowly and carefully. I told her to relax and just let me know if she felt anything. We prayed. She began to sweat and was feeling heat all throughout her body. I asked her to try her knees out. She walked around and said that they were “a little better.” We prayed again, and on the second try, she said that they were “definitely better.” Praise God!
The five candidates were now paying closer attention, but I detected some skepticism, because this was not something visible. Plausible, perhaps; visible, no.
I asked if anyone else had any aches or pains. A woman who was studying to be a nurse reported hip problems and sciatica. Again, I explained the process, but before we even started praying for healing, she said she was feeling tingling. I pointed out how our good and gracious God was already at work—even before we had asked Him. I pointed out that this was not atypical when the Spirit is stirred up, and we prayed into the feeling. After a minute or so, I had her test her back, and she said she felt about the same, but was “sweating like crazy.” I offered to pray more for her. It was then she said something I’d always wanted to hear someone say. She said, “You can pray if you want, but the reason my back hurts is because I have one leg that is shorter than the other.”
Yes! Thank you, Lord! I had always wanted to see this malady healed and had been praying for the opportunity for some months.
I had her sit and put her feet on my knees, and sure enough, the right leg was about three-quarters of an inch shorter than the left. I lined up her boots so that everyone present could see the difference. I simply prayed “In the name of Jesus Christ, right leg, grow.” She said she felt something tingling in her knee, and after about five seconds, we all watched as the leg began to stretch, and we saw the two heels come together perfectly. Total time—about twenty seconds. I asked the candidates “do you see this?” Needless to say, they were all wildly excited. In fact, they wanted to pray over each other. We spent the rest of the class talking about God’s abundant mercy and love—and yes, all joined the Church the following Easter.
Note: I challenged the class to go and do the same (evangelize and heal), stressing that Mark 16: 17-18 applied to all of us—not just to me. Two weeks later, one of the young ladies in the class told me how she prayed for healing for a college classmate who was a “professed Baptist who hated Catholics.” He received healing for his back and is now reevaluating his view of Catholics.
I joined Dr. Mary Healy for the first half of a month-long “tour de France,” in which she spoke in seven different locations about the Holy Spirit, healing, deliverance, and the gifts of the Spirit in evangelization. Many hearts were encouraged, and the Lord showed His favor and love through signs and wonders.
The trip began with about a thousand people who were on a pilgrimage to Lourdes led by the Beatitudes Community, a Charismatic community that includes priests, consecrated men and women, and lay people. Mary spoke on healing, explaining that in Exodus 15, God revealed His name as “the Lord who heals you,” and that we cannot separate healings from who He is. During the healing service, Mary reminded everyone of the story of the woman with the hemorrhage, challenging the audience to ask themselves whether they simply “bump into” Jesus, or whether they truly “touch” Him. That evening, about twenty-five people came forward during the healing service to testify to healings.
In Paris, Mary gave two days of teaching to Anuncio, an amazing group of young adults who engage in street evangelization. She then led a healing service at Sacré Coeur in Montmartre. Raphael Cornu-Thenard, the leader and founder of Anuncio, was worried that there might be low attendance, since it was a holiday weekend and the same day that France was playing in the soccer World Cup Final. But the Lord did not disappoint! Every seat was filled, and tourists walking around the basilica stopped to listen as Mary spoke about the great love of Jesus and how healings are the visible proof of His good news. When the time came to invite people for healing prayer, two long lines immediately formed and had the team praying for nearly two hours, ending only because they had to close the basilica, and the World Cup was about to begin!
After prayer, several people came forward to testify, including one woman who had stomach cancer and experienced so much pain, she was unable to stand up straight. After she received prayer, her pain left, she was able to stand up straight, and she believed that she had been healed.
We then took a train to a retreat center at Notre Dame du Laus in the Alps, near Italy, a site of eighteenth-century apparitions of the Virgin Mary. There was a conference of the Pentecost Fraternity, a network of Charismatic prayer group leaders from all over the country. Mary encouraged the members of Pentecost Fraternity to walk in the Lord’s power as they seek to evangelize the nation. She explained that the need for deliverance is great, because we are living in a culture of hedonism and paganism, in which the absence of God has led to all kinds of spiritual bondage. We need the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit as part of evangelization, so that the Gospel will be both seen and heard. Mary described two key prophetic moments in the Charismatic Renewal: the Duquesne weekend in 1967, when the Lord poured out “living water” on the students gathered in retreat, and the international leaders’ meeting in Bethlehem in 2013, when there was a power outage that became a prophetic sign of the divine power that the Renewal needs to seek from on high. On our last evening, the Lord gave His own confirming signs—as the meeting began, under a huge tent, there was a powerful thunderstorm with heavy rain and bolts of lightning.
During this “tour de France,” it became apparent that the Lord is bringing about a great renewal in France today, reclaiming this Catholic land for Himself. Through France’s renewal, there is hope for the revitalization of the faith in Europe. “France is in My heart, and My heart resides in France,” said the Lord to one missionary.
By Dr. Mary Healy
For the next part of the mission, I went to Les Dombes, a former Trappist monastery that is now run by Chemin Neuf, a Charismatic community that is similar to Beatitudes but is ecumenical. Chemin Neuf is responsible for twenty-five parishes in several countries, and they were holding a week-long training conference for hundreds of priests and lay ecclesial ministers from those parishes. I gave my testimony and a teaching on how to keep alive the flame of the Holy Spirit. Many of these people were new to the Charismatic dimension, and it was beautiful to see how the community members gently led them into an experience of the Holy Spirit and His gifts.
I joined Beatitudes again at Lisieux, where they were holding a retreat for about a thousand people, which included teachings and a healing service. One woman came who had great difficulty walking with two canes, because of multiple fractures in her legs from an accident. She had prayed a novena to St. Thérèse for her healing, and that night her prayer was answered! She held up her canes and showed everyone that she could now walk without any difficulty.
In Montpellier, on the Mediterranean coast, I joined Anuncio again, for their annual festival, in which they train and send out young adults to evangelize in the streets and on the beach. During the evening session on the second day, many of these young people gave their lives to the Lord for the first time. On the third day, the bishop celebrated Mass for them in a tent set up on the beach, and called each of them by name to send them out to evangelize in the name of the Church. Only at the end of Mass did they each find out what team they would be with and what city they were being sent to. It was very inspiring to see the courage of these young people and the depth of their desire to lead others to Christ.
Finally, at Hautecombe, a magnificent abbey on Lake Bourget, Chemin Neuf was holding its annual festival, “Welcome to Paradise,” during which more than a thousand young adults gather from many countries for spiritual formation (with talks translated into a dozen languages). I gave a workshop on signs and wonders as part of evangelization.
Everywhere I went, despite the steep decline of Christian faith in France, there were unmistakable signs of a new springtime. It was very moving to see how many people were willing to brave uncomfortable living conditions, often staying in tents, with no air conditioning and temperatures up to 100 degrees, in order to grow in their faith and learn to share it with others. It was also inspiring to see the generosity of the community members, who spend many long hours in prayer, preparation, and service to offer these life-changing events to others. Truly the Lord is rekindling the fire of His love in France, a land that has given the Church so many saints.